sept 20/RUN

2 miles
neighborhood + river road
59 degrees

Last day of the Tour de France. Decided to squeeze in a quick run before the bikers reached the Champs-Élyseés. Now, as I’m typing this, they’ve just reached Paris. A tougher run. Feeling tired and the left side of my lower back is a little sore. 2 miles was enough. More and more of the trees seem to be changing colors. I wonder when peak color will be? Running on Edmund, glancing over at the trail, I noticed lots of runners and bikers. No roller skiers. No noisy conversations. No music blasting from radios. No thoughts or worries or energy.

sept 19/RUN

3 miles
Hiawatha and Howe loop*
52 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, south/42nd st, west/loop around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north/loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north

Ran the Hiawatha and Howe loop again. I have done this route for the past 3 weekends. A new routine? Running south on Edmund, I could tell it’s fall. Many of the trees on the rim of the bluff are changing colors–mostly yellows. Felt relaxed as I listened to George Michael songs on spotify: Careless Whisper, Faith, Freedom, Father Figure, Everything She Wants. Lots of people out walking, running, biking. I don’t remember seeing any roller skiers or turkeys or big groups of runners. Finished my run in time to watch the last hour of the second to last stage of the Tour de France. Pogačar–wow! This year’s tour has been a lot of fun to watch–so much drama and such cruel stages. The end of today’s time trial was a category 1 climb.

Last night, scrolling through instagram, I found out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I gasped, felt a moment of terror, and then decided not to freak Scott out by telling him. This morning, I am choosing not to give into despair or to imagine worst case scenarios with facist dictatorships, but to believe in the possibilities of people rising up, resisting, and enacting radically transformation. Here’s a great quotation that one of my former students posted on facebook:

Restorative justice activist Mariame Kaba put it thus: “I always tell people, for me, hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism.” And she has famously said hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment to the future that must manifest as action. That discipline matters most when it is hardest. And when the stakes are highest. This is such a moment, with much to lose, and much to win.

sept 18/RUN

3.15 miles
neighborhood/lake street bridge/river road trail
46 degrees

Wonderful fall weather! Sun, crisp air, changing leaves, uncrowded sidewalks/roads/paths! I ran over the lake street bridge again. A bit windy; I could feel one chunk of my hair coming out of my pony tail and flopping around just above my visor. How funny did it look to the drivers passing me? The river was a beautiful blue. No rowers on the water. No canoes or motor boats either. I don’t remember seeing any leaves changing on the tree-line along the river’s edge. Still all green. Soon, red, orange, yellow. Then my view comes back. Coming off the lake street bridge and heading south on the trail, I overheard some bikers talking about today’s stage of the Tour de France. Nice! Heard some geese honking overhead–high in the clean blue air.

I love this idea of yielding to a poem or an idea…or the gorge. I think of it in relation to being open and generous and willing to listen (and to hear and to notice).

mood: wonder

Another day of working on my writing project on vision loss and mood. This morning, while watching the Tour de France, I noticed a sign with an exclamation mark on it quickly flash across the screen and pointed it out to Scott who hadn’t noticed it. I wondered, how is it that I could see this sign (and while Scott couldn’t) but miss so much else when I’m watching tv? How does my vision work and not work?

I bring this up in the current draft of my wonder poem in 2 ways.

To witness the spot of my unseeing usually concealed behind the smoke and mirrors of softened forms and filled-in gaps is astonishing. What impossible magic enables me to see anything with this ring obscuring my view? I like staring at it until my eyes ache, my head hurts. Observing how it moves slightly when I shift my gaze. How it grows bigger when I cover my left eye, smaller when I cover my right. How it begins to pulse, then fade, then flare, a fiery black hoop burning through my thinning retina. What a strange feeling to watch this show and suddenly know it is more real than the illusions my brain offers as sight.

1. impossible magic

How can I still see as well as I can with so many of my cone cells gone? How does my brain make sense of the limited information it’s receiving from the few remaining cells? Most of the time when I am curious about this, it is with awe and astonishment. What an amazing organ the brain is! It’s fascinating to learn about how the brain/mind compensates for lack of information, how it guesses, how it fills in the gaps.

Last week, I learned about Charles Bonnet Syndrome which is a phenomenon that can happen to around 15% of people with macular degeneration. It’s named after the man who first described it, having noticed it in his aging grandfather. When the brain doesn’t receive visual data from the eyes it provides its own images, either making them up or recalling stored ones. This causes visual hallucinations. People with CBS usually experience these hallucinations when they wake up and they don’t last long. The favorite hallucinations I read about in this article were

  • people dressed in costume from an earlier time
  • imaginary creatures, like dragons

What? Somewhere else I read about how the hallucinations are smaller, so you see tiny people dressed up in costumes. Nice! Thankfully, when you experience this, you know it’s a hallucination. I don’t have this syndrome. Instead, my brain likes to fill in the gap with a background that matches the area surrounding the missing image. So, while someone with CBS has hallucinations and sees something that isn’t there, I have a different problem: what is there is hidden behind a background (like a blank, blue sky or more green trees or endless waving water–all 3 of these have happened to me) with no indication of its presence or my inability to see it. Is there an antonym for hallucination? It is not that I see things that aren’t there; it is that I don’t see things that are there and I have no idea that I’m not seeing them–until suddenly, without warning, I do, like a bike that wasn’t there appearing beside me in my peripheral vision. I think this happened to me a lot more right after my vision declined in 2016. Has my brain figured out how to compensate for it?

2. optical illusions

Much of the time, even for me with my increasingly bad vision, the brain’s tricks for filling in gaps and working with incomplete visual data are hidden. I might see things a little fuzzier but I still see them. Unless I concentrate, I can’t see the ring scotoma in my central vision. There is no dark black ring on the page when I’m reading. But it’s there and when I found it by staring intently at a blank wall, I was astonished and fascinated. I was also relieved. Here, with this ring, was evidence that my vision is declining, that I’m not making this bad vision thing up. Because my brain is so good at compensating and performing magic tricks, it can be easy for me to think my eyes are better than they are, that I’m seeing more than I am.

sept 7/RUN

4 miles
river road trail, south/wabun park/through turkey hollow/edmund, north
52 degrees

Cooler this morning and not too crowded! I ran on the river road trail all the way to the edge of Minneahaha Falls, then up to Wabun park and down the steep hill right up above the river and the Locks and Dam #1. Ran through the uneven grass across turkey hollow and then up edmund. Lots of hills today. I got closer than 6 feet to 1 or 2 walkers, but only for a second. When was the last time I ran 4 miles? I checked my running data: I ran 5 miles on July 31st. I’ve been running a lot during this pandemic–almost every day–but only 2-3 miles at a time.

Fall is here. Lots of color. One of my favorite trees–the one right before the double bridge on 44th–is a lime-ish yellow. I just checked my log; last year it was orange and turned much later, in October (oct 10, 2019). The leaves are early this year, like the acorns which were dropping last month. A week ago I read about La Nina on the Updraft blog for MPR. Paul Huttner suggested that with a La Nina watch being issued, we might have a “rigorous winter ahead.” I’ll take the snow but not the arctic hellscape temperatures. A strange time. So much to fear about the future–a second wave of the pandemic, former presidents starting civil wars because they don’t want to leave office and go to jail, bitterly cold winters, kids finally losing it about having to stay home all the time and not see their friends. Maybe none of this will happen. This is what I choose to believe.

is my vision really that bad?

A few times during my run, I thought about my writing project and my different moods around my vision loss. Today’s idea: There are many things I can still do, I can still see. I can still read. I mostly see where I’m going when I run or walk. If I were to take a vision test with the Snellen Chart, I would probably still do reasonably well. But, even though I can read, I read much slower and mostly I don’t read by looking at the words on a page, but by listening to audio books. When I do look at words on the page, I get tired quickly. I sometimes skip lines or repeat lines. I can’t read book titles or big letters, especially when they’re spaced out.

How bad is my vision? Part of my struggle right now is that I see much worse than a “normally” sighted person but not as poorly as someone who is legally blind. I am not yet blind. Even as I want to express my feelings about this in-between stage, I sometimes feel like an imposter or someone who might be exaggerating their bad vision. Then I remember how I can’t see faces or follow anything that happens on commercials. How I can’t tell if a walker on the sidewalk is heading towards me or away. How I seem to be needing brighter and brighter light to see words or the lines on the page of a notebook.

I thought about all of this as I ran, but in brief flashes and fragments.

How we See: the Photoreceptor Cells (rods & cones)

I’m trying to understand more of the technical (medical/science jargon) stuff with my vision so I’ve been reading up on diagrams of the eye and rods and cones. Here’s a useful site and diagram:

The eye, close-up on macula

You need cone cells to see fine details, read, recognize faces, and see color. Many of my cones don’t work anymore. Currently, I still have some central vision left–the very center. The blind ring I’ve been writing about in my mood ring projects is officially called a ring scotoma. Here’s an image–which is pretty accurate to what I see when I see my blind ring:

ring scotoma

The above image is from a site about macular degeneration. For comparison, here is the ring that I saw when I stared at a white sheet of paper:

my blind ring

Pretty close. A few interesting things mentioned in the description. This ring will most likely close up and:

Smaller print size may help as the individual will be able to see more of a word within the functioning area. 

Yes! Large print is very difficult for me to read. I tried checking a large print book out of the library and it was impossible to read. I like small print much better, which seemed confusing to me, especially when all the advice (even from my eye doctor) was to magnify the print. Now, finally, it makes sense!

sept 16/RUN

3 miles
the loop that kept getting larger*
63 degrees

*36th st to north on edmund
small loop: 33rd st, east/river road, north/32nd st, west/48th ave, south/33rd st, west
medium: river road, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/33rd st, west
large: river road, north/32nd st, west/46th ave, south/33rd st, west
edmund, south/36th st, west

Running Route, 16 Sept

Love the image this running route makes. Would it be fun to try running routes that make pictures or spell words?

A nice run this morning. It was fun to try a different route by making the loop bigger each time. Didn’t have any problems running too close to others. It was sunny and cool–I almost forgot about the wind. It felt like I was running into it for much of the time. I remember hearing a few birds but I don’t think I recognized their call. I heard the buzz of at least one big lawnmower. No geese. No turkey sightings. Running on the river road, I was able to glance down at the river. In-between thick green, slashes of pale blue. Anything else? Surfaces I ran over: gritty street, cracked sidewalk, rutted dirt trail, soft green grass.

Holmes Lake/ Jessica Poli 

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be wanted
the way the Labrador near me wants the stick

his owner throws for him, his body crashing
into the water before pausing, mouth clapped tightly

around the wet bark, to stand turned awestruck
toward the setting sun. On the shore, a father

holds his daughter and twirls a piece of long grass
between his fingers as they watch the hills turn glassy

and bright. I sit beneath a tree and watch them all—
dog and owner, man and daughter—and I feel

far away. And it’s here that I often see a fisherman
anchored to one particular spot, ice chest and gear

beside him, his blue windbreaker puffed
from air coming off the water as he eats spoonfuls

of beans from a can, pulls hard on a cigarette,
and adjusts his lines. On those days, I wonder

if he wonders what I’m writing the way I wonder
what he does with the fish he catches—who

he shares them with, if anyone, and whether it’s him
who picks the bones clean from the flesh, him

who warms the skillet and lays the fish gently
in the crackling oil. Today, though, the girl’s mother

stands in the fisherman’s usual spot, her phone
poised, snapping a photo every time the light shifts

a little more to darken the clouds gathering
like flies along the fur of the horizon.

I’m reminded of the horse I used to care for
and how, a month before he died, I found him

standing in the round pen behind the barn
with his head raised, eyes turned toward the sun rising

across the valley while the starlings in the hedgerow
gathered in sound before bursting from the trees

all at once, the air suddenly swarming, the horse
tilting his head to watch their departure much like

the Labrador now watches the sun across the lake.
And I knew a dairy farmer once who, when a cow

was to be put down, would turn her out into the pasture
one last time to watch the sun set. I wonder

if all these animals look at the sky and see something
that I never will. I think I could spend

my whole life trying to find it.

What an amazing first sentence! I think I’d like to memorize this poem so I can spend some more time with it. I really appreciate her description of the scene, providing so many details and managing to do more than merely report what she saw.

The idea of reporting, reminds me of the On Being episode with Mary Oliver:

Tippett: I’d like to talk about attention, which is another real theme that runs through your work, both the word and the practice. I know people associate you with that word. But I was interested to read that you began to learn that attention without feeling is only a report. That there is more to attention than for it to matter in the way you want it to matter. Say something about that learning.

Oliver: You need empathy with it rather than just reporting. Reporting is for field guides. And they’re great. They’re helpful. But that’s what they are. They’re not thought provokers. They don’t go anywhere. And I say somewhere that attention is the beginning of devotion, which I do believe. But that’s it. A lot of these things are said but can’t be explained.

sept 14/RUN

3 miles
lake street bridge loop*
67 degrees

*edmund, north, river road trail, north/lake street bridge, north and south/47th ave, south/32nd st, east/river road, south/edmund, south

Ran on the lake street bridge today so I was able to see the river! Beautiful. Was briefly on the other side, the east side in St. Paul, when I took the steps down to the river. Some day soon, I’ll do the Franklin loop–maybe the end of this week? I think I saw the man in black–not in black today–crossing the river road near the lake street bridge. I’m not sure it was him–I identify him by his height, especially his legs–so long! so tall! Heard some roller skiers. Saw a group of about 10 bikers biking on the trail. Ran through the Minnehaha Academy parking lot. Packed with cars.

When I got home, Scott asked if it was hard to breathe when I was running. (It wasn’t.) He said he could tell that we had some of the smoke from the wildfires in the west up in the atmosphere. Wow. I can’t imagine how terrible and scary it is out on the west coast. It’s so strange and disturbing, yet not surprising, how disconnected you can feel from the suffering of others when that suffering is at an easily ignored or abstracted distance.

Encountered a passage from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ diary on twitter today. Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall” is the first poem I remember wanting to memorize and inhabit. Oh, the beauty of Margaret are you grieving/over goldengrove unleaving! I love his wordplay in this entry:

Doing a bit more research, I found his diary online: The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins

sept 13/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/42nd st, west/around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north
56 degrees

Another good morning for running. I don’t remember much. Too busy looking out for other people. Started on the trail but it was too crowded so I moved over to Edmund and then ran up 42nd. Didn’t see the river or hear any memorable birds. No dropping acorns or honking geese. No clickity-clacking roller skiers or bikes blasting Jimmy Buffet songs. Saw a runner I’ve seen at least once before on the trail who annoyingly takes over the entire path and doesn’t move over. He has a strange, bouncy stride. Heard some yipping, spazzy dogs at the Hiawatha playground. Smelled some cigarette smoke and wondered if it was coming from the walker ahead of me. Ran by the door that my kids used to come out when they were done with school. All the students would bunch around the teacher trying to point out their parents so they could leave. I remember waiting forever because my kids (like me) weren’t aggressive enough to get the teacher’s attention. I was very happy when they got older and I didn’t have to wait for them near that door anymore.

Blind (r) ing

I haven’t been memorizing poems for a few weeks now. I’ve moved into working on my mood ring project. Yesterday I did some more research and found out a few things I’d like to play around with:

A blind spot in the central vision is also called a scotoma. Here’s a longer definition from Enhanced Vision:

A central scotoma is a blind spot that occurs in the center of one’s vision.  It can appear in several different ways.  It may look like a black or gray spot for some and for others it may be a blurred smudge or a distorted view in one’s straight ahead vision.  Scotomas may start out as a small nuisance and then get larger or there may be several blind spots or scotomas that block one’s field of vision. 

Right now, I think my scotoma is somewhere between a blurred smudge and a distorted view. At the end of the brief article, they offer a few tips, including:

Find and use your preferred retinal locus.  A person looks slightly to the side so that the blind spot or scotoma is not in their central field of vision. One author describes it as “not looking at what you want to see.”

Not looking at what you want to see.

So much I want to do with this idea of not looking at what you want to see. Thinking about Dickinson and “tell all the truth but tell it slant” and the periphery and soft attention. I’m also thinking about how sometimes when I’m talking to Scott and I can’t see his face, I will look just a little to the side, over his shoulder. Then I can see his features. He says this looks strange. I bet.

Another useful term/idea is filling in: The manner in which the brain deals with inexplicable gaps in the retinal image. When an object enters your blind spot and disappears, instead of seeing a shadow or dark spot, the absence is filled in with the background color. So you can’t see that you’re not seeing. Because my blind spot is larger and in my central vision, I experience this a lot more than “normally” sighted people. Sometimes I wonder how often I’m not seeing without knowing.

At the end of an article about filling in and the various experiments you can do to see it, the authors conclude:

These experiments show how little information the brain actually takes in while you inspect the world and how much is supplied by your brain. The richness of our individual experience is largely illusory; we actually “see” very little and rely on educated guesswork to do the rest.

I love this idea of how limited everyone’s vision is and the incorrect assumptions many have when thinking about what it means to “see.” I’m not sure I would have spent much time thinking about any of this if I hadn’t lost my central vision. The last line about educated guesswork reminds me of Aldous Huxley’s book The Art of Seeing and his writing about Dr. W.H. Bates’ visual education method.

In the preface, Aldous writes:

Ever since ophthalmology became a science, its practitioners have been obsessively preoccupied with only one aspect of the total, complex process of seeing—the physiological. They have paid attention exclusively to eyes, not at all to the mind which makes use of the eyes to see with.

Bates’ method pays attention to the “mental side of seeing.”

And here’s another great definition of filling in from this helpful article:

What is filling-in? It is the phenomenon in which an empty region of visual space appears to be filled with the color, brightness or texture of its surround. The brain is capable of filling-in the blind spot, borders, surfaces and objects.

Okay, I’ll stop here for now.

sept 12/RUN

2.25 miles
edmund, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/edmund, south/37th st, west/around Howe School/44th ave, north
59 degrees
humidity: 93%

Running Route, 12 Sept

I love the picture this route makes.

A slighter shorter run this morning with headphones on. Didn’t think about much, just enjoyed listening to music and getting lost in the sounds and motion. So humid it felt like it was still drizzling. Was it? Not sure. Didn’t encounter that many people. Hardly any bikers or runners. No roller skiers. As I listened to Lizzo, I decided that I should make a playlist for my hill sprint workout. A fun, fast song for each sprint.

Les Étiquettes Jaunes/ Frank O’Hara

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!
As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me.  I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf! don’t be neurotic
like the small chameleon.

sept 11/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + river road + trails*
49 degrees

*43rd ave, north/31st st, east/44th ave, north/lake street/46th ave, south/32nd st, east/river road, south/river road trail, south/winchell trail, north/38th st, west/edmund, north/47th ave, north/35th st, west

Such great weather! Was able to wear shorts and a sweatshirt. Felt a little warm by the end, but mostly fine. Ran through the neighborhood, on lake street, by Minnehaha Academy and the aspen eyes, through the tunnel of trees, past the welcoming oaks. Smelled the stink above the ravine, glanced at the inviting, mysterious trail winding through the small wood near the oak savanna, admired the river, turned down near Folwell and ran back on the Winchell Trail. Encountered 3 runners and got closer than 6ft, but only for a second or two. Tried to start the run by thinking about my writing project, but quickly got distracted or lost in other thoughts or no thoughts. Noticed a few more trees starting to change color.

I am currently deep into my project about going blind, blind spots, mood rings. Thinking about faces and feeling isolated/disconnected today. I’m thinking I’d like to put two visual poems/diagrams about faces. One, a face blurred out. The other, a state fair mannequin with pupils as soulless black balls. I need to think about it some more. It’s hard to do any other poetry/writing when I am thinking so much about this project.

Here’s a wonderful quotation I found on twitter about what poetry does:

Also, discovered someone else’s Snellen Chart poem from 2006!

Sun Yu Pai, Optometrist

sept 10/RUN

3.1 miles
1.5 mile warm-up/the hill x 2*
42 degrees

*1.5 miles = 36th st, east/edmund, north/33rd st, east/river road, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/34th st, east/edmund, north/36th st, east
the hill = .45 miles, above the tunnel of trees on the road closed for construction

Even colder today. Foggy. Had to wear running tights, almost gloves. Too early for this weather. I like running in it, but don’t like turning on the heat this soon or feeling freezing taking Delia the dog for a walk. I’d like to have a few more weeks of sitting in the sun on the deck or in my red chair under the crabapple tree.

I saw my breath this morning–or was it fog? Encountered some roller skiers and runners and bikers. A squirrel almost ran in front of me. Many of the trees look like they’re about to change from green to red or yellow or orange. I like orange the best. Didn’t see the river or think about much. Do I remember anything I thought about? No distinctive sounds. No ridiculous performances (except for maybe me sprinting up the hill). No Daily Walker or Man in Black. If I had ran closer to the ravine would I have heard water gushing from the sewer? Saw a stack of stones on the ancient boulder.

LEAF HUTS AND SNOW HOUSES/Olav Hauge

These poems don’t amount
to much, just
some words thrown together
at random.
And still
to me
there’s something good
in making them, it’s
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches we built
when we were children:
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel the drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair—
or snowhouses at Christmas,
crawl in and close it after
with a sack,
light a candle, be there
through the long chill evenings. 

I love this idea of poems creating a space to crawl into–a playhouse or a snow fort. It makes me think of secret hiding spaces and my favorite children’s book, Oh, What a Busy Day!:

sept 9/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
48 degrees

What wonderful weather for running! Cool but not too cool. Calm, quiet, overcast, uncrowded. Ran on the river road trail all the way to the trestle and back. Didn’t run through the welcoming oaks or the tunnel of trees but on Edmund and the river road. Glanced down at the river. Heard some strange rustling in the thicket just below the trail. Didn’t notice any new orange or yellow or red leaves.

Sound, Sight, Smell

  • Running on the river road, hearing a Daft Punk song–Lose Yourself to Dance, I think–from a bike’s speakers
  • Running through darker, more covered stretches of the trail, looking straight ahead, noticing how blurry my central vision seems. Difficult to make out details, only able to determine forms
  • Running up the hill on Edmund between 33rd and 34th, the smell of gas was so bad–maybe from the construction site or the tree trimmers on the corner of 33rd–that I had to pull up my buff and cover my nose for a few minutes. Yuck

An Old-Fashioned Song/ John Hollander – 1929-2013

No more walks in the wood:
The trees have all been cut
Down, and where once they stood
Not even a wagon rut
Appears along the path
Low brush is taking over.

No more walks in the wood;
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.
Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.

We and the trees and the way
Back from the fields of play
Lasted as long as we could.
No more walks in the wood.

On the poets.org site, you can listen to the poet read this haunting poem. Such beautiful rhythm and rhyming. I love the lines, “Where we make our own weather/When branches were the sky.”

sept 8/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
47 degrees

About 2.5 miles into my run a woman on the other side of the road called out, “Nice running weather” and I called back, “Yes, great!” It was wonderful running weather. Not too much wind or sun. Cool. Uncrowded. I felt strong and relaxed. Thought a little about my kids–a freshman and senior–who were starting school this morning. All online. Not as fun for them as in-person school, but safer and less stressful.

things I remember

  1. The river was a blueish gray, mostly concealed by thick green
  2. A flash of bright red leaves on a tree lower down on the Winchell Trail
  3. A few walkers discussing squirrels, taking up a lot of the parking lot above the oak savanna
  4. The loud crack of an acorn falling to the ground
  5. Muddy trails on the narrow stretch of grass between 42nd and 44th–what Scott calls “the gauntlet”
  6. Down near the turkey hollow the road had strips of dirt or mud or something that had fallen from the trees. I ran over it and it was soft–not like dirt, more like tree debris
  7. Being greeted by a runner as we passed each other–I think we were more than 6 feet apart
  8. Sort of racing someone running on the river road trail while I ran on Edmund. Did he notice that I was there like I noticed him?
  9. Lots of cars rushing by on the river road, feeling like a normal fall workday morning
  10. Looking for the turkeys (none spotted) and wondering how far they travel from their home in a day and whether they move their home and what their home consists of

With the kids both in school and Labor Day having passed and the air feeling so cool (46 degrees!), it is fall. So strange. What happened to August? The summer?

Found this awesome letter poem by Aracelis Girmay on twitter:

ODE TO THE LETTER B / Aracelis Girmay

B, you symmetry, you, under0bouse,
half butterfly, two teeth,
sideways: a bird meets the horizon.

To say you, B,
out loud I must
suck in my lips, almost smiling,
top lip kiss bottom lip.
then push the whole mouth out
‘B’

B is like a set of lips.

BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB

In three rows, B is like tire tracks,
the heels of shoes, horse’s hooves exactly
side by side.

B,

without you, Blouses would be louses,
& Blow would be low,
Bird, ird,
& the song would go A, then C.

Without you, what could I, would I
ever use?
To end the word ‘VERB’?
To begin words like:

Beso
Besos
Because
Bodies Bloom

?

Girmay also has an Ode to R. Nice! I love the creativity–an inspiration to keep pushing myself.

sept 7/RUN

3.15 miles
lake nokomis
55 degrees

Scott and I decided to drive over near Lake Nokomis and run (in opposite directions) around the lake. We parked on Nokomis Avenue and ran together on the creek trail, then under 28th ave on the part of the path they just built this year, over by Lake Hiawatha, up the hill to Lake Nokomis Community Center, and then down to Lake Nokomis where we split up. I turned left, he turned right. So wonderful to be running by water and around the lake. This is the first time I’ve run here since last November 14.

Ran by the little beach first. The buoys are still up. Will I try swimming once this season? I’m not sure. Had to run on the grass a lot to avoid people. Noticed how many changes they’ve made: plastic fences up to protect the shoreline, some trees missing. As I ran over the big bridge, I looked down at the water and the wide strip of shimmering light on the surface. Luckily Scott took a picture of it when he ran over the bridge.

Thought briefly about open swim as I ran by the big beach. I checked to see if anyone was swimming this morning. I don’t think so. Saw at least one kayak but no rowing shells or sailboats. I’m sure they’ll be there later today. I miss being by the water. I miss not being slightly terrified all of the time.

blind spots and mood rings

Still thinking about my latest writing project on blind spots and mood rings. I think I’ve finished the text for the mood 1: wonder. I haven’t quite figured out the visuals behind it. How to show the ring? How to show my vision loss? I’ve been researching concrete/visual poetry and found this cool eye poem by Lauren Holden:

further & further & further

I really like how this looks and its effect. And I like the repetition of the words/phrase. Maybe I want to do this too? As part of a ring chapbook? I’m thinking that each of my mood rings would involve 2 poems:

  1. A justified block of text with my blind ring superimposed on the text
  2. A visual poem similar to the one above made up of 2-4 words describing the mood repeated and making the shape/effect of my blind ring.

sept 5/RUN

3 miles
school loops*
57 degrees

*Ran by both elementary schools that the kids attended: 36th st, east/edmund, south/42nd st, west/loop around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north/1.5 loops around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north/35th st, west/43rd ave, south

For a few months, Scott has been doing loops around the schools. I finally decided to try it. Nice. Had some memories as I ran by the schools, especially Hiawatha (K-2). My last kid left there 6 years ago. Now she’s starting high school on Tuesday. I feel like the distance was wrong–a little short. Was it? According to my watch, my last mile was a lot slower than my first two but I don’t remember slowing down. Either the distance is wrong or I really need to take a break. I’ll have to try running it again and see if I get the same distance–or maybe I just shouldn’t worry about times or distance?

Don’t remember thinking about much. Didn’t see the river or any roller skiers or Dave, the Daily Walker. Encountered some bikes, runners, walkers. Can’t remember if I heard any acorns falling. I do remember hearing a few crows noisily cawing as I started my run.

Speaking of birds, a few hours after my run, Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk to turkey hollow. 13 turkeys, including a young one. Nice!

View this post on Instagram

13 Turkeys. (Sequel to 12 Monkeys.)

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

sept 4/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/lake st, east/47th ave, south/32nd st, east/edmund, south/the hill
66 degrees

Feeling like fall these days. Ran north on 43rd to Lake Street then over to 47th through the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy. Completely packed with cars. In-person school. I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to teach in classroom during this pandemic. Ran down to Edmund. Too crowded, especially on the stretch between 34th and 36th. I had thought about doing the tunnel of trees; it was probably empty. Anything I noticed? Lake Street was empty, even the bridge. More acorns on the sidewalk. No squirrels. No more changing leaves…yet. Right as I started, I heard a chainsaw far off, felling a big tree–at least it sounded big. Lots of bikes heading down the hill near the tunnel of trees. One biker was going very fast, trying to pass the slower bikes in front of me before the path narrowed near the construction. I heard him call out, “On your left” and wondered if he would make it in time. At the very end of my run, right after I stopped, I saw a runner wearing the same race shirt I was (the 2020 1 mile). After he passed, I imagined what he might have done if I had called out, “nice shirt!”

I posted this poem last September (25 Sept 2019), but it’s worth posting again and spending some time with:

To the Light of September/ W. S. MERWIN

When you are already here 
you appear to be only 
a name that tells of you 
whether you are present or not 

and for now it seems as though 
you are still summer 
still the high familiar 
endless summer 
yet with a glint 
of bronze in the chill mornings 
and the late yellow petals 
of the mullein fluttering 
on the stalks that lean 
over their broken 
shadows across the cracked ground 

but they all know 
that you have come 
the seed heads of the sage 
the whispering birds 
with nowhere to hide you 
to keep you for later 

you 
who fly with them 

you who are neither 
before nor after 
you who arrive 
with blue plums 
that have fallen through the night 

perfect in the dew

I will memorize this poem, along with September First Again.

Continue to work on my mood ring poems. The first one is Wonder. Here’s a draft with a quick, crude sketching in of my blind spot/ring. I haven’t figured out how I want it to be yet: white space where the ring is? Dark space? A ring superimposed?

Version 1
Version 2

Do I want to try and rework it so that the center part is another poem? Is that too much? I like the challenge of it, but I don’t want it to be overly clever.

sept 3/RUN

2.3 miles
experimenting with loops*
62 degrees
wind: 14 mph/24 mph gusts

*36th st, east/edmund, north/2 loops (33rd st, east/river road, north/32nd ave, west/47th ave, south/33rd st, east)/ edmund, south/36th st, west

Running Route, 3 Sept

This summer I had planned to run loops but couldn’t motive myself to do them. Now, without any planning or expectations, I have started running loops. It’s funny how that works. Will I continue? Who knows. I enjoyed adding more distance to the loops I started yesterday–doubling them, from .25 to .5 miles. I liked running this route because it wasn’t crowded and the loop had variety: a flat stretch closer to the river, a short hill beside the aspen eyes, another flat stretch through the neighborhood, and then down the hill.

Wasn’t bothered by the wind this morning even though it was gusting. I used to struggle with it so much. Lots of entries from my first year of writing on this log in which I complain about all of the wind. Encountered a group of roller skiers, a few other runners, some cars. Noticed acorns flying off the trees as the wind picked up. Glad one didn’t hit me. Fall is almost here. School starts next Tuesday. Low temperatures in the 40s next week. Where are the geese? Haven’t heard/seen any more vees in the sky.

a conspiracy of ravens

Wind in the Grass/ Mark Van Doren

Are you so weary? Come to the window;
Lean, and look at this—
Something swift runs under the grass
With a little hiss…

Now you see it ripping off,
Reckless, under the fence.
Are you so tired? Unfasten your mind,
And follow it hence

I love sweet little rhyming poems about the wind. Here is another poem that I posted in March of this year:

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither I nor you: 
But when the leaves hang trembling, 
The wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither you nor I: 
But when the trees bow down their heads, 
The wind is passing by.

And, of course, some of my favorite lines from Richard Siken:

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble but I am invisible…

sept 2/RUN

3 miles
another looping route avoiding people*
63 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, north/3 loops (32nd st, east/river road, south/33th st, west/edmund, north)/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/edmund, south/37th st, west/loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north/35th st, west/43rd ave, south

Running Route, 2 Sept

Another day of great weather. I wish I could run on the river road trail and do the franklin loop or run down in the flats but I’ve decided it’s less stressful to find routes where I can avoid people. Also, I’m keeping my runs to less than a 5k so I can continue my streak (almost a month now). Today’s run was a lot of loops. I wanted to see how much distance a loop from 32nd to 33rd is–.25 miles–so I did 3 loops of it. Not too bad. I might trying adding a few more blocks next time: start at 33rd heading west, turn right on 47th until 32nd, turn right again, run down the hill until the river road and run south. I wonder how much more distance that would be? The most crowded part of the run is on Edmund.

I’m surprised that the loops didn’t bother me too much. Don’t remember thinking about much this morning as I ran. Tried to think about my latest project–my failing vision and wonder–but couldn’t hang onto any ideas. I remember passing the same 2 women walking on the grass between Edmund and the river road at least twice. It looked like they were just looping back and forth too. Encountered near Howe Elementary–at a safe distance, thankfully–a kid pushing their own stroller, singing and laughing and weaving from side to side on the sidewalk. Anything else? Don’t remember hearing any birds or smelling any intense smells or seeing any squirrels or roller skiers or spazzes on bikes. Successfully avoided clusters of people and speeding cars.

THIS IS WHAT YOU SHALL DO/Walt Whitman
preface to Leaves of Grass

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

Such advice! I might have to print this out and add it to the poems/quotes I have on my desk.

sept 1/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, south/edmund, north/the hill
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Started on the trail but it was too crowded. Had a moment when there were 2 runners and 2 bikers approaching me at the same time. I had to fit through the small sliver in-between them. Ugh. I’m tired of having to focus so much attention on avoiding people. It would be nice if I could figure out the best time to run when no one else was. Does that exist? Oh well, it’s still not too bad and I am happy to get out for a run almost every day. I have a streak of almost a month straight going–my last day off was August 8th. I might try to keep going until I reach a month. I think I’m able to do it because I’m not running too much–only about 4-5K a day (2.5-3.1 miles).

I listened to a playlist so I don’t remember much of the run. Anything? Can’t remember if I could see the river. Don’t think I saw any roller skiers. Was it sunny or cloudy? I can’t remember that either. I know it was cool-ish and that I had to run into the wind for a bit. That’s all.

September First Again/Phillis Levin

Blighted light at the tip
Of a branch, why so early
Do you turn?—leaf
Dipped in vermillion,
Close to the end, you point
To a sidewalk wet
Once with names
Signed in cement to seal,
For all time, a vow
Uttered by two
Standing under the crown
Of a tree you cleave to still,
For now: solitary witness
Standing alone, limbs
Crisscrossing in shadows
Beginning to scrawl
Lines to a world hell-
Bent (with or without intent)
On obscuring
Whatever they meant.
Blighted light
At the topmost bough,
Little flag hailing
Another day, do not go
So early to ruin, green,
Do not turn so soon.

Found this wonderful poem on my instagram feed this morning. Unlike the poet, I am not lamenting the turning of the leaves. Begone gluttonous green! I’m ready for my views of the river and the other side again. I’m thinking that I should memorize another series of poems to recite while running about changing leaves, early fall, and the end of green?

august 31/RUN

3.1 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north/little loop on river road*/47th ave, south/34th ave, west/44th ave, south
60 degrees
humidity: 89%

*little loop on river road = river road at 33rd st up to 32nd st and back

Running Route, 31 Aug

It was raining until about 9 am. Cool and cloudy, then sunny. I had the river road trail to myself running south. Awesome. Glanced down at the river above the 38th st stairs. Too much green to see more than a sliver of blueish silver. Lots of dripping water, hardly any debris on the trail or road. A nice run.

8 Things I Noticed on my Run this Morning

  1. Water dripping off of a tree, shimmering in the sun
  2. The quiet roar of water gushing out of a sewer pipe
  3. Running through dark green on Edmund, above the river road, and then reaching the bright sunlight as I ran down the hill
  4. Several deep puddles on the road near the curb
  5. Running into the wind as I headed north
  6. The open trail, stretching in front of me
  7. The cooler air on my skin
  8. The gentle hum of the crickets in the quiet, empty neighborhood

It’s difficult to run more than a 5k these days. Will this change as the weather gets cooler or is it mostly because of my fear of encountering other people?

face blindness

Working on my latest project–blind spots, going blind, and mood rings. I know I thought about it while I was running–I think I was just above the oak savanna–but I can’t quite remember what I thought. Something about how not all of the mood ring poems have to be about finding my blind spot, others could be about my moods around their effects. Another mood: uncertain, unsettled, uncomfortable.

Since my big decline (and when I got my diagnosis) in 2016, I have been trying to adjust to all the changes. Sometimes successfully: Because reading is harder, I’ve shifted mostly to audio books; qhen I don’t know what’s happening on a television show, I ask Scott; I don’t pretend to see things that I can’t; I ask others to check if there’s mold on my food; because driving is terrifying, I’ve stopped doing it.

Sometimes unsuccessfully. One of the biggest struggles I’m having with my vision loss is how to interact with others. I can’t see faces clearly. Often I can see some features but I can’t see when someone is looking at me or talking to me and even if I can tell they’re talking to me, there’s a good chance I won’t recognize them. I haven’t figured out how to deal with how unsettling and upsetting this is yet, so I try to avoid it. It’s much easier during this pandemic. What a relief to not have to try and interact with others! How much easier it is to not have to wonder if someone was talking to me or what they said or who they are! I like talking with people and I sometimes miss interesting conversations with new people, but mostly I’m content not talking with others, being left alone.

This morning, I read someone’s account of their face blindness and I could really relate. Face blindness is not my primary diagnosis; it’s just a byproduct of my vision loss and the big blind spot (or, what I’m calling, blind ring) in the center of my vision. There’s a lot I could highlight from this article–dreading encountering other moms that I can’t recognize, not being able to identify my kids, not seeing my husband walk past me in a store, only being able to recognize people by their distinctive quirks. I think I’ll spend some more time rereading this article and others on face blindness that I’ve found in the past.

august 30/RUN

3 miles
winding through the neighborhood*
62 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, north/32nd st, west/river road, south/33rd st, east/edmund, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/34th st, east/edmund, south/37th st, west/a loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north/34th st, west/43rd ave, south

What beautiful weather! Sunny, shady, not too windy, not much humidity. Ran a winding route through the neighbor. Very pleased to see that they closed the river road down between 33rd and 32nd. I might start incorporating more some loops of it to add more distance. I wish I could run straight on the river road trail, but I’d rather keep my distance from others on less crowded paths. Here’s a screenshot of my route:

Running Route, 30 Aug

I can’t remember thinking about anything. Lots of bikers on the river road between 33rd and 32nd. Lots of runners on the trails. Didn’t hear any music coming from bike speakers or the clickity clacks of roller skiers. Running down Edmund, I heard a woman yell out and then a big dog running through the grass. The dog hadn’t escaped; she had let them off their leash to run free. Ran on the road, the sidewalk, a narrow dirt trail, the grass, over tree roots, up and down small rises where the sidewalk had buckled, into bright sunlight. I don’t remember hearing any birds or traffic. No distinctive smells.

Finished the run and made it home in time to watch a lot of stage 2 of the Tour de France. Alaphilippe! Alaphilippe!

august 29/RUN

3.05 miles
43rd ave, north/lake st, east/46th ave, south/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road, north/hill
61 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Sunny and cool. Quiet, calm. As I started the run, I could hear the gentle hum of traffic from a far off freeway. Thought about my latest writing project on blind spots; I’m working on a poem about my feelings of wonder over discovering a way to see my blind spot. As I ran, I asked myself, should I try to convey a tone of wonder by asking lots of questions? (Probably not.)

Things I Remember

  • the strong smell of cologne as I ran on Edmund
  • two women running below in the tunnel of trees talking loudly
  • a couple of crows calling out to each other
  • being blinded by the sun as I ran east
  • the tree that usually glows a glorious yellow in late september has already changed colors; today it looks a mix of dull orange/red/brown

on metaphor and mood

Right now I’m in the phase of my writing project where I have ideas that I’m really excited about but that don’t quite work yet. I’m immersed in the project, thinking about it most of the time, but I can’t figure out my way forward. So far, I have decided I’d like to do a series of poems about my mood related to my growing blind spot that somehow incorporate my actual blind spot (the one that I was able to trace by staring at a blank sheet of paper, taped to a wall at eye level, and tracing the dark ring that I saw). Because my spot is not yet a spot but a thickening ring, I’m calling this series, Mood Rings. Now I’m wondering how to write about my moods–a literal description? metaphor? something else? A few days I encountered a writing prompt for mood ring poems:

(from Laura Deutsch Writing the Senses via Market Street Writers)

Pick an emotion—joy, anger, frustration, sadness, etc.—and complete your own poem.

When I feel [name emotion] __________________

It is the color _____________________ – like _____________________

I hear ___________________ – like _____________________________

I taste _______________ – like _________________________________

I smell _____________ – like __________________________________

I see ____________________ – like _____________________________

I feel ___________________ – like ______________________________

I want to ___________________ and ___________________________

But ___________________________.

I’m not sure I like this prompt or want to try it–maybe I will?–but it got me thinking about metaphor and how I might try to express my mood of wonder. Will metaphor enable me to get closer to expressing what I actually feel or further away from the IS/THIS of it? In a blog post for poetry foundation, Sabrina Orah Mark argues that metaphor, which means transport in Greek, reduces distance, bringing us closer to the feeling of what is being expressed. But, this transport only happens when the metaphor is encased within a world that supports it and its meaning. Metaphors fail when they don’t have a world, or that world no longer exists (does this fit with the failure of “doing something at a glacial pace” to work anymore now that glaciers are melting faster?). Does this fit with my own struggles to think about metaphor in my poem about wonder? I’m not sure, but I really liked this post and wanted to mention it here, especially this part:

But what if we can no longer tell if the world we are writing from is inside out or outside in? Up above or down below? The future or the past? What if the rules, like clouds, are becoming a rabbit, no an ambulance, no a dragon, no an unraveling spool of thread. What happens to our imagination when the unimaginable has imagined us up first? Is there an emergency hotline for metaphors?

Regardless of how much sense this discussion is making, it is helping me to come up with some more ideas. Now I’m thinking about ring as metaphor:

RING

  • ring of fire, burning a hole through my retina
  • tree rings, expanding, thickening like my blind spot as time passes and my vision deteriorates
  • boxing rings, brass rings, a ring of truth?

august 28/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees
90% humidity

Keeping this log entry short because I sliced my left hand on glass yesterday afternoon–not enough to need stitches, but almost–and I am trying not to use my left hand so as not to split the just healing wound open again. A nice run. Cooler after the early morning rain. Ran above the river for 10 minutes. The trail wasn’t too crowded.

things I remember

  • A group of runners parallel to me on the grass between the river road and edmund, running almost the same speed, talking very loudly
  • Squirrels shaking acorns from a tree, their teeth clicking, the acorns plinking on the ground
  • Water rushing from the sewer pipe
  • No turkeys
  • Running by some huge logs–I ran by the crew cutting them down a few weeks ago–between Becketwood and 42nd st

Running on edmund, heading north, an idea came to me about my latest blind spot project. When I finished running, I spoke it into my phone:

Idea: Mood Rings

august 27/RUN

2.05 miles
river road trail, south/grass between river road and edmund, south/edmund, north
73 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 70

Another hot day, another short run. I started on the river road trail but it was too crowded to stay. Crossed over to the dirt trail in the grass between the river road and edmund. Rutted and difficult to run on. Didn’t have a chance to see the river, too busy looking out for bikers and walkers.

At some point during the run I thought about the great book I’m reading (one of the few books I’m reading instead of listening to), Bonnie Tsui’s Why We Swim, and her chapter on flow.

Flow: the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

I was thinking, as I ran by Dowling Elementary, how difficult it is to experience flow during runs this spring and summer. It’s partly because there’s too much to worry about–hurricanes, pandemics, the refusal by leaders to do the difficult work of addressing racial injustice and dismantling institutions that create/perpetuate injustice, upcoming elections and the campaign to destroy “liberal cities”–and partly because the trails and sidewalks are too crowded to get lost. I know it still happens to me–running or writing, I can lose track of time–but I wish it could happen more.

Anything else I remember? Tons of acorn shells everywhere. The squirrels are busy. Does that mean we will have a tough winter? Don’t remember hearing cicadas or any birds, not too many cars, no roller skiers or rowers. No leaf blowers or horns honking. I did see an adult biking with a little kid. I love watching little kids biking, especially when they’re very little and very good at biking–so graceful and powerful.

state fair mannequins

In a non-pandemic world, the state fair would have started today. I miss many things about going to the fair. The food, the beer, the mutant vegetables and political crop art (there would have been some really good ones this year), but what I’m missing most today are the state fair mannequins. Every year I love seeing them looking so creepy and strange and almost human. Last year I started work on a project about eye contact and faces and the uncanny valley and state fair mannequins. Some day I will finish it. Here’s one of my favorite mannequins:

august 26/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/the hill
79 degrees
dew point: 66

Very hot today. 77 degrees at 7 in the morning. I decided to do a shorter run. Not too bad. Listened to a running playlist so didn’t notice any other sounds. No chirping birds or backing up beeps or roaring lawn mowers or plink-plonking acorns or zapping cicadas. Ran in a lot of shade, which was nice. Felt strong running up the hill on Edmund. Checked out my form a few times by looking at a shadow running beside me, then ahead. Encountered many more walkers than runners.

Didn’t get close enough to see the river. Forgot to check out the aspen eyes. I did notice how the tree on the corner of Edmund and 32nd, the one that usually glows a glorious yellow in the fall, was almost all goldish-brown. Is it dying? I hope not.

Had another pandemic dream last night–my second, I think, which isn’t too bad considering how long we’ve been in this mess. Same scenario, different setting. In a crowded place (first time it was a Justin Bieber?! concert, this time in a restaurant). Suddenly, I realize I’m around too many people, none of us socially distancing or wearing masks. What am I doing here? Why am I being so reckless? I freak out, then wake up. It’s unusual for me to have such literal dreams–of course, a bunch of other weird shit happened in the midst of this that I can’t remember now too, but the basic anxiety is my actual, literal anxiety. Usually, anxiety dreams are like the one I mentioned a week ago when I was late for a band concert and couldn’t find a black shirt. Or, it’s the last week of the semester and I haven’t shown up to class at all–either as the teacher or the student. Being late for a concert, forgetting to attend class are not things I have to worry about right now–and I’m not. What is it about this pandemic and my fears/worries about it that is making my dreams so boringly literal?

I think (I hope) I’ve discovered my new project. It’s a companion project to the Snellen charts. I’m tracing the blind spot in my central vision and then superimposing it on text about vision to create erasure poems. I’m still not sure how this will all work or how many of them I will do or whether or not I will only do erasures with found text or include my own text. Last night, while experimenting with this, I tried it out. This is not the actual erasure, just an experiment taking text about blind spots from Sight Unseen, staring at it until I can see my blind spot, then tracing that blind spot on top of the text.

Blind Spot Experiment

Not sure how to make this work yet. In the above experiment, I focused my eyes on the center of the page–the W I think–and then traced the blind spot I saw. I could try focusing on different spots. Should I create the blind spot tracing with every new experiment or create a template of my blind spot that I can easily place on different texts? Should the text be blacked out or just not there–an absence in white?

Scott suggested creating two poems out of it, one with the blind spot words removed–so a ring of white, and one with only the blind spot words. This makes me think of the amazing poems of Diana Khoi Nguyen in Of Ghost, especially Triptych.

august 25/RUN

3 miles
over the lake st bridge!
73 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Hot and humid this morning, but who cares? I ran over the lake street bridge and got my first satisfying view of the river in months, maybe since this whole pandemic started. What a view! What a beautiful river. No rowers or motor boats or paddle boats or canoes. Just smooth, shining blue water. I’ve been reluctant to run over the bridge for fear that it would be too crowded, but I didn’t encounter anyone–and even if I did, the path isn’t that narrow and it wouldn’t take me long to pass someone.

I ran east on 36th st, then north on 47th ave, past 7 oaks, through Minnehaha Academy parking lot, over to lake street, across the bridge, down the stairs to under the bridge, up the other side and over the bridge again, across the river road to the trail then over the edmund, and finishing by running down and back up the hill above the tunnel of trees. It’s nice to do a slightly different route. Maybe next time I’ll try crossing the bridge, then running up to Summit and back down again?

Things I Remember

  • Seeing the dock at the Minneapolis Rowing Club on the north side of the lake street bridge, empty
  • Not encountering any people on the bridge but passing by three scooters leaning against the railing
  • A lone roller skier preparing to ski up the hill
  • The bright yellow shirt of a runner exiting the stairs from the bridge
  • Checking to see if there was an eagle perched on the dead tree branch on the bridge (nope)
  • The socially distanced tables with umbrellas at Longfellow Grill, empty (I think?)
  • Passing a guy sitting on a boulder in the grass between edmund and the river road 3 times, first as I crossed over from edmund to the river road heading south, second as I ran down the hill on the river road, and third, as I ran back up the hill

blind spot

At the end of February, while reading Sight Unseen, I discovered how to see my blind spot. Everyone has a blind spot, but mine is in my central vision and it keeps getting bigger every year as more of my cones get scrambled. I stared at the center of a blank white wall for a few minutes and then suddenly a ring, white in the small center, grayish-black on the broader edges appeared. I drew it from memory in my notebook:

Plague Notebook, Vol 2

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to try finding my blind spot again. This time I took a sheet of white paper and taped it on the wall, at eye level. I closed my left eye and stared into it for a minute or two with my right eye until a grayish circle with a white center appeared. I quickly traced it, then colored it in, using blue for the grayish part:

Blind Spot, Right Eye

I wasn’t very precise with this method, but still, I think this gives a good sense of how much of my central vision might be left. I want to keep experimenting with this image–maybe make a concrete poem out of it or something? I haven’t figured it out yet, but this might be a second part to my Snellen Chart poems. I’m also thinking of using the Amsler grid with it and maybe the grid out of words instead of lines?

august 23/RUN

3.1 miles
another route where I avoid people*
72 degrees
dew point: 69

*36th st, east/edmund, north/river road trail, north/48th ave, northwest/minnehaha academy parking lot/32nd st, east/edmund, south/38th st, west/river road, north/the hill

Went out for my run a little earlier, but not early enough. Still crowded. Was planning to do the trestle turn around route but when I saw how many bikers and walkers there were, I decided to turn up towards lake street and loop around Minnehaha Academy. I am looking forward to when it is cooler and there are less people on the trails–will that happen this year?

Heard some birds this morning but I can’t remember what or how they were singing. Also heard some cicadas. No geese or woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees. Saw my shadow running ahead of me.

(added a few hours later) I almost forgot: running on Edmund, I felt a small acorn bounce off my bare shoulder as it fell to the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever had an acorn bounce off of my shoulder. I’m glad it was a small one–and also not a walnut!

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout/ GARY SNYDER

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain   
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read   
A few friends, but they are in cities.   
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup   
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

I like the simple form of this poem and how he describes the landscape in the first stanza. It’s like a deep breath or a little prayer or a moment of quiet rumination. I’d like to try a few poems in this form, using details from my log entries.

Is the line, “I cannot remember things I once read,” a reference to aging? I read another poem about aging this morning:

Vertigo/ LES MURRAY

Last time I fell in a shower room
I bled like a tumbril dandy
and the hotel longed to be rid of me.
Taken to the town clinic, I
described how I tripped on a steel rim
and found my head in the wardrobe.
Scalp-sewn and knotted and flagged
I thanked the Frau Doktor and fled,
wishing the grab-bar of age might
be bolted to all civilization
and thinking of Rome’s eighth hill
heaped up out of broken amphorae.

When, anytime after sixty,
or anytime before, you stumble
over two stairs and club your forehead
on rake or hoe, bricks or fuel-drums,
that’s the time to call the purveyor
of steel pipe and indoor railings,
and soon you’ll be grasping up landings
having left your balance in the car
from which please God you’ll never
see the launchway of tires off a brink.
Later comes the sunny day when
street detail whitens blindly to mauve

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet.

august 22/RUN

3 miles
running wherever there’s an uncluttered path*
69 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 66

*Ran towards the river, was almost hit by 2 bikes (one was their fault, the other mine). The path was so crowded that I couldn’t avoid people so I crossed over to the grassy stretch between edmund and the river road. Too crowded. Ran on Edmund. Too crowded. Finally turned right on 42nd and ran through the neighborhood, west on 42nd st, north on 43rd ave, around Howe school, east on 37th st, north on 45th ave, west on 35th st.

Hot and too crowded. Oh well, still good to get out there. Woke up this morning from an anxiety dream: I needed to perform in a concert in a town an hour away. I couldn’t find a black shirt. Most of the dream consisted of me frantically searching through all my clothes, which had been carefully folded by my dead mom until I threw them all around the room. No black shirt. A messy mountain of clothes.

Listened to a playlist as I ran. It helped a little. Could still hear the crickets buzzing. It’s LOUD bug season. When I reached Howe, someone was racing a remote control car on the street. I’m glad I was running on the sidewalk! I never saw who was doing it. I imagined a young boy, but it could have been a man or a young girl, I guess.

Listening to Teenage Kicks on the Current radio station this morning as I write this entry. I like this line from Prince’s “Pop Life”: everybody needs a thrill/we all got a space to fill.

Found this bit of wisdom on twitter from Dana Levin the other day. I love the poetry people on twitter.

Hot tip: It’s great to mull the context that gives birth to a poem, but if you start revising based on this context rather than on the gifts (often unexpected) of the material—language, image, tone, etc—your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations.

In this same thread, a John Ashbery passage from his poem flow chart is mentioned:

So one can lose a good idea
by not writing it down, yet by losing it one can have it: it nourishes other asides
it knows nothing of

This makes me think of same great advice Danez Smith gave in a poetry workshop I attended. They talked about the original idea for a poem as the bay leaf that seasons the poem but that you take out before serving.

I’m also thinking about something Mary Oliver said in her interview with Krista Tippet for On Being. Just as Dana Levin ends with “your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations,” Oliver suggests that without empathy/feeling your poem is only reporting, a field guide. Too much context/explanation distracts (or detracts?) from feeling and experiencing the poem.

august 21/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/hill x 2
73 degrees

A warmer morning. Can’t remember anything that I thought about, which is nice. I like getting lost. Ran one of my new regular routes through the neighborhood, then closer to the river. No tunnel of trees today. I hope that when it gets colder, less people will run so I can run on the trail without worrying too much about getting too close to people.

sound of the morning

At the start of my run, on the sidewalk north on 43rd, I heard the beep beep beep beep beep of a truck backing up. At first I couldn’t tell where the truck was, then I noticed a U-Haul parking in front of a house. How many beeps? At least a dozen. I guess they were struggling to parallel park.

fall is coming!

Turning the corner from 32nd st to Edmund, I noticed it: one of the trees that glows yellow in the fall is changing already. The yellow is creeping in, slowly. I love tracking the changing colors in the fall!

I don’t remember hearing many birds or bugs. No music blasting from bike speakers or people talking on the phone. No clickity-clacks from roller skiers or bike bells dinging. I do remember hearing the distinctive plink plink of an acorn bouncing on the ground and the hum of at least one machine at the construction site above the tunnel of trees.

Currently I’m working on turning my work memorizing poems into writing exercises/memoir. And I’ve been thinking about how useful and wonderful it is to record myself reciting a poem and then listening back to the words, which are often correct but sometimes wrong in unexpected ways. I found a tweet yesterday, which doesn’t totally fit with this memorizing but connects:

transcriptions rly show how much of our talk is dirt & gravel, how clear thoughts have to be panned for like gold

yet all the human pleasure is in the gravel, in the second-guessing & laughter & short sighs, the repetitions & amens, the silences where thoughts turn & settle

One bit of “gravel” I find in my recitation recordings is when I struggle to remember a word or phrase or line. Such delight in hearing the moment of remembering and the struggle to achieve it! What would it look like to transcribe that into a poem, I wonder?

Finally, here’s another poem about listening that I discovered a few days ago.

Listening/ Elizabeth Hoover

When I am in a restaurant or bar, I watch
women listening. They listen to men talk
about unfinished basements, art projects,
or how the land is very rocky around Sudbury.
I admire how women are resourceful in making
themselves comfortable while listening. One
cradles her chin in her palm, her spine
a deep c-curve. Another woman sits
very upright and sips her martini
while following the zigzag of waiters.
The woman to my left appears to be using
the time to memorize how her hands look
in case they are lost or stolen and she needs
to describe them to the police while a man explains
that industrial strawberry farming has created
a monoculture. The woman with perfect posture
is receiving directions to a trailhead
in another country. The woman
with the swan-neck spine stealthily adjusts
her belt as a man informs her Lolita
is really an allegory about art-making. After all
these years of listening, I am so good at it that I can
even listen to the women’s listening. It sounds
like a wind over a great plain laid to waste
by a retreating army or the pages of a book
abandoned on the sand by a swimmer
whose strong arms have taken her beyond
where waves crash so she can float and listen
to the rush of her blood, the shriek of gulls.
She can hear the gulls’ ribs creak as they inhale
before each cry. She can hear the rustle
as urchins pass over the decay they feast on.
She can hear silver on the sides of fish
and the loneliness of an uncoupled eel. She listens
to her own sounds as well: the current
of her nerves slowing, her hair lifting
and floating away, the sacs in her lungs
reaching greedy mouths to the sky.

At first, I wasn’t planning to memorize this poem but now, re-reading it, I’m thinking I will. I love the descriptions of the women listening to the mansplaining–especially the woman examining her hands in case they are stolen–and the listening to women listening–especially the swimmer in the sea.

august 20/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + trail*
73 degrees
78% humidity

*36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/48th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd, east/river road trail, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/36th st, east/river road, south/bottom of hill/river road, north

Getting a bit burned out with the usual running routes. It’s difficult adjusting to the road being open again. So much time spent thinking/worrying about keeping distance from other people. Harder, also, because I’m getting to the stage of being over summer and heat and humidity and biting, extra itchy bugs. Poor Delia the dog is suffering from her annual August allergies. School, albeit online, is starting soon for the kids–the first year of high school and the last. Anxiousness is in the air.

Still glad I got out there and ran. I’m sure I glanced at the river at some point, but I can’t remember anything about it. Noticed the amphitheater of green air and the ancient boulder with 4 stones stacked on top. Encountered one walker in the tunnel of trees, but we were almost 6 feet apart and I passed her quickly. Had to bypass the Welcoming Oaks to avoid some dogs with their humans.

Recited “Babel” for the first mile, then “Writing a Poem” for some of the second. Too distracted for any reciting of “Push the Button, Hear the Sound.”

Gross Noise of the Day: running south on 47th ave, approaching 34th st, I heard a man vigorously coughing and hacking and clearing his throat in a house nearby. First reaction was yuck!, then, is he okay?

Great Noise of the Day: running north on Edmund, almost to the river, I heard Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” blasting out of a bike’s speakers. Nice!

Anything else? More acorns, lots of Monarch butterflies, at least one roller skier, dogs. No little kids on bikes or circling turkey vultures or honking geese or frantic squirrels. I’m sure I heard a leaf blower, a lawn mower, a roaring plane. No fragments of conversation to wonder about. 2 plugged up ears, making hearing hard.

loaded gun

Running down the hill, 2.5 miles into my run, I started thinking about COVID-19 and had these strange thoughts about how someone who was infected could decide to deliberately cough on me and how breath becomes deadly, our bodies become weapons. Then the phrase “loaded gun” popped into my head–our bodies as loaded guns–and I remembered the poem by Emily Dickinson:

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun (764)/ EMILY DICKINSON

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –