Warmer today. Sunny, bright, clear. The river sparkled and burned. Shadows everywhere. Big columns of ice next to the falls, a thin sheen of ice on the steps and the bridge over the creek. Saw my shadow far below me while I was above on the bridge over to the veterans’ home. Encountered at least half a dozen darting squirrels, one was heading straight towards me but did a sharp turn away at the last minute. Near the end of my run, I saw and heard a vee of geese flying low in the sky — maybe 12 of them? Something about the blue sky and the brilliant light made their wingtips look silver. I didn’t stop running, but I craned my neck as I moved to keep watching them.
kids at recess, playing on the playground at minnehaha academy: scattered voices laughing, yelling
some sort of chirping bird — not a cardinal, a robin? finch?
the caw caw of a crow, down in the gorge
the gushing falls — steadily falling creek water
rustling in the leaves, 1: a squirrel
rustling in the leaves, 2: a chipmunk or a bird
rustling in the leaves, 3: a person walking below me on the Winchell Trail
a chain link fence rattling — someone playing disc golf near Waban
missing sounds: didn’t hear any roller skiers or music from a bike or a car, no bikes whizzing by or horns honking, and no fake train bell at the 50th street station as I ran near the John Stevens house
Stopped at the Folwell bench to admire the view and to check on my watch which had turned off. Bummer — out of charge, so no data from today’s run. Took a picture of the gorge:
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.
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, following. I want to go where others already 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.
Another windy day. I had to hold onto my cap several times so it wouldn’t fly off. Running east on the lake street bridge, I put my hood so my cap wouldn’t fall off. Running west over the ford bridge, I took the cap off and held it in my hands. The wind made it difficult, more draining. Is that why my legs feel so sore?
ridges and white caps in the blue water, from the wind
kids at the church daycare, at the far end of the fenced-in playground. Running by I could hear their tiny, sweet voices plotting something
more filled benches than usual along the route, including one with a person sitting and a stroller behind it
in the neighborhood: knocks on the roof — not a woodpecker, but roofers … or was it a woodpecker?
running straight into the wind, wondering if would push me up against the railing (not quite)
my shadow down in the ravine near shadow falls — lucky shadow, sheltered from the wind
everywhere hazy — it might have been my vision, but I think it was dust stirred up by the wind. Yuck!
running north, at the end, feeling the wind pushing me, but not in a helpful way
the wind didn’t rush or roar, it just pushed and pulled
a walker, walking in the middle of the path, blasting talk radio
I stopped on the double bridge to take a picture of the ravine and to put in my headphones:
today’s view out my window
It’s snowing leaves. Mostly they are drifting down slowly, one after the other. Sometimes at a distance, occasionally almost on my window screen. My neighbor’s yard is covered with them, a dead leaf carpet. Yesterday, as Scott and I cleared out our leaves we could see that the neighbor’s tree was still full of leaves. I wondered what would happen when the wind came back. Today I found out.
More excellent November weather! A solid, relaxed, non-stop (except for walking up the bridge steps) run. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker and, later, another friendly runner — Hi! Admired the blue river and the occasional flash of red in the trees. Took deep breaths of fresh, cold air. Listened, without headphones, to the traffic and a chirping bird, rustling leaves and an alarm beeping somewhere.
a clear view of the forest floor from above
so many green leaves still on the trees on the east side — light, glowing green
somber (or reverent?) wind chimes
smell 1: stinky, sour sewer gas, faint
smell 2: either skunk or weed, probably weed
smell 3: hot chocolate
bright yellow headlights from cars, cutting through the trees
some part of a machine scraping on a sidewalk somewhere in the distance
a tree that I thought might be a person until I saw it in my periphery: a tree with one branch holding a hat at head-height
a woman walker in bright orange pants
At the end of my run, I took a picture from the top of the hill, above the tunnel of trees, across from the ancient boulder:
I love this poem by Donika Kelly, and I love what magic she can do with words!
Nothing today hasn’t happened before: I woke alone, bundled the old dog into his early winter coat, watered him, fed him, left him to his cage for the day closing just now. My eye drifts to the buff belly of a hawk wheeling, as they do, in a late fall light that melts against the turning oak and smelts its leaves bronze. Before you left, I bent to my task, fixed in my mind the slopes and planes of your face; fitted, in some essential geography, your belly’s stretch and collapse against my own, your scent familiar as a thousand evenings. Another time, I might have dismissed as hunger this cataloguing, this fitting, this fixing, but today I crest the hill, secure in the company of my longing. What binds us, stretches: a tautness I’ve missed as a sapling, supple, misses the wind.
I love all the work the title does to set up the poem, how she describes it as watering the dog (and not giving the dog water), and these verbs: cataloging/fitting/fixing. My favorite sentence, and the reason I wanted to post this poem today, is this:
My eye drifts to the buff belly of a hawk wheeling, as they do, in a late fall light that melts against the turning oak and smelts its leaves bronze.
A late fall light that melts against the tree and smelts it leaves bronze? Wow. I want tp remember that line. I’d also like to find an example of it out by the gorge on my run today (I’m writing this bit before my run), but there’s no autumn sunlight today, just gray gray gray. I wonder, what does gray to those leaves?
during the run: I hoped to think about this question of what gray does to the leaves, but I got distracted, or maybe, it didn’t do much, at least not today. Most of the leaves were gold or orangish-brown, no shimmering or sizzling, just soft and flat.
Instead of thinking about what gray does to the leaves, I was thinking about some lines I’d like to add to my Haunts poem:
A girl runs four blocks to the gorge. She’s all muscle bone and breath, foot strikes and arm swings. The river and ghosts wait.
transcript: During the run I was thinking about ghosts and girls and the gorge. And I was thinking that what I’m really trying to convey is that there’s a heaviness and a solidness and a there-ness that is both good and too heavy. So there’s a desire to lighten up. What I want to do is convey the heaviness, so maybe using the word, “heavy,” heavy foot strikes. Then I was thinking of Lizzy McAlpine and her song, “all my ghosts.” And then I was thinking about how all these ghosts aren’t primarily a bad thing, but there are a few ghosts I struggle with more than others. I think the ghost of cancer is haunting me the most right now.
the chorus from McAlpine’s “all my ghosts”:
And all my ghosts were with me I know you felt them too Watchin’ as I started to get dizzy ‘Cause I hate all of my habits But I happen to love you I hope that’s true
another version of my lines:
A girl runs. She’s all muscle bone and breath, heavy foot falls and swinging arms. At the river her ghosts wait.
Ah, November! Ran through the neighborhood, past the kids playing outside at the church daycare, past the house that has a giant Packer’s flag hanging from their fence, past the window of the business where I watch myself run and wonder if the people inside are watching me watch myself, over the lake street bridge to the east side of the river. On the bridge, I passed a couple holding hands. A mile later, I passed another hand-holding couple. An unusual sighting, and twice. Ran up the long hill to the Monument, then beside the river until I reached the ford bridge. Stopped to take a picture on the bridge, then ran the rest of the way back with Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo.
kids playing at the church daycare, several of them huddled at the fence, one of them (accidentally?) threw a ball over the side
blue water, some waves, a few streaks or trails from something
running above shadow falls, not sure if I was hearing it dripping or the wind through the trees
running up the summit hill, a stretch of lit street lamps lining the path, the amber lights glowing softly
noticing the gloom and the absence of my shadow as I ran around the ravine
wondering if I would get to hear the St. Thomas bells as I ran close to campus (nope)
chickadee dee dee
turkeys! I’m not quite sure, but I think they were hanging out in the grass, just past the ford bridge, before you head down the hill to the locks and dam
an unnaturally vibrant green on some of the leaves on the east side of the river — is this spring or late fall?
an intense smell of cinnamon shortly before reaching the ford bridge — where was it coming from? someone’s gum? a bush?
before the run
Last night during Scott’s South High Community Jazz Band rehearsal, when I sit and listen and work on poetry, I returned to Susan Tichy’s North | Rock | Edge. Wow! This morning, before my run, I’m thinking about the lines I read and an interview Tichy did for Terrain.
There’s also a sensory excitement in a sea-rock-light-wind-bird-flower-seal-seep-peat-rain-salt—oh look, there’s a whale!—environment that subsumes attention to any one thing into the press of the whole.
I love how she describes the environment and her idea of attention to the whole, not just to any one thing.
Rock blurs the categories of time and space by making time visible and place temporal. A poem uses both rest and motion to create a form, which can be seen and must be heard—as the Susan Howe epigraph says, fleeting and fixed. These poems, like many in Avalanche Path, have a surface texture of fragmentation, abrupt change, and brokenness metamorphized into a new whole, voiced in present time, human time. Nothing is still; nothing is uniform.
And here’s a wonderful bit from the first part of Tichy’s poem, 60 North|Arriving, Stand Still:
& here wind
elevates to a theory
of time : to not miss a single
wave’s decay, a verse
of coast becoming dearth
of certainty, to undefine
the edge as noun, dissolving
in the not unyielding mouth
of cliff : verse/reverse
from the root of turn :
wind-wave & swell
compounded to a single
by the thing it breaks—
In the next section she offers this line, what place is not. The gorge as what place is not, or where place one was?
during the run
I think Tichy’s poem influenced my thoughts indirectly as I ran. I was thinking about a part of my Haunts poem I’m working on, particularly about how I am sometimes a girl, sometimes a ghost, and sometimes a gorge. Am I the gorge, I wondered as I started running. And as I ran over the lake street bridge I came up with an answer: yes. Later, when I reached to ford bridge, I stopped running to record some thoughts:
I am the gorge because the gorge is the remains, what is left behind, what continues to exist even as ground erodes, self erodes, vision erodes. The gorge, constantly shifting, but always there. The gorge is the eroded. Is the ghost the verb, the eroding? … I am also the gorge because I’m constantly leaving part of myself here and becoming this place and not just moving through the place, becoming the place.
5.4 miles franklin loop 25 degrees / feels like 20
Yes! A great temperature for running. I love the cold air and not getting overheated. Wore black running tights, black running shorts, my 10 year-old base layer green shirt, an orange sweatshirt, black gloves, a hat and a buff. Such a great run. I feel satisfied and happy and energized. A great start to the winter running season!
At evening, sitting on this terrace, When the sun from the west, beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains of Carrara Departs, and the world is taken by surprise …
When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing Brown hills surrounding …
When under the arches of the Ponte Vecchio A green light enters against stream, flush from the west, Against the current of obscure Arno …
Look up, and you see things flying Between the day and the night; Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.
A circle swoop, and a quick parabola under the bridge arches Where light pushes through; A sudden turning upon itself of a thing in the air. A dip to the water.
And you think: “The swallows are flying so late!”
Dark air-life looping Yet missing the pure loop … A twitch, a twitter, an elastic shudder in flight And serrated wings against the sky, Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the light, And falling back.
Never swallows! Bats! The swallows are gone.
At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats By the Ponte Vecchio … Changing guard.
Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one’s scalp As the bats swoop overhead! Flying madly.
Pipistrello! Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe. Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildly vindictive;
Wings like bits of umbrella.
Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep; And disgustingly upside down.
Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags And grinning in their sleep. Bats!
In China the bat is symbol for happiness.
Not for me!
Today, writing this bit before my run, I’m thinking about bats and echos and echolocation. Vibrations, reverberations, sounds that haunt by continuing to ring out. Bells. But, back to the echoes. In addition to bats, I’m thinking about a stanza from a favorite Halloween poem that I posted on this day in 2020:
A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place your sight can knock on, echoing; but here within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze will be absorbed and utterly disappear: from Black Cat/ Rainer Maria Rilke
Speaking of haunting, relentless sounds: I am sitting at my desk in the front room and city workers are paving the hole they made in the street in July or August. So loud! Beep beep beep. Rrrruuummmbbbllleee. Scrape scrape, tamp tamp. Even the visual noise echoes — a flash flash flash of the lights on the truck as it dumps the gravel or tar or whatever they’re putting in the hole. Everything is vibrating — the street, my jaw, my chair, the windows. Difficult to think or to write while this is happening!
At the end of my run, having crossed the river road to walk in the grassy, leaf covered boulevard, I was distracted by the delightful noise of fallen leaves. Then I noticed a bare tree, its still green leaves scattered around it.
3.1 miles trestle turn around 57 degrees / drizzle
Waited for the rain to stop, then went out for a late morning run. Listened to the squeaks of my feet on the wet leaves, the drips from the trees and the eaves, workers on a neighbor’s roof as I ran north. Listened to a playlist on the way back south. The sidewalks were slippery and covered with red and yellow leaves. The paved trail had some puddles. I remember looking at the river through the trees, but I can’t remember what it looked like. Probably gray.
The strangest moment of the run happened near the beginning as I ran through the neighborhood on my way to the river. The sidewalk was covered in intensely red and yellow leaves and so was the sky, from an orange tree. Everything glowed, even me in my bright orange sweatshirt. Wow! I decided that once I finished my run, I’d come back to this spot and take some video:
4.1 miles minnehaha falls and back 51 degrees / light rain
Ran to the falls. Everything yellow, red, orange. Wow! Encountered some walkers as I got closer to the falls, one or two runners. Chanted triple berries — strawberry/ raspberry/ blueberry. Also recited Mary Oliver’s “Can You Imagine.” I remember starting it, but I don’t think I finished it, and I can’t remember where I stopped. The Minneapolis park workers were out again, patching up cracks in the asphalt with stinky, steaming tar. The falls were gushing. As I ran by them, 3 teenage boys sprinted past me, on their way to the steps. The mother in me hoped they didn’t fall down the slippery stairs. I stopped at my favorite spot on the other side of the park, near where Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” is etched into the limestone wall, to admire the falls. Today, before starting to run again, I decided to take some video of my view:
notes about what I saw: As I was taking this video I saw a flash of movement below: it was one of the teenage boys running over the bridge that crosses the creek after it’s fallen. I tried to pan down to capture him on video, but I can’t see him. Can you? Also, to the left of this frame, there was a person with an easel set up, painting this view from a different angle. When I had approached the spot, I knew there was something/someone else there but I couldn’t tell what/who it was and I didn’t want to stare. It was only after I started walking away and saw the person through my peripheral vision that I figured out what was there.
The rain came in the last mile of my run, right after I finished filming myself running up the edge of the world. (Oops. I screwed up the camera by not starting it when I thought I did. I’ll have to try filming this view some other day). Good timing! I didn’t mind getting wet — I already was, from sweat.
I listened to water dripping, kids yelling from across the road, a dog yipping, the falls rushing, leaves squeaking on the way to the falls. I put in Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” on the way back, but took it out and listened to more water and wheels and my own breathing while running on the Winchell Trail.
We’re getting closer to the end of October and the cold is coming. Looking back through old entries, it had already snowed by this day in past years. Here’s a poem I found in the New Yorker that gets me in the mood for that cold — and it features the color blue!
I miss the cold, but not the cold breaking, not the small limbs sheared, nor the icepick cold white wind working its whole way through you no matter your coat and gloves, and no matter the blue scarf someone tied and tucked tight.
The same cold blue all day in the sky. Frozen blue through limbs of the two standing elms. Brilliant each blue. Blue the color of new snow like wafers on the fields. Come in cold then, and the dark comes with you, kick off your boots
and someone is rubbing your feet so they sting, then stop stinging. Now the bruised-apple- red bottle at the foot of your bed, steaming, and come morning woodsmoke in the kitchen. I miss the cold then, so cold there is singing.
Wow, so much yellow. Full fall color, I think. I was sore this morning from my run yesterday, but glad I went out to be with all of this beautiful color!
I listened to a playlist, then took out my headphones while I was on the Winchell Trail, then put the playlist back in for the last mile. Ended the run with the theme to Rocky — not on purpose; it happened to come up on shuffle.
Smelled the sewer, heard the limestone dripping, called out right behind you several times. Thought (again) about stopping at the overlook to take a picture of the wonderful view of the river, but didn’t. Instead, I stopped at the entrance to the Winchell Trail and took this shot:
4 or 5 stones still stacked on the ancient boulder
the floodplain forest is almost all yellow
the sewer gas from below smelled sour and unpleasant
a Minneapolis Park truck was parked in the grass above the gravel trail that descends through the ravine — are they planning to clear out more dead limbs below?
encounter 1: 2 people with 2 big black dogs on the Winchell trail — right behind you / sorry / no worries. It’s a beautiful morning!
encounter 2: a man with his dog — right behind you / no words, but he moved over slightly / thanks!
the “edge of the world” was mostly bare, with only a few streaks of yellow left
avoiding roots on the dirt trail next to edmund, imagining that I was doing agility drills
taking off my pink jacket at the bottom of the 38th street steps
encounter 3: 2 different people with dogs, or a dog?, bypassing the steps and continuing on the dirt trail to the oak savanna
3.6 miles locks and dam no. 1 hill 51 degrees wind: 13 mph
My knees were sore last night and this morning and I wondered if I should go out for a run, but it’s supposed to rain later today and all of tomorrow, and I read an article that said sometimes running on sore legs is better than not running, so I ran. And I’m glad I did. My legs/knees feel better after than they did before.
Felt windier than 13 mph. It almost knocked my cap off.
I listened to beeping trucks and chainsaws and rushing wind as I ran south. When I got to the top of the hill at the locks and dam no 1 I stopped and put in a Bruno Mars playlist.
the dirt on the boulevard was sometimes dark brown, sometimes light brown
more trees without leaves — have we passed peak leaf season?
a parks’ truck blocking the entrance to the overlook and the winchell trail — no winchell trail for me today
running up the hill, the sun came out briefly from behind the clouds, just enough for me to see the faint outline of my shadow. Hello friend!
more crunching leaves in the grass — brittle, brown, formed into little mounds by the wind
a rough trunk with lichen growing on it — on the north side — a faint, yellowish green
several different versions of green on the tree trunk and the grass
walking past a giant rectangular hole in the street — the spot where they busted open the street to work on the water pipes. Minutes before, workers had filled it with warm, bitter smelling tar (or asphalt?) Heat was coming off the filled hole, warming my legs
a falling red leaf hit me on the shoulder
color of the day: bright yellowish green. Not only was I wearing a shirt in that color, but I saw at least 3 other yellowish green shirts on a runner, a walker, and a biker
After staring at the yellowish greenish lichen, I took a picture of it: