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.