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