march 7/RUN

3.2 miles
2 school loop
39 degrees
wind: 12 mph/21 mph gusts

Ran a little earlier today, starting at 8:20. Still too crowded on the river road trail: bikes, dogs, people. I stayed on Edmund with the birds. I kept hearing a bird call that reminds me a little of the loon sound they play at twins games. What is this bird? (I’ve just been searching and listening to clips for the past few minutes; no luck yet.) Also heard some drumming woodpeckers, a metallic robin song, crows, geese, various warblers. The sun was out and I think I noticed my shadow a few times–or was that on my run 2 days ago? There was still some slick spots on the sidewalk; I watched as a walker slid across the concrete at the corner. I did that same thing yesterday on my long walk with Scott and Delia. We, me yesterday and this walker today, were both okay. Didn’t get to see the river this morning, but I admired it yesterday as we walked under the railroad trestle. There was a group of rowers out on the water! That’s a sure sign of spring. Maybe someday I’ll be one of those rowers? I’ve always wanted to try.

I’m revising a poem I wrote early on in the pandemic: How to Sink. Thinking about the idea of sinking down through the layers of the gorge, carving out a new way in, retreating. Not giving up but letting go, surrendering control. Is surrender too negative of a word? I don’t see sinking as bad or unwanted, but a welcome break, an opportunity to return to the source, regroup. I need to read up more on sinking and think about the different ways it works. Sinking is not falling, but something else. Settling? Seeping. Finding shelter. I remember now that I wrote some notes about sinking in my notebook and maybe in a log entry. I’ll have to find them (here’s a few: sink)

Today’s Dickinson Poem: After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Wow. After reading this poem a few times, I read The Prowling Bee’s analysis of it, which was helpful. Such powerful descriptions of 3 phases of grief: the chill/shock where nerves are still; then the daze/stupor of heavy, shuffling aimless feet; and then the letting go. And great words: the Hour of Lead. Tombs. Stiff. Wooden. Quartz contentment. Stone. Freezing.

a moment of sound: dogs

march 7, 2021

When a dog walks by, through the alley, the neighborhood dogs get excited. I am not bothered by their barking, probably because it only comes in random bursts. In fact, I love spazzy dog barking. I find it delightful; sometimes I even encourage it, making sure to walk with Delia by the houses with the biggest, wildest barkers. You can also hear the scare rod–the metal spinning flashing rod our neighbors have hung to scare off woodpeckers–spinning in the wind. Unlike barking dogs, this noise irritates me. I am trying to get over myself because it’s a minor irritation and it seems to be working and I don’t want woodpeckers pecking at our neighbor’s house. Also, near the end of the recording, Delia growls at someone walking through the alley and the wind howls, tossing the tall pine tree on the next block to and fro.

march 6 recap

I took my first break from running in a month yesterday, but I still did my moment of sound and my Dickinson poem.

a moment of sound

Taking a long walk parallel to the river, I heard lots of wonderful things, including these wind chimes in a yard across from the Birchwood Cafe.

march 6, 2021

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)/Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

This is the first poem of Dickinson’s that I ever remember encountering. I think it was in junior high, way back in 1986 or 1987. I didn’t get the poem, but I liked the strangeness of it all. For decades, I have found myself randomly saying in my head, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” sometimes I add: “Are you — Nobody — too?” And then an image of frog pops into my head. I agree with this idea: “How dreary — to be — Somebody!”

march 5/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
40 degrees

A whiteish gray day. Hardly any wind. Great for running. After driving on the river road yesterday with Scott and the kids and seeing the clear trail, I decided to run on it today. I didn’t do all of it–I entered the trail at lake street so I missed the welcoming oaks and the tunnel of trees–but the parts I did run on were wonderful. I have missed this trail.

I was able to run above the rowing club. The river is clear and blueish gray. There were other people on the trail, but I kept a lot of distance from them. And, I greeted the Daily Walker! Encountered a few dogs, a stroller. No fat tires or irritating squirrels. Didn’t hear any woodpeckers–did I hear any birds? I must have, but I don’t remember any. Ran over some grit and heard my favorite shuffling scratching sounds. Smelled some smoke somewhere but no burnt toast or bacon from longfellow grill.

Before I went on my run, I recorded myself reciting my Emily Dickinson poem for today: I measure every Grief I meet (561) I chose it because today would have been my mom’s 79th birthday. I woke up and watched a few digital videos I made with old footage of her–both created 8 or 9 years ago using footage from the 1980s, 90s, and the early 2000s. I miss her terribly, but I am not feeling especially sad today. As I was running, I was thinking about how part of me is grateful that she is not living now during this terrible time of tyrants, and selfishness, and deadly viruses. It would been very hard on her. I suppose the idea of her not having to endure this, gives me a little comfort, whether or not it fits with what she would have actually felt if she were alive.

I measure every Grief I meet (561)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair” –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own –

I wanted to hear how others have recited the stanza that begins, “I wonder if when Years have piled—” because it seems very awkward in terms of cadence and rhyme and following the meaning of the sentence. I listened to 3. One delivered that stanza awkwardly, the other 2 recited a different version that omits the prior stanza and then changes the words of the stanza to make it work: “I wonder if when years have piled/thousands on the cause/of early hurt — if such a lapse/would give them any pause” (this 3rd one is fun to listen to). Even though it is less awkward, I don’t like this change. ED wants awkwardness and lines that are slant and that disrupt, so why change her words to fit the conventional standards of the day (which is what I read was the reason for this change). I checked out my favorite ED commentator, The Prowling Bee, but she doesn’t discuss the altered stanza or the other version. Even so, her discussion is great and helpful, and extends into the comments. There’s a discussion about whether ED is personifying grief–meeting the various griefs as people, or if she’s meeting grievers who experience those griefs. Fascinating. She also talks about how distant and abstract ED’s expressions of grief are: the repeated mentioning of eyes signals an analytical and distanced scrutiny.

a moment of sound

This sounds like spring to me. Kids outside, dripping eaves, calling birds. Near the end of the recording, there’s a boom. It sounded louder in person–not sure what it was.

march 4/RUN

1.65 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/35th st, west
46 degrees

A short run outside in the afternoon sun. Very wet, with a few slick spots still remaining on the sidewalk. Felt like spring again today. I don’t remember much about the run. I didn’t see the river or hear any woodpeckers or smell any smoke. Encountered a few runners and walkers. No kids walking home from school. I did run by a school bus, idling in front of Minneaha Academy. Noticed lots of cars driving on the river road, enjoying the spring-like weather.

a moment of sound

march 4, 2021

Before my run, I took Delia the dog out for a walk. Near 7 oaks, I heard a wonderful bird song that I couldn’t identify. I took out my phone to record it, but it stopped before I could start. In this recording, I mostly hear the rustling of my coat as I walk, which is annoying. I also hear my feet striking the gritty, crunchy sidewalk, which is delightful.

There’s a certain Slant of light (258)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Winter’s slanted light is quickly leaving; during today’s run the sun was bright and overhead and warmed my face and back. Listened to 2 versions of this poem on youtube and both of them replaced heft with weight and Any with anything. Heft is much better, I think. My favorite line: the Landscape listens. I love the idea of a landscape listening.

march 3/RUN

3.2 miles
loop around hiawatha
44 degrees

Today it feels like spring is here even though there’s still some snow on the ground and ice on the sidewalk. So much sun and blue sky and birds! So little layers: one pair of running tights, a green long-sleeved shirt, a black vest. There were lots of people over on the river road trail. It seemed like a party–people calling out, laughing, joking. I would have liked to be on it, studying the ice breaking up on the river, but I was happy to be way over on Edmund, far from the crowd. I heard some black-capped chickadees and cardinals, some kids laughing on the playground at Dowling Elementary. For most of the run I succeeded in avoiding the deepest puddles, but near the end, I gave up. Now my shoes are drying in the sun on the back deck. I don’t remember thinking about much as I ran, except that the run felt difficult–I’ve been doing too much easy treadmill running, I guess. Anything else? Oh–on the road, in a spot that was dry, I was able to run over some grit. I love the sibilant scratching sounds–sh sh sh sh–and the feel of my foot striking the sliding, but not slipping, ground. A much better sound and feeling than sinking deep into a icy cold puddle!

I tie my Hat — I crease my Shawl —/ Emily Dickinson

I tie my Hat — I crease my Shawl —
Life’s little duties do — precisely —
As the very least
Were infinite — to me —

I put new Blossoms in the Glass —
And throw the old — away —
I push a petal from my Gown
That anchored there — I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
So much I have to do —
And yet — existence — some way back —
Stopped — struck — my ticking — through —

We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman — When the errand’s done
We came to Flesh — upon —
There may be — Miles on Miles of Nought —
Of Action — sicker far —
To simulate — is stinging work —
To cover what we are
From Science — and from Surgery —
Too Telescopic eyes
To bear on us unshaded —
For their — sake — Not for Ours —

Therefore — we do life’s labor —
Though life’s Reward — be done —
With scrupulous exactness —
To hold our Senses — on —
F522 (1863) J443

I picked this poem, which I have never read before, because I’ve been thinking about daily life and the role of small habits and practices (and rituals). While I’m focusing on the positive value these daily habits and practices can bring, this poem highlights their stifling and meaningless drudgery. Dickinson focuses a lot on the “duties,” those daily efforts we are forced to perform in order to fill our proper roles. It reminds me of J Butler and her ideas about gender performativity and the daily, repeated practices we must do to properly perform our gender and be considered a “real” woman (tying the hat properly, wearing an unwrinkled dress). The lines, “To simulate — is stinging work—/To cover what we are/From Science—and from Surgery—Too Telescopic eyes/To bear on us unshaded—For their—sake—Not for Ours—” So many connections with feminist and queer theory: the difficulty of performing/repeating proper roles to fit in + the violent/invasive gaze of Science (that dissects and classifies) and medical understandings of the body (that reduce sex to male = penis = subject and woman = no penis = non-subject) + the medical gaze on the female body. What a powerful, pithy way to put it: “too telescopic eyes” and “bear on us unshaded.” Wow. I’m also struck by, “with scrupulous exactness.” It makes me think of my study (through Butler and Luce Irigary) of parody and mimicry and the idea of miming the practices but repeating them back slightly wrong or with too much excess in order to disrupt them.

I hadn’t intended to invoke Butler here, but I think it’s telling: much of my interest in daily practices as repeated habits is inspired by my dedicated study (and teaching of) Butler when I was a grad student and a professor. I’m not drawing upon her work in the same ways that I did a decade ago, but it is surely influencing how I think about daily practices, making and breaking habits, and being disciplined and undisciplined.

There’s so much more in this poem to think and write about, but I’m stopping now (The prowling bee has some great thoughts). Dickinson says so much so beautifully with so few words. I will want to spend more time with it.

a moment of sound

Sitting on the deck, in bright sun, no wind, post run, with Delia the dog. The irritating noises are me stretching and breathing and a loud plane flying overhead.

march 3, 2021

march 2/RUN

3.15 miles
edmund loop, hearing north
39 degrees/ 26 mph gusts

Started the morning off with a COVID test and several firsts: first time in a public building (other than a rest area) since early March of 2020; first time spitting into a cup to fill it up to a black line; first time having a COVID test. It is highly unlikely that any of us have it, but because RJP had a slight fever and it was worrying her a lot, we decided to drive out to the airport to the testing site. It wasn’t difficult (well, maybe not for normal sighted people; I panicked a little when I couldn’t see signs or read the questions on my phone fast enough) and it felt safe. We might be back there in a month, if FWA decides he wants to go to in-person school for the end of his senior year.

It’s warmer and I wanted to run outside anyway, but I didn’t have a choice. The treadmill isn’t working. Scott thinks it might be the motor. Bummer. Very windy out there today, which made it hard. I also ran much faster than I do on the treadmill. Most of my run was spent feeling tired and wondering when I would be running with the wind at my back–not sure that ever happened. Heard at least one woodpecker. Dodged a bunch of puddles. Encountered runners and walkers. Didn’t see the river or any fat tires. Didn’t hear any geese or kids playing on the school playground. Didn’t smell any smoke. Felt overheated. Even so, I was happy to be out there and happy to be done with the test and happy to have RJP feeling better.

For the first 2 miles, I listened to the neighborhood, for the last mile, a playlist.

March is a month for Emily Dickinson

As I started typing this entry, I had a sudden thought: why not spend time with a different Emily Dickinson poem every day this month? Technically it’s the second so I’m starting this a day late, but I did spend some time with a Dickinson poem yesterday:

Dear March – Come in – (1320) / Emily Dickinson

Dear March – Come in –
How glad I am –
I hoped for you before –
Put down your Hat –
You must have walked –
How out of Breath you are –
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well –
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell –

I got your Letter, and the Birds –
The Maples never knew that you were coming –
I declare – how Red their Faces grew –
But March, forgive me –
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –
There was no Purple suitable –
You took it all with you –

Who knocks? That April –
Lock the Door –
I will not be pursued –
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied –
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame –

I posted this poem a few years ago. I like imagining March as a friend coming to call after having been gone a long time. I also like the second verse and the rhyming of knew, grew, hue, you and then the return of the rhyme in the next verse with pursued.

Today’s poem:

If recollecting were forgetting,/ Emily Dickinson

If recollecting were forgetting,
Then I remember not.
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near I had forgot.
And if to miss, were merry,
And to mourn, were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered this, Today! 

I’m not sure I would have thought of this, but someone in the comments on the site where this was posted mentioned that the flowers that were gathered in the last line of the poem must be forget-me-nots. I picked this poem because I’ve been thinking about the slipperiness between forgetting and remembering and how, as you get older, you do a lot of both. I wonder: is this poem just a clever way of expressing that it’s opposite day?

a moment of sound

march 2, 2021

Hard to hear over the rushing wind and the low drone of the city, but birds are singing and, near the end, wind chimes chiming.