oct 22/RUN

5 miles
john stevens house and back
36 degrees
humidity: 87%

We are at peak, or just past peak, color here at the gorge. Wow! So beautiful that it’s hard to take it all in. How wonderful it is to live here and experience this every day! Running to the river, I heard a loud noise. A bell? No, the horn from a train. Was a train rumbling over the trestle? Ran south on the river road and received at least 2, maybe 3, “good mornings” or “morning” from other runners. Very nice. The sky is gray, but in one small corner of the sky, I could see the sun almost peeking through. Heard and saw some geese flying high in the sky. The falls were gushing a bit more than the last time I ran to the falls. Ran up the steps, over the creek, along the bluff, and around the John Stevens House. Encountered a woman running with 2 dogs. One of the dogs lunged at me, which didn’t bother me, and I could hear her yelling, “No! We don’t do that!” at it after I passed. Anything else? No turkeys. A roller skier. Oh–an older woman who stopped at the edge of the paved path to call out to someone from the city working on the sewer across the road, “thank you!” The worker was confused and called back, “Sorry?” “Thank you!” Don’t think I’ve ever seen (or heard) that before.

As I was running through minnehaha regional park, I thought about the things that have stayed the same, the things that have changed, and what seems to still be present as living and vital, and what only remains in decay, or in the faintest traces of what it had been. I was thinking about this as I ran by the playground, which was redone five or so years ago, but still has some old equipment, like the creaky, rusty swings. Something about that reminded me of a few lines from Poe’s “The Bells,” especially the bit about the rust.

Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.

monody: an ode in a greek tragedy; a poem lamenting a person’s death

“the rust within their throats” — love that line and how it speaks to decay and sorrow and, almost, the living dead

oct 20/RUN

5.5 miles
ford loop
54 degrees
humidity: 81%

Decided to run the ford loop this morning and stop at some of the overlooks. Is today one of the last beautiful fall days? Possibly. So much yellow and red everywhere. Leaves drifting down like fat, fluffy flakes. Sun lighting up the surface of the river. Amazing. Writing this, an hour later, the sky is dark. Rain coming. I’m glad I got outside this morning.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running above the river, over the lake street bridge: the water looks a deep, dark blue
  2. From the edge of the bluff, on the east side at one of my favorite spots, the river looks lighter, richer, still blue
  3. Heading north, a strong-ish wind in my face
  4. Running beside Shadow Falls, wondering if what I was hearing was water from the falls or the wind in the trees or both
  5. Passing a group of pedestrians, walking 2 by 2 on the edge of the trail
  6. A barking, lunging dog, barely held back by a human also pushing a stroller
  7. The view, 1: from just below an overlook on the St. Paul side, standing on a rock, close to the edge. The bank on the west side of the river is mostly yellow and red, with a few bits of green still holding on. Looking left or right, all I could see were water, shore, trees, rock
  8. The view, 2: from the ford bridge. Mostly brown tree trunks and green/red/yellow leaves. Then, a break. A gleaming white — is this the limestone cave where the trail ends? The spot where STA and I watched the rowers a few weeks ago?
  9. The view, 3: from the overlook at the southern start of the Winchell Trail. The glittering, white heat of water lit by the sun. One way, the ford bridge. The other, trees
  10. Running on the Winchell Trail, right before 42nd, the trails curves close to the edge. As you climb, it looks like you might just keep going, out into the sky, above the river

Before I ran, I studied a passage from U A Fanthorpe’s “Seven Types of Shadow,” especially the lines:

Ghosts of past, present, future.
But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes
Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets

In particular, I was thinking a lot about echoes and reverberations. Halfway up the Summit Hill, I started thinking about bells and the reverberations of sound they emit after being struck. These thoughts were partly inspired by a passage I read from Annie Dillard in “Seeing” from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.

Seeing/ Annie Dillard

I didn’t want to forget my thoughts, so I pulled out my phone, mid-run, and recorded myself. It was challenge, speaking while running and trying not to feel self-conscious as I passed other people:

Recording While Running / 20 Oct

Here’s a transcript of what I said. I turned it into a poem, using my breaths to break the lines. I’d like to try doing this some more — experiment with recording my thoughts mid-run, then using my breaths to shape the poem.

I’m thinking about
how
I’m a bell
and how
we’re all bells
and
when we are struck —
is it at birth or
is it like Annie Dillard:
there’s a moment of awareness
and clarity
that makes
our bell ring
reverberate
continue to echo?

added a few hours later: I forgot about how, just before I started recording my thoughts, I heard the bells of St. Thomas. Was it 10 am? or 9:45? Not sure, but it seemed fitting to hear these bells, which I often hear at my house too, as I was thinking about bells.

I thought about a lot of things on today’s wonderful run. Decided I’d like to make a list of the traces, trails, reverberations I encounter on my runs. Also decided to look up and listen to the Radiolab episode about echolocation. And I decided to think/research more about the presence of the WPA at the gorge. As I thought about this I wondered about my grandfather who lived in St. Paul and worked for the WPA. Was he a part of the gorge work — making benches, walls, steps? Shoring up ravines, minnehaha and hidden falls? He’s been dead for about 20 years now, so I can’t ask him. A further set of questions I pondered as I ran past the steps leading down from the 44th street parking lot: Do I need to know the exact truth about his involvement with the WPA? Or, is it enough to know he was a part of it, and okay to imagine he might have helped build the old stone walls I run by, the benches I want to stop at but never do?

In between admiring the view and thinking about echoes, I recited the first part of the 7th section of May Swenson’s “October” in my head. Such a great part of a poem! I’m a big fan of May Swenson’s work.

Looked it up and found the echolocation episode. It’s from Invisibilia and not Radiolab: How to Become Batman

Finally, here’s a poem I’d like to remember and ruminate on about haunting bells. This audio I found of Tom O’Bedlam reading it is delightful.

The Bells/ Edgar Allen Poe

  Hear the sledges with the bells—
                 Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
        How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!
        While the stars that oversprinkle
        All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight;
         Keeping time, time, time,
         In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
       From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II.

        Hear the mellow wedding bells,
                 Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
        Through the balmy air of night
        How they ring out their delight!
           From the molten-golden notes,
               And all in tune,
           What a liquid ditty floats
    To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
               On the moon!
         Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
               How it swells!
               How it dwells
           On the Future! how it tells
           Of the rapture that impels
         To the swinging and the ringing
           Of the bells, bells, bells,
         Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III.

         Hear the loud alarum bells—
                 Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
       In the startled ear of night
       How they scream out their affright!
         Too much horrified to speak,
         They can only shriek, shriek,
                  Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
            Leaping higher, higher, higher,
            With a desperate desire,
         And a resolute endeavor
         Now—now to sit or never,
       By the side of the pale-faced moon.
            Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
            What a tale their terror tells
                  Of Despair!
       How they clang, and clash, and roar!
       What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
       Yet the ear it fully knows,
            By the twanging,
            And the clanging,
         How the danger ebbs and flows;
       Yet the ear distinctly tells,
            In the jangling,
            And the wrangling.
       How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
             Of the bells—
     Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
            Bells, bells, bells—
 In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV.

          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                    Rolls
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Okay, one more bell poem:

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

I wrote about this poem on march 14, 2021.

oct 19/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
54 degrees

Another nice run. Another beautiful fall morning. Glowing yellow. Sunny, not too much wind, not too warm. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker twice. Ran past Daddy long legs. Noticed a roller skier. Encountered a clueless human and a small yippy dog, both taking up the very wide path on the franklin bridge, forcing an impatient biker to ring their bell and swerve around them. Some stones were stacked on the ancient boulder, the river was blue then, later, brown. No rowers (although STA and I saw them last night, rowing fast). The trees below the tunnel of trees were almost all gold. Soon: a view!

(The other day, I found a brochure online for the Winchell Trail. Reading through it again, I thought it was where I read about the plaque on a boulder about Newton Horace Winchell that was near the Franklin Bridge, but it’s not.) Having read about a plaque for Winchell somewhere near Franklin, I decided to look for it. When I couldn’t find it above the gorge, I turned and ran up the hill to the Franklin Bridge. There it was, the plaque! I’d never noticed it before.

Running on the east side of the river, between Franklin and the trestle, I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but when I looked back no one was there. I thought again about how ghosts and haunting involves more than visions and apparitions; it can come in the form of strange sounds, echoes, disembodied voices. Footsteps behind you or the rushing of wind past your ears or rustling leaves, amplified in the dry, deadness of fall. These sounds are both strange — hard to place, easy to confuse with other sounds, like beeping trucks that could be chirping birds, crying kids that sound like shrieking bluejays — and familiar. They conjure up memories, invoke the past.

A few days ago, I discovered Annie Dillard’s chapter in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Seeing. I have read some (all?) of this book years ago, but I didn’t remember there was a chapter titled “Seeing”! Excellent. I read it online, from a pdf. Yesterday, I found my copy, which isn’t really my copy but my dead mom’s copy that I inherited or, more likely, borrowed years before she died in 2009, on the bookshelf next to my desk. I opened it up and discovered a wonderful surprise: a sticker in the front that reads, “This book is the treasured possession of Judy Puotinen.” My mom has signed her name so neatly and clearly. I could stare for a long time at the pretty loops of her J and y; the confident backward slant of her P, almost looking like a person puffing out their chest; the t that looms larger than the other letters and stands like a cross (she was not very religious, or as she might have put it, “I’m spiritual, not religious”); and the errant dot of an i, charging ahead to dot the n instead. This signature, too, is a trace, a haunting, more than a memory. It is her, still speaking 12 years after she died. Such a powerful voice in that signature! For a few years after her death, I would encounter her signature on a box in the basement of my first house in Minneapolis. I had a lot of these boxes; they were care packages she sent almost once a month: a new tablecloth, a candle, a cookbook, baby clothes for my kids. It was difficult to see that signature then. It reminded me of how much I had lost: not just her but the care and love she constantly gave me and would have given to my kids. But now, to stumble across her in this way is wonderful. To spend time with her, delighting in remembering how much she loved books and how carefully and beautifully she wrote her name.

Page/ Jane Hirshfield

It waits now for snows to fall
upward, into a summer
whose green leaves
vanish,
but back into branch, into sap, into rain.

It waits for the old
to grow young, fed and unfearful,
for freighters to carry their hold-held oil
back into unfractured ground,
for fires to return
their shoeboxes of photos and risen homes.

It unbuilds the power line’s towers
before the switch can be toggled,
puts the child, rock still in hand, back into his bed.

A single gesture of erasure
pours back into trucks and then river
the concrete wall,
unrivets the derrick,
replenishes whale stocks and corals.

And why not—it is easy—restore the lost nurse herds
of mammoths to grazing,
the hatched pterodactyl to flight?
Let each drowned and mud-silted ammonite once again swim?

One by one unspoken, greed’s syllables, grievance’s insult.
One by one unsewn, each insignia’s dividing stitch.
One by one unimagined,
unmanufactured: the bullet, the knife, the colors, the concept.

Reversal commands: undo this directional grammar of subject and object.
Reversal commands: unlearn the alphabet of bludgeon and blindness.
Reversal commands: revise, rephrase, reconsider.

And the ink, malleable, obedient, does what is asked.

oct 17/RUN

3.6 miles
minnehaha falls and back
41 degrees
humidity: 87%

Another cooler, wonderful morning. Wore running tights + running shorts + bright yellow long-sleeved shirt + bright orange sweatshirt + buff. It was humid, so even with the cool air, I was sweating. Starting my run, heading into the sun, I could see the moisture in the air. Hovering. Ran south on the path and noticed the river burning through the trees. Such a cool sight. The falls were falling, not quite a gush, but more water than the last time I was here. Encountered a roller skier, a few bikes, lots of walkers, a runner or two, dogs. Watched the back end of a squirrel darting back into the bushes as I approached.

As I ran back north, after the falls, I tried looking up higher so that more of peripheral vision was seeing the path. Last night, watching the 4th Harry Potter movie, I started looking at it through my periphery and was amazed at how much more I could see. I aimed my eyes off the side of the television and the images weren’t sharp and clear, but I could see more of them. Colors were more intense too. Strange–and a strange way to watch a movie, looking off at the wall.

Ending my run, crossing over to the grass between the river road and edmund, I watched my shadow ahead of me and thought about shadows and ghosts and how my shadow sometimes leads me, sometimes follows. Then I thought about the dirt trail I was walking on and wondered how long it had been there. And I thought about how it was formed where it was and not somewhere else on the wide expanse of grass. How many feet (or wheels) were needed to establish this trail as the unofficial path to take when walking or running on this grass? I also briefly thought about the Oregon Trail and how, when we were visiting Scott’s Bluff in Nebraska, you could still see and walk that trail, over 150 years later. Earlier this morning, I had also thought about trails, imagining them as a collaborative poem that walkers/runners offer to the gorge with their feet.

At some point on the path, I also thought about Robert Frost’s classic path poem—maybe it was right after I recited his, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”?

The Road Not Taken/ Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I found an essay about this poem that I’d like to spend more time with, maybe later today or tomorrow?:

You’re Probably Misreading Robert Frost’s Most Famous Poem

oct 16/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
41 degrees / feels like 37!

Winter running is coming! Today was great. Cool enough to not get (too) overheated, sunny, not much wind. More yellow leaves. Right after I reached the river road, I heard 2 runners behind me. One of them had a booming voice that carried. I couldn’t tell how far behind me they were or if they were slowly approaching me. Instead of getting irritated or changing my pace, going faster or slower, I kept it steady and heard a few fragments of the conversation, mostly the loud guy’s part: they haven’t seen each other since the pandemic hit, so they were catching up, talking about their running and injuries and aging. I recall the quiet guy saying something like, Man, it’s tough getting old. Not too far from lake street, the quiet guy left. The last thing I heard before I turned up to the lake street bridge was the loud guy blowing a snot rocket (so glad he was far behind me!).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river, part 1: crossing the lake street bridge. Out of the corner of my right eye, barely below the railing, I kept thinking I was seeing a rower. Not the shell, but the wake or trail of the boat gliding through the water
  2. The river, part 2: crossing back later, I realized it had not been a rower or the trail from a boat but something else — the current, ripples from a something just below the water, scum on the surface?
  3. The floor below the Welcoming Oaks was covered in a dead leaf carpet. No visible grass or dirt, just crunching leaves
  4. Still no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  5. Near the bottom of the marshall hill looking up at the red stop light at the top, seeming far and close at the same time
  6. Hearing voices as I ran above Shadow Falls on the St. Paul side — were they coming from the falls or The Monument?
  7. The women runners I encountered wearing pants or tights; the male runners shorts
  8. The huge empty lot near Summit on the St. Paul side that I’ve seen on zillow. Asking price: 2.75 million just for the land
  9. Right before greeting Dave, the Daily Walker, I heard a bike that had just passed brake loudly — not a squeal but a loud compression of air, or sneakers rubbing on a gym floor– then turning around and passing me again
  10. The river, part 3: Running south on the west river road, nearing the old stone steps, I glimpsed the river, on fire from the sun, burning bright white through a break in the trees

Something about seeing the river burning white made me think more about ghosts and traces and why I am interested in trails and flashes. Right after I finished my run, I recorded my thoughts. In this recording, I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts and I say lake when I mean river. Also, I keep intending to use notes on my phone when dictating my ideas because it can transcribe them. One day, I’ll remember.

after run / 16 october

Speaking of traces, here’s something I encountered on twitter this morning:

“I am slow and need to think about things a long time, need to hold onto the trace on paper. Thinking is adventure. Does adventure need to be speedy? Perhaps revising is a way of refusing closure?…”

Rosemarie Waldrop

Just got Rita Dove’s latest collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse, from the library. I love Rita Dove! Here’s one that doesn’t necessarily fit with this month’s theme, but I want to post it anyway:

Island/ Rita Dove

A room in one’s head
is for thinking
outside of the box,
though the box is still
there—cosmic cage,
Barnum’s biggest, proudest Ring.
My land: a chair, four sticks
with a board laid across:
This is the raft
I pile my dreams on,
set out to sea.
Look for me, shore.

oct 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around + extra
49 degrees
19 mph gusts

Brrrr. Colder and windier today. Wore tights and 2 shirts. The leaves continue to change. Today: bright brassy yellow with hints of green and brown. Not mustard or gold — at least to me. So intense and delightful that I exclaimed “wow!” as I reached the edge of the welcoming oaks. Down in the tunnel of trees more oranges and yellows. Still more leaves in the trees than on the ground, but if the wind keeps blowing like it did yesterday and it is today, that will change. By next week, will all the leaves have fallen? I felt strong and relaxed, running at an easy pace. Then a runner slowly approached from behind, not passing me fast enough, running alongside of me. I sped up to avoid them and knew it was a mistake almost immediately. I was running too fast. Ran for a few more minutes at that pace and then stopped to let the other runner pass. The lesson to learn: always slow down or stop to let another runner go by. Do not speed up to avoid them. This is a reminder of a lesson I should have learned several months ago with the group of kids on bikes under the lake street bridge (see may 28, 2021).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A bright orange tree on the grass between edmund and the river road. Difficult to quite remember, but I think it wasn’t completely orange, maybe giving the idea of orange or orange-tinted leaves on an otherwise green leafed tree
  2. The man in black who was not in black at all but still has the very long legs. I think I might rename him “daddy long legs” — is that bad?
  3. The trees above the ravine and the slick slats and sewer pipe and concrete ledge were bright yellow and red
  4. The wind was blowing in many different directions, never at my back
  5. The jingling of my house key in the small zippered pocket in the front of my orange running shirt
  6. A roller skier without his poles — no clicking or clacking, lots of awkward arm movements
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Hardly any leaves left on the welcoming oaks
  9. An approaching runner avoiding me by running on the other side of a tree and through the grass
  10. 3 sets of steps (all inviting me to take them): the old, uneven stone steps after the tunnel of trees; the big stone slabbed steps before the trestle; the recently replaced wooden steps after the trestle. All leading to the Winchell Trail

Ran north listening to the wind, south listening to a playlist with Miley Cyrus and 2 songs by Silk Sonic — nice! At the end, above the ravine, I thought about how I rely less on a watch, and much more on the weather and the trees to keep track of time. Much more enjoyable to think in seasons or the progress of the leaves than minutes, hours, days.

Earlier today I was thinking about pace — and only slightly in relation to running pace, more about pacing and restlessness and ghosts that haunt the path. Pace and pacing, like watches or clocks, impose limits and boundaries: a running pace uses seconds and minutes per mile (or km) and pacing involves walking back and forth in a small or confined space, retracing your steps again and again until you rub the grass away and reach dirt, or wear the carpet bare. What to do with that information? I’m not quite sure…yet.

I found this poem on twitter yesterday. Even though it doesn’t deal with my theme (ghosts, haunting, haunts), I wanted to post it and tag it with water so I would have it for letter. Such a wonderful poem and poet!

Portrait of a Figure Near Water/ Jane Kenyon

Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
no sound.

favorite bits: anger, the inner arsonist; the bats and the rafters the roof sagged between; the line break for “the stone trough was still/filled with water”; and water as the soundless balm for our burning alone.

random sighting/thought: Saw a sign in front of a house that read:

We love our rocks!
Please do not
take our rocks.

I thought about the importance of line breaks here. Maybe it’s just my faulty vision, but when I read this sign I am just as (or maybe more) likely to read the line “take our rocks” on its own and think they want me to take their rocks. How does the meaning of the sign change with different breaks:

Please do
not take
our rocks.

Please do not take
our rocks.

Please
do not take
our rocks.

What if you mix up the order?

Our rocks
do not take
please

Our rocks do
please take not

rocks? please.
ours do not take

do ours not please? (rock’s take)

take rocks — ours
please — (do not)

Too much useless fun!

addendum: I told STA about my fun wordplay, and he offered this one:

Our rocks please.
Do not take!

oct 12/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
59 degrees
humidity: 78%

Overcast today. No sun. I like how this makes the colors — the reds, golds, greens — glow more. Almost peak color in the trees. When I started my run, I felt awkward, almost like my limbs were working against instead of with each other. By the time I reached the river it was fine. Ran south to the falls on the trail, which I’ve been trying to avoid, and it was crowded. 4 roller skiers, skiing 2 x 2 were causing all sorts of problems for bikers and me as I encountered the bikers. Made it to the falls, stopped to check out the statue of Minnehaha and Hiawatha. Hardly any water in the creek. Ran north, heading home. Took the Winchell Trail and admired the leaves — their intense colors and the fact that many of them had already fallen. My view is coming back!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The slow approaching clicking and clacking of ski poles. Click clack click clack
  2. A squirrel emerging from the trees then darting back in as I neared
  3. The lights from a bike coming closer, a sharp contrast with the gray gloom
  4. The trickle of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Drip drip drip
  5. Many leaves on the ground. In some spots erasing the trail
  6. 2 spindly, bare branches poking out from behind a golden tree, reaching up to the sky
  7. A clicking or rattling noise coming from some animal, probably a squirrel. Sounding a little like the rattle of a rattlesnake
  8. The falls barely falling. Hardly any water
  9. Kids laughing, yelling, talking at playgrounds — Minnehaha Academy and Minnehaha Falls. More kids playing tag around the fountain and the benches with parts of “Song of Hiawatha” etched on them
  10. Winchell Trail in full color — a perfect fall scene (can this perfection last for more than a day?)

As I ran, I was thinking more about the act of haunting (frequenting) a place, returning to it and then about trails and how I might want to write more route/trail/loop poems that play with ideas of haunting. At the end of my run, I recorded some of my thoughts. Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about trails and frequenting and haunting. And then I was thinking as I was running over the leaves, how the trails are hidden, can’t see the cracks or the trail at all. But then, when the leaves are gone and the snow starts to fall, when it’s just barely flurrying and there’s just a dusting on the ground, it illuminates the trails. You can only see that when the leaves are off and it’s just a dusting of snow. Thinking about how I want to play with that as part of this tracing. And also thinking about the different ways I can see — the visible and not visible. When is it a matter of seeing and when is it a matter of feeling? And thinking about the type of seeing I can do with the peripheral, which detects movement and gives you a larger sense of the terrain. What does that mean for these well-worn trails and how I experience them?

Voice Memo Notes / 12 Oct 2021
after run notes / 12 oct 2021

Here’s my ghost/haunt poem for today:

Seven Types of Shadow – an extract / U A Fanthorpe 

Part iii

This is a country of ghosts. Down the eastern shore
Lie the drowned villages, drowned luggers, drowned sailors.

After a hot summer, fields grow talkative.
Wheat speaks in crop marks, grasses in parch marks.

Wheat or grass, what they tell is the truth
Of things that lay underneath five thousand years ago,

The forts, the barrows, the barns, the shrines, the walls.
These are the native ghosts. After a hot summer.

No haunting. No rattle of chains. They just lie there
In their rigid truthfulness, the ghosts of things.

Part iv

We carry our human ghosts around with us.
As we grow we face the mirrors, and see

The spectre of a great-aunt, a vague look
Known only from sepia snapshots. The hands we’re used to –

Yes, these – their contours came by way of a long retinue
Of dust. We are photofits of the past,

And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews.

We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born.

Part vi

Ghosts of past, present, future.
But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes
Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets,

Voices calling I’ve passed / We won / QED /
It didn’t hurt much, Mum / They’ve given me the job /
I have decided to name this apple Bramley;

And the women convicts singing their Holloway march,
While Ethel Smyth conducts from her cell with a toothbrush.

Part vii

These are the ghosts the living would prefer,
Ghosts who’d improve our ratings. Ghosts
Of the great innocent songs of freedom
That shoulder their way round the world like humpback whales,

Ghosts of the singers, the dancers, the liberated,
Holding hands and cheering in parks, while the tanks
Squat immobilized. Ghosts of the women on the fish quay
Hugging each other when at last the boats come in.

Ghosts of the last night of the Proms. And ghosts of lovers,
Wandering round London, so happy that they could
Have danced danced danced all night.

Like this bit: “And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews./ We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born.” Love this way of messing with linear time. On a smaller scale, I think about this with past, present, and future Saras.

october 11/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

Still a little warm, but fall is here. Another great morning — sunny and cooler than last week. I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt (my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt from a few years ago). For the first few minutes, I was chilly, but I warmed up quickly. I wouldn’t mind running in this weather every day. Frequently counted to 4. Sometimes felt strong, sometimes tired.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The Welcoming Oaks have lost most of their golden leaves
  2. The tunnel of trees and my favorite spot above the floodplain forest is slowly turning yellow. Still lots of green and no view of the river yet
  3. The new asphalt, put down only last year, near the trestle is cracking already. In addition to the long cracks, people have spray-painted a peace sign, an anarchy sign, and something else that looks like squiggly lines to me
  4. Running over the franklin bridge, thought I saw a rower on the river, but the railing blocked my view. Every time I turned back, I could almost see it, believed it was there, but could never fully see it. Finally, almost across the bridge, I looked back and there it was: a single shell
  5. The river was mostly a pale blue with the dark edges — the result of trees on the shore casting their shadows into the water like fishermen
  6. A dog barking below
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Another regular: the guy with big headphones on who I used to see on the track at the Y. Last week I saw him near the east side of the trestle, today it was below the lake st bridge on the marshall side
  9. Running back over the lake st bridge, I admired the rowers on the river. 6 rowers. 2 single shells and 2 doubles
  10. An older man running on the other side of the bridge, shirtless

My shadow was running in front of me for part of the time. I thought about her as a ghost, or me as a ghost, then about all of the running or walking feet that have landed on this path. I thought about other people — the ones still alive who frequent the trail, like me, and the ones who are dead. I wondered about the old woman whose death, caused by a speeding bike in the 70s, resulted in separate biking and running trails on the west side of the river. Where was she struck? I looked it up, and the only thing I had correct: a woman was struck and killed by a bike and the outrage over her death led to the creation of separate bike trails. BUT, it was not on the river road, but at Lake Harriet, and she wasn’t old, but 58. (Source) I thought about all of the past Saras that have run this trail too. How many of us are there?

oct 9/RUN

4 miles
wabun park + turkey hollow
65 degrees
humidity: 86% / dewpoint: 61

A little too sticky, but what a beautiful morning for a run! Sunny, calm, quiet. Before running felt uneasy about something I couldn’t name; running helped. I’m thinking about ghosts and haunting the path (frequenting it, floating above it, flashing through it) and trying to find a way into my next big project — my annual fall project. Something about the periphery and the approximate as not quite (human, able to see or connect, in this world, real). I need a door, or at least a window — anything that might let me enter this project.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The trail, covered in leaves, a lot of them red — not bright red, but faded, almost pink
  2. A processional of walkers, bikers, big groups of runners on the trail between 36th and 42nd
  3. A clanging collar on the other side of the boulevard, following me as I ran south
  4. Someone playing frisbee golf at Wabun, throwing a frisbee from the path. Were they playing or working, picking up frisbees others had left behind? Why were they throwing from the path? Why did it look — in my quick, unreliable, glance — that they had a golf bag?
  5. For over a year and a half, every time I run up 47th, as part of the turkey hollow loop, there is a dumpster parked on the street, in front of a house. It was still there today. Have they been remodeling their house for that long?
  6. The ford bridge, from the top of the hill at wabun, then from below, at the bottom of the path
  7. My shadow in the grass as I walked across turkey hollow
  8. The too white, newly redone road between 42nd and folwell, one side of it covered in leaves
  9. Feeling someone running at my same pace–me on edmund, them on the river road. Not wanting to look over to check too closely, trying not to race them
  10. The dirt trail between Becketwood and Minneahaha Academy Lower Campus, dry, covered with leaves, much more worn and well-traveled (haunted) than the barely there mostly tamped down grass, partly dirt path in front of Minnehaha Academy Upper Campus

Haunt/ Maya Phillips

Because there are so few hobbies left
to the dead, my father gives himself this:
his usual route, the Queens-bound F
to Continental, where he walks with the living
to work. Every day he finds a new occupation—
picks trash off the tracks, changes a dirty lightbulb,
makes rounds on the platforms,
tries to make some small use of his hands,
though no one notices
or acknowledges. Yet still he returns
every day, in his tan shirt and brown slacks
ironed with the impatience
of the perpetually late,
his keys jingling carelessly
in his left front pocket.

Twenty-plus years with the MTA
but some other guy’s got the job now,
someone younger, maybe someone
my father knows, standing in the operating booth
at the end of the platform, watching
the miniature trains on the board
carry lights through a digital New York.
And maybe the young man knows nothing
of the dead man, has no words
for a ghost who builds a home
of his absence. And if my father says haunt

he doesn’t mean the way rooms forget him
once he’s gone; he’s saying his leather chair
now in his coworker’s office, his locker
in the back room newly purged
of its clutter, or his usual table
in the break room where he sits
at 10:30 each night eating
the same steak club and chips, counting
the 10, 20, 30 more years till retirement,
cuz he’s close, he’s in the final stretch—any day
now and he’ll finally go on that vacation.

oct 7/RUN

5.5 miles
ford loop (with winchell trail)
62 degrees

Getting closer to peak fall color. More reds are creeping in, lots of yellow, a few bits of orange. Ran north to the lake street bridge, then up the hill beside shadow falls, past The Monument, down to the ford bridge, back over to Minneapolis, and ended below on the Winchell Trail.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. My favorite spot above the floodplain forest, near the old stone steps, is beginning to lighten–a few of the trees are turning yellow, not golden yellow, but more the color of a lime or a pear
  2. At least 4 stones were stacked on the ancient boulder
  3. The welcoming oaks are becoming a golden grove unleaving
  4. At one point, I noticed part of the river was a pale blue, almost white, while the other part was a darker blue
  5. Running over the lake street bridge looking down at the river, the water looked smooth, flat, stretched, only a few ripples right in the center
  6. Running over the ford ave bridge, I noticed, for the first time, the faint outlines of 2 squares just in from each of the railing posts. What are these? Was the bridge more narrow, with the railings in closer to the road? Would that even be possible?
  7. The Winchell Trail was covered with leaves
  8. All around the trails, the trees were shedding leaves, the leaves floated down like snow flakes or raindrops or butterflies
  9. Running on the Winchell Trail, almost to the steep rise by Folwell, the trees were bare, revealing another dirt trail that winds even closer to the edge
  10. An older runner in a bright yellow shirt, running on the opposite side of the road near St. Thomas

I remember the feeling of having revelations or insights or just interesting thoughts, but I don’t remember what they were. The feeling? Satisfaction, I think. Or comfort? Reassurance? A calming sense of peace?

I counted to 4 in my head for many stretches of the run. It helped me to focus my breath and my effort. I should try this more often.

oct 5/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin and back
58 degrees
humidity: 91%

A good run. I’m looking forward to even cooler temps — I wore my shorts and a tank top, which is the same thing I’d wear on the warmest summer day. I wasn’t cold. When I started out, I felt good. Around 2 miles in, I didn’t feel as great but kept going. I planned to stop at the bottom of the hill and walk all of it, but when I got there I felt good enough to keep going. I made it almost to the very top before I stopped to walk for about a minute. Then I ran the rest of the way back.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The path covered in leaves, making it difficult to see the edge of the asphalt
  2. Chirping birds — not sure what kind, but not geese or crows
  3. Circles–with minneapolis park logo or something else?–stamped into the trail. I saw at least 2
  4. The buzzing, whirring of a speeding back rushing past me at the top of the franklin hill
  5. The branches with red leaves poking out of the big hole at the edge of the trail heading down the hill
  6. Voice below, somewhere on the Winchell Trail
  7. A group of people — in their 60s, maybe — standing at the top of the old stone steps, contemplating whether or not to descend. One person saying, “It’s pretty rough” or “uneven” or “dicey down there” (I can’t remember their exact words)
  8. Someone on a fat tire, talking on a phone, powering up the steep franklin hill, not even out of breath — maybe they were on an ebike?
  9. A walker either talking to herself or through a (invisible, at least to me) bluetooth headset
  10. At least 2 different people walking with 2 dogs each, letting their dogs stretch out over the entire path

Chanted some berry triples: “strawberry, blueberry, raspberry” and recited Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” in my head. Didn’t get very far because I kept getting stuck on the second and third lines: “You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.” I couldn’t remember the order of the clauses: was it walk for a hundred miles, or walk through the desert, or walk on your knees. Not sure why I struggle with this bit.

a theme for october?

I was just starting to write that I’d decided to devote the rest of October to the peripheral, but then, as I typed those words I suddenly thought about ghosts and monsters and october as a scary month. So now I’m not sure. Because I love Halloween and scary movies — at least ones from the 70s and 80s — I think I will spend some time with ghosts, and then maybe monsters, like Medusa. I could also try to find a poem or two about creepy dolls/mannequins. Maybe think about the uncanny valley some more? All of these things are fascinating to me, and have started appearing in my writing (and my thoughts about my writing). Haunting and haunted places; feeling not quite there, floating; dead people, things, ideas suddenly being remembered or forgotten.

I’ll start with a poem that I found in a special feature on ghosts in poems at poets.org:

Unbidden/ Rae Armantrout

The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today’s edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

The way a lost
word

will come back
unbidden.

You’re not interested
in it now,

only
in knowing
where it’s been.

oct 4/RUN

2.1 miles
2 trails
60 degrees

Feeling a little cooler and a lot brighter out by the gorge this late morning. Yellows, reds, and oranges. Heard some kids at the school playground, some women talking. Earlier, when I was walking Delia, I heard a white-haired man on a bike loudly tell his friend, “At the end of next summer, I’m going to Maine, and I’m staying until the leaves have finished falling.” Am I remembering that right? Not totally sure. Saw and heard some people from the parks department chain-sawing some trees in the grassy boulevard. Encountered a few squirrels, heard a honk from a goose. Counted to 4, chanted in triples (strawberry blueberry raspberry). Ended my run at the bottom of the 38th st steps and walked on the Winchell Trail to the Oak Savanna. So many crickets and crunching leaves. One other walker who dramatically moved off to the side to give me room to pass.

Found this poem just now. It doesn’t fit with October or any theme I might have for this month, but it’s a wonderful love poem, to add to my month of love poems from August:

The Patience of Ordinary Things/ Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

The lovely repetition of stairs! The generosity of a window! I love it.

oct 3/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
58 degrees
dew point: 55

Ran with Scott to the falls before the marathoners raced on the river road. Not too warm, but humid. A mile in, I already felt like a damp sponge. A nice run with lots of fall color. Saw at least 2 turkeys chilling in the parking lot, the same spot they were at last week. Heard a bird calling out as we entered minnehaha park. Might have been a red-breasted nuthatch. The falls were rushing but not quite roaring, the creek was higher but not high. Listened to the leaves crunch as I ran over them. Saw at least one roller skier and lots of volunteers getting ready for the race — the twin cities marathon. Anything else? I’m sure I heard at least one goose, avoided more than one squirrel. I recall looking down at the river through the thinning leaves and hearing some rowers.

random thing for future Sara to remember: “Out of an abundance of caution” (as they like to say at RJP’s high school), we got covid tests last week. The spit test. I have a lot of trouble spitting and filling up the cup. That, combined with my inability to see signs or anything else well at the testing site, makes getting these tests incredibly difficult for me. Spitting into a cup seems like a basic thing that everyone can do without thinking. Not me. I’m actually going to have to practice before we take another test — whenever that will be. I’m trying to see this as funny, because it is, but it’s hard to laugh when it’s so upsetting. Not just because I can’t spit, but because I can’t see — it’s a reminder of how bad my vision is getting.

I love this October poem:

Neighbors in October/ DAVID BAKER

All afternoon his tractor pulls a flat wagon
with bales to the barn, then back to the waiting
chopped field. It trails a feather of smoke.
Down the block we bend with the season:
shoes to polish for a big game,
storm windows to batten or patch.
And how like a field is the whole sky now
that the maples have shed their leaves, too.
It makes us believers—stationed in groups,
leaning on rakes, looking into space. We rub blisters
over billows of leaf smoke. Or stand alone,
bagging gold for the cold days to come.

sept 29/RUN

4 miles
wabun park and back
64 degrees

Warm again this morning. More fall colors — mostly golds with a few hints of red. Recited “Spring and Fall” a few times, but didn’t think about it much. I might memorize a few fall poems for October.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river glowing through the trees
  2. A kid’s cry coming from somewhere
  3. Several loud rustling sounds in the dry underbrush
  4. Two or three wild turkeys near the start of the Winchell Trail, on the other side of the chain link fence. I’ve never encountered them here before!
  5. The curve of a log, serving as a bench at the frisbee golf course in Wabun Park
  6. A loud chirping sound that might have been a bird or a squirrel
  7. The flailing arms of an approaching runner
  8. High in the sky, the moon, faintly glowing
  9. The new (is it new?) fence surrounding one side of the bottom of the ford bridge near Locks and Dam #1
  10. A few regulars: the older man (mid 60s, white hair) runner whose fast and friendly and the walker with shoulder length blonde hair

A solid run that improved my mood.

Here’s my approximate/almost/not quite poem of the day:

When Night is almost done – / Emily Dickinson

When Night is almost done –
And Sunrise grows so near
That We can touch the Spaces –
It’s time to smooth the Hair –

And get the Dimples ready –
And wonder We could care
For that Old – faded Midnight –
That frightened – but an Hour –

sept 28/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
58 degrees
humidity: 84%

Nice morning for a run, although I wish it had been less humid and a few degrees cooler. Sunny, not too windy, a clear path. Was initially planning to run 8 miles and the double loop route, but felt too tired. Still pleased with 5.5 miles. Recited Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall.”

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The wind blowing the leaves off of the trees, sometimes looking like snow, sometimes a bird flying through the air
  2. (started at 8:45) Too crowded near my street — 3 runners, 2 different groups of walkers with dogs
  3. The welcoming oaks turning golden
  4. Multiple towers of stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  5. From the spot above the floodplain forest, the trees are not turning yet. Still green and airy and blocking a view of the river
  6. The all-white bike hanging from the trestle, memorializing the death of a biker a decade or so ago, decorated — flowers or something else?
  7. Nearing the franklin bridge, thinking I saw a rower on the river, then not finding it again as I ran across the bridge
  8. Trying to see the paved path down below on the east river side but not being able to — too much green
  9. Hearing big trucks beeping and bull-dozing down in the gorge
  10. The dark shadows of trees on the water

Short Story/ Ellen Bryant Voigt

My grandfather killed a mule with a hammer,
or maybe with a plank, or a stick, maybe
it was a horse—the story varied
in the telling. If he was planting corn
when it happened, it was a mule, and he was plowing
the upper slope, west of the house, his overalls
stiff to the knees with red dirt, the lines
draped behind his neck.
He must have been glad to rest
when the mule first stopped mid-furrow;
looked back at where he’d come, then down
to the brush along the creek he meant to clear.
No doubt he noticed the hawk’s great leisure
over the field, the crows lumped
in the biggest elm on the opposite hill.
After he’d wiped his hatbrim with his sleeve,
he called to the mule as he slapped the line
along its rump, clicked and whistled.
My grandfather was a slight, quiet man,
smaller than most women, smaller
than his wife. Had she been in the yard,
seen him heading toward the pump now,
she’d pump for him a dipper of cold water.
Walking back to the field, past the corncrib,
he took an ear of corn to start the mule,
but the mule was planted. He never cursed
or shouted, only whipped it, the mule
rippling its backside each time
the switch fell, and when that didn’t work
whipped it low on its side, where it’s tender,
then cross-hatched the welts he’d made already.
The mule went down on one knee,
and that was when he reached for the blown limb,
or walked to the pile of seasoning lumber; or else,
unhooked the plow and took his own time to the shed
to get the hammer.
By the time I was born,
he couldn’t even lift a stick. He lived
another fifteen years in a chair,
but now he’s dead, and so is his son,
who never meant to speak a word against him,
and whom I never asked what his father
was planting and in which field,
and whether it happened before he married,
before his children came in quick succession,
before his wife died of the last one.
And only a few of us are left
who ever heard that story.

I found this poem today and picked it for my theme of approximate for a few reasons: 1. The “short story” is never quite “true” with details changing slightly, 2. it’s never quite a story with nothing really happening, 3. it’s not really (not exactly) about killing the animal but something else — what? the grandfather, family, the narrator’s father’s relationship with his dad, memory, passing on/remembering stories? I like this poem. At first, it’s strange and unsatisfying and confusing, but slowly it gives me images and makes me think about farming and my grandparents and illness and aging and how we remember and tell stories (and why). I think the vagueness/fuzziness of this poem makes it more powerful to me than another poem would that was sharper, more exact, more direct with details and with conjuring a scene of the grandfather.

Listening to my Daily Mix 4 on Spotify as I write this, and Jackson Browne’s “Doctor, my eyes” just came on. Because of the title I was curious, so I looked up the lyrics and read them as I listened. I liked his rhythms and slant rhymes (would they be called slant?). Thinking more about how vision works here…

Doctor, my eyes/ Jackson Browne

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?

‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams

People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it’s later than it seems

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it’s too late for me

Doctor, my eyes
They cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry?

sept 25/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
47 degrees

Yes, a cool morning! Ran to the falls and back. Early enough that it wasn’t too crowded. It feels like fall. Lots of yellow, a little orange, some red. Felt strong. I’m writing this a day later, so I don’t remember much. Heard at least one woodpecker. The falls were falling — not rushing or gushing, but falling. Lots of people in the parking lot already, early on a Saturday morning. Saw 2 turkeys chilling by the side of the bike trail near the double bridge. Anything else? I don’t remember any deep thoughts or ideas for a poem.

I recited Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in my head as I ran, then recited it right after stopping. Here’s the recording, with my heavy breathing. I imagine my heart rate was still around 140 or 150.

Nothing Gold Can Stay/ Robert Frost

sept 23/RUN

5.8 miles
ford loop
54 degrees

Fall! Ran the ford loop (north to lake street bridge and across, south to ford ave bridge back across, north on west river road). Sunny, hardly any wind. Calm. Thought about stopping at the overlook on the st. paul side but didn’t. Next time, I hope. It’s hard for me to stop.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running down through the short steep hill just before reaching the double bridge, a glowing orange tree
  2. Some more slashes of red on the low-lying leaves–what are these trees? Basswood? Buckthorn? Looked it up and I think these leaves come from an ash tree
  3. No leaves changing in the floodplain forest yet. All green
  4. The river was calm and blue and empty
  5. Water at Shadow Falls gushing
  6. Mostly empty benches, often facing a wall of green — no view yet
  7. The small, wooded path down from the Ford Bridge was thick with leaves, dark with only a small circle of sunshine at the bottom
  8. Most of the shoreline was still green too
  9. My feet, shshshushing on the sand on the side of the path
  10. Two women walking, talking, one of them say sarcastically something like, “it’s just money”

Before I went out for my run, I memorized Robert Frost’s short poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Recited it in my head for much of the run. Tried to recite it into my phone at the end of my run and blanked on the fifth line — the word subsides — and gave up. More practice needed.

Nothing Gold Can Stay/ Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to gold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing Gold can stay.

At first I didn’t like the ABABABAB rhyme scheme, but it grew on me. It helped to listen to a recording of Frost reciting it and to repeat to myself over and over again.

sept 21/RUN

7.2 miles
bohemian flats and back
56 degrees
humidity: 82%

Cooler this morning. Hooray! Sunny, fall-like. Had been planning to run 8 or 9 miles today, almost all the way to downtown, but the road was closed, and the turn around point was less than 4 miles, so 7+ miles was all I did. I still feel good about it. I’m building up distance. My goal is to be able to do about 20-25 miles a week, with one long (about 10 mile) run.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The leaves are turning, mostly yellow, a few slashes of red, one all-orange tree
  2. Under the Franklin Bridge I started smelling smoke–I think the walker up ahead of me had a cigarette in their hand
  3. Lots of acorns littering the trail
  4. Honking geese. I couldn’t see them, but I heard them, high in the sky as I ran near the turn off for the West Bank of the U
  5. More geese taking over the walking part of the path beside the flats parking lot. A dozen or so. No honking or hissing, thankfully
  6. The river sparkling in the sun and the silhouette of a person fishing below the bridge
  7. A truck rumbling over the Washington Ave bridge as I crossed under it
  8. The newly repaired steps, near the railroad trestle, inviting me to take the lower trail — too many bugs!
  9. A walker listening to the news on the radio, a reporter mentioning Germany and riots or protests or something like that
  10. The solid white line that separates the biking and walking path in the flats is wearing off in one stretch — will they repaint it this fall?

After finishing my run, I listened to a recording of me reciting the latest poem I am writing/revising. I listened to it about 5 times, and did a voice memo with my revisions: 1. make the rhyme of land stand sand be less obvious, 2. which flows more slowly, slowly spreads or spreads slowly?, and 3. change the word “land” at the end to rock. Here’s my updated version:

AFTERGLOW/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Reaching the big beach
for a final time
land’s logic returns
too soon. Unsteady
I stand then drop down
kneeling in wet sand
waiting for tired legs
to remember how
to be vertical.

Muscles are grateful
happy to be used.
A delicious ache
slowly spreads not pain
or heat but glowing
satisfaction. Me
& Shoulders. We are
pleased with our effort.
We feel confident
strong. Enough. More than
enough. Enormous.
Too big to fit in
this lake. No longer
wanting to be water
formless fluid but
the rock that contains
it. Solid defined
giving shape to the (its?) flow.

I’m also not sure of the punctuation or if I should change the line breaks. So far, I’ve been using 5 beats per line. How would it work if I changed where each link broke?

sept 20/RUN

2 miles
2 trails
73 degrees
humidity: 74%

Fall weather please come back. I want my crisp, cool air. The run wasn’t too bad, but now that I’ve finished, I’m sweating a lot. Rain is coming in a few hours and everything will cool down. It’s already dark, ominous. Running above the river on the dirt trail just past the 38th street steps, everything was a slight blur. Dreamy. Unreal. The lack of light makes my already diminished central vision even more dim. Thought about how I couldn’t really see the path but didn’t worry about tripping because I know most of the dips and holes and rocks on this stretch and because even when my eyes don’t see the trail, my feet seem to. I glanced at the river but I don’t remember anything about it.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A walker with a white (or was it yellow?) sweatshirt wrapped around her waist pushing a stroller moving fast. It took me a few minutes to reach and then pass her. As I approached, I stared at her sweatshirt, one of the only bright things on this dark day
  2. Another bright thing: a runner in a bright yellow shirt
  3. Someone paused on the path, getting ready to start walking or running on the Winchell Trail?
  4. The small section of the river trail at 42nd that was blocked off for sewer work last week is open again and so is the road
  5. A tree leaning over the trail, not yet fallen, but looking like it might soon
  6. Flashing lights from a construction/city truck and a man in a yellow vest standing next to it near the sidewalk
  7. The damp dirt down in the oak savanna, not quite mucky or muddy yet
  8. 2 steep spots on the Winchell Trail: running down from the upper trail, right by 42nd street and a giant boulder and running up the short stretch near Folwell
  9. An approaching walker who turned down on an even lower dirt trail before I reached them
  10. The voice of a kid up above me as I ran down towards the mesa

Thinking about my growing number of swimming poems, some re-edited version of old poems, some new. My tentative title for the collection: Every Five (as in breathing every five strokes). All poems will play around with 5 as part of the structure — 5 beats or 5 lines or ?. Scott suggested I do something with iambic pentameter (5 feet of one short one long beat). A sonnet? Maybe a love poem to my swimming body/muscles/shoulders? Hmm…not sure if I’m feeling that.

Here’s a poem for the month’s theme of the approximate. This one is taking up the idea of almost, not quite or not exactly. It’s a poem that features an object — a cucumber — but it is not about the cucumber, but something else.

The Cucumber/ Nazim Hikmet

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and still coming down hard:
it hasn’t let up all morning.
We’re in the kitchen. On the table, on
the oilcloth, spring —
on the table there’s a very tender youn
cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a daisy.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it.
It softly lights up our faces,
and the very air smells fresh.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it,
amazed
thoughtful
optimistic.
We’re as if in a dream.
On the table, on the oilcloth, hope —
on the table, beautiful days,
a cloud seeded with a green sun,
an emerald crowd impaties and on its way,
loves blooming openly —
on the the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender
young

cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a
daisy.
The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and coming down hard.
It hasn’t let up all morning.

This poem and the idea of not exactly, reminds me of listening to the radio in the car yesterday with Scott and RJP. First, the sappy song, “Make it with You” by BREAD came on, then “Hot-blooded” by Foreigner. Both of them sung by someone who is trying to seduce the listener. Scott pointed out how the first song is much more indirect/oblique in its suggestions, while the second is very blunt. I started thinking about how the indirect song is a form of the approximate, the almost, or Emily Dickinson’s idea of the slant. It implies and circles (or what the poet Kaveh Akbar might call orbits and I might say in thinking about my swimming this summer, loops) around the actual meaning, never quite saying it. For Akbar, I think, orbiting is often because we can’t ever fully get at the meaning, while for BREAD it’s an unwillingness to reveal exactly what they mean in order to get what they want. One of the swimming poems I want to revise is about loops and looping around the lake. Maybe I can play around with loop as orbiting or circling, never quite getting there, always near but not quite.

This reminded me of another approximate phrase: close but no cigar. Looked up the origins and several sources gave this explanation:

It comes from traveling fairs and carnivals from the 1800s. The prizes back then were not giant-sized stuffed teddy bears, they were usually cigars or bottles of whiskey. If you missed the prize at a carnival game, the carnie folk would shout, “Close! But no cigar!”

source

sept 19/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
67 degrees
humidity: 90%

Ran with Scott in Austin. It felt much warmer than 67 degrees. Very humid. The gate was open, so we ran through the county fairgrounds. Scott and the kids made it here, but I was on my trip up north, so I missed it. No cheese curds for me this summer. At the far end of the fairgrounds, dozen of geese had were congregating in a treeless, empty field. Lots of geese in Austin, lots of geese up here in Minneapolis too. Sometimes, the sky is filled with their honking. Love that sound, and love this time of year.

Found this poem by Rumi on twitter the other day. I think this fits with my theme of approximate:

Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing
and rightdoing
is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

sept 17/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
61 degrees
humidity: 83%

What a storm early this morning! So much wind and flashes of light around 2:30 am. Running this morning, I expected to see big branches down everywhere. Not too many (any?) on the minneapolis side, but on the st. paul side they had to shut down the right lane and the sidewalk so a crew could clear all the debris. I saw that the road was closed right at the spot where I turn, so I assumed I would be able to get through. Nope. Had to turn around and run past a long line of cars that had probably watched me running towards the closed sidewalk and wondered why I kept going. Oh well. Turning around added a small bit of distance to my run, which was a bonus.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The squeak of my shoes running over wet leaves and pulverized acorns
  2. Little branches, some still covered in green leaves, some bare, littered all over the trail
  3. From my view above on the bridge: a streak of muck/silt? in the river near the st. paul shore
  4. No rowers or roller skiers
  5. A radio playing near the ravine by Shadow Falls. I wondered if the song was coming from down in the ravine or on a bike across the ravine
  6. The more than trickling, not quite gushing, of falls at shadow falls
  7. some fall color: a few yellow trees, a slash of red
  8. someone stopping at the memorial just above the lake street bridge, reading the signs or taking pictures or both
  9. a backpacked kid biking with his dad, heading to school
  10. A shirtless runner speeding past me, almost wheezing

word of the day: majusculation

The act or practice of beginning a word with a capital letter when it is not the beginning of a sentence.

Here’s a poem for the theme of approximate:

[I remember partially]/ Jane Huffman

I remember partially

My searching
Party going out in search

Of my own
Life my lantern light

Like water sloshing
Down the front

Of me and calling
My own name

Into the forest dusk
A partial sound

A painful braying
Syllable

That grounded
Like a current

In the dirt a yard
In front of me

But I resorted to it
Like a witness does

To memory

I was planning to swim this afternoon, but the buoys are gone. Lake swimming is officially over. Sad, but it’s time to focus on fall and winter running!

sept 15/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
56 degrees
humidity: 81%

Fall! It doesn’t quite look like fall yet, but it’s starting to feel like it. A solid, wonderful run around the river.

1 Thing I Noticed

Running over the marshall/lake street bridge back to Minneapolis, I looked down at the river. Near the shore, on the St. Paul side, some towering trees were casting a shadow on the root beer colored water. As I left the shore, the water lightened to a brownish green (or greenish brown?). Looking downstream, the river gradually turned blue as it met the sky. A single rower with a bright orange shirt was rowing across from minneapolis to st. paul. Perpendicular to shore instead of parallel. At the last minute, just before leaving the bridge, I remembered to check the trees lining each shore to see if they were changing colors. Not yet, but soon.

Returning to the theme of approximate (sort of). Thinking about the idea of exact or definite as leading to understanding and the goal of making sense of things. The amazing poet Carl Phillips — I’m reading his collection of essays on craft, Daring, right now too — tweeted this poem the other day:

May Day Midnight/ Michael Palmer

In the light of day
perhaps all of this
will make sense.

But have we come this far,
come this close to death,
just to make sense?

I love this poem, especially it’s use of just in the last line. Making sense is important/necessary, but it’s not all we can/should do. How does the approximate, almost or not quite, the not exact or fixed or finished, enable us to do more (or less) than make sense?

sept 13/RUN

8 miles
lake nokomis and back
58 degrees
humidity: 79%

The 8 mile run this week was much harder than last week’s. I am wiped out. Ran 6.5 miles without stopping, then walked for a few minutes before finishing up the run. Running all the way to lake nokomis and back seems farther than looping around the river.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The buoys are still up at the big beach
  2. There is orange paint outlining the cracks in the path near nokomis avenue
  3. The creek is still very low
  4. Under the duck bridge, on the other side of the creek from the trail, a little kid was singing the melody of a rock song that I can’t quite remember
  5. It was windier at the lake and the water looked choppy
  6. The water was gushing at the 42nd street sewer pipe
  7. A giant monarch butterfly sign was on the fence at the lake nokomis rec center playground–left over from the festival this weekend
  8. The purple and yellow flowers near the parking lot of minnehaha falls are in full bloom
  9. So are the zinnias in the yard with the cat who thinks she’s queen of the block (and is)
  10. 4 IKEA kids plastic chairs left in the boulevard — at least 2 were powder blue

This list took me a while. It was hard to remember anything from the run because I’m so tired. Will I be up exhausted all day?

Still thinking about fish and the fish in me and my poem borrowing some lines from Anne Sexton. I started the run intent on these topics and managed to think a bit about Sexton’s line “the real fish did not mind” but soon forgot all about it as the run got harder.

From some tweets I read, I thought today was Mary Oliver’s birthday. Double-checked, it was on the 10th. Still, her recent birthday inspired me to find a fish poem by her to post here:

The Fish/ Mary Oliver

The first fish
I ever caught
would not lie down
quiet in the pail
but flailed and sucked
at the burning
amazement of the air
and died
in the slow pouring off
of rainbows. Later
I opened his body and separated
the flesh from the bones
and ate him. Now the sea
is in me: I am the fish, the fish
glitters in me; we are
risen, tangled together, certain to fall
back to the sea. Out of pain,
and pain, and more pain
we feed this feverish plot, we are nourished
by the mystery.

So many poems about fish are about catching them or eating them. I want more poems that aren’t about fish as food.

I’m interested in contrasting Oliver’s idea about consuming the fish as a way to become one with it and the water with Sexton’s idea about the fish in us escaping. Fish going out instead of in. What does this mean? Not entirely sure yet, but I think it might help me figure out what to do with the next part of the poem and what I might be trying to say about “the fish in me” and its dis/connection from real fish.

sept 12/RUN

2.25 miles
dogwood loop
58 degrees

Ran with Scott north on the river road trail to the trestle, through Bracket Park, then over to Dogwood Coffee. Great weather for a run. Not too hot or humid, hardly any wind, overcast. Saw Dave, the Daily Walker and after I called out to him, he greeted both us, remembering Scott’s name. Impressive, considering he’s only met Scott once, and it was when I introduced them while running by quickly about 2 years ago! Noticed a few red leaves. Heard the rowers below us. No geese (yet) or wild turkeys or large groups of runners. Some bikers and walkers and signs for an event by the river yesterday: “free rowing” and “free canoe rides.” It would have been fun to try the rowing. Oh well.

Here’s an updated version of the poem I posted yesterday. I’ve fit it into my five beat form. Not sure if it works yet, and I’d like to add more.

At the lake the fish in me escapes

All winter she waits
barely alive iced
under skin. By june
restless. Together
we enter the cold
water but before
the first stroke she’s gone
reborn in endless
blue remembering
fins forgetting lungs
legs january.


sept 10/RUNSWIM

run: 2.7 miles
2 trails
61 degrees

Felt a little warmer today even though it was only 61 degrees. Sunny, quiet. A strange time, not quite fall but not still summer. Running south on the river road trail, I noticed a few slashes of red on the low lying leaves. It’s coming. I love this time of year and the turning of the leaves.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The sewer at 44th had barely a trickle, the one at 42nd was a steady stream
  2. More uneven, shifting sidewalk on the paved part of the Winchell Trail than I remember. Entire slabs settling and separating
  3. A spazzy squirrel darted but didn’t cross my path. Climbed a tree instead
  4. Kids’ voices drifting down from the upper path
  5. The first part of the Winchell Trail that has rubbling asphalt was littered with leaves–signs of fall!
  6. An unleashed white dog, then an unleashed black dog, then 2 or 3 humans, crowding the narrow, leaning path
  7. Someone walking in the middle of the closed road
  8. Voices, then a woman holding a child at the edge of the gravel path near the ravine
  9. The river?
  10. The sign warning of a slight ramp at the end of the path detour near Beckettwood

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis main beach
78 degrees

The buoys are still up! Warm but windy. Swimming into big(gish) waves heading south, riding on big(gish) swells heading back north. Saw lots of flashes below me. Fish or slants of light? Another metal detector dude was out there. He was hard core, in a wetsuit, choppy water up to his shoulders, and had a buoy to anchor him. I wonder what he found? Encountered one other swimmer taking on the waves and talked to someone about to swim at the beach when I was done. A good swim.

Other things I remember: A row of seagulls was at the edge of the water; a few sunbathers were on the beach; lots of kayaks and canoes and paddle boards with people standing and on their knees; the waves too high to see much of the other side or the beach.

sept 9/RUN

4 miles
top of the franklin hill and back
59 degrees
humidity: 80%

Fall running! Love the cooler weather. Thought about a poem I’m revising from my chapbook about open swim at lake nokomis. It’s called “detritus,” although I might change that title, and originally it was about the muck that gets into my suit while I’m swimming and that I need to wash off and was inspired by this fun alliteration: “I can’t see the slimy sand seep inside and settle on my skin.” I’m editing it to fit the form of 5 beats (5 strokes in the water then a breath) and expanding it to go beyond what the lake leaves with me to wonder what do I leave with the lake? This new part is inspired by the metal detector dudes I overheard at the lake a few days ago. Speaking of the lake, I just read about how 2 young kids (8 and 11) were rescued after drowning at lake nokomis on monday, just hours after I swam there. There is critical condition. Wow. I never think of this lake as dangerous — it’s really not that deep — but it is.

Back to my run: I barely looked down at the river. Was it because the path was more crowded? Ran by 2 walkers with a dog taking up the entire walking path. As I ran by, the dog lunged at me. When the owner apologized I said, “that’s okay” and meant it. Later I wished I had said, “sorry I didn’t warn you” and decided that I would either warn walkers in the future or steer much clearer of them and I did. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks and then Dave, the Daily Walker. Heard a crow. Thought about how I felt strong and relaxed. My right kneecap clicked a little but finally settled into its groove.

Here’s a poem I found by searching, “metal detector poetry). When I first read it and realized how long it was, I exclaimed, “Ahh! This is looong.” But I decided to type up the whole thing, and I’m glad I did.

MAN WITH METAL DETECTOR / Robert B. Shaw

You know me. I’m the one
who isn’t dressed for the beach,
arriving late in the day
when you’re folding your umbrella
or shaking out your towel.
I must look from a distance
like some insane slave-laborer
tasked with tidying up
as much sand as I can
with some pathetic tool, some
peculiar carpet sweeper.
In fact what this picks up
is hid below the surface.
I put its ear to the ground
and when, from inches under,
it hears the note, inaudible
to me, of something metal,
the needles on its dials
shiver to full attention.
Then I use my grandson’s
shovel to excavate.
Sometimes a soda can,
sometimes even jewelry
(though more of that turns up
in playgrounds and in parks
than down here by the ocean.)
It’s more like prospecting
than like archeology.
Unwittingly let slip
or purposely discarded,
these relics offer few
hints of their past owners:
a lost coin is every
bit as anonymous
as a chucked beer-tab.
Once in a long while
I came across initials.
It gives me a bad feeling.
I don’t really want to know
who M.S.M. is, whose ring
I picked up near the boardwalk.
Eighteen carat gold
and set with a seed pearl.
Smaller than all my fingers.
Was it loose on hers?
Did she put it in a pocket
which then proved treacherous?
Or (and this is worse) did she
strip it off and throw it
to rid herself of someone
she got it from, someone
she would have liked to see
thrown down hard and buried?
My Sad Monogram,
what’s the use of asking?
You’ve long since found out
insurance didn’t cover it,
or if you meant to lose it
you didn’t even ask.
Pardon me for making up
your story from such meager
evidence — it shows how
things turning up these days turn naggingly suggestive,
won’t leave my mind the way
I want it: matter-of-fact.
Something about this hobby
is getting out of hand.
I only took it up because
the doctor wants me walking.
I feel like knocking off
sooner than usual today
and simply sitting awhile
to watch the way the tide
oversteps itself in long
rippling strikes of silk,
making a cleaner sweep in time
than any I could make.

What a great poem! I’d like to wander/wonder to a story like this in a poem.

sept 7/RUN

8.1 miles
ford loop + franklin loop
67 degrees
humidity: 70%

8 miles! It’s been over 2 years since I ran this far. No stopping to walk. It felt pretty good, the only thing that hurt were my legs and left hip. Just a little sore in the last few miles.

I didn’t look at my watch once during the run. I wasn’t sure when I’d hit 8 miles. I didn’t want to check, find out I still had a mile left, and then lose momentum, so I decided to wait until I got past the lake street bridge to look at my watch. 8.1 miles. Nice. I probably could have run some more, but I decided to stop. To avoid injury, I’m only adding a mile each week.

When I started the run, I wanted to think about a poem I’m revising. I’m having trouble with the ending. It almost works, but not quite. I managed to think about it for a few minutes, before I was distracted by something –maybe the construction near 42nd? One thought, which doesn’t directly help the ending, but my help how I get to it: try making the beats in each line mirror my strokes while I swim. So, mostly 5 syllables for each line, with an occasional 3 or 4 or 6.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. So many beautiful views over on the east/St. Paul side of the river! Breaks in the trees where you can stop and look. Benches with the vines and branches trimmed. A few inviting overlooks
  2. No slashes of yellow or orange or bright red yet
  3. The river, as I crossed the Ford Bridge, was blue and calm, with no kayaks or rowing shells
  4. The shshshshsh of my striking feet on the gritty dirt path between ford and marshall
  5. At least 2 big packs (trots) of runners on the trail — a cross country team for the U or St. Thomas, probably
  6. One roller skier, slowing down to avoid a woman walking on the biking path
  7. A dog bark below, echoing in the mostly quiet
  8. Passing the man in black — a very tall walker, with super long legs, who I used to encounter a few years ago as I ran and who, in the winter, wears all black, and, for the rest of the year, black shorts
  9. The flowers/garden/landscaping at The Monument (just below Summit Avenue) are beautiful. A wide range of bright colors
  10. A huge brick house/estate, perched on a hill on Eustis St

september 4/RUN

4.1 miles
marshall loop
63 degrees
humidity: 89%

Cooler, but I could feel the humidity. Felt strong. I think all of the swimming this summer strengthened my legs and core, which is very helpful. I’d like to figure out how to keep it up this fall and winter. Heard the rowers as I ran down the east river road, then saw them lined up in the water, receiving instruction from the coxswain. Heard lots of other voices in the gorge, near the Monument and Shadow Falls. People hiking? exploring? checking out the falls, which only appear after it rains (which it did the past few days)? Encountered lots of runners and walkers. No roller skiers. I’m sure there were birds but I don’t remembering hearing them. I do remember looking at the river as I crossed the bridge–mostly, the rowers, but also that the river was calm and a blue gray. Not quite sunny yet, so no sparkling water. Anything else? No deep thoughts stayed with me, no fragments from a poem. I’m sure I thought about my son who Scott and I dropped off at college yesterday. Very excited for him.

As I write this entry a few hours after the run, I’m remembering that I thought briefly about the idea of approximate and a passage I read last night from Blind Man’s Bluff, a memoir by James Tate Hill about becoming legally blind at 16, and trying to hide it.

I can still see out of the corners of my eyes, but here’s the thing about peripheral vision: The quality of what you see isn’t the same as you see head-on. Imagine a movie filmed with only extras, a meal cooked using nothing but herbs and a dash of salt, a sentence constructed only of metaphors. To see something in your peripheral vision with any acuity, it has to be quite large.

Blind Man’s Bluff/ James Tate Hill

I thought about this passage when I was running because I’m bothered by his negative depiction of peripheral vision. Is the quality of vision solely based on clarity and sharpness? What value/quality of vision might we get from our side views and from images that are something less than 100% clear?

I find it helpful to read others’ descriptions of how and what they see. Hill’s vision is much worse than mine–even though the cones in my central vision are almost completely gone, my acuity in both eyes is surprisingly good and nowhere near legally blind. It seems as if the last few cones are doing all the work. Yet, even with my not-too-bad-yet vision, I struggle to see things like faces and eyes, read signs. Here’s an example from yesterday at the buffet lunch at my son’s college orientation: The food was put out on platters–watermelon, deli meat, cheese, bread, pasta salad–and you helped yourself. With my vision, I couldn’t tell what some of the food was–I had to ask Scott. I just couldn’t see it well enough. This often happens now when I’m eating a meal. I can’t quite (almost, but not enough) see what’s on the plate. I used to write about how I can’t tell if there’s mold on food, but now I can’t tell what the food is–unless I’ve prepared it myself. Not that big of a deal, but still frustrating.

Here’s another passage from the memoir that I appreciated:

The most frequent compliment heard by people with a disability is I could never do what you do, but everyone knows how to adapt. When it’s cold outside, we put on a coat. When it rains, we grab an umbrella. A road ends, so we turn left, turn right, turn around. We adapt because it’s all we can do when we cannot change our situation.

The other thing that I’ve already started to hear a lot as I lose my vision is: “you’re so brave!” I am not brave; I am good at adapting and learning to live with uncertainty. I am proud of how I’m handling my vision loss, but not because I’m being brave.

Returning to the theme of approximate, I’ve been trying to collect words, phrases that describe it: roughly, vague, almost, not quite, rough estimation, about, nearly, in the right zip or area code, in the ballpark, and the one that Scott mentioned the other day:

close enough for jazz

Had I ever heard this before Scott used it? He picked up the phrase from his jazz director in college, Dr. Steve Wright. Such a great phrase, one that I don’t see as criticizing jazz as sloppy, but celebrating it for its generosity.

september 2/ RUN

4 miles
wabun park and back
64 degrees

Cooler this morning. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker at the start of my run, when I was heading south on Edmund. Instead of running all the way to the falls, I turned at Godfrey and ran through Waban park and down the steep hill beside the river. I was beside the river for much of the run but I barely glanced at it. I remember seeing it once, while on the steep part of the Winchell Trail, through the trees. I’m sure I heard some birds, but If I did, I forgot. I remember hearing the click click click of a roller skier’s poles just above me. Last night, while driving to the Twins’ game, Scott pointed out a group of roller skiers skiing without poles but waving their arms like they were using poles. We imagined that practicing without poles might strengthen your leg muscles. It looked strange and awkward and difficult.

Encountered a few people at Waiban park, walking towards the VA home, which is right next to the park. One woman was wearing a bright yellow vest. Ran down the steep hill, and saw a few more walkers. A fast runner sped by me, running on the bike trail. I passed a walker with shoulder length blond hair that I’ve passed a lot this summer. They always wear hiking sandals and a skirt. Anything else? I don’t remember hearing any water coming out of the sewer pipes or any kids on the playground. I ran by a spazzy squirrel that flung itself on the chain link fence as I went past. Also almost stepped on a chipmunk in the part of the Winchell Trail where the trees are thicker.

It took me some time, but I finally found a poem that fits my theme, approximate:

There Is No Word/ TONY HOAGLAND

There isn’t a word for walking out of the grocery store
with a gallon jug of milk in a plastic sack 
that should have been bagged in double layers

—so that before you are even out the door
you feel the weight of the jug dragging 
the bag down, stretching the thin

plastic handles longer and longer
and you know it’s only a matter of time until
bottom suddenly splits. 

There is no single, unimpeachable word 
for that vague sensation of something
moving away from you

as it exceeds its elastic capacity        
—which is too bad, because that is the word
I would like to use to describe standing on the street

chatting with an old friend 
as the awareness grows in me that he is
no longer a friend, but only an acquaintance, 

a person with whom I never made the effort—
until this moment, when as we say goodbye 
I think we share a feeling of relief,  

a recognition that we have reached
the end of a pretense,   
though to tell the truth 

what I already am thinking about
is my gratitude for language—
how it will stretch just so much and no farther;

how there are some holes it will not cover up;
how it will move, if not inside, then 
around the circumference of almost anything—

how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the 
plodding love and faith, all the

misunderstandings and secrets
I have willingly poured into it.