may 16/RUN

4.3 miles
Edmund, north/river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south
57 degrees

What a wonderful morning run! The overcast sky made the green glow even more. Even as there were people out on the trails, there were stretches of solitude. Often, the closed road was empty. I was able to run right above the river a few times. Why can’t I remember what the river looked like? Encountered a large group of bikers–over 10, maybe 15 or 20?–by the railroad trestle, getting ready to head out somewhere. Glad I didn’t see them again. Heard some voices way below me, peered down the old wooden steps just north of the trestle to the Winchell Trail–so green and mysterious and buggy, I bet. Heard a murder of crows, then looked up and watched them circling in the sky. Also heard some Northern Cardinals and the strident, irritating call of a few bluejays (I think?).

Recited my poem a few times more. The line about the baubles and trinkets seems to have a bit more movement. Recited it into my phone right after I finished walking, when my heart rate was still high and my breathing heavy, but got distracted by some approaching walkers and momentarily forgot a line. Still made it through the whole poem.

Instructions on Not Giving Up, may 16

open swim

Last night I found out that they are not cancelling open swim. This confuses me. How can it be safe enough to gather and swim? And it saddens me. As much as I love my fellow swimmers when we are all in the lake, I am not confident we can social distance in the water. How can I? With my bad vision–barely able to see buoys or bobbing caps–I might run into someone else. It was difficult to miss out on swimming when I thought it was cancelled. It is even harder to have to make the choice not to do it when it’s still happening.

Thought I’d end with another rumination on green. This time, green grass and one of my favorite parts of Song of Myself.

Song of Myself, 6 [A child said, What is the grass?]/ Walt Whitman

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Favorite line for a long time: “the beautiful uncut hair of graves”

may 15/RUN

4 miles
32nd st loop
51 degrees

Decided to run the whole loop, from 32nd to 42nd to 32nd again to see how long it is: 3.2 miles. Added on some extra in the neighborhood to make it to 4 miles. Not too bad. I wonder how many loops I could do? Should that be a goal this summer? Maybe. I suppose if I can’t loop in the lake, I’ll have to do it on land.

Another beautiful spring morning. Not too windy or crowded. I think I remember hearing a black capped chickadee (and I can hear them outside of my window as I type this). Not sure about any other birds–I bet they were chattering but I tuned them out. Noticed the soft green glow of the leaves over the gorge offering less of a view and more of a mood or a feeling. Was almost able to get a glimpse of the river but the rim of the bluff was too far away and it was too green. I didn’t run on the trail at all today, just the road.

reciting while running

Recited “Instructions on Not Giving Up” over and over again. A few times I even whispered it out loud. Didn’t really stumble over any words, except for maybe, “the world’s baubles and trinkets,” because it seems to stop the flow of the sentences. Does it or is it that I haven’t fully memorized the poem yet? My favorite line today: “more than the neighbor’s/ almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving/ their cotton-candy color blossoms to the slate/ sky of spring rains.” I remember now how I stumbled over “cotton candy color blossoms” a few times–I’d think candy cotton or cotton-candy colored instead. Why does she use color and not colored? Or, why do I assume it should be colored–because of phrases like “rose colored glasses”?

update, may 21: Looking over this poem again, I noticed that it DOES say “cotton-candy colored.” Why did I see it as cotton-candy color before? Must be my very bad vision.

Right after I finished running, I pulled out my phone and recorded myself reciting the poem. I almost got it all right, except: 1. I said through instead of out of the crabapple tree, 2. their green skin instead of the green skin, and 3. continuously living instead of continuous living.

Instructions on Not Giving Up, may 15

Found this poem the other day and bookmarked it. I love poems that give advice in unconventional ways.

ADVICE FROM A BAT/ Michael T. Young

Hunt only at night. Fly erratically.
Defy even your own expectations.
Feed on beetles, moths, and mosquitoes,
whatever is small and annoying.
Cultivate the myths about you
until every predator fears your legend.
When hunting, be guided by a language
only you can hear. The same is true
when courting the one you love.
Clean fangs and fur nightly. Crawl
or climb to confuse the observant.
Retreat to a cave no one believes in.
Let the day and the world pass
while you sleep, and sleep upside down,
ready to wake and fall into flight.

A few favorite lines: “Defy even your own expectations”, “Feed on…whatever is small and annoying”, and “Retreat to a cave no one believes in.”

may 14/WALK

Woke up this morning and decided I should take a day off from running. Went on 2 walks instead and enjoyed being outside on my deck as much as possible while my high school aged son took 2 AP tests–AP Chemistry and AP Physics–back to back in his room. Such a strange time.

I memorized my next green poem on the deck: Instructions for Not Giving Up/ Ada Limón. It was easier to memorize than Larkin’s The Trees. Why? I think formal meter trips me up. Sitting on the deck, repeating the first line over and over–“More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree” “More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree”–I wasn’t thinking at all about the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the big crabapple tree in my backyard. This year, the blossoms are exceptional. It wasn’t until I was out walking through the neighborhood with Scott and Delia the dog, looking at the brightly colored flowers on the trees, that I realized it. I guess I was too focused on remembering the words. I love how memorizing these poems helps me to spend more time with them and to acquire better words for the world around me. I wouldn’t have thought to describe the flowers as fuchsia funnels, but it really fits. Now, as I walk around the neighborhood, all I can see is one fuchsia funnel after another.

a hiding bird + more turkeys!

Maybe I should start calling the tree graveyard turkey meadow instead? Every time I’m there I see wild turkeys. Last night, Scott and I watched one crossing the road, its head awkwardly bobbing back and forth. A few minutes, later we heard a bird calling out loudly, repeatedly. We stopped and stared up at the big tree where we thought it was, but neither of us could spot it. I wish I would have recorded its call. I can’t remember it now. Was it another Northern Cardinal? A goldfinch?

may 13/RUN

3.5 miles
32nd st loop*
52 degrees

*edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, east/edmund, north/34th st, west)

Tried a variation on the loop I did yesterday by making it a little longer. My loop yesterday from home to 36th to 42nd to 36th again was about 1.8 miles; the loop today from home to 32nd to 42nd to 34th was about 3 miles. Next time, I should try continuing on until 32nd and see how long a complete loop is. It’s fun to figure out different routes. I’m thinking this might be the summer of loops.

It’s overcast this morning. Rain coming soon. Everything was green and quiet and expectant. Up on edmund early in the run, I saw a roller skier down below. A few minutes later, I passed them on the hill. Can’t remember if I heard them clickity-clacking. Saw a few other runners, walkers, and bikers. Not too crowded except for the spot on the road right before the tunnel of trees. Trucks were blocking half the road, working on high speed internet lines. Couldn’t see the river because I was too far away from the bluff. At some point, when I was closest to the bluff, I heard some rustling in the bushes just beyond the trail. What was down there? A squirrel? A bird? A coyote?

bird sounds

Didn’t hear any black-capped chickadees this morning but as I was nearing 42nd, I hear a few other birds that sounded like laser beams or guns from 70s science-fiction movies. Pew pew pew. Looked it up and I’m pretty sure it was a few northern cardinals. As I was turning onto Edmund, I thought about how much more I’m paying attention to bird sounds this year and how my language/description is getting more specific. In the past, when I talked about birds, I might describe them as singing or chirping or trilling but I wasn’t really thinking about the specific sounds they were making. I was using those verbs generically. I should start making a big list of words for bird sounds that I find.

reciting while running

Recited The Trees again this morning. Over and over. Thought about the meter and how it was easy to lock into a cadence that sounded too rhythmic until I got to the line, “Yet still the unresting castles thresh.” Can’t remember that much else about the poem while I was running but later, while walking Delia the dog, I thought about the first line and the unique, musical and literal way he describes the leaves returning to the trees–“The trees are coming into leaf.” Then I thought about the second line–“Almost like something being said.” Later in the poem, Larkin tells us what they seem to say: “Last year is dead” and “Begin afresh afresh afresh” I wonder, what else might the leaves be saying? What do I hear them saying?

sidewalk poetry

Yesterday, during our evening walk, Scott and I noticed some writing on the sidewalk. If I had stopped and spent a few minutes staring at it, I could have read it, even with my bad vision. Luckily I didn’t have to; Scott could read it instantly. A haiku by the famous Japanese poet Issa about a snail climbing Mt. Fuji slowly. I am familiar with Issa but haven’t really studied them–I’ve read up a little more on one of the other notable Japanese poets, Basho. Very cool. I love how literary my neighborhood is–we live in the Cooper (as in James Fenimore Cooper) part of Longfellow (as in Henry Longfellow) neighborhood. Within a few blocks of me are 2 different poetrees (trees with poem prompts affixed to them). I’d like to chalk some Emily Dickinson on our sidewalk–maybe “In the name of the Bees—And the Butterflies—And the Breeze—Amen!”

Speaking of Issa, when I looked him up on the poetry foundation site, I found this delightful poem:

[the snow is melting]
BY KOBAYASHI ISSA, TRANSLATED BY ROBERT HASS

The snow is melting 
and the village is flooded 
      with children.

may 12/RUN

4 miles
river road, south/42nd street, west/edmund, north x 2 + extra on edmund at end
42 degrees

Decided to try looping today. Starting at the end of my block, turning right at the river, looping back on edmund twice = 3.44 miles. Stayed on edmund after the second loop past 36th and kept running until 34th. Not too bad. Maybe next time I loop, I’ll try turning left on edmund, running north until 33rd, running south on the river road until 42nd. How much more distance will that add?

Wore a new pair of running shoes today: some Saucony grid cohesions that I bought 6 months ago. Slate gray with mint green accents. I had thought, when I ordered them online, that they were black (because the description said they were black) but gray will do. The favorite color I’ve had so far? Electric blue. I wish I could still get those.

A good run. Still cold outside but not for long. Maybe the 80s next week. I wore my winter vest + long sleeve green shirt + winter tights. I’m ready to put away all these layers!

Sounds

  • a black-capped chickadee singing the “feebee” song
  • a woodpecker drumming on a tree
  • a few crows
  • the clickity-clack of a roller skier
  • some part of my vest banging against my shoulder, sounding like another runner approaching from behind
  • a tin whistle chirp from some bird I couldn’t identify (I think it’s a Robin)
  • car wheels slowly approaching from behind
  • a group of three walkers talking

Made sure to look down at the river for the short time that I was able to run right above the gorge. Blue framed in green. Don’t remember noticing it sparkling or shimmering or undulating or doing anything but being below me. After I crossed over to the road, I noticed the soft green glow of the new leaves lining the bluff. I think this spring and summer are going to much more about green than blue.

reciting while running

On my second day of reciting The Trees by Phillip Larkin, I did a much better job of remembering all the lines. I don’t think I stumbled over any this time. Thought a lot about the line, “Last year is dead, they seem to say/Begin afresh, afresh, afresh” For me, when does a new year begin–the fall or the spring? And where does winter fit into all of it? Also thought about the line “Their greenness is a kind of grief” and the contrast between Larkin’s grief as the greening of the trees and Gerard Manley Hopkins’s golden unleaving grief. How do these griefs differ for me? Which one is more difficult? At the end of my run, I recorded myself reciting the poem. Not perfect, but okay. The only glaring mistake is the last line. Instead of saying “Begin afresh” I say “Be afresh.” Begin sounds so much better, makes much more sense, than be.

The Trees, may 12

Since I mentioned Hopkins, I thought I’d put in Spring and Fall again (which is one of the first poems I remember memorizing and loving back in high school):

Spring and Fall 
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving 
Over Goldengrove unleaving? 
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? 
Ah! ás the heart grows older 
It will come to such sights colder 
By and by, nor spare a sigh 
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; 
And yet you wíll weep and know why. 
Now no matter, child, the name: 
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same. 
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed 
What heart heard of, ghost guessed: 
It ís the blight man was born for, 
It is Margaret you mourn for.

may 11/RUN

3.7 miles
47th ave loop, short
43 degrees

A little too cold but beautiful and sunny and not too crowded. I don’t remember getting close enough to look down at the river but I do remember noticing the trees glowing in a soft green light. Ran on the trail, the grass, the road, the dirt, and the sidewalk. Felt relaxed and strong and not consumed with worry.

reciting while running

I began reciting my new poem today, the first in my “green” series: The Trees by Phillip Larkin. Before heading out for my run, I memorized it while sitting at the dining room table. Then I repeated it over and over again in my head as I ran. 3 quatrains, abba rhyme. The more I recited it, the more I locked in the iambic tetrameter. Except for the first line of the third stanza: “Yet still the unresting castles thresh.” This line seems strange to me. It doesn’t quite fit the meter; there’s an extra beat with the word “the.” Would it work better without that word–“Yet still unresting castles thresh”? Why does he add “the”? Today my favorite lines were: “Is it that they are born again,/ And we grow old? No, they die too./ Their yearly trick of looking new/ Is written down in rings of grain.” I especially enjoyed discovering the rhythm in the first 2 lines as I ran.

birds! birds! birds!

I saw 6 wild turkeys grazing in the tree graveyard. I slowed down to count them. Almost stopped to take a picture or a video, but decided against it. Heard the low drumming of a woodpecker–was it our Pileated friend? About 3 miles in, I heard a male black capped chickadee singing the 3 syllable “hey sweetie” song. Until now, I’ve only heard the 2 syllable “feebee” song. So cool! I tried looking for a recording of the 3 syllable sound but I couldn’t find it. I wish I would have stopped to record it! I thought about doing it but I didn’t. Why don’t I ever stop? Just to be sure, I checked the site and re-read the song description: “In most of North America, the song is a simple, pure 2 or 3-note whistled fee-bee or hey, sweetie.”

may 8/RUN

3.3 miles
river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
40 degrees

Brrr. Colder today but still sunny and green and spring-y. No surprise snow storms here. (note: after writing this smug sentence, I came across a tweet by MPR weather–we might get some snow on Sunday. Less than a inch, but still snow. I promise to not be smug again!) Ran a little later and was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker. I’m not sure the last time I saw him–a week ago? Didn’t hear any woodpeckers or black capped chickadees or geese or roller skiers. Did hear my feet shshshushing on the grit at the edge of the road. Also heard my iPhone banging against my headphones in my chest pocket at the beginning of my run. I don’t remember hearing it later. Did it stop or settle or did I tune it out? Saw a few runners, some bikers, more walkers. Was able to keep my distance almost all of the time. I might have gotten closer than 6 feet for a few seconds once near the rowing club. I ran on the trail, the dirt, the road, the grit, and the grass. Don’t remember looking down at the river or noticing how abundantly green it was. I do remember running through the Welcoming Oaks and greeting every single one of them. I noticed that all but one of the cairns on the ancient boulder had blown off in the wind or been knocked off by something. Also noticed that they have closed down the entire parkway starting at the trestle and heading north. Will that make it much more crowded on Seabury and Edmund? I hope not. I bet it will make it super crowded on the parkway in the late afternoon.

what happened?

Yesterday, on our daily evening walk, Scott and I heard a lot of sirens. When we got near the river, we saw them all lined up near folwell. 7 or 8 emergency vehicles. What happened? I hope no one was seriously hurt or killed.

reciting while running is a success

Recited “Ode to My Right Knee Again.” I have finally mastered pronouncing obstreperous. Briefly contemplated taking out my phone and trying to recite it into the voice memo app but I wimped out. Now, I wish I would have. I’ll have to try tomorrow or Sunday on the treadmill. Last night Scott and I were discussing the poem as we finished up our walk–we talked about the phrase leathery Lothario and which word in it was worse. He agreed that leathery was awful, explaining that Lothario is not specific enough to be too terrible, but that leathery conjures up a specific image for him of an older woman who has spent too much time in the sun and smoked too much. I think it is very cool to spend this much time with these words and really thinking through what they might mean and how they affect the reader. The reciting while running project is turning out to be a big success!

Speaking of running while reciting, here’s another possible poem to memorize this month:

The Trees/ Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Click on the link to watch an awesome animated video with Larkin’s reading of the poem. Sweet!

I love the lines, “Their greenness is a kind of grief.” and “Their yearly trick of looking new” Something about this poem and the full-grown thickness every May reminded me of Williams Carlos Williams’ “Winter Trees.” I’d like to memorize this poem and maybe compose a companion poem, “Summer Trees.”

I think this poem, Larkin’s “The Trees” will be the next poem I memorize. I find the rhyme scheme–abba, which I discovered is called enclosed rhyme–to be a bit awkward sounding. I wonder how it will move when I’m running?

may 7/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/34th, west/44th, south
50 degrees

A shorter run today because I’ve already run 3 days in a row this week. Another sunny, calm, beautiful morning. Ran on the trail right above the river heading south. Oh, the river! So sparkly and shiny and inviting. Almost stopped to look at it for a few minutes. I need to do that someday soon when it’s early. Didn’t hear the black capped chickadee. Did I hear any birds? I can’t remember. Heard at least one person talking. A leaf blower and a lawn mower. A kid explaining something to an adult–his mom, maybe? Felt strong and relaxed.

Recited “Ode to My Right Knee” again a few times. Got distracted, so I didn’t recite it straight through. Lots of stopping and starting again. I think the phrase that generates the most negative reaction from me is “leathery Lothario.” Which part of it is worse, leathery or Lothario? I think it’s leathery. Anything leathery sounds gross to me. A leathery knee? Yuck. But what does the Lothario mean here? The knee as seducer, foppish rake?

the howling dog

My new morning running routine is to run, return home, and pick up Delia the dog for a short walk around a block or two. So calm and quiet and beautiful! As Delia stopped at every tree to sniff, I stood straight and slowly breathed in the trees and peonies and the gentle breeze. On the next block, Delia sniffed up and down a new branch shooting out of the bottom of a trunk and a dog barked from a backyard. As we walked away, it started to howl. It howled for a long time–20 or 30 seconds–and sounded like a wounded animal. It did not sound like a dog. So strange. At first, I tried not to laugh because it was so weird but then I thought about how lonely and sad this dog might be–or maybe that’s just how it complains or shouts out its “good morning?” I wish I had had my phone with me to record the sound. I’ll have to take Delia by that house again tomorrow and bring my phone.

May/ Jonathan Galassi

The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,
takes on a used-up, feather-duster look
within a week.

The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign
sends red feelers out and up and down
to find the sun.

Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,
brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch
soft to the touch

and rank with interface of rut and rot.
The month after the month they say is cruel
is and is not.

Love the images of a sad apple tree looking like a used-up feather-duster and the sludge in the pool as a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch that is “rank with interface of rut and rot.” Also appreciate and agree with the idea that May is both cruel and not cruel. Everything is getting too green too fast and yet, it’s wonderful and so needed to have all the green. My backyard looks full and glowing–the weeds aren’t too much yet but they’re already starting to establish their supremacy. It’s mostly in the 60s with sun, but every day that’s colder seems even colder and crueler by comparison. Speaking of colder, the northeast is supposed to get a huge winter storm this weekend. Upstate New York and New England could get up to a foot of snow and lots of frozen slushy stuff.

Thinking more about the green ode I started yesterday. I like using Dove’s form for it–but maybe making it seem more excessive than she does with all my alliteration. For the rest of May, I’d like to memorize some green poems to get more ideas about green and excess and abundance.

Green in Poetry