a quick note before describing my run: For some reason, I felt compelled to rhyme things today. Most of it was unintentional, but a few times it was deliberate. Was I somehow inspired by a line from the song, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”? I watched a video of Gwen Verdon singing this song — and dancing too — last night. Here’s the line:
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’ Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Sticky. Uncomfortable. Thick. Lots of sweating. Flushed face. Heavy legs. Dark with hazy, humid air. I had intended to cross over to the Winchell Trail, but it looked crowded near the river. So I just turned around and went back north on Edmund. A chance to check the house that posts poems in their front window. Was there a new one? Unfortunately, in this bad light and with my bad vision, I couldn’t tell. Oh well.
before the run
A few more stanzas from Forrest Gander’s “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas”:
Cardiac Hill’s granite boulders appear freshly sheared Look, you say, I can see the Farallon Islands there to the south over those long-backed hills one behind another a crow honks
Running above the river on the paved trail it’s difficult, even in the winter, to see the terrain below — the limestone ledges, the steep slopes. Often, it’s all leaves (on the trees or the ground) and brambles and bushes.
Do crows honk?
the moon still up over Douglas firs on the climb to Rock Spring yellow jackets and Painted Lady butterflies settle on the path where some under- ground trickle moistens the soil
It doesn’t happen that often — because of my vision, pollution, the bright light during the day — but I like being able to see the faint outline of the moon in the morning or the middle of the day.
Throughout the gorge and on the Winchell Trail, there are springs and seeps. They are especially visible in the winter when they freeze over and turn into strangely shaped columns of ice.
A plan for the run? Not much of one: to take the Winchell Trail instead of the paved path.
during the run
Nope. I didn’t take the trail so no chance to get a view of the river or the bluff or any limestone ledges. Instead I listened to Taylor Swift and tried to keep my cadence steady and quick(er). Between 170 and 180.
10 Things I Noticed
kids laughter drifting over the fence of my neighbor’s yard — a birthday party for her 3 year-old
a big backhoe parked on the street — no digging today, hooray!
a plastic orange slide, spied through the slats of another neighbor’s fence
a dusty dirt trail, so dry it was slippery and uneven
yellow leaves all around
lots of red on the ground
a biker’s bright headlight over on the river road
a mountain bike — don’t think it had fat tires — on the dirt trail, approaching me
2 people in bright yellow construction vests, walking on Edmund
a biker stalking me — approaching from behind. Not really stalking, just unable to pass me before we crossed an intersection
Don’t remember any birds or swirling leaves or bugs or roller skiers or music being blasted from car radios or leaf blowers or falling acorns.
after the run
I’ll have to think about Forrest Gander’s words some other day. For now, I’ll post something else I’d like to remember because I’m always looking for poems about erosion:
Gloomy, everything looking dark and mysterious. I like these overcast mornings, especially when running beside the gorge. All the colors feel more intense — dark greens, yellows, reds, oranges. Today I saw at least 3 different versions of orange: orange leaves pale and almost pink; then orange leaves like a neon crayola; finally the classic orange — what I call orange orange — of construction cones and a sidewalk closed sign.
Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. Smiled at a dozen walkers and runners. Forgot to try and see the river. Heard some birds (more about that below), the clicking and clacking of ski poles from a roller skier, the irritating squish of a walker’s slides. Smelled tar. Noticed that the path was covered in green leaves.
I felt relaxed and dreamy at the beginning, sweaty and a little sore at the end.
before the run
More with Forrest Gander and his circumambulation. Today, the next few stanzas of Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas:
as we hike upward mist holds the butterscotch taste of Jeffrey pine to the air until we reach a serpentine barren, redbud lilac and open sky, a crust of frost on low-lying clumps of manzanita
mist holds/the butterscotch taste of Jeffrey pine I rarely think about (or remember if it happened) tasting the air. What might the air taste like on my run today?
Serpentine — another word for winding or twisting? Are there any parts of my running route that are serpentine? I’ll try to pay attention.
at Redwood Creek, two tandem runners cross a wooden bridge over the stream ahead of us the raspy check check check of a scrub jay
Looked up scrub jays. Also called California scrub jays. Like the blue jays here, which are just called blue jays (at least, that’s what I found in my minimal research), they are LOUD. Here’s what the Cornell Lab writes about their sounds:
California Scrub-Jays, like other jays, are extremely vocal. Behaviorists have described more than 20 separate types of calls for this and the closely related Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. Examples include a weep uttered during flight, while carrying nesting material, or while taking cover from a flying predator; a bell-like shlenk used antagonistically, a quiet kuk exchanged between mates, and loud, rasping scolds for mobbing predators.
Scrub-jays often clack their bill mandibles together to make a sharp rapping. Their wings make a whooshing sound on takeoff, and they exaggerated this during altercations.
Gander’s rasping check check check must be the Cornell Lab’s rasping scolds. You can also hear the delightfully irritating clicking of the bill mandibles and the exaggerated flapping of their wings.
hewing to the Dipsea path while a plane’s slow groan diminishes bayward, my sweat-wet shirt going cool around my torso as another runner goes by, his cocked arms held too high
hew = adhere, conform…a plane’s slow groan — I’ve never heard a plane as groaning. Usually I write roar or buzz — a boom? I’ll have to listen for groaning planes today.
Yesterday when I was running, and it has too hot and sticky, I checked to see if my shirt was sticking to me. Nope. Not or long enough to have that happen. Does it ever happen? I sweat a lot, but rarely to the point where my shirt is soaked and stuck. With this brief description, I know that Gander’s circumambulation has been going on for a long time and that it is really HOT.
I like Gander’s last line about the cocked arms held too high. I often give attention to walkers’ and runners’ gaits and how they hold their arms. Some small part of it might be out of judgment, but primarily it’s about: admiring moving bodies, especially graceful ones; studying them to see what doesn’t feel right — this is a way to work through my vision limitations and to determine what I am actually seeing; and as a way to identify different movers out by the gorge. I can’t see faces clearly enough to recognize people (not even my husband or my kids), so I rely on other methods, like wide arm swings (that’s how I identify the Daily Walker) or gangly legs (the long- legged walker I call Daddy Long Legs).
Okay, so during my run today if I can, I’d like to think about/notice the following:
tasting the gorge
looking for serpentines
listening for blue jays and groaning planes
noticing how and where (and if) my sweat collects
making note of the different gaits of walkers and runners
during the run
I wasn’t sure how I would try to notice all of the things I wanted to — a taste, a twist, an irritating sound, where my sweat collects, and a distinctive gait — but as I ran, I just started collecting images. It became a game or a scavenger hunt. Here’s how I did it: First, I tried to be open to things on my list. Not searching too hard for them, but being ready if they appeared. Then I briefly stopped at the end of each mile (roughly), and recorded the images I collected — I described them on a voice memo app. I was able to collect all 5, with taste being the last to be found.
serpentinetwist: looking up, noticing the trees winding through the air, almost like a river reversed.
irritating bird: Heard the clicking of a bird and I’ve been wondering (for some time) what bird makes those clicking sounds and I think it might be the clicking of the bill mandibles of a blue jay!
My sweat is collecting on the side of my nose. I can sometimes see it through my peripheral vision. Now it’s dripping down my cheeks.
a gait: Passed a runner with very fast cadence — short, little steps. This inspired me to pick up my cadence.
right after recording these two images, I took a picture of my view, down on the Winchell Trail at a small overlook, perched above a sewer pipe:
taste: Bitter burnt toast coming from the tar they were using to cover the cracks near the trestle.
Bonus: a blue umbrella
A bright blue umbrella on a bench, looking strange and out of place. I noticed someone sitting next to the umbrella. I found this umbrella wonderful for the pop of color it brought to the gloomy gorge, for how unexpected it was, and for how it made me wonder about its companion: a person who likes to be prepared? who loves walking by the gorge so much that they’ll go even if it’s about to rain? who loves the rain? And, why did they leave the umbrella open — to give us all a gift of bright blue? they despise closing umbrellas? the umbrella is broken? Maybe if I was standing still, some of these questions would have been answered, but I like the mystery that moving made!
after the run
This “game” was a lot of fun, and I’d like to try doing it again. Would it work as well the next time? I’ll have to see. It made the run go by faster and helped me notice and remember things I might not have otherwise.
Also: I don’t taste a lot of things while I’m running. I should try and work on that by practicing and maybe reading more of other peoples’ words about tasting the world.
Another warm morning. Sunny, too. Not much wind. Almost a mile into the run my back on the right side, just under the shoulder blade, started to hurt. Enough that I needed to stop and walk for a few steps. When I started again, and ran more upright, it felt better, and didn’t hurt for the rest of the run. I wondered what it was, then suddenly realized: yesterday Scott and I cleaned out a lot of crap in the garage, some of it heavy; I must have pulled something.
Running south, I listened to cars, construction, kids arriving for school at Dowling Elementary, screeching blue jays, trickling water out of the sewer pipe. For the last mile, I put in my headphones and listened to more Olivia Rodrigo.
before the run
Thinking about Gary Snyder and circumambulation and Forrest Gander’s poem, “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas.” I listened to him reading the first stanza:
maculas of light fallen weightless from pores in the canopy our senses part of the wheeling life around us and through an undergrowth stoked with the unseen go the reverberations of our steps
my notes: I was immediately drawn in with his use of maculas. I think a lot about maculas because the macula (in the center of the retina in the back of our eyes) is where all the cones reside in your central vision and my cones are almost all dead. I looked up macula and it can also mean, more generally, spot or blotch. Here I like how his use of macula and pores reminds me that the canopy is a living thing, and living in ways that are similar to humans. “the undergrowth stoked with the unseen” — I’m thinking of how thick the trees are beside the path, how much goes unseen — but always felt — above the gorge.
During my run, I want to think about and notice the maculas of light falling weightless, the pores in the canopy, wheeling life (cars? bikes?), the undergrowth, the unseen, and the reverberations of our steps. That’s a lot!
during the run
I did it! I thought about most of these things and it made the run more interesting and meaningful. At the 38th street steps, before I ascend to the river road trail, I stopped to record what I thought about and noticed:
transcript: September 21st, 2 miles into my run, at 38th street steps. Thinking about the Forest Gander poem and first, the idea of the maculas weightless. Then I was thinking of dappling light but the light today is not weightless, but thick. It must be humid, feels warm, and it’s pouring through, which makes me think of pores and difficult breathing. My nose, hard to breathe through my nose, and my back behind the rib cage, it hurt. And then I was thinking of the wheeling life and taking that literally: the wheeling of cars, whooshing off to work. And then I saw 2 different sets of bicycles: an adult on one bicycle, a young kid on the other, biking to school at Dowling. And then I was thinking of the wheeling life and the changing of seasons and transformations and the idea of life continuing to move, not necessarily forward (although it does that too), but also just a constant motion, even when you might want it to stand still for a while. Then I was thinking of the wheeling life as the hamster wheel [I thought about the hamster because I heard the rustling of a squirrel or chipmunk in the dry brush] and repetitions and routines and continuing to do the same thing over and over again — the loops, the way it’s warm every year at this time in September: too hot, too humid, too sunny.
Wow, when I’m talking into the phone about my ideas mid-run, I have a lot of run-on sentences!
after the run
I love Forrest Gander’s poetry. And I love how packed with meaning his words are, like “wheeling life.”
the wheeling life: 10 things
car wheels, near the road — relentless, too fast, noisy
car wheels, below, on the winchell trail — a gentle hum, quiet, distant
bike wheels, approaching from behind very slowly — a little kid biking to school with his mom who had a carrier with another kid behind her seat
bike wheels, nearby, another kid and adult on the way to school
the wheel of life as a loop: a favorite route, running south, looping back north, first on edmund, then on the winchell trail
the wheel of life as transformation: red leaves decorate a tree halfway to the river
the wheel of life as cycles: not the end of the year, but the beginning — school time: kids at the elementary school
the wheel of life as constant motion: on the trail, below the road and above the river, everything is active: birds calling, squirrels rustling, wheels traveling, river flowing, feet moving, leaves and lungs breathing
the wheels of life as cycle: always in late september, hot and humid and too sunny
the wheels of life as transformation: thinning leaves, falling acorns, a small view of the river
5.4 miles bottom of franklin hill and back 55 degrees
What a beautiful morning for a run! Back to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Could it finally be spring? The floodplain forest seems to thing so, green everywhere. Saw Dave the Daily Walker, lots of runners, walkers, bikers. Heard some black-capped chickadees and woodpeckers. Smelled some cigarette smoke. The trail is open again in the flats. The river is still high and moving fast but it’s not passing over the railing and onto the road. Ran to the bottom of the hill, stopped to check out the water, put in the soundtrack to “Dear Evan Hansen” (we’re playing it in the community band I’m in), ran up the hill, then, on the way back, ran down on the Winchell Trail. I had to step carefully because the path was slanted with a steep drop off.
During the run, I had several feel good/runner’s high moments. So nice!
Running north, somewhere above the white sands beach, I started thinking about something I was working on earlier today about how my changing vision is closing some doors, opening others. I’m particularly interested in thinking about how it opens doors without ignoring/denying the shut ones too. Anyway, I suddenly had a thought: it’s not just that it opens doors, but it makes it so those doors can’t shut. I waited until I reached the bottom of the hill and then spoke my idea into my phone. Here’s a transcript:
It’s not just that doors open, they won’t shut. I can’t close them to the understandings that I’m both forced to confront but also have the opportunity to explore. But the key thing is that the doors can’t be shut.
my notes recorded during a run on 3 may 2023
I came to this idea after thinking about how vision is strange and tenuous and a lot of guesswork for everyone. A big difference between me and a lot of other people is that I can’t ignore or deny that fact. It’s much easier for people with “normal” vision to imagine, with their sharp vision and their ability to focus fast, that they are seeing exactly what is there. They’re not. Even if I wanted to, I can’t pretend that that is true. I’m reminded all of the time of how tenuous converting electrical impulses into images is and what the brain does for us to make those images intelligible.
Before the Run
I’m trying something different, or maybe it’s not different, just something I often do without recognizing it as an approach: I’m following a wandering path through Ruefle’s work that is not systematic, but seems to suddenly appear as I encounter ideas, words, lines from other poems. This morning, during my daily routine of reading the poem of the day on poets.org, then poetryfoundation.org, then poems.com, I found a wonderful poem that features the color red. Red I said, then thought, why not read Ruefle’s sadness poem about redfor today? So I will. First, the poem that set my course:
Translated from the Japanese by Tomoyuki Endo & Forrest Gander
For whom is (the evening glow) “red”? To human eyes, the red wavelength shimmering in the air is reflected, but to the eyes of birds which recognize even ultraviolet rays, the evening glow looks much paler. And when all the lives on Earth are finally snuffed out, and the human solstice has passed, every color will cease to “exist.” As clouds pile up densely above the sea, kids get restless feeling some sort of invitation. On such occasions, when you’re unable to read a “book” while splashing around in the sea or river as though dancing with water gods, you’ll notice beads of water on your skin reflecting the world. In such an optical play, the summer vanishes; some people have gone off with the water gods and have never come back. Textbooks, left on a desk unopened, hold on to their tiny equations. When each and every living thing has lost its life and there remains not a single being, for whom is (the evening glow) “red”?
This poem! For whom (is the evening glow) “red”? Okay, this will be the next poem I memorize. I want to own every word of it. Should I try to fit one of its lines in my colorblind plate cento? I’ll think about it.
Now, Ruefle’s red sadness:
from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle
Red sadness is the secret one. Red sadness never appears sad, it appears as Nijinsky bolting across the stage in mid- air, it appears in flashes of passion, anger, fear, inspiration, and courage, in dark unsellable visions; it is an upside- down penny concealed beneath a tea cozy, the even-tem- pered and steady-minded are not exempt from it, and a curator once attached this tag to it: Because of the fragile nature of the pouch no attempt has been made to extract the note.
as an aside: In my initial typing up of this poem, I left out the is in the first sentence: Red sadness the secret one. I do that a lot, leave out words. I think it’s partly that my failing vision makes me sloppier, but I wonder if it’s not also because my way of reading/thinking has changed, become more abbreviated. I cut out the unnecessary words, worry less about full sentences, want more condensed, compact ideas. I’m tired of extra words — literally, it hurts my brain when I have to read so many words, but also figuratively, having spent so many years wasting all of my energy on finding the right words (right = smart enough, fancy enough, researched enough) to make an argument that finally maybe almost gets to the point. I also like using less words like a fun experiment — how many words do we actually need in order to understand something or to communicate an idea?
I need to think more about this poem and what it means or does. In the meantime, while searching for an online version of this poem (so I wouldn’t have to type it up myself), I found another red poem by Ruefle. I’ve read it before.
I fucking depended on you and you left the fucking wheelbarrow out and it’s fucking raining and now the white chickens are fucking filthy
note: Future Sara, and anyone else reading this, I recommend listening to Ruefle read this poem on the poetry foundation site (link in title). The way she spits out fucking is the best.
another note, 9 oct 2023, from future (but now present) Sara: thanks past Sara! Reviewing this post for a class I’m teaching, I came across the note and listened to Ruefle read “Red.” So fucking great!
Ruefle’s poem is a response to William Carlos Williams iconic red wheel barrow poem. I know that tons of poetry people have studied/obsessed over this poem and have tons of great (and not so great) ideas about what it means. I have not, and am not entirely sure what Ruefle intends/means with her poem. I like it anyway. Maybe she’s sick of all of the attention it’s received?
On that same thread, I also found these lines from Fiona Apple and her song, “Red Red Red”:
I don’t understand about complementary colors And what they say Side by side they both get bright Together they both get gray
But he’s been pretty much yellow And I’ve been kinda blue But all I can see is Red, red, red, red, red now What am I to do
Now it’s time to go out for a run. I’ll try to find red.
During the Run
10 Red Thoughts, Ideas, Things Noticed
the deep and sharp bark of a neighbor’s dog — a red bark, I thought
a red stop sign
a walker up ahead of me, rounding a corner and heading out of sight, a red sweatshirt around their waist
a roller skier in bright red shorts — tomato red
my raspberry red shoes striking the ground
graffiti on a sewer pipe drip drip dripping water, letters in rusted red
a biker in a red shirt zooming by
my face under the bright shadeless sun, a ruddy red
a moment of tenderness inspired by swelling music, a runner’s high, and last night’s haunting and strange dream about cradling my mom’s head not too long before she died: the soft glow of a warm red heart
car, car, car, truck — all red (at least in my head)
A funny thing about looking for red: I found it everywhere. Today anything that registered as a color other than blue, green, brown, or gray was red. Red cars, red shirts, red leaves on the trees from last fall. No orange, hardly any yellow, all red. Red red red.
4.3 miles minnehaha falls turn around 53 degrees / humidity: 96%
A great run this morning. I felt strong and relaxed and never like I wanted or needed to stop. A gray morning. At the start, the sky was almost white with a little gray and the idea of light blue. By the end, the sky was still white, but a little more gray and thick, heavy. Returning above the gorge, there was some haze over the water.
10 Things I Noticed
gushing water from the sewer pipe at 42nd st
trickling water at the falls
most of the leaves are off the trees, the ones that remain are burnt orange
other colors: blue-gray asphalt at minnehaha park, green grass, my bright orange sweatshirt
a runner in a light colored shirt passed me going fast under the ford bridge. I enjoyed watching his bobbing shoulders bounce off into the distance for the next 5 minutes
almost empty parking lots at the falls, a few groups of walkers
the beep beep beep of a car alarm from a car being towed through the roundabout near the falls
even though it was a little dark and gloomy, few cars had on their lights
the river was half light, half dark
a elementary school class visiting the ravine, a line of them stretching across the sidewalk. I found a big gap and tried to quickly pass through. Some kids sprinted, trying to catch me or run into me (they didn’t)
Little Gray Cells
Today’s gray theme is: the brain, the little gray cells, gray matter. When I think of gray matter, I first think of the “little gray cells” and Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, especially in one my favorite movies, Death on the Nile:
Gray matter is tissue found in the brain. It contains a lot of neuronal cells. Reading about it, I could feel myself shutting down. Too much science-y jargon! Here’s a description of their function to remember for later:
Grey matter serves to process information in the brain. The structures within the grey matter process signals from the sensory organs or from other areas of the grey matter. This tissue directs sensory stimuli to the neurons in the central nervous system where synapses induce a response to the stimuli.
These signals reach the grey matter through the myelinated axons that make up the bulk of the white matter. The grey matter that surrounds the cerebrum, also given the name cerebral cortex is involved in several functions such as being involved in personality, intelligence, motor function, planning, organization, language processing, and processing sensory information.
Reading this description I’m wondering how they work with vision for both motor function and processing sensory information. As I walked through my alley at the end of my run I also wondered, How does exercise affect gray matter? Looked it up and found a pop description of a recent small study from an Australian site that suggests aerobic activity increases the gray matter, especially in terms of cognition. I found the word choice in this line interesting:
Recent research from Germany shows that aerobic exercise increases local and overall gray matter volume in the brain by an average 5.3 cubic centimetres.
This is a significant increase and more than the total brain volume of some American Presidents.
Well played, Australia.
I looked up “gray matter vision poem” and this one came up. I’d like to spend more time with it and Forrest Gander’s notes about his translation.
It would not sound so deep Were it a Firmamental Product— Airs no Oceans keep— —Emily Dickinson
Afloat between your lens and your gaze, the last consideration to go across my gray matter and its salubrious deliquescence is whether or not I’ll swim, whether I’ll be able to breathe, whether I’ll live like before.
I’m caught in the bubble of your breath. It locks me in. Drives me mad.
Confined to speak alone, I talk and listen, ask questions and answer myself. I hum, I think I sing, I breathe in, breathe in and don’t explode. I’m no one.
Behind the wall of hydrogen and oxygen, very clear, almost illuminated, you allow me to think that the Root of the Wind is Water and the atmosphere smells of salt and microbes and intimacy.
And in that instant comes the low echo of a beyond beyond, a language archaic and soaked in syllables and accents suited for re-de-trans-forming, giving light, giving birth to melanin hidden within another skin: the hollow echo of the voice which speaks alone.
It would have taken me a lot longer to understand (some of) what’s happening with Emily Dickinson in this poem if I hadn’t listened to Forrest Gander’s introduction, or read his translator notes. First, he says in his introduction before reading the poem:
Her poem seems to take place at a time when she’s undergoing physical trauma, which is cancer, and in this poem she is sort of slipping under a narcotic before some kind of treatment or operation, and in the last moments of consciousness what’s going through her mind is a poem of Emily Dickinson’s
And then he writes, in his translator notes:
Written at a difficult time in the poet’s life, at a time when her life was emphatically at stake, this poem includes an echo of Emily Dickinson’s #1295:
I think that the Root of the Wind is Water— It would not sound so deep Were it a Firmamental Product— Airs no Oceans keep— Mediterranean intonations— To a Current’s Ear— There is a maritime conviction In the Atmosphere—
In Pura López-Colomé’s “Echo,” it seems as though the poet, going under in both the sedative and the psychological sense—”the last consideration to go”—finds her mind looping a Dickinson poem concerned with going under, for if air is water, we drown in it. (There are allusions to other Dickinson poems as well.) But Dickinson’s re-de-transformational language brings her into the living poet’s present, even as that present may be slipping away. (I’m reminded of Shakespeare’s hope that “in black ink my love may still shine bright.”) Dickinson’s addictive syllables and rhythms bring her to life—her flesh takes on color (so the melanin). And López-Colomé, who has been speaking to herself alone, finds in herself a place where another poet is speaking to herself.
Wow, it’s funny that I randomly came across this poem because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how Emily Dickinson is shaping my experiences of understanding and coping with vision loss. I’ve wondered about how to gesture at this influence in some new poems about my current seeing status. Also, I’ve been quoting some Dickinson, especially, “Before I got my eye put out” and “We grow accustomed to the Dark” in my head as I drift off to sleep.
one thing thing, added on November 13: Last night, while out for dinner with my son after his fabulous fall band concert, I happened to mention that I did a day on gray matter. FWA, a Breaking Bad fan, said, Gray matter is the name of the company that Walter White co-founded and then was cheated (or did he say screwed?) out of. It’s why he had to become a chemistry teacher and why he started making meth. I’ve never watched the show, although FWA really wants us to check it out. Maybe I will…
update, 9 nov 2023: Not too long after writing this, Scott and I started watched Breaking Bad and loved it. It took most of the spring, but we watched (and enjoyed? appreciated?) it all. After an extended break from the Walt world, we started watching Better Call Saul last week.
3.5 miles 2 trails + extra 53 degrees wind: 13 mph with 23 mph gusts
Windy. Sometimes sunny, sometimes not. Ran south up above, north below. Just after turning down onto the Winchell Trail, spotted a runner heading even deeper into the gorge. Wow, I’ve hiked that bit, right down by the water, with Scott. There’s not much of a trail and it’s steep and rocky. As I ran above, I looked for them again. Nothing. Had I imagined it? I don’t think so.
Ran over some mud; it rained last night. Past the 38th street steps, nearing the oak savanna, I noticed even more mud and spots where it looked like the trail was eroding. I wondered, how soon before this bit of the trail is impassable?
Almost finished, running on Edmund above the trail, I heard a man on a bike call out, “good job guys!” At first I thought he was a coach, calling out to his athletes, but then I realized he was talking to some young kids (his kids?) biking with him. I also heard him say something like, “you need to push down harder on the pedals to go fast!”
As I passed by the short hill near 42nd, I heard some black capped chickadees singing to each other. Usually it’s a fee bee song, with the first bird singing 2 ascending notes of equal length, and the second bird singing 2 descending notes back. Today I heard one bird follow the formula of “fee bee.” The other responded with one flat note. Was this second bird a different type of bird? Do they ever respond with one note? Was it a juvenile just learning how to sing? Not sure, but it was strange and delightful to hear this new song.
before the run
One final before/during/after for the month. Yesterday I took a break from running, but not from thinking about entanglement and mycelium and hyphae and dirt. Here are some of the things I thought about:
1 — fungi at the mississippi gorge
Earlier in the month I wrote about the mushroom caves in St. Paul, but I was curious what other fungi is around here so I googled it and found an amazing picture of “Dead Man’s Fingers,” or Xylaria polymorpha (“Xylaria” means it grows on wood, “poly-” means “many,” and “morpha” means “shapes”).
Dead man’s fingers is found in deciduous forests throughout North America and Europe where it grows at the base of rotting tree stumps. The FMR conservation team found this spooky looking fungus deep in the oak forest ravines at Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area in Inver Grove Heights. Maple trees seem to be their preferred host in our area, but they also favor oak, locust, elm and apple.
While most fungi either consume the cellulose of wood or the lignins, dead man’s fingers is somewhat unusual in that it digests the glucans or “glues” that bind the cells together. As they feed, they literally help break down dead or dying trees in the forest.
9/13/2012: Harriet Island/Lilydale Regional Park Hike (St. Paul)
Join the hiking group for a hike along the south bank of the Mississippi River west from St. Paul’s historic Harriet Island through the former Lilydale town site. The hike passes a three-kilometer reach of the Mississippi River gorge that is known locally as “Mushroom Valley” because of the abundance of man-made mushroom caves carved into the sandstone bluffs. Mushroom growing lasted a century, from its introduction by Parisian immigrants in the 1880’s until the last cave ceased production in the 1980’s, during the creation of the Lilydale Regional Park. Some of the approximately 50 caves originated as sand mines, but other common uses were the aging of cheese (Land O’ Lakes,) the lagering of beer (Yoerg’s Brewery,) and storage (Villaume Box & Lumber.) The Lilydale Regional Park area was settled early in Minnesota’s history, but because of repeated flooding, the original town was moved up on top of the bluff. In the Lilydale Regional Park, a mesic prairie has been recreated along the Mississippi River floodplain. Shale beds in the Lilydale Regional Park also are a good place to find fossils.
Directions: From I-94 on the east side of downtown St. Paul, take the Highway 52/Lafayette freeway exit south and cross the Mississippi River on the Lafayette bridge to the Plato Boulevard exit. Go west on Plato Boulevard about 2/3rds mile to Wabasha Street and turn north (right). Proceed a short distance to Water Street and turn east (right) and then turn left onto Levee Road. Proceed on Levee Road under the Wabasha Street bridge. The parking lot is on the left.
This is another place I need to hike around this summer! Here’s one more link from Greg Brick, the Subterranean Twin Cities guy, with information: Lilydale Caves / Mushroom Valley
2 — mushrooms are strong!
They can burst through asphalt!
The rapid growth of mushrooms is well known, how they can come up overnight, but how they exert such force is not so obvious. The hollow stalk of the mushroom is made up of vertically arranged hyphae that grow at their tips, much like those balloon used to make balloon animals. The wall of a hypha is composed of fibres of chitin that are arranged helically and limits the ability of the hypha to expand in width. All the pressure of growth is through elongation and growth at the tip (Isaac 1999). It is this concerted pressure applied by each expanding hypha that can create the pressure to lift the pavement.
In Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake discusses polyphony (Anna Tsing does too). He mention this recording:
and discusses how each woman sings a different melody, each voice tells a different musical story. Many melodies intertwine without ceasing to be many. Voices flow around other voices, twisting into and beside one another. There is no central planning, nevertheless a form emerges….attention becomes less focused, more distributed — mycelium is polyphony in bodily form, when streams of embodiment come together and commingle.
I wrote this in my notes:
I’m thinking about this in relation to peripheral vision and movement and distribution, less focused and singular, involving a bigger picture, encompassing many voices, images, organisms, happenings (?) — the idea of learning how to hold these different voices together into a form — what would it look like to try and grasp/notice/attend to a world this way? How does that change what we notice, and how we notice it? How we experience delight? wonder? awe? how we understand the relationships between a self and other selves/communities? Less interested in the details, the focus on one person, more interested in the form we create together — the bigger picture…
I imagine this as part of my larger project on shifting away from central vision (which barely works for me anymore) and toward peripheral vision. How does peripheral vision enable me to see things in a new, potentially highly beneficial, way?
4 — more whimsy, please!
I found this poem that other day that delighted me, and reminded me that I’d like to write more stuff that taps into my strange and wonderful whimsy. Often, the things I write are too serious (I think). I’d like to write something about fungi and mushrooms that tapped into my delight of how strange and alien and gross they are.)
The small blue Nissan ahead of Me at the stoplight has a plastic License plate holder that says I’D RATHER BE AT A RICK SPRINGFIELD CONCERT, and buddy, wouldn’t we All rather be catching a tan In the summertime lawn seats at Some amphitheater off the
Highway, wearing sunglasses to Protect our eyes form the sun and The gleam of Rick’s professional Teeth, watching his wavy dyed brown
Septuagenarian goatee Frame his mouth as it sings “Jessie’s Girl” with his mind on autopilot, Wondering what he’ll have for dinner
Later as he croons Where can I Find a woman like that? for the 100,000th time as we Dream of this life we’re in for the
100,000th time instead Of cubicles and gray, teh beige Hallways we walk for decades before Demise? We dream, relaxed in the
Warm air we ignore for another Decade as some gulls try to steal Fries from a couple who are busy Groping their fifty something bodies,
Their bodies here still, soft & alive, Sagging in the lawn but fifteen Again and lost in their friend’s basement Again making out on the bean bag
In the corner, frantic in hazy Afterschool limbo before The friend’s parents get home from work. They know over what’s left of a
Margarita in a can. It Trickles green through the grass as Rick’s Band cuts straight to the opening Riff for “Love Somebody.” The drummer
Pounds the toms, the thuds summoning 1984 as the guitar Chimes and harmonies swoop in and Swallow the heating air. You better
Love somebody / it’s late, the frogs Evaporating in the wetlands By the offramp.
during the run
I thought about melodies and voices and sounds I was hearing simultaneously, sometimes difficult to distinguish, blending into each other. At the beginning of the run: birds, a car, my breathing, my feet striking the ground, the wind through the trees. I’m not sure if that was all of the sounds. Now I wish I had stopped and recorded some of my thoughts.
I also thought about dirt and what, under my feet and deeper in the ground, I might be disturbing/disrupting/destroying as I ran.
I probably thought about more, but I’ve forgotten it now. It scattered in the wind, I guess.
after the run
Now, after the run and after writing this log up to this point, I’m thinking about lichen and Forrest Gander and telling everyone in the house about how lichen can be killed, but if it has what it needs, it might never die (which I heard him say on a podcast I listened to this morning while doing the dishes). I wouldn’t want to live forever, but I like imagining a world in which inevitable death didn’t overshadow almost everything else. I’m not consumed by it, but it’s in all of our stories, our understandings, our philosophies, how we frame and experience joy and delight. How would we orient ourselves without that endpoint, without that guaranteed conclusion?
I’m also thinking about something I read about the biggest fungi in the world — at least the biggest that has been found and documented by scientists, the “Oregon Humongous Fungus.” Everything else I’ve heard about this fungus, and the one in Crystal Falls, MI, involves awe and fascination and wonder. In contrast, this report describes the fungus “as the baddest fungus on the block.” It’s killing tons of trees in the forest and, even after diligently trying for 40 years, they can’t get rid of it. The perspective here seems to be from timber companies who are losing all their trees/assets/profit. Interesting…