april 22/RUN

3.8 miles
river road, north/south
62 degrees
wind: 16 mph / gusts: 30 mph

62 in bright sun with very little shade feels warm, too warm. Time to start running much earlier in the day. Other weather-related gripes? Had to hold onto my cap several times so it wouldn’t blow off.

Everything is slowly turning green, especially the floodplain forest. The trees are coming into leaf/like something almost being said.

Noticed some cool bird shadows, one on the road from a bird high up in the sky, another on the side of a house.

Heard something beeping as I ran under the trestle — was a train coming soon? Not that I could tell.

Listened to the wind running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist running south. Heard “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Wind of Change” and thought about how an answer blowing in the wind could mean two contradictory things at once: 1. the answer is coming, change is coming, a better, freer world is coming and 2. the answer is just blowing in the wind, out of reach, as futile/pointless as talking to the wind.

back to the Beaufort Scale

Last week I came up with a great plan to create a Beaufort scale out of poetry lines, but it stalled when I couldn’t figure one out for 1. Today I’ll try again.

But before I do that — I think it stalled also because I got side tracked by metaphor and figurative language. The Beaufort scale mostly uses literal language, describing the effects of wind on various things, like umbrellas or people trying to walk. Occasionally metaphor creeps in with the use of white horses to describe white caps on waves. Is this the only use of metaphor in the scale? No.

Use of metaphor in Beaufort Scale:

0 — “sea like a mirror”
1 — ripples like scales
2 — crests like glass
3 — foam like glass
4 — white horses

If I’m reading correctly, the for use on land section is all literal descriptions of wind’s effects: leaves rustling, trees being uprooted, roof tiles ripping off, inconvenient then difficult to walk. I like how 7 is inconvenient to walk, while 8 is difficult.

Okay, now back to a poem scale. Instead of literal descriptions, I think I’d like figurative ones. It’s more fun!

when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by — “Who Has Seen the Wind?”/ Christina Rossetti

Would this be 5, “small trees in leaf start to sway”? or 6, “large branches in motion”? or 7, “whole trees in motion”?

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible — “Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One” / Richard Siken

2? “leaves rustle”? or 8, “”twigs break from trees”?

I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing — “And All Visible Signs Swept Away” / Carl Phillips

Okay, think I know this one: “Leaves and small twigs in constant motion” (3).

Autumn wind chases in/From all directions/And a thousand chaste leaves/Give way. — “Nature Aria” / Yi Lei

I think this should be 2, “leaves rustle”

Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless/ Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:/It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies — “Fall” / Edward Hirsch

7, “inconvenient to walk against the wind”

the dry/sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending. — “When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Truly Alongside” / Donika Kelly

3: “leaves in constant motion”

Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up/ And speak disparagingly of leaves — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

This is a tough one for me. Is ungluing the fog violent or gentle? To speak disparagingly of the leaves seems less forceful than yelling at them — I think I’ll go with 4 “wind raises dust and loose paper, small branches move” but I could also go with 9, chimney pots and slates removed

Whip the green cloth off the hills — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

10: “Trees uprooted, considerable structural damage occurs”

When winds go round and round in bands,/And thrum upon the door,/And birds take places overhead,/To bear them orchestra, — “Wind” / Emily Dickinson

6 — whistling in telegraph wires, umbrellas used with difficulty

So that the ocean on one side is wild/With foam and glitter. . ./As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. — “Postscript” / Seamus Heaney

11: the sea is covered in foam, widespread damage

So, I already found a line last week for 0. With these lines above, I’m only missing 12. Although some of the lines above are used for multiple levels. I’ll fine tune that in a future entry. This was fun!

Here they are in order, so far:

0 —- the white cotton curtains hanging still

1 —

2 — Autumn wind chases in/From all directions/And a thousand chaste leaves/Give way. — “Nature Aria” / Yi Lei

3 — I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing — “And All Visible Signs Swept Away” / Carl Phillips AND the dry/sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending. — “When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Truly Alongside” / Donika Kelly

4 —

5 — I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible — “Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One” / Richard Siken

6 — When winds go round and round in bands,/And thrum upon the door,/And birds take places overhead,/To bear them orchestra, — “Wind” / Emily Dickinson

7 — when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by — “Who Has Seen the Wind?”/ Christina Rossetti

8 — Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless/ Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:/It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies — “Fall” / Edward Hirsch

9 — Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up/ And speak disparagingly of leaves — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

10 — Whip the green cloth off the hills — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

11 — So that the ocean on one side is wild/With foam and glitter. . ./As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. — “Postscript” / Seamus Heaney

12 —

april 21/RUN

2 miles
edmund (grass), south/edmund (road), north
52 degrees
wind: 10 mph

A beautiful morning — sun! shorts! Felt sluggish and tired and heavy — heavy legs and thick torso. The dirt trail was soft and uneven. I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album so I didn’t many birds or conversations. I think I heard a few black-capped chickadees, maybe a blue jay? Feeling blah or bleugh today in a way that a run couldn’t fix. No anxiety, just blah.

Before the run, I wrote about yesterday’s image of the gutted street lamp:

Yesterday I offered up an image of the run: the row of street lamps with their wires cut. I want to spend some more time with this image, use it as opportunity to think about image and metaphor, and to give attention to the trails above the river that I run on and the communities — in St. Paul and Minneapolis — that I run through.

So many thoughts prompted by things I’ve been reading lately! Where to begin?

1 — literal and figurative, part 1

the relationship between metaphor and realism—specifically how a poem’s use or rejection of metaphor might double as a commentary on the poet’s relationship to testimony, to bearing witness to the actual world.

When Metaphor Gets Literal

Bearing witness to the actual world. Describing an image in ways that don’t remove it from its context and history and its specificity. Because I’m a poet of place who is dedicated to noticing and documenting the Mississippi River Gorge, I want the specific and concrete in my images. Grotz offers up Czesław Miłosz’s “Blacksmith Shop” as a good example of a literal poem, grounded in concrete reality.

Deep image has had its day, though its ahistorical premises have been taken up in this new method’s assumption that style is merely a manipulable function, easily disconnected from the individual poet’s personal and historical circumstances. . . . In order to record the shocks of contemporary life, the poet must be willing to enter into history, to conjure it not merely as chronological sequence, but as unique texture and feel, what Walter Benjamin called “aura.” Deep image, however, was committed to locating itself in a world of prehistory, as if the mind were a direct conduit to the eternal collective unconscious

Too Much of the Air

What does this “entering into history” and “bearing witness to the actual world” mean to me and the image of the gutted street lamp? It seems important to connect these lamps with the recent spread (for the past 2 years) of copper wire theft across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Scott, RJP, and I have been noticing it for more than a year: all of the lights lining the west river road were out for months, making the river road too dark and dangerous to drive on or run beside at night. The Lake Street Bridge lights and Lake Nokomis lights too. I googled “street lamps cut wires minneapolis” and found a ton of articles about the problem and how difficult and expensive it is to stop the theft. Too many lights, too few police. Possible solutions include enlisting community members — someone has crowd-sourced a map of gutted lamps in Como Park — or targeting the sellers with legislation (imho: a much better solution, especially since it worked with the catalytic convertor thefts a few years back).

Of course, putting this in a historical context also requires thinking about why people might feel compelled to steal wires (economic precarity, addiction) and recent reimaginings of the role of the police in communities. How to recognize this context without reducing the image to it? How to still allow for the figurative in the midst of this literal? How to move beyond chronology and “facts” to texture and feel? Tough questions, I think. Michael Kleber-Diggs offers an answer with his amazing poem, Here All Alone, which I posted on RUN! a few years ago. Wow!

this land, once yours, was flooded and dammed
the same day our Rondo was cleaved for a highway.

the bees are back

I read this suggestion from John Ashbery the other day — “It’s important to try to write when you are in the wrong mood or when the weather is wrong.”– so I have decided that because I am in the wrong mood — the blah bleugh mood — I should try to write something. And I have decided that that something should be about the bees being back in the service berry tree on my deck. Every spring when the tree (or is it a bush? or a bush imitating a tree? wanting to be a tree?) is blooming, the bees come and hover around it. When I sit in my adirondack chair (which I mistakenly called an “andriodak” 25 years ago on St. Simon Island in Georgia and which Scott and I reference every so often) under the tree, I see their shadows crossing over my notebook or my book or my pants. Usually just one or two, today a dozen. Circling and circling, making me almost dizzy. Sometimes I wondered if it was a shadow I was seeing or the actual bee. Then I wondered if they wanted me to move — would they sting me? What a delightful moment! I can’t remember if it was in a poem or an essay or an interview, but I recall reading Ross Gay delighting in the shadow of a bee crossing over his page. I know I already delighted in these bees before it was endorsed by Gay, but somehow those bees began to matter more once I knew delighting in their shadow was something I could share with one of my favorite writers.

composed under the tree/bush, with the bees above

Beneath the
bush that

tries to be
a tree,

below the
almost

white blossoms — shadow

bees hover,
dizzy

the air, pass
over

my page, write
this poem.

Am I happy with this poem. For now.

april 19/RUN

4.9 miles
veterans’ bridge and back
36 degrees / snow flurries
wind: 16 mph / gusts: 31 mph

Windy, some snow flurries. They started when I started. At first, they looked like glitter falling from the sky, later they felt like sharp pins pricking my face. Difficult conditions, but I didn’t mind — well, not that much.

Saw a BIG turkey heading for the edge of the park. Also saw a bird — a robin, I think — running fast across the grass. It’s fun to watch birds run. Had a sudden thought: Where on the Beaufort Scale would you fit the description, birds opt for running instead of flying or flying is inconvenient for birds? In my head, I began composing lines for a poem that features this bird. Another description to add to the scale: a fallen leaf will outrun you — that’s not quite right, but something about how I noticed a leaf in front of me being pushed by the wind so fast that I couldn’t catch up to it.

Was too busy battling the wind to notice the river. I wonder, were there any foam or white horses on it?

Running south, I listened to the howling wind. Heading back north, I put in Taylor Swift’s new album: The Tortured Poet’s Department

Another 5 on the Beaufort Scale. As I ran I wondered about factors other than wind speed, like wind direction — head winds, tail winds, crosswinds. I never really thought about crosswinds before I started watching cycling races. Now, like many others, I look forward to windy days of a tour when there’s a chance that some bikers will get “caught out by the crosswinds” and the peloton will splinter.

Eula Biss, Pain Scale

Before moving onto level 2 on Biss’ pain scale, I’m trying to think more about 1 and what lines of poetry might fit it. Can’t find anything yet, but I’m imagining level 1 to be the type of pain so minor, so barely there, that we doubt its existence. If 0 is faith, then 1 is doubt.

2

The sensations of my own body may be the only subject on which I am qualified to claim expertise. Sad and terrible, then, how little I know. “How do you feel?” the doctor asks, and I cannot answer. Not accurately. “Does this hurt?” he asks. Again, I’m not sure. “Do you have more or less pain than the last time I saw you?” Hard to say. I begin to lie to protect my reputation. I try to act certain. Okay, so 2 is also doubt. That gray area when we’re not certain. I don’t mind not knowing, when knowing is not possible — embracing the mystery — but not being certain, not knowing when you feel like you should know, are supposed to know, is very difficult.

And here Biss introduces the Beaufort Scale!

Wind, like pain, is difficult to capture. The poor windsock is always striving, and always falling short. There’s the difficulty of describing, and there’s the difficulty of feeling, knowing, experiencing accurately . . .

It took sailors more than two hundred years to develop a standardized numerical scale for the measure of wind. The result, the Beaufort scale, provides twelve categories for everything from “Calm” to “Hurricane.” The scale offers not just a number, but a term for the wind, a range of speed, and a brief description. Creating a standard — a common language from which to communicate and connect with others, a scale that is practical

A force 2 wind on the Beaufort scale, for example, is a “Light Breeze” moving between four and seven miles per hour. On land, it is specified as “wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary vanes moved by wind.”

3

Left alone in the exam room I stare at the pain scale, a simple number line complicated by only two phrases. Under zero: “no pain.” Under ten: “the worst pain imaginable.” Too much is contained between these numbers. . . . This idea of “the worst pain imaginable” produces anxiety. I don’t want to even imagine what the worst pain imaginable might be.

“Three is nothing,” my father tells me now. “Three is go home and take two aspirin.”

“You are not meant to be rating world suffering,” my friend in Honduras advises. “This scale applies only to you and your experience.” At first, this thought is tremendously relieving. It unburdens me of factoring the continent of Africa into my calculations. But the reality that my nerves alone feel my pain is terrifying. I hate the knowledge that I am isolated in this skin—alone with my pain and my own fallibility.

The more I read of Biss’ essay, the more I’m thinking about the purpose of these scales and what other purposes descriptions/words/language can offer. The wind scale is for utility: to help sailors estimate the wind speed using visual observations. The pain scale’s purpose: to better understand and care for patients.

4

conflating physical and emotion pain — is there actually a distinction? hurting vs. feeling?

pain as seen in a face — Biss wonders, no face, no pain? Then she describes how there are no visible markers of her pain — there was nothing to illustrate my pain except a number, which I was told to choose from between zero and ten. My proof. I’m thinking about how invisible my vision problem often is to others and also, how the doctors could tell immediately that something wasn’t right: I got a diagnosis. What relief! I’m also thinking of a New Yorker article I read recently about gaslighting that mentions how the gaslit crave a diagnosis because it offers irrefutable evidence of something being wrong.

Okay, more of the pain scale in the next entry. I’m thinking about a key distinction between the Beaufort and Pain scales: the Beaufort offers brief descriptions to accompany the numbers, not just the numbers.

And, returning to point of these scales: they’re practical, which would seem to make them, at least to some, not poetry. Poetry is impractical and about making strange what we thought was familiar. It removes the utility of language, making it delightfully useless. Of course many poets disagree with this simplistic assessment, myself included. One reason I’ve turned to poetry is because it is useful; it gives me language and a method for describing my strange ways of seeing to others.

I found the following poem in an entry from aug 1, 2019. I think the descriptions might offer a more compelling and practical way than numbers on a scale to understand what pain feels like.

Let us for a moment call this pain by other words/Dominik Parisien

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull? 

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head? 

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite 

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

april 17

5.15 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees
wind: 15 mph / gusts: 30 mph

So windy! A crosswind heading north towards Franklin, then straight into it heading west over the Lake Street bridge. Cooler too. Wore my running tights and my orange sweatshirt. My left knee felt tight for the first few minutes, then fine for the rest of the run.

Wet and green. Noticed that the floodplain forest is filling in. Last week, bare and brown. Today, an outline of green. The river was gray with ripples. When I looked down at it from the bridge I could tell by the ripples that it was blowing south.

All of the pedestrians I encountered were bundled up in hats and winter coats. One runner was in shorts and white shoes. After he passed me I was mesmerized by his heels floating up and down, up and down, up and down. So smooth and rhythmic.

No eagle on the dead tree branch. Spotted 2 lone black gloves discarded at different parts of the path. Heard one woman talking to another. She said something strange, but I can’t remember what. Heard lots of black capped chickadees but no geese or woodpeckers.

more on wind: According to the Beaufort Scale, today was a 5 — fresh breeze. Brisk? Bracing. Stiff. Not breath-taking but ponytail whipping and energy sapping and eye watering. A few times, it howled in the trees. No dust in eyes or big branches falling from trees, but leaves whirling on the ground. At one point, running across the bridge, I felt like I was being held up by the wind — both slowed down and suspended in mid-air. Running south, with the wind at my back, it felt easier, like the wind was pushing me along.

beaufort scale

Thinking about wind some more and wondering if I shouldn’t narrow my focus to the Beaufort Scale? Maybe try to play around with my own Beaufort Scales. Today, while reviewing Marie Howe’s “The Moment” I thought about gathering lines from poems that fit with the scale. The line in Howe’s poem that Inspired this was the last one:

the white cotton curtains hanging still

The poem is about that moment when everything stands still and is silent. No to-do lists. No traffic. No I-should-bes. With these curtains, I think Howe is referencing sitting silently in her brother’s room, as he was dying. I imagine this moment of stillness as 0 on the Beaufort Scale.

And here’s another stillnes from Rime of the Ancient Mariner / Samuel Coleridge

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

a bird moment, possibly for my bird project: After I finished my run, walking back on Edmund, I heard 2 black capped chickadees calling back and forth. Their notes were slightly different than I usually hear. By the time I got out my phone to record them, only one chickadee was calling. No response. They kept trying their fee bee call, maybe 5 or 6 times, but no reply.

april 11/RUN

3.1 miles
edmund, south/river road, north/edmund, south
56 degrees
wind: 12 mph/ gusts: 22 mph

Shorts and bare legs again today. Hooray! Was planning to do the 2 trails, but when I reached the entrance to the winchell trail I heard some very noisy rustling of leaves. Too big for a squirrel. A dog? A bear? A human? I tried to look ahead but all I saw was a black blob. I thought it was a person with a stroller so I moved a little closer. Nope — a male turkey with its tail spread like a peacock, a red wattle glowing, even for me with my bad color vision. Wow. I mentioned it to a man walking down the hill and he said, well, this is the way I’m going! and slowly and calmly walked toward the turkey. A showdown. After 30 seconds or so, the turkey relented and the man walked past. Not me, I climbed the hill and ran on the trail next to the road. This encounter will be my birding poem for the day!

10 Things Other Than Tom Turkey

  1. a woodpecker cry — pileated, I think
  2. another woodpecker cry a few minutes later — was this bird following me?
  3. loud kids at the playground, mostly having fun
  4. 2 bikers heading north — we can ride the wind now. I thought this meant that they would have the wind at their backs, so I would too, when I turned around. No. Wind was in my face heading north, later in the run
  5. admiring the view of the river from the overlook — the water on the other shore was sparkling
  6. mud and roots on the dirt trail between edmund and the river
  7. the clickity-clack of roller skiers poles behind me
  8. several of the benches had people on them — more than half?
  9. bird shadows
  10. a shrieking blue jay above me

After turning around because of the territorial turkey, I put in my “It’s Windy” playlist: They Call the Wind Maria/ the furies; Dust in the Wind/ insignificant or fleeting

The wind wasn’t overpowering but it was everywhere, coming from every direction. I remember noticing how it played with my hair, making my ponytail bob and my little loose strands fly around my face. Only once did I need to adjust my hat for fear that the wind might blow it off. I don’t remember hearing any skittering leaves or getting dust in my eyes, grit in my teeth. The wind didn’t sing or howl. It did push me forward and hold me back. And I think it made the whole run harder.

Earlier this morning, I checked out Mary Oliver’s West Wind and found this delightful part of a poem about wild turkeys. It seems fitting to include today after seeing several hens — being guarded by the male turkey on Winchell.

from Three Songs/ Mary Oliver

1

A band of wild turkeys is coming down the hill. They are coming
slowly—astheywalkalongthey look under the leaves for things to 
eat, and besides it must be a pleasure to step alternately through the
pale sunlight, then patches of slightly golden shade. they are all hens
and they lift their thick toes delicately. With such toes they could
march up one side of the state and down the others, or skate on water,
or dance the tango. But not this morning. As they get closer the sound
of their feet in the leaves is like the patter of rain, then rapid rain. My
dogs perk their ears, and bound from the path. Instead of opening their
dark wings the hens swirl and rush away under the trees, like little
ostriches.

Returning to my birding poem for the day. I’m having a little difficulty finding the focus, so I thought I’d write a little more around this little poem. What are the details that I remember, that I might want to write about?

  • First thing noticed: an unusually loud rustling sound that I thought was too big for a squirrel, too much for a human
  • the moment of seeing something but not knowing what it was — a bear? a dog? a stroller? Not feeling scared, but feeling like I should stay back until I figured it out, feeling that it was something unusual. This moment last a long time, which was fine because I had time, but wouldn’t have been if I had needed to make a quick decision, like if the turkey was running towards me
  • the turkey was so big! its tail was up and spread out like a peacock, making him look even bigger and framing his face
  • the face — fuzzy but clear enough to know that this turkey was telling me to back off! I couldn’t make out his eyes, but I could see — or, maybe I guessed a little — when he was facing me — yes, it was the contrast of light and dark — when he was turned away, he was just a dark, hulking shape, when he was turned toward me I saw a pale beak
  • the red wattle — was it bright? I can’t quite remember, but I know it was red and big
  • when I felt fairly certain it was a turkey, I still couldn’t see details — just a small, light head with red, framed by broad dark tail feathers — how much of his bigness was because of his tail, how much his body? the form — menacing and comical at the same time, with its big circle for a body and its tiny head
  • the approaching man — I said to him, there’s a big turkey down there! He said something like, well, THIS is the way I’m planning to go! His tone wasn’t too jerky, just matter-of-fact. When he approached the turkey he called out sternly but not too aggressively — hey hey move! At first, the turkey wouldn’t budge and the guy looked back at me, but after some time, the turkey moved

Reflecting on these details some more, I’m thinking that the guy, albeit interesting, is unnecessary for my purposes. I think adding him might take the poem in a different direction. . . although, I am struck by the encounter between me, him, and the turkey. The guy didn’t seem like a jerk, but he did give off some older white guy energy — this is the way I’m going turkey! Your puffed up feathers can’t stop me! I was happy to stand back and observe the turkeys from a (respectful?) distance, while he was ready to keep moving through the turkeys.

The uncertainty from not being able to see what the turkey was is what I’d like to focus on, although I want to weave in the strange mix of menacing and comical too. Here’s a long passage from Georgina Kleege that is helpful in explaining my own process of seeing things. She is able to see most things because she expects to see them; it’s the unexpected things that make it difficult. oh — I like this idea of bringing surprise in here!

Expectation plays a large role in what I perceive. I know what’s on my desk because I put it there. If someone leaves me a surprise gift, it may take a few seconds to identify it, but how often does that happen? . . . . I can recognize most things through quick process of elimination. And that process is only truly conscious on the rare occasions when the unexpected occurs, as when my cats carry objects out of context. A steel wool soap pad appears in the bath tub. I see it as a rusty, graying blob. Though touch would probably tell me something, it can be risky to touch something you cannot identify some other way. . . . I once encountered a rabid raccoon on a sidewalk near my house. I learned what it was from a neighbor watching it from his screened porch. What I saw was an indistinct, grayish mass, low to the ground and rather round. It was too big to be a cat and the wrong shape to be a dog. Its gait was not only unfamiliar but unsteady. It zigzagged up the pavement. I moved my gaze around it as my brain formed a picture of raccoon. The raccoon in my mind had the characteristic mask across its face, a sharply pointed nose, striped tail, brindled fur. Nothing in the hazy blob at my feet, no variations in color or refinements in form, corresponded with that image. Its position was wrong. The raccoon in my image was standing up on its haunches, holding something in its front paws. And what does a rabid raccoon look like?

Sight Unseen/ Georgina Kleege (105-106, print version)

Kleege grew up, from age 11, with a big blind spot in the center of her vision. That was roughly 50+ years ago, so she’s had time to learn how to guess and eliminate and handle identifying unexpected objects. I’m still learning. Mostly, it doesn’t bother me, although i occasionally worry about my safety. Anyway, I find Kleege’s description of her process helpful in enabling me to describe what I did. Kleege saw “an indistinct, grayish mass, low to the ground and rather round.” I saw an indistinct, dark mass, somewhat low to the ground and rather round. My dark mass moved slowly but not awkwardly and was accompanied by a loud racket. I might have guessed turkey earlier if he, and his hens, hadn’t been so loud, and if he hadn’t been so big and round.

How many times have I seen a male turkey with its feathers puffed up? Looking it up, I read that this puffing could be a courtship ritual or a sign of intimidation — in my encounter, was it both? The courtship version involves a strut and a gobble — oh, I wish I would have heard him gobble! The only noises my turkeys made were with their beaks or feet as they rooted around for food. And, maybe his low, un-awkward (graceful?) gait was a strut that I couldn’t quite see?

possible ideas, images, descriptions to add: gobble-less, unexpected and unusual for this regular route, rotund (or round or a puffed up dark dot/circle), rooting racket.

clues to choose from: a dark mass too big for a bird (or so I thought), too small for a bear, a slow strut.

Something to think about: was it just the puffed up feathers that made seeing turkeys strange? I think so.

I almost forgot. I took a picture! Look at me, at a safe distance!

turkey sighting / 11 april 2024

april 10/RUN

5.1 miles
bottom of franklin and back
61 degrees
wind: 8 mph / gusts: 18 mph

Ah, spring! Sun and shorts and short sleeves! Birds — black-capped chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, a turkey! I looked at the river but I don’t remember what I saw. Too distracted by blue sky and sharp shadows and the spring breeze — which is less relaxed than a summer breeze, but still pleasant — a word my mom used to say, or did she say it just that once when I was barely four and was talking with her in our new backyard in Hickory, North Carolina as she hung laundry out to dry. It feels pleasant out here or It’s a pleasant day. It’s a terribly bland word, but I love it because I always think of her and that moment.

Encounters:

  • Dave: Hi Sara!
  • while running up a hill, a woman walking down it: Looking good! me: Thank you!
  • two women walking towards me after I finished my run: Well, you look springy!

overheard:

  • from talk radio across the road: Don’t you think I think about it? Don’t you think it keeps me up at night?
  • distorted music coming out of a bike radio

Listened to birds, my breathing, and the smooth wheels of a rollerblader as I ran north. Ran up the franklin hill and sang, Running up that hill, in my head. Put in “It’s Windy” playlist: Let’s Go Fly a Kite: not childish but childlike; Don’t Mess Around with Jim: karma; Ride Like the Wind: haul ass; You’re Only Human (Second Wind) — be generous to yourself; Summer Breeze: relax

my birding moment: running north, listening to Billy Joel, distracted by the song or memories or some thought, something suddenly appeared in front of me — a turkey! It wasn’t too close, but close enough that I was able to watch it awkwardly run across the path. For the poem: distraction, interruption, awkwardness, dragged out of the inner into the outer

Stuck inside
a thought

Unaware
seeing

only bare
path when

Poof! Bobbing
head sleek

body move
past me

faster than
I thought

possible
I watch

then admire
this show

grateful to
be dragged

out into
the world.

a breeze

Before I run, I decided today’s version of the wind would be: breeze.

breeze 1

The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
(from The Work of Happiness/ May Sarton/May Sarton)

breeze 2

definition of breezy: pleasantly wind; airy, nonchalant — as in, breezy indifference

breezy 3

Easy breezy beautiful cover girl
Beautiful skin can be a breeze with sea breeze — or, what my sister Marji used to sing, Beautiful skin can be a breeze with sea grease

breeze 4

Yet again, the ekphrasis appears!

How to Look at Pictures/ Rebecca Morgan Frank

title after Robert Clermont Witt, 1906

Refuse to make eye contact with the subject.
He has been following you around the gallery.
You are certain that he can see down your shirt.
Look at other subjects, but know that they, too,
are not of primary interest. Even when they watch
you. Try not to consider what happened
to the small girl staring furiously, the thin-faced
woman wanly looking away. Do not think about
what they had for breakfast, if the bread was hard.
Certainly do not consider the odors underneath
their arms and skirts. Do not allow a breeze into
the room they sit in. Do not assume I am talking
about any painting: step away from the subject.
All subject. Was the painter in love? Do not ask
the question. Imagine you are the painter,
blocking out everything you don’t want to see.
Everything is out of the picture. Stop looking.
Stop seeking what isn’t there. Tuck your narratives
back in your pocket. Look for perspective, light,
shade. Let your eyes wander back to the girl.
She is trying to say something but her mouth
has been painted deliberately shut. Her lips, thin.

april 7/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
41 degrees
wind: 15 mph / 35 mph gusts

More wind. Ran between raindrops and beside a 10 mile race. The wind was at my back running north, in my face south. Those racers were hardcore, running the first 5 miles into that wind — yuck! Puddles and mud and an over-sized green rain jacket puffing up like a balloon about to float away:

Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

from Ode to the West Wind/ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Listened to the racers, spectators, a drummer drumming, a runner giving a motivational speech as he ran — good job! you can do it! the finish line is almost here! you got this! — which might have been inspirational or insufferable depending on how you felt six miles into a race that started with rain and cold and continued with wind. At the turn around I stopped and put in my wind playlist. Today: Wind it Up — sexual empowerment (I know he thinks you’re fine and stuff, but does he know how to wind you up?). Classical Gas – the 70s, Bohemian Rhapsody – fate, and Don’t Mess Around with Jim – street smarts

After I finished running, as I was walking back, I noticed the flash of a bird fly up from the street to the top of a sign, then 3 or 4 other small birds fly out of the tree and into the air. The small dark dots against the smudged sky looked like static or the stars I see when I’m dizzy or had too much caffeine, or (sorry not sorry to be gross) dropped a big deuce — am I the only one that happens to? I decided that these birds would be the subject of my birding poem for today.

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is

from Ode to the West Wind/ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Yesterday, Scott and I met up with FWA in St. Peter. After taking him shopping for his clarinet recital next week, we went back to campus and took a walk through the Arb. So windy! I didn’t have a hair tie and my hair was swirling around my face as we walked on the uneven dirt trail in the open field. Later, winding through the pine trees we had some shelter. Scott saw the tiniest bird, then I saw it too, first as a flash of movement, then as a small dark form on a low limb. FWA guessed that it was a warbler, which it probably was. We listened for birds and heard a creak: one tree rubbing against another — Shelley’s forest lyre! I told Scott and FWA that I knew a beautiful poem that I wish I had memorized for this occasion — Cello by Dorianne Laux

april 5/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
54 degrees
wind: 5 mph

What a day! Took Delia out for a walk this morning. An hour later, sat on the deck and was inspired by the birds to write a beautiful little poem conjuring my mom. Then, around 12:30, went for a run by the gorge. Okay spring! The run wasn’t easy, but wasn’t hard either. My legs are sore from running every day since Tuesday. Tomorrow I’ll take a break.

Listened to birds running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist on the way back south. Wind songs heard today: “Ride Like the Wind” — fast? frantic? under pressure? and “You’re Only Human (Second Wind); — forgiving and resilient and a reprieve

I’m sure I looked at the river, but I don’t remember doing it, or what it looked like. I do remember that the floodplain forest looked open and brown and full of trees that had been through a flood or two. No roller skiers or rowers. No radios or impatient cars. Did hear a few unpleasant goose honks near the lake street bridge.

Beaufort Scale

The History of the Beaufort Scale

Before the run I reviewed the Beaufort Scale and rediscovered a Beaufort Scale poem by Alice Oswald. Gave myself the task of trying to describe the wind today:

running north: make your own wind — or breeze?
south: hair raising . . . leg hair raising . . . calf hair raising
east: no need to shield the microphone; a welcomed air-conditioning after a hard effort; still leaves still; the branches moving so slightly my cone-dead eyes cannot detect their movement — no trees waving to me today . . . rude; flag flapping but no wind chiming

Alice Oswald on wind:

Everything you write about the wind really has to be about something else, because the wind itself is so non-existent. I like the way the Beaufort Scale [a system used to estimate wind speed based on observation of its effects] categorizes something so abstract and undefinable. That is partly what drew me to the project. I regard the words as secondary to the silences in my poetry, so I’m drawn to write about things that will exist without the words. The poems are full of gaps and silences through which something that isn’t linguistic can be heard.

A Poem A Day

wind will exist without the words

Beaufort Poem Scale – Alice Oswald

As I speak (force 1) smoke rises vertically,
Plumed seeds fall in less than ten seconds
And gossamer, perhaps shaken from the soul’s hairbrush
Is seen in the air.

Oh yes (force 2) it’s lovely here,
One or two spiders take off
And there are willow seeds in clouds

But I keep feeling (force 3) a scintillation,
As if a southerly light breeze
Was blowing the tips of my thoughts
(force 4) and making my tongue taste strongly of italics

And when I pause it feels different
As if something had entered (force 5) whose hand is lifting my page

(force 6) So I want to tell you how a whole tree sways to the left
But even as I say so (force 7) a persistent howl is blowing my hair horizontal
And even as I speak (force 8) this speaking becomes difficult

And now my voice (force 9) like an umbrella shaken inside out
No longer shelters me from the fact (force 10)
There is suddenly a winged thing in the house,
Is it the wind?