jan 4/RUN

4.5 miles
minhehaha falls and back
28 degrees
75% snow-covered

Even warmer today (than yesterday or Sunday). Everything gray and white, even the sky. Almost forgot to look at the river, but then I remembered. It would have been nice to have my Yak trax with the slushy, soft, sluggish snow. Listened to the gorge on the way to the falls, a playlist on the way back. Felt good and strong. Only occasionally thought about my daughter and how she’s home sick with a headache and runny nose. COVID? Doubtful, but possible. Getting tested is very hard these days: no rapid tests, long lines at testing sites. Hopefully this will be over soon.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: almost all white with a few off-white (gray? light brown?) spots
  2. the path: a slightly wider strip of almost bare pavement than yesterday
  3. 2 walkers ahead of me on the path, waiting to cross at a spot just 15 feet from the crosswalk, then crossing over to Becketwood
  4. kids playing at the minnehaha academy playground
  5. graffiti on the biking part of the double bridge, the empty outline of orange and purple and blue letters
  6. the falls: almost, but not quite, fully frozen. I could hear the softest rushing of water from behind the ice
  7. about a dozen people at the falls
  8. 2 people walking up the hill in the park, one of them in a bright orange jacket
  9. the view down to the spot where the creek collects and kids like to wade in the summer was grand and beautiful and white
  10. running in the road on the spots between sidewalks, about half of the surface was bare, the rest was light brown snowy slush, looking like coffee ice cream

To fit in with my continued thinking about ghosts, and haunting, and remembering, and naming and the things it can signify other than power or claiming or owning, and yellow:

Forsythia/ Ada Limón

At the cabin in Snug Hollow near McSwain Branch creek, just spring, all the animals are out, and my beloved and I are lying in bed in a soft silence. We are talking about how we carry so many people with us wherever we go, how even simple living, these unearned moments, are a tribute to the dead. We are both expecting to hear an owl as the night deepens. All afternoon, from the porch, we watched an eastern towhee furiously build her nest in the wild forsythia with its yellow spilling out into the horizon. I told him that the way I remember the name forsythia is that when my stepmother, Cynthia, was dying, that last week, she said lucidly but mysteriously, More yellow. And I thought yes, more yellow, and nodded because I agreed. Of course, more yellow. And so now in my head, when I see that yellow tangle, I say, For Cynthia, for Cynthia, forsythia, forsythia, more yellow. It is night now. And the owl never comes, only more of night and what repeats in the night.

jan 1/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
-5 degrees / feels like -20
100% snow-covered

I’m not sure it felt as cold as -20, whatever that feels like, but it felt cold. I thought I had enough layers on, and didn’t notice that my legs were cold, but when I got home and stripped off my two pairs of running tights, my legs were bright red. Guess I should have worn tights and some fleece leggings instead. In addition to 2 shirts, a pink jacket, 2 pairs of tights, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a gray jacket, a buff, my new favorite hat, and a hood, I used hand warmers in my gloves and toe warmers in my shoes — the disposable ones that stay warm for several hours. They helped. Not sure if I will run when it’s this cold again, but I’m glad I did it. My status as crazy winter runner is affirmed.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t alone out there.

10 Groups of People I Noticed

  1. someone on a fat tire
  2. a human, bundled up, with a dog, not bundled up
  3. a walker covered from head to toe, only their eyes peeking out from under a furry hood
  4. a male runner in black tights, moving fast
  5. a female runner, in a blue stocking cap, moving less fast
  6. 2 taller humans, one in a BRIGHT orange jacket, the other pulling a much smaller human in a sled
  7. a group of people at the falls contemplating whether or not to jump the chain on the steps leading down to the falls, one of them said something about getting arrested — maybe, “we could get arrested” because they didn’t want to do it, or “we’re not going to get arrested” because they wanted to do it
  8. 2 people, near the locks and dam no 1, standing near the bike path, then crossing the river road to turkey hollow
  9. a woman in a long winter coat with a dog on the bike path, turning up the walking path near the parking lot, entering minnehaha regional park
  10. 2 people, near the falls, turning away from the falls and heading past the summer seafood restaurant (Sea Salt) and heading back to a parking lot or the pavilion or the playground

Listening to The Current before running, I heard this song by Jack White. I wanted to include it with my poems on haunting:

Alone in My Home/ Jack White

This light that shines on me tonight
Turns on when you wander through my door
And your friends won’t see you to the end, I’m sure
But you love them anyhow
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
The ghost that visit me the most, drop by
Cause they know they can find me here
And they claim to be held from me in chains, but come on
They’re guilty as sin my dear
I’m becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
I’m becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
These stones that are thrown against my bones, break through
But they hurt less as times goes on
And though alone, I build my own home, to be sure
That nobody can touch me now
Yeah
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me

I listened to this song on Spotify and watched lyrics as he sang them. Very cool. I really enjoy hearing a song for the first time, seeing what rhythms the lyrics have. Thinking about this gave me an idea: I want to try some song-writing. I could collaborate with Scott on a song. Yes, this is a goal for 2022. Not sure if I’ll be any good at this or why I want to do it so much, but I do, so I will. So many new, interesting things to learn!

dec 19/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
17 degrees / feels like 0
100% snow-covered

I think this is my coldest run so far this season. Running north, it was much warmer. Turning around, heading south, the wind whipped straight through me. Brr. Last night, I bought a new winter running hat at REI. It’s a black ball cap, with a visor and ear flaps and it’s lined with fleece. Excellent. So far this year, I’ve been using a free twins cap I got at a game when it was DQ day. At one time, it was black. It’s still black on the inside, but the outside is a brownish gray, bleached by the sun, stained by my salty sweat. Gross, I suppose, although it doesn’t bother me that much. Because I can’t see things that well, faded hats don’t bother me. I still care a little about how I look, but barely. Luckily, I mostly look fine, so who cares?

I had thought about wearing my yak trax, but because the neighborhood sidewalks were mostly bare, I decided not to. My run was fine, but I should have worn the yak trax. The trail was completely covered with about an inch of soft, uneven snow. I ran on the walking path most of the time because the snow plow had come through and pushed all the street snow up onto the biking path. Fun (not fun). I slipped a few times, but no danger of falling. I listened to my feet strike the snow and the crush crush rhythm of both feet. Thought about how the sound is much different when I’m moving slower and walking. Then, the sound of the snow still has the crush but it also has a slow grinding noise — the sound of one foot slowly lifting off the ground. So 2 sounds at once: crush creak crush creak. I wondered if I could fit this idea into one of my two beat poems? Maybe.

Speaking of my beat poems, I was looking for a different word for describing the beat as a discrete unit of time. I had written time’s sharp shutters but I wasn’t quite happy with it. While I was running, I thought of slicing. Then, after I was done: time’s sharp cuts. Now I need to figure out how to describe the space/time between beats. For now, I have a stutter, but I’m not sure if I like that.

There were lots of people out by the gorge. Runners and walkers. No bikers or skiers. One person pulling an empty sled. No Daily Walker, no Santa Clause, no Mr. Morning!. The river was open, with a few ice floes. It was a dark blue, not quite black. The sky was white.

dec 17/RUN

5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
14 degrees / feels like 3
10% ice and snow covered

I loved my run this morning. It didn’t feel too cold, and it wasn’t too windy. There was some ice on the path and I did slip a few times, but I never fell or twisted anything. Because of the warm temperatures on Wednesday, a lot of the snow melted, and the walking path was mostly clear. Nice!

Thought about my haunt poem and had an idea that should help me finish it and start (and maybe finish?) another one. Yes! I’ll take off the beginning and the end and make them into another poem. Then I’ll keep the middle and keep it as my beats poem. Thanks, run, for helping me out! Something I’m learning: sometimes when you think you need to add one more line or image, you might just need to get rid of something you already wrote.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was completely open and illuminated by the sun. Sometimes it looked almost bronze or brown. Other times, pewter and then silver in the spots where the sun was shining on it
  2. The ravine just past the double bridge was bare and open and easy to study. As I ran above it, I stared at the slope, trying to judge its steepness and whether or not I could scale it. Assessment: not easily
  3. The sidewalks criss-crossing near the John Stevens House were all clear. I had run this way on Monday, when it was all covered in snow. Looking at the sidewalks now, I’m pretty sure the trail I took on Monday wasn’t following them
  4. Some workers with chainsaws trimming trees near the John Stevens House
  5. Minnehaha Creek, the part the falls drops into, was almost roaring. I briefly stopped to look down at it and listen
  6. The falls were rushing. Some of the ice that had been forming in the cold melted from our almost 60 degree weather on Wednesday
  7. Cawing crows
  8. A greeting from Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus (at least, I think it was Santa Claus!?) Mr. Morning! was dressed for winter — snow pants, a winter park with hood, stocking cap, dark glasses
  9. One bike on the trail — couldn’t tell if it was a fat tire
  10. Someone walking down on the Winchell Trail

The poem of the day on Poetry Foundation was by Lisel Mueller. I always enjoy her poetry. Looked her up, and found 2 more that delight me:

Sometimes, When the Light/ Lisel Mueller

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

Things/ LISEL MUELLER

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

dec 16/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill

Yesterday, the threat of a big storm — tornadoes, dangerously high wind, thunderstorms — never happened. At least not in Minneapolis. Today, it’s back to winter and more snow and cold air. I decided to stay inside and do a quick bike + run. Watched a video about some deeper meanings in Saturday Night Fever while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Today exercise offered a good break from my work on my beats poem. It’s getting closer, but I’m not quite there with this one. Hopefully I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m trying to remember to not become to invested in any of my words or phrases.

dec 15/RUN

5.8 miles
franklin hill turn around
44 degrees / humidity: 99%
0% snow-covered

Strange outside this morning. Warm, humid, gray. White snow on the grass, white fog in the air. Everything wet, dripping. Too warm for ice or snow on the trail, just puddles. I overdressed and became overheated by the end of the first mile. I was distracted by a runner creeping up behind, (too) slowly passing me then, once she was ahead, going even slower. At least it seemed that way. I decided that whichever way she went when she reached the Franklin bridge, I’d go the other way. She turned to head up and over the bridge, so I went under it and down the hill straight into thick fog. Hard to see anything down in the flats but headlights. Very cool. The river was completely open and waving at me in the slight wind. Heading back up the hill, I ran 3/4 of it, only stopping to walk for the very last part. A warm, humid wind was hitting me in the face, tiring me out. Near the end of the run, I saw Dave the Daily Walker. He called out, “This fog is kind of cool” and I agreed.

Before I left the house, I was reviewing my notes and thinking about my latest haunts poem. This one focuses on rhythm, repetition, and beats (heart, striking feet, chiming clocks, dripping pipes/limestone). Last night, I came up with a few line to fit my 3/2 form:

I come to
the gorge
to find that
soft space
between beats
before
one foot strikes
after
the other
lifts off
when I float
through time’s
crisp borders
in a
moment so
brief it
registers
only
as shimmer.

Not sure I’m satisfied with the ending of this — shimmer? shiver? something else? Anyway, I was thinking about that moment, the soft space between beats, as I ran. There’s a point in the biomechanics of running when both feet are off of the ground. It’s often referred to as the float phase. It happens so quickly that it’s very easy to ignore it. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I try to focus on it. Today, I imagined my run as happening in that space as I tuned out the beat/foot strikes, and focused on the freeing feeling of moving through the air, hovering above the trail. I thought about how this space, while brief, can be big, expansive, opening you up, allowing for possibility and other ways to relate to space and time. One trick: stop noticing the beats — get a steady rhythm going so that you can ignore them. The beats are still there, in fact they’re necessary for making the float happen, but they’re not centered as the most important (or only) thing about running/moving. Another thing I thought about: taken in isolation, each moment is small/brief, but what if you imagined that the moment was continuous, only quickly interrupted by the beat? How might that transform our understanding of time and how it moves/works? I thought about all of this, and will work to condense it into a line or two for this poem.

I’m imagining this poem about repetition, rhythm, chanting as a prayer (or at least including a prayer). For inspiration, I looked up “prayer” on the poetry foundation site. This one came up. I’d like to study these words and how the poet uses the metaphor of making/baking a cake:

Prayer 48/ EVA SAULITIS

for Asja

In predawn dark, a rat falling from a rafter is a dollop,
wind a whir, and suddenly I’m remembering my mother 
teaching me to bake her hot water sponge cake.

How we whipped the egg whites with the electric mixer
until stiff peaks formed. How she warned me not to allow
a single thread of yolk to taint the white, or the cake

would fail. To fold white into yolk-sugar-flour was slow, 
patient. She let me carve a wedge with the rubber spatula,
drop it to the batter’s surface, then lift from the bowl’s bottom

up and over the dollop, turning it in. Warned me
never to beat or mix or even stir—the cake would fall. 
Once, dinking around, I stuck a wooden spoon into

the still-whirring beaters, bent the metal, splintered
the spoon into the batter. Once I cut her grandmother’s precious
lace for a doll’s clothes, and she cried, the savaged pieces

draped across her wrists. So many times I tried to shove
my peasant feet into her dainty pumps, hand into her evening
gloves. One spoon at a time, that first thin layer drawn across

the airy white forming a little hill. Folding only
just enough. The batter growing lighter by increments.
It was mostly space we folded in, taming down

the cloy. It was never so good as then, licked off
the finer, the cake itself, to me, disappointing, layers
smeared with homemade jam, topped with a stiff merengue.

Never so good as then, her instructing, trying to domesticate
my impertinence, teach me a little grace, me resisting,
the sweet on my tongue dissolving so easily

in that state of matter. Never so good as straight from 
the Pyrex bowl. Never so gentle as the slide of batter
into an angel food pan. The rest up to her, what she

created from the baked version, brown on top and bottom. 
Here I am, decades later sitting under the halogen
of a full moon, and that moment, which was many

folded into one, is so pure and specific, the sugar sharp
on my tongue, the spatula pushing as if through 
an undertow. My mother taught me to fold. Never so

sweet as now. We were incorporating lightness
into a deep bowl. As some bird—probably an owl
out hunting—chacks its was across the lawn,

sounding like a key chain, and now the garden sprinkler
comes on, so I know it’s 6:00 a.m. There’s the first hint
of dawn slow-dissolving one more night. This is a fifty-

year-old love. It’s heavy, so I fold in moonlight, the sound
of water spattered on leaves. Dim stars, bright moon—
our lives. The cake imperfect, but finished. 

dec 6/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike on stand
run: 3 miles
treadmill
outside temp: 9 / feels like -11

Welcome winter. I would have run outside but that wind, wow. 22 mph with 30+mph gusts. Decided I’d stay inside. Watched an old cross-country race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. No amazing epiphanies, but it felt good to move.

I continue to work on my haunts/haunting/haunted poem sequence. One about restlessness is giving me some trouble. Restless as pacing, returning to loop/orbit around the river repeatedly, in constant motion, searching for a view + a way in (to connection, understanding, joy, better words). Constant motion as being blurred, fuzzy, unfinished, fizzing out (or leaking out?), released from form, not following straight, efficient lines (of a road) but a meandering trail that travels with the terrain, remembers/mingles with the past (thinking of Wendell Berry’s difference between a road and a trail / october’s apparitions). I want to end it with something about never leaving loud conclusions (better word?) but quiet records with my feet (referencing Girmay’s snail). I need at least one more day with this one, I think.

Here’s another great ghost poem I encountered the other day on twitter:

Ghosting/ Andrea Cohen

How cavalier
people are—

with language
and with silence.

Any ghost will
tell you—

the last thing
we mean

to do
is leave you.

nov 23/RUN

4.8 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop
32 degrees

Listened to a playlist this morning and didn’t think about much. Sunny, a little windy, cold — not that cold, but cold-feeling in November when temps so far have almost always been above freezing. By January, I’ll probably describe 32 as warm. Lots of walkers, a few runners. No bikers or roller skiers. No squirrels either. Running over the double-bridge at 44th, I thought about it differently today. On Saturday, Scott and I hiked down in the ravine by this bridge and looked at it from below. A very different perspective. Lots of graffiti on top and a gaping maw underneath. We saw a few icicles hanging of the bottom, and heard some seeping in the limestone. Will there be ice columns in a few months?

Almost forgot: Turkeys! 5 or 6 of them huddled in the grass on the side of the road.

Yesterday, after struggling with a way into a poem for my haunting series, I finally found it. Very glad that I persisted. Whether or not my poem is any good, I’m very pleased with how much I’m learning and how I’m starting to be able to do more showing and less telling–or at least much less theorizing. I love how poetry is helping me to shift how I think and write.

from Haunts Haunting Haunted / Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft)

viii.

Signs — Maps
Monuments
Markers
claims on the
land a
possessing
with loud
You are heres
that ring
out proper
names placed
in firm ground
meanwhile
softer forms
quiet
submissions
of proof
whisper You
aren’t here
alone
: tamped
down grass
a gutted
fence with
chain links pried
open
stones stacked on
boulders
a black glove
draped on
a tree branch
faint paths
criss-crossing
the woods
graffiti
more than
evidence
these slight
signs do not
declare
but call you
to join
the endless
work of
noticing
making
room for what
remains
outside the
Known the
official
story

Robert Bly died yesterday here in Minneapolis. Here’s a poem of his that someone posted:

Gratitude to Old Teachers / Robert Bly

When we strike or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?
Water that once could take no human weight—
We were students then—holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

nov 21/RUN

4.5 miles
franklin loop
38 degrees
wind: 25mph

Ran with Scott on a blustery, dark morning. It was not gloomy, but dark, with a veil over the sun. Strange and beautiful with the bare trees, brown gorge, blue river. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker and few other runners.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Extremely windy crossing the franklin bridge, pushing us around, kicking up dirt that got in my eyes
  2. After exiting the bridge, a wind gust from behind pushed us on the path. A wild ride!
  3. The trail below, in the east flats, is finally visible
  4. Last week, or sometime not too long ago, I mentioned a missing fence panel. Today, there was caution tape marking it off
  5. The white line they were painting on the road earlier in the week was straight and bright
  6. Running on the east side, looking over at the west and the bright, glowing white of the white sands beach
  7. Crossing lake street bridge: small waves on the water — straight lines parallel to the shore — making it easy to determine the direction of the wind
  8. A small pack of runners approaching us
  9. The scraping of a ski pole on the asphalt from a roller skier in a bright orange vest
  10. A passing runner, tethered to a dog

Here’s an essay? a prose poem? by Mary Ruefle from her collection, My Private Property:

Observations on the Ground/ Mary Ruefle

The planet seen from extremely close up is called the ground. The ground can be made loose by the human hand, or by using a small tool held in the human hand, such as a spade, or an even larger tool, such as a shovel, or a variety of machines commonly called heavy equipment. We bury our dead in the ground. Roughly half the dead are buried in boxes and half the dead are buried without boxes. A burying box is an emblem of respect for the dead. We are the only species to so envelop our dead. An earlier, more minimal, way to envelop the dead was to wrap them in cloth.

Besides burying the dead in the ground, we bury our garbage, also called trash. Man-made mountains of garbage are pushed together using heavy equipment and then pushed down into the ground. The site of this burial is called a landfill. The site of the dead buried in boxes is called a cemetery. In both cases the ground is being filled. A dead body in a box can be lowered into the ground using heavy equipment, but we do not consider it trash. When the dead are not in boxes and there is a man-made mountain of them we do use heavy equipment to bury them together, like trash. It is estimated that everywhere we walk we are walking on a piece of trash and the hard, insoluble remains of the dead. Whatever the case, the dead and the garbage are together in the ground where we cannot see them, for we do not relish the sight or smell of them. If we did not go about our burying, we would be in danger of being overcome.

Also buried in the ground are seeds, which we want to see when they emerge from the ground in their later form–that is, as plants. Plants rising from the ground are essential to life. To bury a seed it to plant it. When a seed is planted and not seen again, those who buried it are made sad. The anticipated plant of wished-upon seed has not materialized. It is dead, and remains buried. Heavy equipment is used to plant large expanses of ground with seed. When a whole field of shivering grain rises from the earth, there is a growing sense of happiness among those who buried the seeds. Happiness is also present when a tree emerges, or a tree that will bear fruit, or leafy green, edible plants that were formerly planted. When flowers arise from the ground, colorful and shapely in an astonishing variety of ways, the living are made especially happy. Not only are flowers admired for their outward beauty of form, but their scents are capable of overcoming us and therefore prized. Nothing, it seems, makes the living as happy as a flower. Flowers are among the most anticipated things on earth. For this reason, we separate the flower from the ground and present it to another to hold or to look at. After a while, the flower that has been separated from the ground dies, and we throw it in the trash. Flowers are often planted where the dead are buried in boxes, but these flowers are never cut. That would be horrible. Whoever did such a thing would be considered a thief. Those flowers belong to the dead.

nov 19/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
29 degrees / feels like 25
wind: 18 mph

No snow yet. Bare pavement. Still time to enjoy running the ford loop before the snow accumulates. Many of the trails on the east side aren’t cleared that well, and neither is the bridge. Usually, I don’t run the ford or franklin loops in the winter. I wasn’t too cold, but the wind was tough. Pushing me around.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A single black glove on the branch of a bare tree near the side of the trail between the lake street and ford bridges
  2. A plaque on the ground near a bench. I didn’t stop to read it. The plaque looked older than the one I stopped to read last week — that one was from 2008
  3. The wind on the lake street bridge was strong, coming from the side
  4. Far below the lake street bridge: one person, dressed in black, walking the winchell trail right next to the water, another person, not dressed in black, running the trail
  5. My shadow, very faint in front of me, overcast today
  6. The ravine between shadow falls and the monument was completely visible. It looked much wider than it was deep
  7. A city truck hugging the side of the road blowing leaves on the trail. They stopped to let me pass
  8. Another runner ahead of me in black running tights and a bright yellow shirt (or was it a jacket?) with a fanny pack or runner’s belt poking out of the back
  9. Reaching the ford bridge: the huge amount of land that was the ford plant and had been fenced off, was now wide open with trucks everywhere. They’re building houses, condos, businesses, new streets, a new park
  10. The big slab of white in the middle of the river that Scott and I have been wondering about for the last week or so is still there. We determined that it might be a sandbar. Looks like it to me

One of my favorite poetry people, Ilya Kaminsky, posted a great question the other day on twitter. What’s the difference between wonder and astonishment? Here’s the thread. And here are a few of my favorite explanations:

I don’t think anyone is ever filled with astonishment, nor does astonishment invite you in. It’s a presence that leaves you reeling. A prolonged buffet that can make you laugh, or gasp, or scrabble to have thoughts again. Perhaps it’s the assertive version of wonder.

While wonder invites, in a way hard to resist. Can you breathe enough breath? Can you travel enough to glimpse a further side? Can you ever be outside of wonder? Or do you just close your eyes?

@MathJonesPoet

I associate wonder with quiet–when an interior reality mingles with exterior reality (whatever reality means) and for me wonder is often a perhaps, a what if… astonishment is a shock, a jolting awake — it can be delightful or violent or terrifying or a mixture of all three

@motleybookshop

“Wonder” feels closer to something constructed for me, like someone looking back at memories and applying emotion through the passing of time, which can result in something disingenuous or forced. “Astonishment” feels closer to something that happens in the moment—present tense.

@jdsctt

in wonder is a mystery unknown that cannot be known is tenderness,a lingering,a touch of an aetherial wing

state of being&a verb veiled&filled with how,a why a when, a could it be .. astonishment is awe&hit by coup de foudre open mouth&open eye

@purpezwaan

wonder is a continuous state, astonishment strikes then disappears

@nataliejedson

Wonder is a slow freight train going slow over a bridge, & between the cars you see peeks of snowy mountains. (Peeks of peaks?) Astonishment is when you’re on the train, & you round the corner & see the ruins of an old old building, & all the ghosts are visible, present.

@AlyssandraTobin

Wonder puts you in the thing and you become a part of it, maybe reciprocal in a way, astonishment is always outside of you.

@vickymharris

For me, I feel wonder in my gut, it has a shock quality. I process astonishment with my eyes, my eyebrows raise, my mouth opens, akin to awe.

@yoursbc

Some general ideas: wonder is a slow glow, astonishment is a quick flash. Wonder is a way of being, an approach that opens us up. Astonishment temporarily shuts us down, stops us; it is unsustainable as a state. We wonder, astonishment happens to us through shock, surprise. Wonder = curiosity, astonishment = surprise, shock, bewilderment. Wonder deepens time, astonishment freezes it. Wonder is warm, astonishment is burning hot. Wonder starts everything, astonishment ends everything.

nov 17/RUN

5.35 miles
franklin loop
39 degrees / feels like 32
wind: 15 mph / 28 mph gusts

Blustery but bright with a warming sun. My left knee has been stiff at the end of my runs for the past few weeks (months?) and my left foot hurt at the beginning — the result of my new shoes and the strange redesign that is too tight on my toe. Who cares?! It was a great run. Mid to late November when all the leaves are gone and the sun can reach every corner of the forest is my favorite time to run. My love for it is heightened by the knowledge that soon snow will come and these lower trails will be un-runnable until March or April.

Starting sometime last week, I began a series of poems on haunting and haunted. I’ve been using my runs to help me figure out some of the lines. Today, again, it worked. I went out for my run wanting to work on this unfinished line: what is a ghost but… About a mile and a half in, I came up with some ideas: a part of the past we carry with us visible to anyone who notices. I also came up with an ending, connected to these lines: I am both haunting and haunted. I’m very pleased with how helpful my runs have been for my writing lately.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running on the east side, near the U, the knocking of a woodpecker somewhere on a wooden kiosk. Was it on the top of the roof? Inside or outside? I stopped to look, but couldn’t tell
  2. Shadows, 1: running above the floodplain forest, the sun was shining down casting shadows everywhere
  3. Shadows, 2: Following my sharp, defined shadow right in front of me
  4. Crossing the franklin bridge: the river was blue and slightly rough from the wind
  5. A city/park/state truck repainting the white line for the bike lane
  6. A city worker halfway up the bridge steps, painting the railing
  7. 2 orange cones and some tape blocking the entrance to the steps
  8. A pile of dead leaves pushed by wind up against the bridge railing
  9. Someone stopped at the overlook on the bridge
  10. Looking down from the lake street bridge at the rowing club: a little cove, dark blue water, a white dock, a line of stone slabs in the river

Here’s a pome that feels very right for today and my thoughts about knees and carrying history with us:

In Passing/ MATTHEW SHENODA

There is something inside
each of us
that scurries toward the past
in our bodies a rooted history
perhaps in the balls of our feet
a microscopic yearning
that floats inside that sphere
yearning in a language we’ve forgotten.

History is too in our knees
in the ball that pops
& twists as we journey.

And for those of us blessed to be old
& for those of us blessed to be young
it lives inside the tiny ball of skin
deep inside the belly button
tickles recollections from our tongues
stories of stories from then—

history lives in circles & spheres

floating

always suspended

waiting for release.

nov 15/RUN

4.75 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop
32 degrees / feels like 26

Colder today. Traces of snow on the ground. Most of the trees bare. Alone on the trail for much of it. Wonderful. Working on a poem about feeling like a ghost, mostly because of my vision — fuzzy, out of focus, disconnected. Thought about that every so often during the run. Stopped on the grounds of the Veteran’s home to record an idea about not feeling fizzy but flat, or a flat fizz? Not so much light but weighted/heavy with distance and separation and invisible layers. Almost protected, wrapped. But…do I feel heavy or something else? Weightless but not light or heavy because in my untethered state, lightness or heaviness aren’t felt so they can’t be used for reference. I am a hovering ghost who is not heavy or light but hidden, unnoticed, lacking substance, insubstantial. Thinking about this more, it might seem like being unnoticed or disconnected is bad/unfortunate/a bummer. Occasionally it is, but mostly I like the freedom it gives me, the chance to observe without being bothered or judged or distracted. Plus, this feeling of being on but not on the path, insulated, is trippy and cool, strange, surreal.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Entering Minnehaha Regional Park, nearing the falls: the grass was white with snow, the trail was dry and dark gray, the trees light green. A jarring contrast. Spearmint or peppermint popped into my head
  2. Rushing gushing falls churning white foam
  3. Above the falls on the other side of the creek: Big Feet — what FWA, RJP, and I call the tall statue of  Gunner Wennenberg, a Swedish composer, poet, and politician (I looked up on june 27, 2021)
  4. A crow aggressively cawing on someone’s lawn
  5. The oak savanna exposed, no more leaves, the winchell trail below the mesa clearly visible outlined by the light dusting of snow
  6. The river: brown, flat, not looking cold but not warm either
  7. The sidewalk on the high bridge that leads to the Veteran’s Home was snow-covered and slick, icy
  8. Running on the double bridge, around a ravine, the light dusting of white on the deep brown, mulch-covered hill looked like powder sugar
  9. Reaching the 44th street parking lot: yelling laughing kids at the minnehaha academy playground across the road
  10. After my run, walking Delia the dog around the neighborhood, one block over: a huge tree still fully dressed in light green (with a hint of yellow) leaves. Will they turn and fall, or stay all winter?

Still reading Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod. Here’s another poem from it that I really like:

How Dark the Beginning/ Maggie Smith

All we ever talk of is light—
let there be light, there was light then,
good light—but what I consider
dawn is darker than all that.
So many hours between the day
receding and what we recognize
as morning, the sun cresting
like a wave that won’t break
over us—as if light were protective,
as if no hearts were flayed,
no bodies broken on a day
like today. In any film,
the sunrise tells us everything
will be all right. Danger wouldn’t
dare show up now, dragging
its shadow across the screen.
We talk so much of light, please
let me speak on behalf
of the good dark. Let us
talk more of how dark
the beginning of a day is.

Yes. The dark is not always bad. And, while we’re at it, let’s talk some about the “bad” light: too bright, dazzling, disorienting, burning too hot, deceiving, overwhelming/overstimulating. Can I make this poem fit with the November theme of lifting the veil? Maybe lifting the veil, coming out from the dark and into the light, isn’t always good? Or, maybe a veil can be lifted when we stay in the dark?

nov 12/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
35 degrees
wet snow flurries!

It begins! Cold air, layers, snow. Winter is almost here. Everything was already wet when I started, then, at some point, it started sleeting or snowing or something in-between. I didn’t care; I had a hood and a water resistant vest. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker and a new regular who I don’t have a name for yet. No distinguishing features that my fuzzy eyes can see–an older man, not too tall or short, not too big or small, white. All I remember is his enthusiasm and the joyful ways he waves or greets me with a “morning.” Am I even sure it’s the same person every time?

When I got to the bottom of the franklin hill I stopped to dictate a line for the poem I’m working on. Yesterday I struggled to get through a section on bells and ghosts. Early this morning, I had a breakthrough but still needed to work on the last line. I figured a run would help, and it did. Hooray for running and its ability to get me unstuck!

After that, I put in a playlist and listened to music for the rest of my run, which made me run about 1 minute per mile faster. I felt like I was flying. Free and fast and untethered.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The color palatte of the day: light gray, dark brown, spicy mustard yellow, slate blue, light green
  2. Running down the franklin hill noticed that half of the tree line was bare, half was a light green
  3. Running through the tunnel of trees, looking down on the floodplain forest: here you can’t see the river, only an endless stretch of forest floor and bare trees
  4. Almost to the the bottom of the hill, a snow/rain drop fell straight into my eye — ouch
  5. Some geese honking, sounding agitated
  6. A chirping whistling bird, sounding like spring, a woman stopped on the path, craning her neck, looking for the source of these sounds (at least, that’s what I imagine she was doing)
  7. Flashing lights from a parks or city vehicle, glowing brighter in the gloom
  8. The vase of flowers still perched on the ledge below the railroad trestle
  9. A bright white paper towel or plastic bag laying on the path, just past the franklin bridge
  10. A very fast runner that I saw twice in shorts and a bright orange long-sleeved shirt

This poem! So many lines that I love:

In the Meantime/ Max Garland

The river rose wildly every seventh spring
or so, and down the hatch went the town,
just a floating hat box or two, a cradle,
a cellar door like an ark to float us back
into the story of how we drown but never
for good, or long. How the ornate numbers
of the bank clock filled with flood, how
we scraped minute by minute the mud
from the hours and days until the gears
of time started to catch and count again.
Calamity is how the story goes, how
we built the books of the Bible. Not
the one for church, but the one the gods
of weather inscribed into our shoulder
blades and jawbones to grant them grit
enough to work the dumb flour of day
into bread and breath again. The world
has a habit of ending, every grandmother
and father knew well enough never to say,
so deeply was it stained into the brick
and mind. We live in the meantime
is how I remember the length of twilight
and late summer cicadas grinding the air
into what seemed like unholy racket to us,
but for them was the world’s only music.

nov 10/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees

Still lots of yellow in the gorge, but leaves are falling fast. Wind, rain, and the possibility of snow flurries this weekend. Overcast, windy, less humid. I ran north to franklin, over the bridge, south on the east side of the river until reaching another bridge, back over to the west side, then home.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The view down to the floodplain forest was clear; I could see the forest floor, or at least all the yellow leaves on the floor
  2. The view up to the road from the tunnel of trees was clear too; no hiding below the road until spring
  3. The river from the franklin bridge: cold, dark blue, the railroad trestle in the distance
  4. Running under the railroad trestle, I heard some voices, laughing. Looked down: at least 2 people walking up the limestone slab steps on the Winchell Trail
  5. Running under the railroad trestle, 2: a memorial for someone who died–a biker hit by a car? In addition to the hanging white bike, which is always there, a vase of flowers placed on the ledge
  6. Nearing the old stone steps, hearing the yippy bark of a dog slightly below, the sound moving up slowly — was the dog climbing the steps? Yes. When I reached them, there they were: black, tiny, skittering around
  7. The spray of water that hit me as I started my run–not sure what it was from. It happened as I ran by a neighbor’s house, where a loud machine that looked like a pump, attached to a hose, was set up. Was it an exploding sprinkler? Would I have been able to avoid this if I could see better?
  8. A shorter, older woman with white hair, slightly hunched, walking fast
  9. A taller, younger woman with a pony tail and jutting elbows, also walking fast
  10. After my run was finished, walking the last few blocks: wind chimes!

A great run. I’m working on a long, sequence poem about haunts, haunting, and haunted, and I had a few good thoughts, like the idea of haunting (frequenting, traveling on, slightly floating above) the path/trail as being (happily) out of touch. Disconnected. I thought about the image of a phone being off the hook and eavesdropping, to listen in, overhear, catch bits of someone else’s conversation. Everything an opportunity to be curious and imagine/guess what’s being said without needing to connect that imagination to reality. To fly, float, have freedom, be freed from concerns, worries, the need to be productive.

Yesterday, working on this poem, which is in the form of 3 syllable/2 syllable lines, I thought about Lorine Niedecker and the short, stubby form of her poems. I think she’s an inspiration. Here’s a bit from one of her longer poems, Wintergreen Ridge. (note: in addition to having short lines, this poem travels across the page, broken up into 3 lines, the first with no indentation, the second with one indent, the third with two, on repeat throughout the poem. Mary Oliver does something like this too. Did she take inspiration from Niedecker? Anyway, I’m being lazy or rushed, so I’m not doing the fiddly, extra formatting required (lots of  s) for spacing it.

Wintergreen Ridge/Lorine Niedecker

Life is natural
in the evolution
of matter

Nothing supra-rock
about it
simply

butterflies

***

(autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
to grieve
or dump

the leaves most brilliant
as do trees
when they’ve no need

of an overload
of cellulose
for a cool while

Nobody, nothing
ever gave me
greater thing

than time
unless light
and silence

which if intense
makes sound
Unaffected

by man

I love Niedecker and her condensing ways!

nov 7/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
50 degrees
humidity: 81%

Shorts weather. Overcast, everything a brassy yellow with brown and gray. A nice run in my new shoes. Cold update: almost gone. Just a thin layer of crud lining the throat, lungs, in the nose. Slighter harder to breathe when running.

Went to Gustavus Adolphus College for FWA’s first fall band concert yesterday. Very cool. I love that he’s attending the same school Scott and I did. It’s so great to go back and remember where my life began. Before the concert we walked around the arboretum/prairie, to a big sculpture of a bison on a small hill. As we walked the mowed grass trail, we saw a “river of birds” above our heads (love this phrase, river of birds, which is how a friend from band that we saw at the concert described it). Thousands of birds flying above us, their wings flapping like thunder. I think they might be starlings or swallows? An amazing thing to witness — the whole sky filled, looking like static. A few times, right above our heads, the birds would split up, with a mass of them flying left of us, another mass flying right.

At some point during my run, I began counting in 3s and doing triple berry chants: strawberry/blueberry/raspberry — raspberry/blackberry/gooseberry. I added in mystery and later: ri/ver/road ri/ver/gorge run/ning/path thir/ty/eighth (for 38th street steps) tres/tle/bridge. I stuck mostly with the meter: stressed/unstressed/unstressed. I should remember what meter this is, but I always forget: is it iambic or anapest. I started chanting those two: an/a/pest — i/am/bic Sometimes An/a/pest, sometimes an/a/Pest I/am/bic i/am/Bic

Just looked it up:

anapest = unstressed unstressed stressed
iambic = stressed unstressed
dactyl = stressed unstressed unstressed

So, it was dactyls, not iambic or anapest. I KNOW I’ve written about this a few years ago, and I’ve reviewed it many times. Will I ever remember? I think I should print it out and put it under the glass on my desk, so I can look at it all the time.

Anyway, as I was thinking about meter and form, I decided that I’d like to use triples — with dactyls and anapests — as the meter (or form?) for another poem about haunting, with the theme of a faint trail, the trace, the worn dirt as path and evidence of others, the residue/remains as offering (poem, an alleluia on the page, Mary Oliver).

Here’s a poem that fits with this idea of what remains (or refuses to die/leave?, that persists, offers up something unexpected or not quite locatable):

Perennials/ Maggie Smith

Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned
lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt & frame the absence
of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t
wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another
fo chime against, knock around.
Again & again the wind finds its tongue,
but its tongue lives outside
of its rusted mouth. Forget the wind.
Let us instead praise meadow & ruin,
weeds & wildflowers seeding
years later. Let us praise the girl
who lives in what they call
a transitional neighborhood—
another way of saying not dead?
Or risen from it? Before running
full-speed through the sprinkler’s arc,
she tells her mother, who kneels
in the garden: Pretend I’m racing
someone else. Pretend I’m winning.

nov 6/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
46 degrees

Ran with Scott up the Marshall hill and around Shadow Falls on the east side of the river. Stopped a little short. Warmer this morning. Still humid. We both greeted Dave the Daily Walker. I felt over-dressed a few minutes in. Tried out my new Saucony’s: black with light pink soles. Very nice. I’ve wanted black shoes for a couple of years now.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. River, 1: Running over the lake street bridge, the water was a few different shades of blue: dark blue near the bridge, then gradually lightening as it moved downstream
  2. River, 2: The white heat of water through a break in the trees. Mostly woods, with one sliver of the river
  3. River, 3: Sparkly, shiny, a cylinder of light traveling from one shore to the other
  4. Passing by a full black garbage bag on the bridge
  5. The clicking and clacking of roller skier approaching from behind
  6. At least 3 different small packs of runners on the east side of the river
  7. No rowers, no geese, no crows
  8. My shadow, off the side, her pony-tail swishing
  9. Passing lots of walkers on the bridge without worrying about covid
  10. Leaving the house, about the start the run, admiring our front tree on full display: brighter than gold

Yesterday, I started working on a poem (or a series of poems?) based on my October focus on ghosts and haunting. I’ve decided to use my rhythmic breathing pattern as the form: couplets with 1 three syllable line and 1 two syllable line (3/2). Here’s a bit that I like about going over the same trail, again and again that doesn’t fit in my current poem (and maybe doesn’t quite work?):

retread. Thread
needle

after need-
le stitch

stitch after
stitch use

the pattern
follow

directions
stay straight

but not quite
keeping

track losing
your place

untethered
let loose

nov 4/RUN

4.75 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop*
35 degrees
humidity: 84%

*a new loop: south on the river road trail to Minnehaha Regional Park, up the steps and over the falls. Follow the trail along the fence, past the John Stevens House. Take the bridge to the grounds of the Veteran’s Home. Go through a parking lot, up some steps, to the trail near the edge that leads down to Locks and Dam Number One. Rejoin the river road trail heading north until you reach the parking lot with the entrance to the Winchell Trail. Take the Winchell trail north to the Oak Savanna.

A good run. Cold update: It lingers. Still stuffed up, but continuing to feel better. A little harder to run because of the crud in my throat + a few raggedy coughs. Another sunny day with not much wind. So humid. I want my cold, crisp air!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A haze in the air from the sun illuminating the humidity. Running above the oak savanna, everything was even softer, out of focus than (my) usual, filtered through the damp air
  2. Still above the Oak Savanna: I can see more of the mesa now that more leaves have left
  3. The river was glowing white with sunlight
  4. Not too many people on the trails — hardly any walkers or runner or bikers. Just 2 roller skiers
  5. Stopped at the spot on the Winchell Trail where the man had been using a hacksaw last week to check what he had done. Nothing, as far as I could tell
  6. At its start, just after the slabbed steps, the Winchell Trail, which had been covered in leaves last week, was clear. Minneapolis Parks must have cleared out the leaves sometime this week
  7. The bridge over to the Veteran’s Home, high above the trail below — the trail that follows the creek after it has fallen all the way to the Mississippi River — has a chainlink fence that makes it difficult to see below, especially when the sun is shining directly on it
  8. Running on the edge of the bluff, I heard the roaring of the water as it rushed over the dam at Locks and Dam Number One, then I saw it: a wall of white water
  9. A turkey crossing! Near turkey hollow, I encountered at least 5 turkeys, almost all the way across the road
  10. At the end of my run in the Oak Savanna, I heard a bird crying out. I stopped to locate it: a white-ish bird in a small nest in a nearby tree. I can’t remember the sound it made and have no idea what kind of bird it is — was it the mother, protecting her young? Do any birds nest in the fall?

Just looked it up and yes, some birds do nest in the fall. I didn’t know that. I’m thinking it might have been a mourning dove. They nest in the spring, but can lay eggs as late as October. Wow.

Prints/Tracks/Traces

The poem of the day on poetry foundation reminded me of part of a poem I read last month and then wrote about in a document titled, “October’s Apparitions.” I like the multiple meanings of the title. Prints, as in photographs, but also fingerprints. I thought about prints as tracks too — not yet a trail, but evidence of someone or something else there before you.

Prints/ Joseph Bruchac

Seeing photos
of ancestors
a century past

is like looking
at your own
fingerprints—

circles 
and lines
you can’t 
recognize

until someone else
with a stranger’s eye
looks close and says
that’s you.

Here’s the part of the poem that I posted/wrote about in October:

from Seven Types of Shadow / U A Fanthorpe

We carry our human ghosts around with us.
As we grow we face the mirrors, and see
The specter of a great-aunt, a vague look
Known only from sepia snapshots. The hands we’re used to —
Yes, these — their contours came by way of a long retinue
Of dust. We are photofits of the past,
And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews.
We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born. 

And here is what I wrote on oct 15th:

Who, from my family, do I look like? What characteristics of others do I have? Whose nose? I don’t know/remember too many of my relatives, so it’s difficult to imagine who I might look like…[pause to look at pictures of relatives] I couldn’t find much resemblance. I’m not sure who from the past is like me, but my daughter is like me in her posture — she swims like me, she walks like me, she has my shoulders and non-existent eyebrows. I like the idea of the traces of others within us — what we pass on, the gestures and the expressions — there is love in the passing on, even if or when there’s not much connection or love in the relationships. We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born. I like this idea of all these different times mingling together.

Interesting…reduced to body parts — ghosts as that which we inherited…makes me think of the cone dystrophy — whose bad vision did I inherit? How many others have had it? And which side of the family? My sister has mentioned a grandmother who was blind—did she have cone dystrophy, or was it something else? Thinking about first talking with the doctor and the idea of how it skips generations, jumping around in families so you don’t know where it came from — a ghost not attached to anyone, unknown. So much unknown…

The comfort of a known ghost. To look at someone and see yourself in them or them in you. To know they are the ghost you are passing on. What do you do with not knowing? Is it necessary to know? Do you want to find out? What do you do about you kids? 

pages document/ oct 15, 2021

Re-reading this, I’m thinking more about how invisible, or at least very difficult to see, cone dystrophy is. It’s rare and has such a wide range of symptoms, presenting differently even in the same families. And, it skips generations and moves around families: a great-aunt might have it, but not a grandparent or parent. I’m not sure when it was first discovered — even now in 2021, so much is not known about it and the diagnosis of it falls under the vague, blanket term, “cone dystrophy,” which stands in for all sorts of cone-related vision problems. If it existed in families a generation or two ago, it was very likely it was not discovered. No understanding or diagnosis. No treatment. No prints (no evidence revealed in photos or through a doctor’s diagnosis). Instead, only faint tracks or trails: a story about someone having bad vision when they got older, knitting even though they couldn’t see what they were doing. My dad’s family, poor and living in rural upper peninsula Michigan, and before that, rural Finland, most likely had very little or no access to an ophthalmologist that would look for or understand cone dystrophy.

Cone dystrophy is inherited, most likely an autosomal recessive inheritance (AR). If I understand it correctly, I have a 50% chance of passing it on to my kids, but they only carry it if both Scott and I have it, and they only have a 25% chance of being affected by it (and, even if they are affected by it, their symptoms might be very mild or hard to detect). [source: Cone/Cone-rod dystrophy for patients] My experience of it, with most of my cones in my central vision gone and a good chance of becoming legally blind, is rare. So, I’m not too worried about my kids. Instead, I am fascinated by where it came from and the strange, unlikely path it has taken to get to me. What ghosts have passed it on unknowingly? To this I’ll add: I’m not sure if I need to know who it is from, or get an accurate map of how it’s traveled; I am more interested in the idea that it’s hard to track and what it means to live with unknown/unnamed ghosts.

Taking this idea of what our ghosts pass on to us in a different direction, I’m reminded of something I read in Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth a few years ago about the diseases we carry in us unknowingly, maybe from birth, maybe not:

Franny’s father, Fix, says, “People are scared of the wrong things… We go around thinking that what’s going to get us is waiting on the other side of the door: it’s outside, it’s in the closet, but it isn’t like that. . . For the vast majority of the people on this planet, the thing that’s going to kill them is already on the inside.” 

Ann Patchett/ Commonwealth

Does this make sense? Will it be useful to future Sara?

I began working on the tracks/prints part of this entry before my run. The last thing I thought about before I left flowed from it: What are the connections between my vision loss and running by the gorge? Some of it is directly related; I’m gathering words, images, metaphors about my vision while I run. Some of it is more a matter of them happening at the same time.

oct 28/RUN

4.5 miles
John Stevens House loop
46 degrees
light rain / humidity: 94%

The forecast predicted light rain all day. Decided I wouldn’t mind running in the rain. Wore my vest, which is waterproof or at least water resistant, a baseball cap, bright pink headband, bright yellow shirt, tights, shorts, gloves, and my older running shoes. Ran south to the falls then around the John Stevens House. Ran north until I reached the entrance to the Winchell Trail then took that the rest of the way. Not much wind, not too cold, not too crowded.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A glowing tree at the falls that, at first, looked all orange, but slowly seemed almost pink: a mix of some red, yellow, green leaves
  2. A rush of noise — leaves blowing in the wind? No. The falls, rushing in the light rain
  3. Water coming out of the sewer at 42nd street — not rushing or gushing or roaring but some other sound that indicates an abundance of flowing water
  4. Running near the river, noticing how the water closer to me was a blue so pale it looked light gray, the water closer to the st. paul shore was deep and dark, reflecting the evergreens
  5. The spot on the Winchell Trail right climbing up to 42nd no longer concealed by leaves, lined with tall, slender tree trunks and a clear view of river gorge st. paul
  6. A few honks, some kids yelling out, a line-up of cars: the beginning of the day at a local elementary school across the grassy boulevard
  7. A very short person walking around Minnehaha Regional Park. Wearing jeans and a dark sweatshirt with the hood up. Walking with a hunched gait
  8. A runner (or walker?) stopped beside the path, taking off a bright pink jacket and tying it around their waist
  9. A strange scraping metallic sound up ahead of me on the Winchell Trail. Then running by a man hunched over a fence post near the curved retaining wall with a hacksaw, sawing. After I passed, he stopped
  10. Squirrel after squirrel darting across the path and into the woods, never circling back to run in front of me

Earlier this morning, right after I woke up and made my coffee, I memorized the second half of one of my favorite Halloween poems: A Rhyme for Halloween. Here’s the bit I memorized:

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.
Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.
No time for the martyr of our fair town
Who wasn’t a witch because she could drown.

Now the dogs of the cemetery are starting to bark
At the vision of her bobbing up through the dark.
When she opens her mouth to gasp for air,
A moth flies out and lands in her hair.

The apples are thumping, winter is coming.
The lips of the pumpkin soon will be humming.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.

I recited it in my head throughout my run. I love this poem and its haunting feel (tone? mood?). As I recited the lines, I struggled with the second verse — was it bobbing or bob? gasping or gasp? Why was it difficult for me? I can’t remember now. I like stumbling with the lines; it gives me the chance to reflect on word choice and rhythm. And it helps me to think about what makes some poetry sing, some fall flat.

Favorite lines/images: the blind, dumb dogs; the martyr who wasn’t a witch because she could drown; the vision of her bobbing through the dark and gasping for air; the apples thumping — I imagine them falling on the ground; the lips of the pumpkin humming; something dying and something appearing.

Why is this haunting? One obvious reason: it takes up Halloween (spooky) images. But also: the rhymes. They aren’t sing-song-y. Instead, they echo. The rhyming reminds me of part of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells:

monody: a poem lamenting a person’s death
paean: a song of praise or triumph
rune: letters from an alphabet that was used by people in Northern Europe in former times. They were carved on wood or stone and were believed to have magical powers (source).
knell: the sound of a bell, especially when rung solemnly for a death or funeral

IV.

          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                    Rolls
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Reading through this again, I’m thinking about how the bells in this verse are not clock bells, tracking the precise, steady passing of time (which reminds me of the lines about the blind, dumb clocks and no time for the martyr). These bells toll, groan, moan, roll, throb, sob, knell. The sound of the bells floats from rusty throats, is muffled, melancholy. When it is mentioned that they keep time, it is not the time of life, but of death.

oct 26/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
42 degrees
humidity: 72%


Damp. Cool, but not cold. A nice, relaxed run. Overcast, windy. Ran north through the welcoming oaks, the tunnel of trees, past the old stone steps, above the winchell trail that steeply climbs out of the gorge, up to the lake street bridge. Over the bridge, down the steps, up the hill — past one of my favorite, uncluttered views, on the st. paul side; past the bench perched above the river; above shadow falls — to the top. Then down the other side of the deep ravine. Around the World War Monument, beside the river on one side, fancy houses the other. A brief stop at the overview, around another ravine, over to the ford bridge. Through the smaller tunnel of trees above the locks and dam, north on the river road, and then, another brief tunnel of trees just before reaching the double bridge and the start of the Winchell Trail. Through the woods, up and down and up and down the undulating path, then finishing on the upper trail near the 35th st parking lot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Almost all of the welcoming oaks are bare limbed, the ground covered in crunchy, crispy leaves
  2. The river a pleasing pale blue, not smooth but slightly rippled, except for at one spot where it’s smooth
  3. The trees along the shore have all changed color
  4. The ravine near Shadow Falls, looking very fall-ish, so many yellow leaves
  5. Running up the long hill, hearing the bell at St. Thomas singing the clock song: ding dong ding dong/ding dong ding dong/ ding dong ding dong — stopping short because it was 9:45, not 10
  6. Running beside the fancy houses on east river parkway, hearing a women’s voice call out to someone else, “what a beautiful day!” Immediate thoughts: It’s windy and cool. Is it a beautiful day? (then thinking: yes, it is. I love this end of fall weather.) Also: actual people who notice and enjoy the weather, really live in this impossibly large and pretentious house?
  7. At the overlook near the entrance to the winchell trail, noticing the river. Farther away, it looked white, almost like snow or ice. Closer, and at a different spot, it sparkled and burned bright and white
  8. 2 squirrels crossing my path, managing to not double back and trip me
  9. So many dirt trails and breaks in the trees leading into the woods on the edge of the bluff on the st. paul side
  10. After ascending the steps of the overlook on the st. paul side, stopping at a bench and seeing a plaque embedded in the sidewalk for Brian Bates, who died in 2008, about a year before my mom did
seen on the St. Paul side of the river, near an overlook

I was curious, so I looked him up:

Age 60 Died June 12th of Cancer Brian was born July 14, 1947 in St. Paul and was a graduate of Notre Dame University. He spent his early business career in San Francisco. After returning to St. Paul in the early 1980’s, Brian received his law degree from Hamline University. He was active on the Mac/Groveland City Council, Scenic Minnesota, Scenic St. Paul, Clean Air MN, the DFL and other political and environmental endeavors. Brian’s work on environmental issues led him to become well-known in the St. Paul area. He was instrumental in the fight against billboards calling them “litter on a stick”.

Obituary (2008)

Not too long after hearing the bells of St. Thomas (as I climbed the Summit Hill), I decided to take out my phone and record myself mid-run. At the point of recording, I was probably running a 9 minute pace, with my heart rate at 170 (which seems to be my standard heart rate for running):

9:45

Running up
summit hill
I heard
bells
at st. thomas chime.
Was it 10 o’clock or
sometime
in 9?
9:45

reciting 9:45

I’ll have to keep working on these. It’s difficult to overcome my self-consciousness over other people see me do this, and my reluctance to slow down enough to get out my phone.

One more thing I almost forgot: Running north on the west river road through the small tunnel of trees before the double bridge, I suddenly noticed the faintest trace of my shadow ahead of me. At first, I wasn’t sure. Had I really seen my shadow or just imagined it? Then, it appeared again, and I noticed the sun had come out. I glimpsed it a few more times, always faint, casting itself on the thick-littered trail. Writing this paragraph, I suddenly wonder about how many times we think we’ve seen something but then discount it with, “it was just my imagination.” More often than not, we are seeing something and it is not being imagined; we just don’t have the right words to describe it, and we don’t trust how our brains see so much more than we realize (or fully process).

Periodically throughout my run, I recited Emily Dickinson’s We grow accustomed to the Dark –, which I re-memorized and then wrote about this morning. At one point, for a few minutes, I stumbled over the 3rd verse. I had no problem with:

And so of larger – Darkness –

But, I couldn’t quite remember the next line: I knew it wasn’t, The Darkness of the Brain or The dimming of the Brain, but the word wasn’t coming to me. Suddenly, it did: evenings:

Those Evenings of the Brain –

Yes. Such a brilliant line, and so helpful and rewarding to spend time thinking about word choice — the right word, so precise and effective, matters.

oct 25/RUN

5.3 miles
franklin loop
37 degrees
humidity: 87%

Breezier and cooler today but humid, so no cold, fresh air. Sunny. Possibly more leaves on the ground than on the trees. Wore my winter running tights, a bright yellow shirt, black vest, black gloves, a baseball cap that used to be black but is now a dingy gray, a bright pink headband, and a not bright orange and pink and cream buff. No stacked stones. No view through the floodplain forest of the water. No geese in the sky.

10 Things I Noticed (about the river)

  1. Shimmering white heat through the small gap in the trees
  2. Running over the Franklin bridge, the light reflecting on the water was hitting my peripheral vision just right, or just wrong — painfully, irritatingly bright
  3. The surface was a smooth, flat, unmoving blue (above on the franklin bridge)
  4. No rowers
  5. Shadows from the trees on the east side darkened the river at its edges
  6. Reflections of the golden trees on the west side brightened the water, coloring it yellow
  7. A circle of light on the water’s surface followed me as I ran south, mostly staying ahead of me, occasionally beside
  8. Most of the trees along the shore have changed colors, many yellows, a few reds, hardly any oranges
  9. Running above the paved trail below on the east side, I couldn’t see it or the water until I reached the trestle
  10. Looking ahead of me at the path, everything looked fuzzy, barely formed. Looking below me on the bridge, the river looked intense, sharp, clear, solid

As I ran, I thought about echoes and rings, circles and cycles, shadows as evidence of something else t/here. I also thought about how the tracing of a paved trail/loop can’t happen on the surface — unless it’s raining or snowing, the hard asphalt leaves no evidence of my footfalls. Instead the evidence is found in my memory, my familiarity with the path in my mind and body:

Familiarity has begun. One has made a relationship with the landscape, and the form and the symbol and the enactment of the relationship is the path. These paths of mind are seldom worn on the ground. They are habits of mind, directions and turns. They are as personal as old shoes. My feet are comfortable in them. 

“A Native Hill”/ Wendell Berry

Returning to the rings:

A Ring/ W.S. Merwin

At this moment and through every moment
this planet which for all we know

is the only one in the vault of darkness
with life on it is wound in a fine veil

of whispered voices groping the frayed waves
of absence they keep flying up like flares

out of hope entwined with its opposite
to wander in ignorance as we do

when we are looking for what we have lost
one moment touching the earth and the next

straying far out past the orbits and webs
and the static of knowledge they go on

without being able to tell whether
they are addressing the past or the future

or where they are ever heard these currents
that are the living talking to the dead

oct 22/RUN

5 miles
john stevens house and back
36 degrees
humidity: 87%

We are at peak, or just past peak, color here at the gorge. Wow! So beautiful that it’s hard to take it all in. How wonderful it is to live here and experience this every day! Running to the river, I heard a loud noise. A bell? No, the horn from a train. Was a train rumbling over the trestle? Ran south on the river road and received at least 2, maybe 3, “good mornings” or “morning” from other runners. Very nice. The sky is gray, but in one small corner of the sky, I could see the sun almost peeking through. Heard and saw some geese flying high in the sky. The falls were gushing a bit more than the last time I ran to the falls. Ran up the steps, over the creek, along the bluff, and around the John Stevens House. Encountered a woman running with 2 dogs. One of the dogs lunged at me, which didn’t bother me, and I could hear her yelling, “No! We don’t do that!” at it after I passed. Anything else? No turkeys. A roller skier. Oh–an older woman who stopped at the edge of the paved path to call out to someone from the city working on the sewer across the road, “thank you!” The worker was confused and called back, “Sorry?” “Thank you!” Don’t think I’ve ever seen (or heard) that before.

As I was running through minnehaha regional park, I thought about the things that have stayed the same, the things that have changed, and what seems to still be present as living and vital, and what only remains in decay, or in the faintest traces of what it had been. I was thinking about this as I ran by the playground, which was redone five or so years ago, but still has some old equipment, like the creaky, rusty swings. Something about that reminded me of a few lines from Poe’s “The Bells,” especially the bit about the rust.

Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.

monody: an ode in a greek tragedy; a poem lamenting a person’s death

“the rust within their throats” — love that line and how it speaks to decay and sorrow and, almost, the living dead

oct 20/RUN

5.5 miles
ford loop
54 degrees
humidity: 81%

Decided to run the ford loop this morning and stop at some of the overlooks. Is today one of the last beautiful fall days? Possibly. So much yellow and red everywhere. Leaves drifting down like fat, fluffy flakes. Sun lighting up the surface of the river. Amazing. Writing this, an hour later, the sky is dark. Rain coming. I’m glad I got outside this morning.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running above the river, over the lake street bridge: the water looks a deep, dark blue
  2. From the edge of the bluff, on the east side at one of my favorite spots, the river looks lighter, richer, still blue
  3. Heading north, a strong-ish wind in my face
  4. Running beside Shadow Falls, wondering if what I was hearing was water from the falls or the wind in the trees or both
  5. Passing a group of pedestrians, walking 2 by 2 on the edge of the trail
  6. A barking, lunging dog, barely held back by a human also pushing a stroller
  7. The view, 1: from just below an overlook on the St. Paul side, standing on a rock, close to the edge. The bank on the west side of the river is mostly yellow and red, with a few bits of green still holding on. Looking left or right, all I could see were water, shore, trees, rock
  8. The view, 2: from the ford bridge. Mostly brown tree trunks and green/red/yellow leaves. Then, a break. A gleaming white — is this the limestone cave where the trail ends? The spot where STA and I watched the rowers a few weeks ago?
  9. The view, 3: from the overlook at the southern start of the Winchell Trail. The glittering, white heat of water lit by the sun. One way, the ford bridge. The other, trees
  10. Running on the Winchell Trail, right before 42nd, the trails curves close to the edge. As you climb, it looks like you might just keep going, out into the sky, above the river

Before I ran, I studied a passage from U A Fanthorpe’s “Seven Types of Shadow,” especially the lines:

Ghosts of past, present, future.
But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes
Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets

In particular, I was thinking a lot about echoes and reverberations. Halfway up the Summit Hill, I started thinking about bells and the reverberations of sound they emit after being struck. These thoughts were partly inspired by a passage I read from Annie Dillard in “Seeing” from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.

Seeing/ Annie Dillard

I didn’t want to forget my thoughts, so I pulled out my phone, mid-run, and recorded myself. It was challenge, speaking while running and trying not to feel self-conscious as I passed other people:

Recording While Running / 20 Oct

Here’s a transcript of what I said. I turned it into a poem, using my breaths to break the lines. I’d like to try doing this some more — experiment with recording my thoughts mid-run, then using my breaths to shape the poem.

I’m thinking about
how
I’m a bell
and how
we’re all bells
and
when we are struck —
is it at birth or
is it like Annie Dillard:
there’s a moment of awareness
and clarity
that makes
our bell ring
reverberate
continue to echo?

added a few hours later: I forgot about how, just before I started recording my thoughts, I heard the bells of St. Thomas. Was it 10 am? or 9:45? Not sure, but it seemed fitting to hear these bells, which I often hear at my house too, as I was thinking about bells.

I thought about a lot of things on today’s wonderful run. Decided I’d like to make a list of the traces, trails, reverberations I encounter on my runs. Also decided to look up and listen to the Radiolab episode about echolocation. And I decided to think/research more about the presence of the WPA at the gorge. As I thought about this I wondered about my grandfather who lived in St. Paul and worked for the WPA. Was he a part of the gorge work — making benches, walls, steps? Shoring up ravines, minnehaha and hidden falls? He’s been dead for almost 30 years now, so I can’t ask him. A further set of questions I pondered as I ran past the steps leading down from the 44th street parking lot: Do I need to know the exact truth about his involvement with the WPA? Or, is it enough to know he was a part of it, and okay to imagine he might have helped build the old stone walls I run by, the benches I want to stop at but never do?

In between admiring the view and thinking about echoes, I recited the first part of the 7th section of May Swenson’s “October” in my head. Such a great part of a poem! I’m a big fan of May Swenson’s work.

Looked it up and found the echolocation episode. It’s from Invisibilia and not Radiolab: How to Become Batman

Finally, here’s a poem I’d like to remember and ruminate on about haunting bells. This audio I found of Tom O’Bedlam reading it is delightful.

The Bells/ Edgar Allen Poe

  Hear the sledges with the bells—
                 Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
        How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!
        While the stars that oversprinkle
        All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight;
         Keeping time, time, time,
         In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
       From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II.

        Hear the mellow wedding bells,
                 Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
        Through the balmy air of night
        How they ring out their delight!
           From the molten-golden notes,
               And all in tune,
           What a liquid ditty floats
    To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
               On the moon!
         Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
               How it swells!
               How it dwells
           On the Future! how it tells
           Of the rapture that impels
         To the swinging and the ringing
           Of the bells, bells, bells,
         Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III.

         Hear the loud alarum bells—
                 Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
       In the startled ear of night
       How they scream out their affright!
         Too much horrified to speak,
         They can only shriek, shriek,
                  Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
            Leaping higher, higher, higher,
            With a desperate desire,
         And a resolute endeavor
         Now—now to sit or never,
       By the side of the pale-faced moon.
            Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
            What a tale their terror tells
                  Of Despair!
       How they clang, and clash, and roar!
       What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
       Yet the ear it fully knows,
            By the twanging,
            And the clanging,
         How the danger ebbs and flows;
       Yet the ear distinctly tells,
            In the jangling,
            And the wrangling.
       How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
             Of the bells—
     Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
            Bells, bells, bells—
 In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV.

          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                    Rolls
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Okay, one more bell poem:

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

I wrote about this poem on march 14, 2021.

oct 19/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
54 degrees

Another nice run. Another beautiful fall morning. Glowing yellow. Sunny, not too much wind, not too warm. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker twice. Ran past Daddy long legs. Noticed a roller skier. Encountered a clueless human and a small yippy dog, both taking up the very wide path on the franklin bridge, forcing an impatient biker to ring their bell and swerve around them. Some stones were stacked on the ancient boulder, the river was blue then, later, brown. No rowers (although STA and I saw them last night, rowing fast). The trees below the tunnel of trees were almost all gold. Soon: a view!

(The other day, I found a brochure online for the Winchell Trail. Reading through it again, I thought it was where I read about the plaque on a boulder about Newton Horace Winchell that was near the Franklin Bridge, but it’s not.) Having read about a plaque for Winchell somewhere near Franklin, I decided to look for it. When I couldn’t find it above the gorge, I turned and ran up the hill to the Franklin Bridge. There it was, the plaque! I’d never noticed it before.

Running on the east side of the river, between Franklin and the trestle, I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but when I looked back no one was there. I thought again about how ghosts and haunting involves more than visions and apparitions; it can come in the form of strange sounds, echoes, disembodied voices. Footsteps behind you or the rushing of wind past your ears or rustling leaves, amplified in the dry, deadness of fall. These sounds are both strange — hard to place, easy to confuse with other sounds, like beeping trucks that could be chirping birds, crying kids that sound like shrieking bluejays — and familiar. They conjure up memories, invoke the past.

A few days ago, I discovered Annie Dillard’s chapter in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Seeing. I have read some (all?) of this book years ago, but I didn’t remember there was a chapter titled “Seeing”! Excellent. I read it online, from a pdf. Yesterday, I found my copy, which isn’t really my copy but my dead mom’s copy that I inherited or, more likely, borrowed years before she died in 2009, on the bookshelf next to my desk. I opened it up and discovered a wonderful surprise: a sticker in the front that reads, “This book is the treasured possession of Judy Puotinen.” My mom has signed her name so neatly and clearly. I could stare for a long time at the pretty loops of her J and y; the confident backward slant of her P, almost looking like a person puffing out their chest; the t that looms larger than the other letters and stands like a cross (she was not very religious, or as she might have put it, “I’m spiritual, not religious”); and the errant dot of an i, charging ahead to dot the n instead. This signature, too, is a trace, a haunting, more than a memory. It is her, still speaking 12 years after she died. Such a powerful voice in that signature! For a few years after her death, I would encounter her signature on a box in the basement of my first house in Minneapolis. I had a lot of these boxes; they were care packages she sent almost once a month: a new tablecloth, a candle, a cookbook, baby clothes for my kids. It was difficult to see that signature then. It reminded me of how much I had lost: not just her but the care and love she constantly gave me and would have given to my kids. But now, to stumble across her in this way is wonderful. To spend time with her, delighting in remembering how much she loved books and how carefully and beautifully she wrote her name.

Page/ Jane Hirshfield

It waits now for snows to fall
upward, into a summer
whose green leaves
vanish,
but back into branch, into sap, into rain.

It waits for the old
to grow young, fed and unfearful,
for freighters to carry their hold-held oil
back into unfractured ground,
for fires to return
their shoeboxes of photos and risen homes.

It unbuilds the power line’s towers
before the switch can be toggled,
puts the child, rock still in hand, back into his bed.

A single gesture of erasure
pours back into trucks and then river
the concrete wall,
unrivets the derrick,
replenishes whale stocks and corals.

And why not—it is easy—restore the lost nurse herds
of mammoths to grazing,
the hatched pterodactyl to flight?
Let each drowned and mud-silted ammonite once again swim?

One by one unspoken, greed’s syllables, grievance’s insult.
One by one unsewn, each insignia’s dividing stitch.
One by one unimagined,
unmanufactured: the bullet, the knife, the colors, the concept.

Reversal commands: undo this directional grammar of subject and object.
Reversal commands: unlearn the alphabet of bludgeon and blindness.
Reversal commands: revise, rephrase, reconsider.

And the ink, malleable, obedient, does what is asked.

oct 17/RUN

3.6 miles
minnehaha falls and back
41 degrees
humidity: 87%

Another cooler, wonderful morning. Wore running tights + running shorts + bright yellow long-sleeved shirt + bright orange sweatshirt + buff. It was humid, so even with the cool air, I was sweating. Starting my run, heading into the sun, I could see the moisture in the air. Hovering. Ran south on the path and noticed the river burning through the trees. Such a cool sight. The falls were falling, not quite a gush, but more water than the last time I was here. Encountered a roller skier, a few bikes, lots of walkers, a runner or two, dogs. Watched the back end of a squirrel darting back into the bushes as I approached.

As I ran back north, after the falls, I tried looking up higher so that more of peripheral vision was seeing the path. Last night, watching the 4th Harry Potter movie, I started looking at it through my periphery and was amazed at how much more I could see. I aimed my eyes off the side of the television and the images weren’t sharp and clear, but I could see more of them. Colors were more intense too. Strange–and a strange way to watch a movie, looking off at the wall.

Ending my run, crossing over to the grass between the river road and edmund, I watched my shadow ahead of me and thought about shadows and ghosts and how my shadow sometimes leads me, sometimes follows. Then I thought about the dirt trail I was walking on and wondered how long it had been there. And I thought about how it was formed where it was and not somewhere else on the wide expanse of grass. How many feet (or wheels) were needed to establish this trail as the unofficial path to take when walking or running on this grass? I also briefly thought about the Oregon Trail and how, when we were visiting Scott’s Bluff in Nebraska, you could still see and walk that trail, over 150 years later. Earlier this morning, I had also thought about trails, imagining them as a collaborative poem that walkers/runners offer to the gorge with their feet.

At some point on the path, I also thought about Robert Frost’s classic path poem—maybe it was right after I recited his, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”?

The Road Not Taken/ Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I found an essay about this poem that I’d like to spend more time with, maybe later today or tomorrow?:

You’re Probably Misreading Robert Frost’s Most Famous Poem

oct 16/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
41 degrees / feels like 37!

Winter running is coming! Today was great. Cool enough to not get (too) overheated, sunny, not much wind. More yellow leaves. Right after I reached the river road, I heard 2 runners behind me. One of them had a booming voice that carried. I couldn’t tell how far behind me they were or if they were slowly approaching me. Instead of getting irritated or changing my pace, going faster or slower, I kept it steady and heard a few fragments of the conversation, mostly the loud guy’s part: they haven’t seen each other since the pandemic hit, so they were catching up, talking about their running and injuries and aging. I recall the quiet guy saying something like, Man, it’s tough getting old. Not too far from lake street, the quiet guy left. The last thing I heard before I turned up to the lake street bridge was the loud guy blowing a snot rocket (so glad he was far behind me!).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river, part 1: crossing the lake street bridge. Out of the corner of my right eye, barely below the railing, I kept thinking I was seeing a rower. Not the shell, but the wake or trail of the boat gliding through the water
  2. The river, part 2: crossing back later, I realized it had not been a rower or the trail from a boat but something else — the current, ripples from a something just below the water, scum on the surface?
  3. The floor below the Welcoming Oaks was covered in a dead leaf carpet. No visible grass or dirt, just crunching leaves
  4. Still no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  5. Near the bottom of the marshall hill looking up at the red stop light at the top, seeming far and close at the same time
  6. Hearing voices as I ran above Shadow Falls on the St. Paul side — were they coming from the falls or The Monument?
  7. The women runners I encountered wearing pants or tights; the male runners shorts
  8. The huge empty lot near Summit on the St. Paul side that I’ve seen on zillow. Asking price: 2.75 million just for the land
  9. Right before greeting Dave, the Daily Walker, I heard a bike that had just passed brake loudly — not a squeal but a loud compression of air, or sneakers rubbing on a gym floor– then turning around and passing me again
  10. The river, part 3: Running south on the west river road, nearing the old stone steps, I glimpsed the river, on fire from the sun, burning bright white through a break in the trees

Something about seeing the river burning white made me think more about ghosts and traces and why I am interested in trails and flashes. Right after I finished my run, I recorded my thoughts. In this recording, I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts and I say lake when I mean river. Also, I keep intending to use notes on my phone when dictating my ideas because it can transcribe them. One day, I’ll remember.

after run / 16 october

Speaking of traces, here’s something I encountered on twitter this morning:

“I am slow and need to think about things a long time, need to hold onto the trace on paper. Thinking is adventure. Does adventure need to be speedy? Perhaps revising is a way of refusing closure?…”

Rosemarie Waldrop

Just got Rita Dove’s latest collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse, from the library. I love Rita Dove! Here’s one that doesn’t necessarily fit with this month’s theme, but I want to post it anyway:

Island/ Rita Dove

A room in one’s head
is for thinking
outside of the box,
though the box is still
there—cosmic cage,
Barnum’s biggest, proudest Ring.
My land: a chair, four sticks
with a board laid across:
This is the raft
I pile my dreams on,
set out to sea.
Look for me, shore.

oct 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around + extra
49 degrees
19 mph gusts

Brrrr. Colder and windier today. Wore tights and 2 shirts. The leaves continue to change. Today: bright brassy yellow with hints of green and brown. Not mustard or gold — at least to me. So intense and delightful that I exclaimed “wow!” as I reached the edge of the welcoming oaks. Down in the tunnel of trees more oranges and yellows. Still more leaves in the trees than on the ground, but if the wind keeps blowing like it did yesterday and it is today, that will change. By next week, will all the leaves have fallen? I felt strong and relaxed, running at an easy pace. Then a runner slowly approached from behind, not passing me fast enough, running alongside of me. I sped up to avoid them and knew it was a mistake almost immediately. I was running too fast. Ran for a few more minutes at that pace and then stopped to let the other runner pass. The lesson to learn: always slow down or stop to let another runner go by. Do not speed up to avoid them. This is a reminder of a lesson I should have learned several months ago with the group of kids on bikes under the lake street bridge (see may 28, 2021).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A bright orange tree on the grass between edmund and the river road. Difficult to quite remember, but I think it wasn’t completely orange, maybe giving the idea of orange or orange-tinted leaves on an otherwise green leafed tree
  2. The man in black who was not in black at all but still has the very long legs. I think I might rename him “daddy long legs” — is that bad?
  3. The trees above the ravine and the slick slats and sewer pipe and concrete ledge were bright yellow and red
  4. The wind was blowing in many different directions, never at my back
  5. The jingling of my house key in the small zippered pocket in the front of my orange running shirt
  6. A roller skier without his poles — no clicking or clacking, lots of awkward arm movements
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Hardly any leaves left on the welcoming oaks
  9. An approaching runner avoiding me by running on the other side of a tree and through the grass
  10. 3 sets of steps (all inviting me to take them): the old, uneven stone steps after the tunnel of trees; the big stone slabbed steps before the trestle; the recently replaced wooden steps after the trestle. All leading to the Winchell Trail

Ran north listening to the wind, south listening to a playlist with Miley Cyrus and 2 songs by Silk Sonic — nice! At the end, above the ravine, I thought about how I rely less on a watch, and much more on the weather and the trees to keep track of time. Much more enjoyable to think in seasons or the progress of the leaves than minutes, hours, days.

Earlier today I was thinking about pace — and only slightly in relation to running pace, more about pacing and restlessness and ghosts that haunt the path. Pace and pacing, like watches or clocks, impose limits and boundaries: a running pace uses seconds and minutes per mile (or km) and pacing involves walking back and forth in a small or confined space, retracing your steps again and again until you rub the grass away and reach dirt, or wear the carpet bare. What to do with that information? I’m not quite sure…yet.

I found this poem on twitter yesterday. Even though it doesn’t deal with my theme (ghosts, haunting, haunts), I wanted to post it and tag it with water so I would have it for letter. Such a wonderful poem and poet!

Portrait of a Figure Near Water/ Jane Kenyon

Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
no sound.

favorite bits: anger, the inner arsonist; the bats and the rafters the roof sagged between; the line break for “the stone trough was still/filled with water”; and water as the soundless balm for our burning alone.

random sighting/thought: Saw a sign in front of a house that read:

We love our rocks!
Please do not
take our rocks.

I thought about the importance of line breaks here. Maybe it’s just my faulty vision, but when I read this sign I am just as (or maybe more) likely to read the line “take our rocks” on its own and think they want me to take their rocks. How does the meaning of the sign change with different breaks:

Please do
not take
our rocks.

Please do not take
our rocks.

Please
do not take
our rocks.

What if you mix up the order?

Our rocks
do not take
please

Our rocks do
please take not

rocks? please.
ours do not take

do ours not please? (rock’s take)

take rocks — ours
please — (do not)

Too much useless fun!

addendum: I told STA about my fun wordplay, and he offered this one:

Our rocks please.
Do not take!

another addendum: The sign actually started: Rocks rock!

oct 12/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
59 degrees
humidity: 78%

Overcast today. No sun. I like how this makes the colors — the reds, golds, greens — glow more. Almost peak color in the trees. When I started my run, I felt awkward, almost like my limbs were working against instead of with each other. By the time I reached the river it was fine. Ran south to the falls on the trail, which I’ve been trying to avoid, and it was crowded. 4 roller skiers, skiing 2 x 2 were causing all sorts of problems for bikers and me as I encountered the bikers. Made it to the falls, stopped to check out the statue of Minnehaha and Hiawatha. Hardly any water in the creek. Ran north, heading home. Took the Winchell Trail and admired the leaves — their intense colors and the fact that many of them had already fallen. My view is coming back!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The slow approaching clicking and clacking of ski poles. Click clack click clack
  2. A squirrel emerging from the trees then darting back in as I neared
  3. The lights from a bike coming closer, a sharp contrast with the gray gloom
  4. The trickle of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Drip drip drip
  5. Many leaves on the ground. In some spots erasing the trail
  6. 2 spindly, bare branches poking out from behind a golden tree, reaching up to the sky
  7. A clicking or rattling noise coming from some animal, probably a squirrel. Sounding a little like the rattle of a rattlesnake
  8. The falls barely falling. Hardly any water
  9. Kids laughing, yelling, talking at playgrounds — Minnehaha Academy and Minnehaha Falls. More kids playing tag around the fountain and the benches with parts of “Song of Hiawatha” etched on them
  10. Winchell Trail in full color — a perfect fall scene (can this perfection last for more than a day?)

As I ran, I was thinking more about the act of haunting (frequenting) a place, returning to it and then about trails and how I might want to write more route/trail/loop poems that play with ideas of haunting. At the end of my run, I recorded some of my thoughts. Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about trails and frequenting and haunting. And then I was thinking as I was running over the leaves, how the trails are hidden, can’t see the cracks or the trail at all. But then, when the leaves are gone and the snow starts to fall, when it’s just barely flurrying and there’s just a dusting on the ground, it illuminates the trails. You can only see that when the leaves are off and it’s just a dusting of snow. Thinking about how I want to play with that as part of this tracing. And also thinking about the different ways I can see — the visible and not visible. When is it a matter of seeing and when is it a matter of feeling? And thinking about the type of seeing I can do with the peripheral, which detects movement and gives you a larger sense of the terrain. What does that mean for these well-worn trails and how I experience them?

Voice Memo Notes / 12 Oct 2021
after run notes / 12 oct 2021

Here’s my ghost/haunt poem for today:

Seven Types of Shadow – an extract / U A Fanthorpe 

Part iii

This is a country of ghosts. Down the eastern shore
Lie the drowned villages, drowned luggers, drowned sailors.

After a hot summer, fields grow talkative.
Wheat speaks in crop marks, grasses in parch marks.

Wheat or grass, what they tell is the truth
Of things that lay underneath five thousand years ago,

The forts, the barrows, the barns, the shrines, the walls.
These are the native ghosts. After a hot summer.

No haunting. No rattle of chains. They just lie there
In their rigid truthfulness, the ghosts of things.

Part iv

We carry our human ghosts around with us.
As we grow we face the mirrors, and see

The spectre of a great-aunt, a vague look
Known only from sepia snapshots. The hands we’re used to –

Yes, these – their contours came by way of a long retinue
Of dust. We are photofits of the past,

And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews.

We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born.

Part vi

Ghosts of past, present, future.
But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes
Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets,

Voices calling I’ve passed / We won / QED /
It didn’t hurt much, Mum / They’ve given me the job /
I have decided to name this apple Bramley;

And the women convicts singing their Holloway march,
While Ethel Smyth conducts from her cell with a toothbrush.

Part vii

These are the ghosts the living would prefer,
Ghosts who’d improve our ratings. Ghosts
Of the great innocent songs of freedom
That shoulder their way round the world like humpback whales,

Ghosts of the singers, the dancers, the liberated,
Holding hands and cheering in parks, while the tanks
Squat immobilized. Ghosts of the women on the fish quay
Hugging each other when at last the boats come in.

Ghosts of the last night of the Proms. And ghosts of lovers,
Wandering round London, so happy that they could
Have danced danced danced all night.

Like this bit: “And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews./ We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born.” Love this way of messing with linear time. On a smaller scale, I think about this with past, present, and future Saras.

october 11/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

Still a little warm, but fall is here. Another great morning — sunny and cooler than last week. I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt (my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt from a few years ago). For the first few minutes, I was chilly, but I warmed up quickly. I wouldn’t mind running in this weather every day. Frequently counted to 4. Sometimes felt strong, sometimes tired.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The Welcoming Oaks have lost most of their golden leaves
  2. The tunnel of trees and my favorite spot above the floodplain forest is slowly turning yellow. Still lots of green and no view of the river yet
  3. The new asphalt, put down only last year, near the trestle is cracking already. In addition to the long cracks, people have spray-painted a peace sign, an anarchy sign, and something else that looks like squiggly lines to me
  4. Running over the franklin bridge, thought I saw a rower on the river, but the railing blocked my view. Every time I turned back, I could almost see it, believed it was there, but could never fully see it. Finally, almost across the bridge, I looked back and there it was: a single shell
  5. The river was mostly a pale blue with the dark edges — the result of trees on the shore casting their shadows into the water like fishermen
  6. A dog barking below
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Another regular: the guy with big headphones on who I used to see on the track at the Y. Last week I saw him near the east side of the trestle, today it was below the lake st bridge on the marshall side
  9. Running back over the lake st bridge, I admired the rowers on the river. 6 rowers. 2 single shells and 2 doubles
  10. An older man running on the other side of the bridge, shirtless

My shadow was running in front of me for part of the time. I thought about her as a ghost, or me as a ghost, then about all of the running or walking feet that have landed on this path. I thought about other people — the ones still alive who frequent the trail, like me, and the ones who are dead. I wondered about the old woman whose death, caused by a speeding bike in the 70s, resulted in separate biking and running trails on the west side of the river. Where was she struck? I looked it up, and the only thing I had correct: a woman was struck and killed by a bike and the outrage over her death led to the creation of separate bike trails. BUT, it was not on the river road, but at Lake Harriet, and she wasn’t old, but 58. (Source) I thought about all of the past Saras that have run this trail too. How many of us are there?

oct 9/RUN

4 miles
wabun park + turkey hollow
65 degrees
humidity: 86% / dewpoint: 61

A little too sticky, but what a beautiful morning for a run! Sunny, calm, quiet. Before running felt uneasy about something I couldn’t name; running helped. I’m thinking about ghosts and haunting the path (frequenting it, floating above it, flashing through it) and trying to find a way into my next big project — my annual fall project. Something about the periphery and the approximate as not quite (human, able to see or connect, in this world, real). I need a door, or at least a window — anything that might let me enter this project.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The trail, covered in leaves, a lot of them red — not bright red, but faded, almost pink
  2. A processional of walkers, bikers, big groups of runners on the trail between 36th and 42nd
  3. A clanging collar on the other side of the boulevard, following me as I ran south
  4. Someone playing frisbee golf at Wabun, throwing a frisbee from the path. Were they playing or working, picking up frisbees others had left behind? Why were they throwing from the path? Why did it look — in my quick, unreliable, glance — that they had a golf bag?
  5. For over a year and a half, every time I run up 47th, as part of the turkey hollow loop, there is a dumpster parked on the street, in front of a house. It was still there today. Have they been remodeling their house for that long?
  6. The ford bridge, from the top of the hill at wabun, then from below, at the bottom of the path
  7. My shadow in the grass as I walked across turkey hollow
  8. The too white, newly redone road between 42nd and folwell, one side of it covered in leaves
  9. Feeling someone running at my same pace–me on edmund, them on the river road. Not wanting to look over to check too closely, trying not to race them
  10. The dirt trail between Becketwood and Minneahaha Academy Lower Campus, dry, covered with leaves, much more worn and well-traveled (haunted) than the barely there mostly tamped down grass, partly dirt path in front of Minnehaha Academy Upper Campus

Haunt/ Maya Phillips

Because there are so few hobbies left
to the dead, my father gives himself this:
his usual route, the Queens-bound F
to Continental, where he walks with the living
to work. Every day he finds a new occupation—
picks trash off the tracks, changes a dirty lightbulb,
makes rounds on the platforms,
tries to make some small use of his hands,
though no one notices
or acknowledges. Yet still he returns
every day, in his tan shirt and brown slacks
ironed with the impatience
of the perpetually late,
his keys jingling carelessly
in his left front pocket.

Twenty-plus years with the MTA
but some other guy’s got the job now,
someone younger, maybe someone
my father knows, standing in the operating booth
at the end of the platform, watching
the miniature trains on the board
carry lights through a digital New York.
And maybe the young man knows nothing
of the dead man, has no words
for a ghost who builds a home
of his absence. And if my father says haunt

he doesn’t mean the way rooms forget him
once he’s gone; he’s saying his leather chair
now in his coworker’s office, his locker
in the back room newly purged
of its clutter, or his usual table
in the break room where he sits
at 10:30 each night eating
the same steak club and chips, counting
the 10, 20, 30 more years till retirement,
cuz he’s close, he’s in the final stretch—any day
now and he’ll finally go on that vacation.