dec 15/RUN

7.25 miles
lake nokomis and back
41 degrees

Ran to Lake Nokomis and back — a December goal achieved! A few weeks ago, I told Scott that I wanted to do that at least once before the end of 2023. Today was a great day to do it. Overcast, mild, hardly any wind. Everything brown and orange and calm. I felt relaxed and strong and only a little sore in my left hip.

Ran above the river, past the falls, over the mustache and duck bridges, by Minnehaha creek and Lake Hiawatha, then to the big beach at Lake Nokomis. I ran down the sidewalk that leads to the lifeguard stand and the water — the sidewalk I often take in the summer just before starting open swim. I thought about summer and swimming, then took this video:

Lake Nokomis / 15 dec 2023 / above the frame, a bird was flying

Ran on Minnehaha Parkway on the way back.

10 Things

  1. several spots in the split rail fence where the railing was bent or leaning or broken
  2. headlights cutting through the pale gray sky
  3. people walking below me on the Winchell Trail
  4. kids laughing on a playground*
  5. the parking lot at the falls had a few more cars in it then earlier in the week
  6. the creek was half frozen — thin sheets of ice everywhere
  7. a woman called out to a dog — liam or sam, I think? — or was she calling out to me, ma’am?
  8. a young girl testing out the thin ice on the edge of the lake — her name was Aubrey — I know this because a woman kept calling out Aubrey! Aubrey! No, don’t! and then, Let’s go Aubrey. I need to eat!
  9. the sidewalk was wet — in some spots, slick
  10. running north on the river road trail, in the groove, an older man on a bike called out, You’re a running machine! I was so surprised I snorted in response

*as I listened to the kids, I thought about how this sound doesn’t really change. Over the years, it comes from different kids, but the sound is the same. Season after season, year after year.

before the run

I’m trying to stop working on my poem about haunting the gorge, but I keep returning to it and just as I believe I have found the way in, another door opens, leading me in a different direction. When do you follow those doors and when do you stop? I worry that I’ll just keep wandering and never settle on/into anything. As I write this, I’m realizing that the question of when to keep moving and when to stop are a central theme of the poem. Here’s a bit of the poem that I wrote the other day that sums it up:

Stone is
wants to be
else. Sometimes
I am
water when
I want
to be stone
I am stone
when I
need to be

What to do with all of this? Maybe a run will help…

during the run

I kept returning to these questions of staying and leaving, moving and standing still. At one point, I started thinking about how nothing really stands still, the movement just happens at different speeds/paces/directions, in different scales of time. I’m interested in slow time, directionless time, time that seems to repeat, drip.

Then I thought about the value of solid (or stable or slow moving) forms in which to put my words. These forms aren’t forever fixed, but are solid enough to hold those words, to shape them into something meaningful.

after the run

Not sure what to do with all of this, but forms I’m thinking about: running form — the running body, breaths, feet; boulders; dripping, seeping, sloping water

Water! Now I thinking about Bruce Lee’s poem, be water my friend:

Empty your mind. Be
formless shapeless
like water 
now you put 
water into a cup
it becomes the cup you put
water into a bottle
it becomes the bottle you put 
it into a tea pot
it becomes the tea pot
now water can flow or it can
be water my friend

And all the different types of water I encountered on my run: river, dripping ravine, falls, creek, weir, lake, puddle, ice. Different forms with different properties — some flow, some stay

And also Marie Howe’s lines about learning from the lake in “From Nowhere”:

 think the sea is a useless teacher, pitching and falling
no matter the weather, when our lives are rather lakes

unlocking in a constant and bewildering spring.

And now I’m remembering some lines from a draft of my poem, “Afterglow”:

No longer
wanting to be water —
formless fluid — but 
the land that contains 
it. Solid defined
giving shape to the flow.

And finally, it’s time to post a poem I read from Gary Snyder in his collection, Riprap:

Thin Ice/ Gary Snyder

Walking in February
A warm day after a long freeze
On an old logging road
Below Sumas Mountain
Cut a walking stick of alder,
Looked down through clouds
On wet fields of the Nooksack—
And stepped on the ice
Of a frozen pool across the road.
It creaked
The white air under
Sprang away, long cracks
Shot out in the black,
My cleated mountain boots
Slipped on the hard slick
—like thin ice—the sudden
Feel of an old phrase made real—
Instant of frozen leaf,
Icewater, and staff in hand.
“Like walking on thin ice—”
I yelled back to a friend,
It broke and I dropped
Eight inches in

note: I just checked and I might have missed something, but I think the last time I ran over 7 miles was on September 21, 2021. I ran 7.2 miles to the bohemian flats. And here’s something interesting: I posted a draft, just finished, of “Afterglow,” with the lines mentioned above included for the first time. Strange how that works.

dec 6/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
37 degrees

Warmer today. Almost all of the snow has melted. Sunny, bright, shadows. Chirping birds, sparkling water, shimmering sidewalks — melted snow illuminated by sun. I went out feeling a bit overwhelmed, needing a run. It worked. By the end of the run I felt so much better.

I listened to the world around me as I ran to the falls: the birds, kids on the playground, cars whooshing by, the gushing falls. When I turned around, I put in a Billie Eilish playlist on the way back.

At the falls, I stopped at the overlook right beside the falls:

minnehaha falls / 6 dec 2023

10 Things

  1. wet path, shimmering — is it just water, or is it super slick ice?
  2. most of the snow gone, only little ridges on the edges of the trail
  3. empty, open, iceless river
  4. more darting squirrels
  5. encountering a woman in pink running shoes twice
  6. the bells from the light rail ringing and dinging from across the road
  7. my shadow — sharp — running beside me
  8. a runner in a bright blue jacket
  9. an empty parking lot at the falls
  10. the potholes on the path were easier to see because they were filled in with snow while the rest of the path was bare

Thinking about the gorge and WPA walls and riprap and Gary Snyder:

Riprap/ Gary Snyder

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles—
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.

I mention the limestone walls made by the WPA in the 30s and 40s in my poem. I’d like to expand on them just a little more. Each rock a word — something there to build on, I think.

riprap: loose stones used to form a foundation

sept 15/RUN

3.5 miles
past the trestle turn around
63 degrees / dripping

Unexpected rain this morning. Waited until 11 to go out for a run. Everything wet. Added 1/2 of distance to one of my classic routes: the trestle turn around. Felt pretty good. A few minutes in, after I reached the river, I started chanting in triple berries: raspberry / strawberry / blueberry. Then I tried to move beyond berries to other triples — mystery, history — but I got stuck.

Running through the tunnel of trees I listened to my shoes squeaking on the wet leaves. squeak squeak I heard the squeak behind me and looked back: no one, just my own echo.

A few minutes later, thunk! — an acorn falling from a tree, landing hard and intact on the pavement.

10 Things

  1. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. lots of dirt and mud kicked up on the edge of the path — maybe from park vehicles’ wheels or from the rain
  3. a smell — something pleasant — green, almost like cilantro, fresh
  4. pale yellow leaves
  5. a coxswain’s voice (female) from below
  6. the only view of the river I had was when I ran under the lake street bridge between the posts
  7. a walker holding a blue umbrella, from a distance I couldn’t tell that they were holding an umbrella. It looked like they were missing a head
  8. the ravine by 35th street overlook: the water was glittering, you could hear it falling out of the sewer pipe, moving down the limestone ledge
  9. more earthy smells — fresh, not sweet
  10. the Welcoming Oaks are turning from green to gold

Gary Snyder and Circumambulation

A few months ago, I came across a reference to Snyder and circumambulation. Now, since I’m studying Snyder and his work for the second half of September, I get the chance to think about it some more. Very cool.

Snyder explained, “The main thing is to pay your regards, to play, to engage, to stop and pay attention. It’s just a way of stopping and looking — at yourself too.” In graduate school at UC Davis in the late 1990s, I studied poetry with Snyder. I learned from him the importance of noticing and naming where I am and what is around me, the concept of bioregionalism.

bioregionalism: noticing and naming where I am and what is around me

I recall encountering the term “bioregionalism” for the first time in Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing. I searched my files and yes!, I found some notes I took:

2 parts:
disengage from attention economy
engage in/from specific place: rootedness, bioregionalism

rooted in a place + in time (as in past, present, future…not always linear)
time/historical and space/ecological (who and what live/d here)

bioregionalism = an awareness of inhabitants AND how they/we are all connected (entangled?), identify as citizens of a bioregion as much as or more than the State

my notes, june 2021

circumambulation: the act of walking in a circle around a object of veneration.

On the morning of October 22, 1965, the Beat Generation poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen stood near this spot [in Muir Woods National Monument, on the Marin Peninsula north of San Francisco] and chanted the Heart Sutra before setting out to consecrate the mountain through ritual circumambulation. That historic walk would be enshrined in Snyder’s poem “The Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais” 


He would later explain his motivation for pioneering the ritual walk: “I felt it was time to take not just another hike on Mt. Tam, the guardian peak for the Bay and for the City — as I had done so many times — but to do it with the intent of circling it, going over it, and doing it with the formality and respect I had seen mountain walks given in Asia.” Starting at Redwood Creek in Muir Woods, the three Beat poets walked clockwise around the mountain, stopping to chant at 10 “stations” — notable spots along the route that were selected spontaneously for what the poets considered their special power — before closing the loop back at the creek.

Circling the Mountain

on ritual and repetition

Without exception, everyone commented on the value of ritual. Lisa Kadyk, a geneticist, said, “I’m not religious, but I do like rituals and recognition of spirituality in a big sense.” Visual artist and environmental field educator Kerri Rosenstein put it this way: “I like the nature of practice. To do something over and over. To train. It requires patience and discipline. I trust that each time offers something new. That we evolve by repeating the same walk as we awaken both to what becomes familiar and to what becomes revealed.” Gifford Hartman had throughout the day played the important role of “sweep,” following us to make certain no one took a wrong turn or needed help. “A ritual is returning to a place,” said Hartman, an English as a second language instructor. “Rituals also reinforce the seasonal cycles of life.”

Circling the Mountain

So many ideas about doing something with my earliest tanka collection, River Running, or my latest Haunts that includes a circumambulation! I just wrote in my Plague Notebook, Vol. 16:

The sacred object I’m circling around: emptiness, open air, the gorge

I really like the idea of doing a circumambulation around the gorge while (or, and then?) writing about it. A brief google search has given me lots of sources to explore, including this one — The Circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais: Limited Series. Wow!

I’ve decided to print out Snyder’s poem about the circumambulation and put it on my desk, under the glass, to study. I did this with Schuyler’s poem, “Hymn to Life” last year and it was very useful and fun.

sept 14/SWIM!

1.5 loops
lake nokomis main beach
79 degrees
windy choppy

So glad I wore my wetsuit! Also glad that I’m an excellent swimmer who doesn’t panic easily. That was a tough swim. And that was some rough water. Normally in an open swim, even one where I’ve picked up the pace or am swimming for more than an hour, my heart rate stays between 120 and 130. In today’s swim, my heart rate was 158. Wow.

10 Things

  1. seagulls, part 1: more than a dozen, floating in the water
  2. seagulls, part 2: flying furiously, stirred up by a little kid chasing them from shore
  3. before my swim: an almost empty beach, the sand had been tamped down by a park vehicle’s wheels
  4. after my swim: 3 sunbathers and one guy in jammers (men’s swim shorts that look like bike shorts) about to swim
  5. whitecaps
  6. swam over a few ghost vines reaching up from the bottom
  7. the giant swans are still in the water, tethered together by a dock
  8. only one sailboat with a white sail out in the water
  9. cloudy, murky water, impossible to even see my hand in front of me below the surface
  10. before the swim: a motorcycle pulling into the parking lot, blasting “Love Shack” — you’re what? tin roof … rusted

an unexpected ramble about libraries and unfamiliar places and my vision struggles

Picked up my first physical (non ebook) at the library yesterday. Last time I’ve been inside the library was sometime in early 2020, before the pandemic, and before the library suffered heavy fire damage during the George Floyd uprising, when white supremacists tried to burn it down.

There are lots of reasons I haven’t made it back to the library since then — I mostly read ebooks which you check out online because the light from the screen is always bright enough for me, while I often have to read physical books outside in direct sun to see the words. During and after the pandemic, I’ve been less willing to go into public spaces. I can’t drive anymore and the library is too close for a bus, but too far for an easy/quick walk.

Maybe the biggest reason: I’ve been scared. Walking into a building, I can’t read the signs that tell me where to go or notify me of something, like a new policy. What if I can’t find where to go? What if they’ve changed how to pick up holds, where to check them out? Of course, I could ask and I have been willing to do so, but it’s hard. Even if I ask, first I have to endure that moment of unknowing and confusion, when I enter a building and can’t see people’s faces, read signs, orient myself quickly.* This is Emily Dickinson’s moment in “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” — A Moment — We uncertain step/For newness of the night –. Also, even though I’ve been working on it, it’s still hard to ask for help — to take the time, to bother someone, to not know how to do something. I’m hoping asking will get easier and I’ll care less and less about having to do it. For now, I have a different solution: Scott (or my kids or a friend) can come with me to a new place the first time, to help with any confusion I might have. Once I know how it works, I can come back on my own.

* To add to this: it’s not just that I’m uncertain, confused. Sometimes, my brain makes very bad guesses — often the exact opposite of what is actually there — and I overconfidently act on them. The more wrong I am, the more likely I am to boldly act. This is embarrassing — I look stupid or sound crazy/ridiculous, but it is also dangerous. Scott has witnessed this enough times to verify my assessment. I believe this is related to my failing vision, but I don’t know how. So strange and frustrating because I don’t seem to have any control over it, and I like to have control.

Gary Snyder’s Riprap

The book I had requested and picked up is one I’ve wanted to read for several years now: Gary Snyder’s Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems. I read/skimmed through it yesterday afternoon, and there are several poems that I’d like to read closely and study. I think they might help me with my series of Haunts poems. I like his sparse, matter-of-fact approach. I also like his love for walking/hiking. I think that I’ll devote the second half of September to his work! I just requested a few more books from the library.

Here’s a poem I’d like to start with:

Above Pate Valley/ Gary Snyder

We finished clearing the last
Section of trail by noon,
High on the ridge-side
Two thousand feet above the creek
Reached the pass, went on
Beyond the white pine groves,
Granite shoulders, to a small
Green meadow watered by the snow,
Edged with Aspen—sun
Straight high and blazing
But the air was cool.
Ate a cold fried trout in the
Trembling shadows. I spied
A glitter, and found a flake
black volcanic glass—obsidian—
By a flower. Hands and knees
Pushing the Bear grass, thousands
Of arrowhead leavings over a
Hundred yards. Not one good
Head, just razor flakes
On a hill snowed all but summer deer,
They came to camp. On their
Own trails. I followed my own
Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill,
Pick, singlejack, and sack
Of dynamite
Ten thousand years.

I want to spend more time with this. After the 3rd or 4th reading: love the line breaks and how they keep it moving. Also how some of the lines have new meaning when read alone:

Edged with Aspen–sun
Hundred yards. Not one good