feb 15/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin and back
21 degree / feels like 10

At first, I was planning to bike and run in the basement this morning, but I decided outside was better. And it was. The paths were slick in spots, but I was fine. Yesterday when I went running at around this time, late morning, I was hungry. I thought I’d be fine, but halfway through the run, I felt very tired. Again today, I was hungry, but I ate a cookie before I left and it made all the difference. (The cookie was a snickerdoodle from a batch I baked yesterday for Valentine’s Day.) I had energy for the whole run.

More cardinals today, no black-capped chickadees. The sun was out, then not, streaks of blue sky in the cracks of the clouds. I could see my shadow. She was not sharp, but soft, a little more than the idea of her there, a little less than her solid presence. The gorge was still white, and so was the river, except for some cracks in the ice, especially near the bridges — lake and franklin. On the way down to the flats, I cross under the I-94 bridge. Someone painted graffitied letters in lime green a few months ago and now, in the dreary dregs of winter, right above the dark gray water, they look sad and tired.

I don’t remembering noticing any critters, although I do recall hearing some rustling in the brush across the road as I entered the flats. I looked, but couldn’t see anyone or anything. Smelled a strong wave of pot. Encountered several runners and walkers. Near the end of my run, I passed a runner stopped by the side of the trail, waiting while her dog pooped in the snow.

Anything else? I think I devoted a lot of energy to watching the trail, and making sure I was avoiding ice, especially the big, concrete-like chunks that blend into the white background. At least, for me — do they for people with normal vision? One of the bigger chunks could do some serious damage to my foot.

Almost forgot: As I was finishing up, running on the sidewalks, trying to avoid the sheets of ice stretching across parts of the path, I thought about how I can usually see the ice. It’s because my peripheral vision is fine, and that’s where I spot the ice. And, to see ice — that is, “warning! ice ahead, watch out!” — doesn’t require a highly focused, precise image. Ice is often a blob or a discoloration on the path. I don’t need cone cells to see that. And, the way I, and probably a lot of other people, detect ice is by noticing how the light reflects off of it differently than the bare sidewalk. The sun on ice shimmers and sparkles more. Gray-ish light on ice is duller, flatter.

I think I finished my mannequins poem, I’m titling it, “Praise Improbable Things,” after lucille clifton’s poem, Praises, and its refrain, “Praise impossible things.” I’m barely halfway done with the month, so I have time to explore other meanings of WYSIWYG. I’m thinking of sticking with the mannequins, but exploring alt-text for them.

Here are some sources for alt-text that I want to use/refer back to:

feb 12/RUN

3.5 miles
river road, north/south
1 degree / feels like -9
90% snow and ice covered

Brrr. Not much wind this morning, but it was cold. Used hand warmers, still my fingers were freezing for a few minutes. My circulation to my fingers and toes is not the greatest. Why not? The paths were icy, but with Yaktrax, I didn’t slip at all. Maybe it was too cold to be slick? Heard a bird chirping. Saw my shadow, faint and fleeting. Noticed the alarm under the trestle again. Not too many walkers or runners, no fat tires. Early on, I saw another runner, running below on the unplowed walking path. The river was covered in white. The road was crowded with cars whizzing by. Smelled some pot, but didn’t see who was smoking it, or where. Listened to the crunching snow for the first half, then a playlist for the second.

Last night, we watched snowboarding on the Olympics. It was very exciting to see Nick Baumgartner from Iron River, MI (just miles from the family farm) win gold in the relay. The most exciting thing was hearing the announcers say Iron River and UP several times. How often do you hear that on national television?

I continue to work on my mannequin poem. It’s fascinating to witness how this poem is transforming from an initial spark of wanting to write about how I relate to and delight in the mannequins, to an imagining of a space where they are valued and able to be strange and out-of-touch or out-of-step or on the outside.

feb 10/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
18 degrees / feels like 8
less than 5% snow-covered!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve listened to several running podcasts. On one of them, the host ends the show by asking the guest to give listeners one reason to go out for a run today. More than half of the time, the answer they give is: because you’ll feel better and never regret it. For me, this is true. I’m better after every run and I’m glad I made it outside (or to the basement). Today included. It was colder than I expected, and I felt more sluggish than I’d like, but running for 40 minutes above the gorge and around the falls was an excellent way to occupy the late morning.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the drumming of a woodpecker on a tree just above the oak savanna
  2. the river, white and flat and quiet
  3. 2 or 3 park vehicles in turkey hollow — are they trimming some trees, or what?
  4. the falls, frozen and still
  5. clearest view of the river: between folwell and 38th, beside a split rail fence
  6. best view of the falls: on the opposite end, near Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” etched on top of a low stone wall. I stopped and stood on some packed down snow — a clear, straight shot of the falls, the creek, and the bluffs around it
  7. the paths were almost completely clear except for a few spots where ice spread across one side (the result of snow that melted in the warm temps on Monday refroze)
  8. kids yelling and laughing at the playground at Minnehaha Academy
  9. a car pulling into one of the parking lots at the falls, then looping around quickly and leaving
  10. About 10 people at the falls, walking above, admiring the view

I’m still working on thinking about “what you see is what you get” and the state fair mannequins, but I’m struggling. Is it possible for me to write about them in a meaningful way? Not sure. This morning, I was thinking more about form. I thought about how I imagine my poem as one of praise for the mannequins, and the improbability that they continue to exist. Then I thought about hymns and how Emily Dickinson wrote in common meter/hymn form. Quatrains: 8/6/8/6, mostly iambic tetrameter/iambic trimeter ABAB rhyme scheme (with lots of slant rhymes) (Common Questions on Emily Dickinson). This sounds exciting and promising, but do I have words to fit this form? Unsure. I also thought about one structure Mary Oliver uses in her poems of praise: First, a detailed description of the delightful thing; then a display of wonder/astonishment, possibly the posing of a question; and, finally, a revelation. I want to try these different approaches with some sort of praise poems, but I’m not sure they work for the mannequins.

One approach to the poem could be to provide more detail and development of the “as-is” mannequins’ location in the creative activities building at the Minnesota State Fair: encased in glass, jammed with sweaters and ponchos, dresses, hats, mittens, aprons. Close to the quilts, the rugs, the weavings. Across from the jars of jellies and jams and pickled beans, pickled peppers, pickled cucumbers. Cookies, breads, cakes, honey. And, for a few years, melted crayon art. The domestic arts. The enemy of convenience, the ready-made, the instant, the quick. Homemade, not store-bought, requiring slow, patient effort, “traditional” techniques. The point of this effort is not to sell (or buy) more of anything, but to pass on these practices, different forms of knowledge (and to win a ribbon). Things in this building are not typically recognized as artistic or possessing Beauty (as a form), but as functional, useful, necessary for survival. Women’s work. How much of this to put in this poem? And, how do I connect that with another important aspect of the mannequins: my kinship with them as strange not quite human aliens who almost look real — almost — but lack that extra something, like the spark in the eye, the direct eye contact. Not sure how (or if) I’ll do this yet.

Here are 2 praise poem that offer some good inspiration as I continue to push through how to write my poem:

Praise the Rain/ JOY HARJO

Praise the rain; the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk—
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep—
Praise the mist, the warrior name
The earth eclipse, the fired leap—
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down—
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—

Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we’re led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.

Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.

I especially like the repetition and the detail of this poem.

This next one, offers a much pithier approach:

Praises / Lucille Clifton

Praise impossible things
Praise to hot ice
Praise flying fish
Whole numbers
Praise impossible things. 
Praise all creation
Praise the presence among us
of the unfenced is.

Wow. Talk about effective condensing! I love the repetition in this one as well. And, that unfenced is? the best!

feb 8/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin loop
24! degrees
5% snow-covered

Warmer today. Today’s high is 42. Sunny, not too much wind. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker and he called out, “a great day to be outside!” Yes. Not too crowded on the trail. Not too slushy either. Felt relaxed and motivated to run for a little less than an hour. For most of the run (the first 4.25 miles, until I reached the lake street bridge), I didn’t have headphones in, but for the last mile and a half, I put in my jan/feb playlist.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the floodplain forest was white and open and empty
  2. the river was also white, with a few small cracks beginning to appear
  3. for the first mile, there was a strong smell of gasoline. Was it the quality of the air, moisture holding in the fumes?
  4. no one was sledding down the hill between edmund and the river road
  5. running under the railroad trestle, I heard a chirp or a beep. I wondered if it was some strange bird then realized it was a warning beep. Was there a train coming? I looked and listened but couldn’t sense any sign of one
  6. the huge boulder on the east side of the river was half covered with snow
  7. thought I noticed someone running below, on the walking path, through the tunnel of trees — a flash of a gold shirt — but it was just some dead leaves on a tree
  8. running west on the lake street bridge, the trees were a blur, whizzing past through the slats in the bridge railing
  9. ran above the part of the Winchell Trail that steeply descends to the gorge, noticed how it was buried under snow, and thought about hiking it in the fall, which feels so long ago, and encountering a family as we climbed up and they climbed down: a father, a toddler in pajamas, and a mother with a baby strapped to her front
  10. a few other speedy runners, 1 or 2 bikes, 2 or 3 dozen dogs, lots of walkers

This morning, I’m continuing to think about “as is” as a meaning for “what you see is what you get.” I suddenly remembered the island of misfit toys.

The misfit, mistake toys — a pistol that shoots jelly instead of water, a bird that swims instead of flies, a cowboy that rides an ostrich instead of a horse — all want to be accepted and loved by some “girl or a boy.” They lament their banishment to the island. At the end, they are “saved” by Rudolph and Santa and become presents. I didn’t watch the entire show; are they “fixed” or delivered “as is” to the kids? Will the kids (or their parents) be happy with broken/misfit/flawed toys? I mentioned this to Scott and he said, “I would LOVE a cowboy riding on an ostrich!” Much of my love for the State Fair Mannequins is because they continue to exist outside of the acceptable in an old, out-dated creative arts building. I don’t want them to fit in, or to have what “fits” be expanded to include them. I like that there is a space that seems to exist outside of progress and the newest, slickest model. But, there’s a tension for me, too: I appreciate (and identify with) these mannequins as strange, queer misfit resistors, but I also feel haunted by the pressure (and sometimes the desire) to fit in, where fit in = connect, be recognized as acceptable and human, not have to always work against the “normal.” I want to think about how I can express that unresolved/unresolvable tension.

Before I went out running, I watched the misfit toys clip and wrote some of the previous paragraph. As I ran, I thought about them and the mannequins and some words came to me. I held onto them until I could record them into a voice memo while I walked up the lake street bridge steps: “not improved, accommodated, fixed, cured. Just left alone.” I’d add now: left alone to be, away from the new, the novel, the latest model.

I found this poem when I searched, “mannequin” in the poetryfoundation.org database:

To the Mannequins/ HOWARD NEMEROV

Adorable images, 
Plaster of Paris 
Lilies of the field, 
You are not alive, therefore 
Pathos will be out of place. 

But I have learned 
A strange fact about your fate, 
And it is this: 

After you go out of fashion 
Beneath your many fashions, 
Or when your elbows and knees 
Have been bruised powdery white, 
So that you are no good to anybody— 

They will take away your gowns, 
Your sables and bathing suits, 
Leaving exposed before all men 
Your inaccessible bellies 
And pointless nubilities. 

Movers will come by night 
And load you all into trucks
And take you away to the Camps, 
Where soldiers, or the State Police, 
Will use you as targets 
For small-arms practice, 

Leading me to inquire, 
Since pathos is out of place, 
What it is that they are practicing.

feb 7/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 2.6 miles
7 degrees / feels like 0

Thought about running outside, but decided that it would be warmer tomorrow, and that I wanted to watch some more of Dickinson. Finished the first episode of season 3, which was all about death — Aunt Lavinia’s death, too many young men in the community dying due to the Civil War, Edward (Dad) having chest pains and then almost dying from a heart attack, the barely alive relationship of Austin and Sue. Some of the parallels between the never-ending, nation dividing war and the pandemic seemed a bit heavy-handed, but it was funny to hear Lavinia (sister) lamenting her lost 20s because of the war: “It’s soooo boring and taking sooo long. This is our 20s, we’re supposed to be having fun!”

Started my run by listening to Erik Larson’s No One Goes Alone, but then decided I wanted to listen to music and think more about my latest version of “what you see is what you get”: as is…In praise of the “as is,” the outdated, bargain basement dwelling forgotten ones. I’m thinking about the State Fair mannequins and how I’ve wanted to write about them for years now. Maybe I finally will? I hope so.

A few minutes into the run, I had some ideas, so I stopped my music, pulled out my phone, and recorded them while running. A bit awkward, but I didn’t drop the phone or fall off the treadmill. Listening back to the recording, it’s hard to hear my voice over my striking feet, so I won’t post the recording. I talked about the “as is” as the old, out-dated, bargain basement, and progressive lenses versus bifocals and how the type of cone dystrophy I have is progressive cone dystrophy because my vision has not stabilized and is continuing to grow worse — it’s progressively deteriorating, as opposed to stationary cone dystrophy where your vision stays at the same level; it’s already lost what it’s going to lose. The progress I’m experiencing is progress as getting worse not better, which is a type of progress that rarely gets mentioned in all the appeals to it. This reminds me of Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing and a line she has about capitalism wanting uncontrolled/unlimited growth and how that’s what cancer is. I found it on goodreads:

But beyond self-care and the ability to (really) listen, the practice of doing nothing has something broader to offer us: an antidote to the rhetoric of growth. In the context of health and ecology, things that grow unchecked are often considered parasitic or cancerous. Yet we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative. Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and are as productive in the same way.

How to Do Nothing/ Jenny Odell

I also found a similar, and much earlier quotation by the park ranger/ troublemaker/ writer/ environmental activist Edward Abbey:

growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

Edward Abbey

About a mile later, my thoughts went in a different direction with the as is. Here is some of the notes I recorded into my phone mid-run:

  • “as is” in terms of metaphor — I think I was thinking about the “as” or “as in this or that…” — and how what you see is what you get is the opposite of metaphor, the what that you see is what it is and nothing else, not almost or approximate.
  • what you see = your perspective, how you perceive/interpret/understand the world is how it is (or, more precisely how it seems/appears) to you. I was thinking particularly about my struggles to see/recognize other people’s faces and how I imagine others see me as rude or distant or unfriendly because of it. But, do they, or is that how I see myself? I feel like I’m not quite explaining this as I’d like to, but I’ll leave it for now

Of course, when I think about “as is,” I also think about IKEA and their as-is department:

The As-Is section is where you can view the selection of floor samples, discontinued pieces, and customer returns at a reduced price. IKEA has a certain amount of merchandise throughout the year that we retire, which ensures that we keep our selection of products up-to-date. That merchandise can end up in As-Is along with seasonal products that are left over after summer or after the winter holidays.

source

priced to sell, reduced, retired, discontinued, out-of-date, used, floor sample, damaged, banged up, unwanted or not wanted enough, last chance, remainders, hidden in plain sight (you know it’s there, but you ignore it), minor flaws (descriptions from the IKEA interview).

As Is/ Nicholas Friedman

Just north of town, a quaint Sargasso Sea*
for bric-a-brac: the barn, itself antique,
spills over with a grab-bag panoply
of outworn stock revalued as “unique.”
Typewriters tall as headstones fill the loft
where they’ve been ricked away like sacks of grain;
a coffer yawns the must of oak—gone soft—
when one man, squinting, lifts the lid to feign
intrigue. Nearby, his wife surveys the smalls:
art deco bangles bright as harpsichords,
a glut of iron trivets, Christmas balls,
Depression glass and warping Ouija boards.
One man’s junk is another’s all the same.
They don’t buy much, but that’s not why they came.

*I am familiar with Jean Rhys’s book, but wasn’t sure how Sargasso Sea worked here. Looked it up: “a vast area of the northern Atlantic Ocean which is home to sargassum, a kind of seaweed. The Sargasso Sea is legendary for being an oceanic black hole, where ships get ensnared by huge forests of floating seaweed, or drift helplessly when the wind ceases to blow.” Also found out: It’s the only sea not bounded by land.

sept 10/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees
humidity: 84%

Weird (almost) fall weather. Yesterday I had to wear so many more layers, today summer had returned. Humid and hot. Greeted the Daily Walker. Encountered other runners and walkers and bikers. No roller skiers on the path but I did see one on the street later when I took the dog for a walk. Listened to an audio book (Once Upon a River) and noticed the river and a spot in the tunnel of trees that opens up into an amphitheater of air–this spot is different than the one I tried to write about earlier in the summer. So spacious and airy and light–and still quite green. What color will it turn in the next month? Don’t remember noticing any non-green leaves. Today, with the sun so bright and warm, it’s hard to get excited about fall or winter. It feels like summer will never leave.

Reminded by someone on twitter of these great lines from Mary Oliver:

Sometimes/Mary Oliver (in Red Bird):

Instructions for living a life:
Pay Attention.
Be Astonished.
Tell about it.

Mannequin of the Day:

There’s something about this mannequin’s face that makes me think she really doesn’t give a fuck. She doesn’t even care that a ribbon is covering her cheek. It’s the eyes, right?

sept 8/RUN

4 miles
almost to franklin bridge turn around
54 degrees
light rain

Ran in the rain. Just a light drizzle that I could barely feel. Nice. Listened to an audio book. Forgot to check if there were any stones stacked on the boulder. Looked for, but couldn’t find, the forest floor. Still too many leaves. Noticed a few changing colors, turning yellow. Thought I heard some cheering from the gorge. A rowing competition? Passed the Daily Walker, good morning-ed him on the way back. Worked on lifting my head, straightening my back. Saw a few squirrels, a dog, a roller skier, bikers, runners, walkers–lots of people out in the rain. Didn’t really see the river, only an occasional flash of white through the trees. I loved my run this morning.

Found this poem this morning while searching for the subject “september” on poets.org. Thinking about my mom and the 10th anniversary of her death at the end of this month. I deeply feel this profit and loss in my own grief and also the idea of not trying to assess it or to reconcile the feeling of loss with the unexpected joys it has brought–like a deeper appreciation of the woods or a football game or, in my case, the leaves in the gorge. The more I read this poem, the more I love it. Such a beautiful way to express the process of learning to live with grief.

Mannequin of the day:

Is the white in the middle of the pupil just because the paint is wearing off, or is it an artistic effort to indicate life/a spark/a soul within?

I find delight (reading Ross Gay’s wonderful, The Book of Delights, I’m trying to be better about claiming my own quirky delights) in this mannequin and her continued (and improbable) presence at the State Fair in a space barely touched by progress where the amateur is celebrated and beauty is never slicked up. Every year, walking into the creative activities building and seeing these cracked, faded, weathered mannequins still adorned in handmade hats and coats and scarves and sweaters, looking creepy and odd, I am delighted–and not in an ironic, hipster way. Here, the ugly and old and outdated have a space. I think I’m almost able to articulate this delight, but not quite. I’ll keep working at it. Something about how these mannequins represent resistance to the relentless need (by capitalism) to constantly change things to make them better! and newer! and prettier! and, in doing so, erase/remove/destroy those things which don’t fit their vision of better/newer/prettier. I love things that are ugly and overlooked and unsettling.

sept 7/RUNSWIM

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
58 degrees

A great run! A cooler temp makes all the difference for me. What do I remember? Walking towards the river, listening to the electric hum of the bugs, the cawing of the crows, the rumble of the garbage truck. Seeing so many bright colors today–glowing yellowish green and orange shirts, aquamarine and hot pink shorts. Encountering a few roller skiers, a rollerblader, groups of runners, a water station set-up not too far from the overlook. Hearing the rowers on the river. Admiring the sparkling sun on the water, just barely cutting through the thick curtain of leaves.

Still Burning
BY GERALD STERN

Me trying to understand say whence
say whither, say what, say me with a pencil walking,
say reading the dictionary, say learning medieval
Latin, reading Spengler, reading Whitehead,
William James I loved him, swimming breaststroke
and thinking for an hour, how did I get here?
Or thinking in line, say the 69 streetcar
or 68 or 67 Swissvale,
that would take me elsewhere, me with a textbook
reading the pre-Socratics, so badly written,
whoever the author was, me on the floor of
the lighted stacks sitting cross-legged,
walking afterwards through the park or sometimes
running across the bridges and up the hills,
sitting down in our tiny diningroom,
burning in a certain way, still burning.

I love the linking of thinking with moving here–swimming, walking, running.

Mannequin of the day:

I am always fascinated by the eyes in these mannequins–the little bit of white in the corner of the pupil and the curls veiling the one eye. The way her pupils are shifted up and to the side. What is she looking at? Is it my shoulder? One of the first things the ophthalmologist told me when I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy was that I’d need to learn to look just past people’s shoulders if I wanted to see their faces. Once my central vision was gone, I would only be able to see them through my peripheral. How unsettling is it to others to look at them this way? I do not look at people’s shoulders…yet. For now, I either avoid looking or I just stare into their dim, fading, dead-pupil faces and pretend that they don’t look like a lifeless mannequin.

swim: .9 miles (1600 yards)
lake nokomis

Guess who got to swim in Lake Nokomis this afternoon? Me! When I got back from my run, I found out that the lake was open again (after being closed due to some kid pooping in the water and spreading e-coli and getting several dozens of other people sick…boo). I didn’t think I’d be able to swim in this lake again this year. Now I get to give a proper good-bye. Hopefully, I’ll be able to swim in it more times this week. With my wetsuit I’ll keep swimming until they won’t let me or there’s ice or I decide I”m over it. Open swimming is the best! The water was calm. Everything was a dull, light gray except for the trees on the other side. Already starting to turn slightly. Light green and yellow. After the swim, headed over to sandcastle with Scott for a beer and some fries. Does it get any better than this?

sept 5/RUN

3.6 miles
river road, north/lake st bridge/marshall hill/east river road, south/lake st bridge/river road, south
65 degrees

Was planning to swim today at Lake Harriet but it seems too cold. Maybe tomorrow? Ran instead. Decided to tackle a hill. Made it over to the St. Paul for the first time in a while. A few leaves are already changing color. Nice and cool, breezy without any sun. Feeling stronger in my runs. At the end, finally saw the Daily Walker again! Has it been a month since I saw him last?

Sharon Olds, from The Gold Cell

I am doing something I learned early to do, I am
paying attention to small beauties,
whatever I have–as if it were our duty to
find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.

Today’s mannequin:

Looked up uncanny valley and found this definition: “a distinctive dip in the relationship between human-likeness and emotional response.” What makes us human? Or, what makes us see each other as human, makes us feel empathy for each other? Is it the eyes? The pupils? The spark within that black ball?

I have trouble seeing people’s pupils. Can I ever see that spark? Do I imagine one? Sometimes everyone feels like a mannequin to me. Not quite human. Not alive or there. And sometimes mannequins feel human, like this girl.

september 1/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
60 degrees

Another run through Austin, this time in the opposite direction. Started with a few “hills.” Ran through a neighborhood without sidewalks. Don’t remember much–I do remember telling Scott a story and having trouble talking while running.

Today’s mannequin is “please find my hands!”:

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Please find my hands!

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