dec 13/RUN

4.5 miles
john stevens house and back
38 degrees

Sunny and warmer! Shadows! Clear, dry paths! A great afternoon run, even if my left IT band started hurting…again. I was able to run on all of the walking paths, even when they split off from the bike path.

Listened to kids, cars, chainsaws, and some guy with a DEEP voice as I ran to the Steven’s house and The Wiz on the way back.

10 Things

  1. the light was lower — it felt later than 2:30*
  2. a walker with a big white dog
  3. the falls seemed to be rushing more than on Monday
  4. a sour sewer smell near the John Steven’s house
  5. kids yelling and laughing on the playground
  6. a bird flying low in the sky, off to my side, almost looking like a fluttering leaf
  7. the soft whoosh of the light rail nearing the station
  8. the bells ringing as it left the station
  9. my feet feeling strange, awkward until I warmed up
  10. the buzz of a chainsaw echoing across the gorge

*the light reminded me of the line from ED:

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons – 

But this light wasn’t oppressive. It was warm and welcoming.

I’m continuing to plug away at my haunts poem, even though I was feeling burned out yesterday. I decided to read Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior” and the translator’s afterword for Perec’s How to Exhaust a Place. It helped and I think I had a break through this morning. Now I’m looking to Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness and 300 Arguments for inspiration. My focus: restlessness and stone and water. And, 2 mantras: 1. let it go and 2. condense! condense! condense!

dec 11/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
25 degrees
50% snow and ice covered

Cold air! So wonderful to breathe in, to make me feel a little dazed and disconnected. More gloomy white sky. Flurries on my face. Listened to a few birds, the kids on the playground, and the rushing water at the falls on the way there, then Olivia Rodrigo on the way back.

10 Things

  1. the strong smell of weed from behind me — no one in sight, then an old white van with a ladder on the back drove by
  2. much of the walking path was covered in a thin layer of snow/ice — so thin that the dark pavement was still visible, making the snow look light gray
  3. a leaning split rail fence, bent in the middle — not quite broken but almost
  4. a walker with two dogs walking down the steepish trail just past the double bridge — was it icy?
  5. someone in a bright yellow puffer jacket walking with a dog on the winchell trail — they had just crested the short, steep hill right before folwell
  6. the tinny recording of the train bell echoing from across Hiawatha to the falls
  7. the heavy thud of my feet on the cold cobblestones in the park
  8. a walker with a dog emerging from the steps that lead down to the bottom of the falls. As I watched they crossed the bridge
  9. running up the hill at the edge of the park near the sledding hill, remembering my run here a month ago when I imagined it being covered in snow
  10. missing: a view of the river, turkeys, fat tires, orange, red

Stopped at my favorite falls viewing spot and recorded the bridge and the water falling:

minnehaha falls, still falling / 11 dec 2023

At one point on my run back, I suddenly felt a beautiful ache of emotion and thought: tender. Yes, I need to include a few lines in my haunts poem about feeling tender as I run — maybe in contrast with tough and the callouses I mentioned last week (6 dec 2023)?

dec 8/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
42 degrees

It didn’t feel as warm as it was because of the wind and the clouds. The sky, smudged white. Gloomy. Clear paths with a few chunks of ice still sticking around. How did they not melt yesterday when it was 49 degrees and sunny? A good run, even if my left IT band was sore.

IT doesn’t stand for iliotibial, it stands for:

  • Itchy Teeth
  • Irksome Toes
  • Incandescent Tonsils
  • Infatuated Trapezoids
  • Indigo Toenails (from Scott)
  • Inconceivable Tracheas (from RJP)

10 Things

  1. a noisy car speeding down the river road — don’t remember the color of the type of car or who was driving it, just remember that it was LOUD and FAST
  2. chick a dee dee dee dee
  3. the floodplain forest was roomy and deep brown and open to the river
  4. click click clack — roller skiers hitting their poles on the path
  5. bright headlights cutting through the tree trunks on the other side of the ravine
  6. can’t remember the color of the river — probably pale brown or gray or brown — just that it was soothing (looked at my video: blueish white)
  7. at the start of the run, the pavement was wet — why? melted snow?
  8. a regular — Santa Claus! we raised our hands in greeting
  9. overdressed — took off my orange sweatshirt at the turn around
  10. a mom on roller skis to her kids, also on roller skis — we’re almost there! I’m assuming she meant the big franklin hill

Listened to my breath, my striking feet, the cars driving by as I ran north. Put in a Billie Eilish playlist running back south.

Before turning around, I took some video at a favorite spot: the curved fence on the Winchell Trail before Franklin:

Not yet winter by the gorge. Listen to the sirens on the other side sing with the chickadees and the cars.

After I finished running, I recalled a line I had composed while running for a poem I’m working on about the bells of St. Thomas:

Have others
those bells? 
Or do they
hear them 
ringing still?

I like the double meaning of still here — both: continuing to ring and ringing until they become still/stop. I have to sit with it longer, but I think I’d like ring instead of ringing, but it doesn’t fit the 3/2 form.

As I write this I’m remembering another thought I had: getting rid of all of the longer poems that begin with I — I go to the gorge, I sync up my steps, I want connection, I orbit the gorge, etc. Those are the ghosts that haunt this Haunts poem — they are the traces/residue/palimpsest that is still there, but not fully. I think this makes sense to me, but I’m not sure if I can remove all of those words that I love and have spent so much time with…yet.

dec 6/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
37 degrees

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

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

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

minnehaha falls / 6 dec 2023

10 Things

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

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

Riprap/ Gary Snyder

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

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

riprap: loose stones used to form a foundation

dec 5/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
32 degrees
10% snow-covered

It snowed last night. Less than an inch? Enough to cover everything, making it look like winter, but not enough to cause any problems running on the path. Wonderful! I love winter running. I started out a little cold, with my hood up against the wind, but ended over-heated: lots of sweat and a flushed face. My right IT band hurt a little, but not enough to end the run. I did stop at the halfway point — my favorite spot near “The Song of Hiatwatha,” admiring the falls from a distance. I took some video:

minnehaha falls / 5 dec 2023

video: Minnehaha Creek rushing over the limestone ledge, frozen water on either side of the rushing water, a bridge above, a bridge below.

10 Things

  1. the river: brownish-gray, flat, empty
  2. caw caw caw
  3. the snow is soft and not slick or clumpy, easy to run over
  4. a path winding through the savanna revealed by settled snow
  5. a leaning tree branch, dusted with snow. The snow making visible the trunks texture
  6. rustling in the brush — a squirrel
  7. the voices of kids laughing on the playground
  8. running near the overlook of the falls, not stopping to see the water, just hearing it rushing over the limestone
  9. beep beep beep beep beep beep then a few beats of silence on repeat — a service truck near the roundabout
  10. rabbit footprints all over my driveway — such big footprints!

before the run

This morning, while doing the dishes, I began listening to Chris Dombrowski’s The River You Touch. Here are a few passages I’d like to remember:

What does a mindful, sustainable inhabitance on this small planet look like in the Anthropocene? is no longer an academic question but rather a necessary qualifier to each step we take. For answers, we who have proven ourselves such untrustworthy stewards of our home might look to what Barry Lope called “myriad enduring relationships of the landscape,” to our predecessors, in other words, whose voices are the bells that must sound before any gritty ceremony of community can truly being.

The River We Touch/ Chris Dombrowski

bells — I like this idea of bells as signaling the start of a ceremony. Each loop around the gorge, or run beside the gorge is the start of a ritual, a ceremony, both sacred and mundane. What else do bells signal? I want to review my notes and weave other meanings into my poem.

“listening,” refers to direct contact, engagement, what the forager Jenna Rozelle calls the “primacy of immediate experience.” Callouses on palms formed by friction between human skin and oar handle. Shoulder muscles straining to pull oar blade through current, the oar stroke negotiating with the wave train’s brute liquid force.

The River We Touch/ Chris Dombrowski

The mention of callouses reminds me of Thoreau and his essay on walking:

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a certain roughness of character—will cause a thicker cuticle to grow over some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face and hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their delicacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the other hand, may produce a softness and smoothness, not to say thinness of skin, accompanied by an increased sensibility to certain impressions. Perhaps we should be more susceptible to some influences important to our intellectual and moral growth, if the sun had shone and the wind blown on us a little less; and no doubt it is a nice matter to proportion rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that will fall off fast enough—that the natural remedy is to be found in the proportion which the night bears to the day, the winter to the summer, thought to experience. There will be so much the more air and sunshine in our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That is mere sentimentality that lies abed by day and thinks itself white, far from the tan and callus of experience.

physical dialogue (contact…encounter between feet and land)…sensorial empathy

The faculty of wonder—which, in this context, is simply the unsentimental ability to identify with astonishment the earth and its inhabitants as relational—is diminishing as quickly as any endangered species. If it vanishes as an inevitable byproduct of decreased direct encounters with the physical world, so, too, may go the instinct to protect the very places that sustain us.

Concluding a story about kayaking with his son, encountering a sea otter, attempting to capture the moment with his phone and then dropping the phone in the ocean, Dombrowski writes:

I scanned our ambit for further sign of the otter, weighing the value of what I’d beamed in on 4G versus the salt drying on the hand Luca had dragged through the water. I sensed the latter would form a more lasting kind of knowing.

The River We Touch/ Chris Dombrowski

Before heading out for my run, I wanted to think about some of these ideas, especially: touch, physical dialogue, and sensorial empathy.

during the run

I recall thinking about my feet and rough ground and how much I enjoy feeling the ground as I move. The snow today was fun to run over/through. It wasn’t hard or crusty or sharp or too soft or thick or soggy or slick. It felt almost like running over a carpet of grass. A nice break from the hard asphalt. I also thought about breath and air and how much they are a part of touching/experiencing the gorge.

Near the end of my run, a song came up on my playlist: Breathe (2 AM)/ Anna Nalick. I’ve had it on a running playlist for over a decade now. As she sang, breathe, just breathe, I breathed. Maybe more than feet, lungs and breathing and breath have been central to my writing on this log.

I also thought about the gorge as an emptiness, a void, mystery, the ineffable/inaccessible, that I return to when I run because I want to encounter this void. I want to face the mystery.

after the run

Sitting at my desk now, I’m hungry. After I eat, I’d like to think more about the Thoreau quote and feet and callouses and the physical impact of running around the gorge as part of this haunting experience.

nov 28/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin hill turn around
15 degrees / feels like 2

The coldest day of the season. Brrr. Extra layers: 2 black tights, yellow shirt, pink jacket, purple jacket, 2 pairs of gloves — black and pink/white, buff, hat with ear flaps, hood. Difficult to breathe for the first mile. Sunny, lots of shadows. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. He was in his warmest attire, even had a stocking cap. There was ice near the shore of the river and sheets of ice on the surface of the water.

The surface of the mississippi river, up close. Thin slabs of ice, cracked with strips of cold water visible, cover the surface. Near the bottom of the frame, the ice looks dark gray and blue. At the top, it's white with a hint of brown.
Brr. River surface starting to ice over / 28 nov 2023

For the first 4 miles, I listened to my feet striking the ground, cars driving by, the wind. For the last 1.5 miles, I put in Olivia Rodrigo.

before the run

Still working on my haunts poems, adding more to the ones I wrote 2 years ago. Yesterday I spent a lot of time working on the first section, trails, and thinking about paths and feet and my interest in following, connecting, learning new stories. As part of that work, I started rereading Wendell Berry’s excellent essay, “A Native Hill.” This morning, before my run, I’m still reading and thinking about it. While I run, I’d like to think about this passage:

Looking out over the country, one gets a sense of the whole of it: the ridges and hollows, the clustered buildings of the farms, the open fields, the woods, the stock ponds set like coins into the slopes. But this is a surface sense, such as you get from looking down on the roof of a house. The height is a threshold from which to step down into the wooded folds of the land, the interior, under the trees and along the branching streams.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

As I run, I’d like to think about these ideas of threshold and surface, and what it means to be above, always, looping around the gorge, rarely entering it. Is this only surface level? What is at the surface, and is the surface always superficial? What does it mean when the gorge is not a thing to enter, but an absence, an emptiness/void that is still present and shaping the land but is inaccessible?

during the run

Did I think about these things at all? Maybe a little as I looked down at the floodplain forest or the water. At one point, I thought about how I’m not completely inside of this place, but I’m still much more in it than if I were riding in a car.

In a related but different direction of thought, I remembered the lines I had just written this morning:

It begins
here: from
the ground up
feet first,
I want
to go where
have gone.

I thought about this following and how the others include past versions of me, the Saras that have already, day after day, year after year, travelled these same trails.

after the run

Sitting at my desk after my run, looking out at a mysterious pile of dirt left right in front of my sidewalk by workers for some unknown reason, feeling wiped out from the run, I’m not sure what to do with Berry’s passage. Maybe I’ll read some more of the essay?

Beyond the gate the land leans always more steeply towards the branch. I follow it down and then bear left along the crease at the bottom of the slope. I have entered the downflow of the land. The way I am going is the way the water goes. There is something comfortable and fit-feeling in this, something free in this yielding to gravity and taking the shortest way down.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

I love this line: The way I am going is the way the water goes.

Berry talks next about human-made erosion and how he laments the loss of land “before the white people drove their plows into it.”

It is not possible to know what was the shape of the land here in this hollow when it was first cleared. Too much of it is gone, loosened by the plows and washed away by the rain….The thought of what was here once and is gone forever will not leave me as long as I live. It is as though I walk knee-deep in its absence.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

The slopes along the hollow steepen still more, and I go in under the trees. I pass beneath the surface. I am enclosed, and my sense, my interior sense, of the country becomes intricate. There is no longer the possibility of seeing very far. The distances are closed off by the trees and the steepening walls of the hollow. One cannot grow familiar here by sitting and looking as one can up in the open on the ridge. Here the eyes become dependent on the feet. To see the woods from the inside one must look and move and look again. It is inexhaustible in its standpoint. A lifetime will not be enough to experience it all.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

Love it: Here the eyes become dependent on the feet. I’m finding a place for this line in my poem! Even when I am on the edge of the bluff looking down at the gorge, my vision isn’t very good. Everywhere I run, above or below, I’m dependent on my feet, and not just to get me to new places to see; sometimes I see with my feet.

Berry’s last lines about it being inexhaustible and how a lifetime will not be enough to experience it all brings me to another definition of going beyond the surface: to do more than briefly visit, to stay somewhere (to haunt it), to return to it again and again, each time learning something new, or encountering something slightly altered. This returning to the gorge day after day and giving attention is my way of connecting with it and attempting to experience as much of it as I can.

nov 26/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
30 degrees
50% snow-covered

It snowed last night and left less than an inch on the ground. The trail was half clear, half snow-covered. A bit slick. I think my feet might have slipped some, but never enough to be a problem. Ran south to the falls. Beautiful! Gushing.

Ran without headphones and listened to my collar rubbing against my cap, a few voices rising up from the gorge, falling water.

Running just past the double bridge I smiled when I saw 2 turkeys up ahead on the path. I was wrong — no turkeys, only trees with plastic rings around their trunks, standing next to the path.

I’ve been working on my haunts poems and as I ran I thought about the plaques/ghosts bikes/flowers I just wrote about this morning. 3 instances of people dying in very unlikely circumstances: a boy picked at random and then shot in the back while biking; a runner hit by a driver who lost control when he had a seizure (or some sort of incident) because of 4 huge tumors in his brain he didn’t know were there; and a woman pulled over, fixing her bike, hit in a parking lot. Unsettling. The last one didn’t happen by the river, but in Germany; the woman was from this neighborhood and is remembered her by friends and family. The other two did, and at spots I regularly run by.

Today’s poem-of-the-day on, The Mountain, begins with these fitting lines:

There is snow, now— 
A thing of silent creeping—

There is snow, now— 
A silent creeping . . .

Snow, snow, snow—
A thing of silent creeping 

from The Mountain/ D’Arcy McNickle

I don’t mind the snow — in fact, I like it! — but it does silently creep. From now until March of April, adding inches, covering everything.

nov 22/RUN

5.4 miles
ford loop
31 degrees

Brrr, at least for the first mile. Had to put up my hood and breathe deeply. Ran through the neighborhood on my way to the lake street bridge instead of by the Welcoming Oaks. Such beautiful light this morning, bright warm sun. Saw my shadow several times. She kept wandering down in the ravine or right by the edge. I took a picture of her when I stopped at the Monument, which is a Civil War monument and not a WWI one (which is what Scott thought):

My view from the overlook at the civil war monument. From back to front: sky, lake street bridge, west river bluff, river, bare tree branches, cliff, a shadow of me taking this picture, dirt
view of my shadow/river/bridge / 22 nov 2023

10 Things

  1. water dripping at shadow falls — not quite rushing or gushing, but close
  2. little white caps on the water from the wind
  3. a bird calling out repeatedly, sounding like a car alarm — must have been a cardinal, right?
  4. even less leaves on the trees than last week, although there are still stretches of bright green
  5. one runner passing me slowly, gradually
  6. another running zooming past me up the hill
  7. the satisfying feeling of sandy grit crunching under my feet as I ran on the dirt rail next to the paved path
  8. on the St. Paul side most of the benches have plaques embedded in the concrete, none of them do on the Minneapolis side
  9. spotting a parked car, glowing in the sun on the west side of the river as I ran on the east side
  10. noisy, darting squirrels everywhere

before the run

Today I’m revising and expanding my part of the Haunts poem about the Regulars, the people (both alive and dead) that are regularly at the gorge. I’d like to add something about the “in memory of” plaques along the trail, mostly embedded in the concrete near benches. So I’m giving myself a task: take pictures of more of these plaques to write about in my 3/2 form. Will I do it? Will I be willing to stop and take these pictures? How many of them can I get?

Speaking of plaques, I was curious about how to get one and how much they cost. Here’s the link for Minneapolis: Tributes and Memorials

To get a bench plaque, fill out the interest form on the site. It’s $5000 for a new bench for 10 years, $2500 for a refurbished bench for 10 years. Only 10 years.

Here’s St Paul’s information. Same 10 year deal, although you can add 10 year increments for an additional $1500 at any time. Also: It’s $5000 for a new bench/10 years at St. Paul Parks, except along the Mississippi River Parkway. Those are $10000. That seems like a lot — is it?

during the run

I did it! Starting by the monument, I stopped at every bench and took a picture of the plaque next to it. Lots of stopping, but it was fun! 12 images in total. I didn’t read any of the inscriptions, just stopped, took out my phone, clicked, put my phone back in my pocket, then started running again. I would imagine that some of the people I encountered were wondering what I was doing. I kind of wish one of them would have asked so I could say something like, “I’m working on a poem about the gorge and I’m gathering memorials to include in it.”

after the run

Now, back at my desk, I’m looking through the images. Almost all of them are legible! So far, there’s only one I can’t read and that’s because I made it a 4 second video instead of a photo. Oops. Oh–and it’s always because it’s in a cursive font that’s very hard to read.

It’s moving to read these memorials, many of them about people who died too young. I’m particularly struck by one that says, “Just a kid growing up!” — Tony Basta, 12/1/99

A plaque embedded in concrete. It reads: "Just a kid growing up!" Tony Basta, 12/1/99
Memorial plaque along the Mississippi River Bluff in St. Paul

I had no idea what this meant, so I looked it up. On April 26, 2000, while riding his bike along the Mississippi River (near Randolph) around 10 pm, 17 year old Tony Basta was shot and killed by 3 teenagers who wanted to shoot a random person “just to scare them.” Basta’s parents had the plaque made; the quote is from Tony in his yearbook. Wow. So heartbreaking and haunting — the details in this article (Tony Basta’s Murder 10 Years Ago) about the bystander who heard the shot and thought it was fireworks, his father who owns The Italian Pie Shoppe, the girl who overheard the killers telling the story at a party and reported them, earning a reward that paid for her college, the killer who expresses daily regret.

Will any of this make it into my poem? Possibly? Probably? Who knows? I’m not sure what will come of these accounts, but it feels meaningful to bear witness to the lives of the people on these plaques today.

As I was finishing up my run, my thoughts wandered. I thought about having one of these plaques for when I’m dead and how I’d want poetry on it. Then I thought, why wait until then and why put it on a plaque? What about leaving some poetry around the gorge now? Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to leave some lines from my haunts poem — some parts of my repeating refrain that includes, a girl runs and ghost and gorge? And now I’m thinking that I want to do some sort of unofficial public installation of this poem around the gorge. It could be lines left on the path or tied to a tree, or it could be QR codes with links to the text and a recording of me reading it. YES! I should research how others do public installations for inspiration.