june 13/RUN

5K
2 trails variation*
73 degrees
humidity: 83% / dew point: 67
10:30 am

*variation = south on paved river road trail/turn around under ford bridge/north on paved trail until I reached the parking lot at 44th and the entrance to the Winchell Trail/up the 38th st steps/north on the river road paved trail/back into the neighborhood at 36th

A run between raindrops. Rain, earlier this morning. Rain expected this afternoon. Everything was green and wet and sticky. By the end of the run, my skin felt like one of those damp pads you use for moistening stamps. Yuck! The dew point didn’t bother too much while I was running because I stopped a few times to speak my thoughts into my phone. Not too many people out on the trails. Quiet, except for the birds, a few kids, an occasional jackhammer.

a noise as a clue

I’ve been thinking a lot about my senses and my brain and how they alert me to what’s around me in the world. Today’s small example: walking up the 38th steps, unable to see what was above me because of all the vegetation. I heard the flash of a distinctive sound: the jingling of a dog collar. The jingling sound was quick, quiet, easy to ignore, but somehow I noticed, and it prepared me for not being surprised when I encountered the dog and their human at the top of the steps.

a new experiment

Still working on my class. Today is about attention, especially passive attention. Before I headed out I listened to a recording of a draft of my lecture so far, then I ran. About 10 minutes in, I started having interesting thoughts about attention and my class and noticing in unexpected and/or passive ways. I decided to stop and record my thoughts. About 4 or 5 minutes later, I stopped again to record more thoughts. Here’s the recording and a transcript:

june 13th

Wow, I had no idea I said this much!

June 13th, a little over a mile and a half into a run in humid, muggy weather. Between raindrops, I’ve stopped to walk and record this. I’m working this morning on how to describe passive attention or soft attention or being available to seeing or attending to. I was thinking about how moving helps that and that it’s really hard to hold onto a thought. Concentration and will are a difficult thing to do, so it can help train you to do better, to be more effective, in that passive absorption. Because you don’t have a choice, you can’t really pay attention to things.

The other thing I was thinking about, just ’cause this is all jumbled, associated thoughts — I was thinking about how one of the problems with attention is the idea that we have a limited amount, and that we need to use it wisely. It’s a commodity that we spend and that we pay and therefore it’s a limited resource. But, if you think about attention differently, as not paying but giving, and you think about not holding onto or hoarding attention, but growing it or having it epand or letting go or letting it pass through you, it is no longer a commodity or limited resource. It’s something that we can expand and give in more ways than we are.

So, another thing I was thinking about was the connection between passive attention and peripheral sight and how you’re looking to the edges of what you can see. If you’re looking straight ahead, you’re thinking or noticing more what’s happening below you or above you or off to the side, even while you’re looking forward. And I was thinking about how one of the first things the opthalmologist said to me was I’d need to learn to see people by looking at their shoulders [note: to see them through my peripheral vision]. So how does that change what we see and what we can do with that sight?

I stopped recording and started running again.

Okay, I’m about 1/2 a mile, 3/4 of a mile further. I’m by the ravine where the water gushes, or does more than trickle. And that’s because..I think it’s by more houses, and also because it has rained an hour ago. Anyway, I wanted to stop so I wouldn’t forget this. So I was thinking, as I started the Winchell Trail, about how I’m talking a lot about moving and how it can help us tap into that passive attention or these different forms of giving attention, but I’m not talking about being outside, what outside does. I was thinking, if nothing else — and there’s much more — if offers more interruptions, potentially more interesting interruptions, to any focused concentration we might be having. There’s more to be distracted by, or be interrupted by, to listen to….Then I was thinking about how these interruptions and these different modes of paying attention and having all of them, also how it can be beneficial to our work to be outside moving. But it’s also good for our health, and it helps us with our lives, being able to pay attention in different ways. This is not multi-tasking in the way that it’s understood, where we’re expected to do more and more things all at once and be responsible. It’s not multi-tasking, it’s some other way, because we’re not holding onto this attention. I had a word for it when I was running and I’ve forgotten it already.

Okay, I just thought of one more thing: It’s the idea of what I’m doing right now where I’ve kind of in some ways spontaneously deciding I will run and walk then stop and talk and record these thoughts. In some ways, that’s experimenting and spontaneous, but it’s built off of all this training and showing up and building up that endurance and the ability to do that. It makes me think of how in running if you’re wanting to run longer distances, you need to have a base layer. You need to do slow, long, steady miles and build up your body so that it’s able to handle that. But that’s an important part of the process, is building up that base layer, and we can try to translate that into what’s happening with attention and these experiments.

It’s funny how some of what I was saying made much more sense when I was saying it then it does now that I’m listening and transcribing it. Regardless, recording these thoughts was helpful — and thinking about passive attention was too!

Spending time reviewing my thoughts, I’m remembering more. I remember running in a bit of a fog, partly because of the thick air, the gray sky, the deep green, and feeling present on the path, then being interrupted by a kid’s cry, or a bird’s chirp, or the rumble of a jackhammer. I’m also thinking about part of the long poem I wrote this past fall (Haunts) and my description of this space of passive attention:

v.

I go to
the gorge

to find the
soft space

between beats,
before

one foot strikes,
after

the other
lifts off.

When I float.
I slip

through time’s tight
ticks to

moments so
brief they’re

like shudders,
but so

generous
they might

fit every-
thing left

behind by
progress.

Here rhythms
suspend.

Held up by
motion,

the air I
pass through.

Now rhythms
loosen,

spread out, slow.
This space —

no dream, a
shift in

perspective,
where what

was edge is
centered

and what was
centered

fades away.

june 12/RUNBIKE

5k
trestle turn around
71 degrees
humidity: 73% / dew point: 62
11 am

A wonderful run! Another day where it isn’t really cloudy, but CLOUD. The sky, almost white. The air, thick (or thicker than yesterday). Ran north on the river road trail past the welcoming oaks — good morning! And past the big boulder with no stones stacked. Through the tunnel of trees, above the old stone steps, under the lake street bridge, all the way to the trestle. I stopped to walk for a few seconds, turned around, and ran back. Worked on increasing my cadence while trying not to run faster and use more effort. That’s hard. I felt tired by the time I reached the trestle — and warm. The dew point is in the uncomfortable range.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. one of the welcoming oaks is very close to the paved trail, just a few inches away
  2. right before reaching the oaks, above the ravine, a tree that fell last week — or the week before? — is still there, leaning over the edge, split in a few places
  3. chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee
  4. a honk or two
  5. 2 bikers and a roller blader, moving and chatting together on the bike path
  6. comiing up behind me, I heard a voice saying to someone else, “there’s 5 of us coming up behind you,” then one biker with a trailer passing me, then moving over to the side while 5 bikers in bright yellow shirts biked past
  7. another, fast biker, approaching a few seconds later. I tried to listen to hear if they said, “on your left,” I don’t think so
  8. rowers on the river! the evidence: the coxswain’s voice gently offering guidance through a bullhorn
  9. a walker, listening to some funk music through their phone in the tunnel of trees
  10. all (almost all?) of the benches were empty

Nearing the end of my run, when I heard the rowers, I had a moment of clarity. I decided to cross over to the grass betwen the river road and edmund and record my thoughts. Here’s a recording of it, and a transcript, with a few additional remarks:

june 12th

june 12th, 2.5 miles run (note: I ran another 1/2 mile after I recorded this, also: I had only finished my run 20-30 seconds prior to recording this so my heartrate was still high and my breathing was more labored). Try to be open to being interrupted. Take notice of the sounds that interrupt you, that call out to you, almost insisting, “listen!,” as opposed to just trying as hard as you can to notice everything and to constantly be vigilant about the listening, trying to return to it again and again. While this can be useful sometimes, we also need the interruptions, the time to just be, to slow down and let the world speak to us.

Here, I try to remember the name of a poem that I think fits. I decided it was titled “Lost.” It is!

Lost/ David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Also, another example of this is the time I was really focused on running, not paying attention, to the point that I didn’t even notice the geese that were on the other side of the road, congregating in someone’s front yard. All of a sudden, one of them gobbled, not ferociously but loudly, almost yelling at me to listen and to notice.

Three things to note here: First, I wrote about this moment in my running log, under the heading “delight of the day” on march 2, 2022.

Secone, it was not geese who interrupted me, but turkeys (hence, the gobble reference). I think I mis-said geese because I was thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese and the lines:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Third, this recording was inspired by a moment on today’s run when I was interrupted by something. I forgot to say what that something was in the recording and I’m already struggling to remember it. I think it was the voice of the rower?

And, that’s…to get to that point..ooo! And then I think about how Mary Oliver has that poem where she talks about how some people can just get there right away. They just open up and stuff pours in. Others of us need a lot more practice. It’s a constant struggle…This would be..the exercise is kind of passive insofar as you’re not doing anything to make it happen, you’re just letting it happen and be around and aware when it does.

Mary Oliver doesn’t exactly write, “stuff pours in,” she writes:

from “The Book of Time” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver

For some souls it’s easy; they lie down on the sand
and are soon asleep.
For others, the mind shivers in its glacial palace,
and won’t come.
Yes, the mind takes a long time, is otherwise occupied
than by hapiness, and deep breathing.
Now, in the distance, some bird is singing.
And now I have gathered six or seven deep red,
half-opened cups of petals betwen my hands,
and now I have put my face against them
and now I am moving my face back and forth, slowly,
against them.
The body is not much more than two feet and a tongue.
Come to me, says the blue sky, and say the word.
And finally even the mind comes running, like a wild thing,
and lies down on the sand.
Eternity is not later, or in any unfindable place.
Roses, roses, roses.

Having this moment of clarity was so great. Before heading out for my run, I was struggling to describe the different forms of attention that we’ll be working on in my class. I have too many ideas, too many sources, too many things that I want to share. I was feeling overwhelmed. On the run, I wasn’t thinking about how to work through this problem, but this idea of interruptions and being open to them found me. This “finding” is an excellent example of what I’m trying to teach about the value of moving outside! It’s not all that we can do while moving, and it doesn’t always happen, but it’s part of why I show up almost every day beside the gorge, moving and breathing and trying to be present.

As I thought about attention before I went out for a run, and the types of attention I want to describe in my lecture recording (I’m doing it like a podcast), I thought about Mary Oliver’s poem “Luke” as a good example of being open to attention. After typing up those bits from MO’s The Leaf and the Cloud above, I see some strong connections between it and “Luke.”

Luke/ Mary Oliver

I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head

and her wet nose
touching
the face
of every one

with its petals
of silk,
with its fragrance
rising

into the air
where the bees,
their bodies
heavy with pollen,

hovered—
and easily
she adored
every blossom,

not in the serious,
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don’t praise—
the way we love
or don’t love—
but the way

we long to be—
that happy
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.

Thank you running and the gorge and my feet for making it possible for me to move so that I could untangle this knot in my thinking and be with the birds and the rowers and the river!

bike: about 12 miles*
around lake nokomis and back

*my very outdated, over-the-hill apple watch crashed again while we were biking, so I don’t know the exact distance. Somewhere between 11.5 and 12 miles. I finally decided that I need a new watch. It’s coming on Tuesday: an early birthday present!

Biked with FWA over to the lake to pick up our swim caps! Tuesday is the first open swim! Hooray!! Several memorable things happened, which I want to remember for me and for FWA:

  1. At Sandcastle, they had entertainment: a singer with a guitar. He sang John Denver’s “Country Roads,” but changed some of the words to fit Minneapolis. Instead of Almost heaven, West Virginia he sang, Almost heaven, South Minneapolis, which was awkward. He kept in Shenandoah River in Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River when, as FWA suggested, he could have sang, Mississippi River
  2. Picking up our caps, a lifeguard asked FWA if he goes to Gustavus (he was wearing a Gustavus t-shirt). When he said yes, she added: “My friend and I just transferred from there to St. Olaf.” Anyone who goes/went to either Gustavus or St. Olaf and knows about their rivalry and might find this remark funny
  3. Biking to lake nokomis on the minnehaha creek path, rounding a hidden corner, we heard a bell ringing repeatedly. It came from a double-recumbant bike, just letting us know they were there. Tne franctic ringing and the sight of a recumbant bike with 2 people on it seemed surreal and strange and funny

june 11/RUN

9:45 am*
2 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north
66 degrees / humidity: 85%

*I’m trying out adding the time to my basic details for these entries. I always tag them with “morning” or “afternoon” or “evening,” but I thought it would be interesting to see if it helps to get more specific. The tag is great for getting a general sense of when I run, but is that enough?

Here’s how it breaks down by tags:

morning: 1.092 entries (including today’s entry)
afternoon: 168 entries
evening: 16 entries

That’s a lot of mornings! I’m actually surprised that I’ve run as many as 16 times in the evening. I don’t like running in the evening. Should I try to change that?

A quick run on a humid Saturday morning, after some light rain that fell just before I woke up. Decided at the last minute to listen to some faster songs so I could work on increasing the speed of my cadence. Not because I want to go faster, but because I’m wondering if it might help my runs feel easier and improve my form. My go-to song for this: Misery Business/ Parmore. Elton John’s I’m Still Standing came on next, and that was a good speed too. It felt easy for the first mile, harder for the second. I think I should try doing this once a week. Maybe run with a quicker cadence (175) for a song, then a little more relaxed for a song, then repeat?

I’m sitting on my deck as I write this and the chickadees are going crazy: “chick-a-dee dee dee dee” — or, is it a chickadee? Now, I’m not sure. All I know is that it’s loud and steady and a bit frantic.

Encountered a running group. Not rightly packed, but strung out on the trail, a pair of runners here, a pair of runners there, for 1/4 of a mile. What are the training for? I didn’t look at the river or the oak savanna. Didn’t smell anything strange or hear any alarming sounds. No deep thoughts that I can remember. No felled trees to wonder about, or roller skiers to delight in (seeing a roller skier on the trail, is a good omen for me).

an image I remember: On my block, just before starting my run, I heard a woman softly speaking a few words (I couldn’t tell what the words were), then a collar jangling. I looked across the street and saw a woman running with a dog. The dog was medium-sized and on a leash, tethered to the runner’s waist. They looked like a puppy that might soon become a much bigger dog. They were running ahead of the runner. Something about their (the runner and the dog) movements seemed awkward, or not-quite-right. Was it that they were going too fast? Was it just not what I expected? I don’t know. I also don’t know why this image seems more vivid to me than anything else that happened on my run.

a new podcast to check out

I stumbled upon a poetry podcast that I’d like to try out: Words by Winter

Words by Winter: Conversations, reflections, and poems about the passages of life. Because it’s rough out there, and we have to help each other through. Each brief episode includes a story or conversation, along with a poem.

The creator/author of this podcast is based in Minneapolis, which is pretty cool.

my upcoming class

I think I mentioned that I’m teaching a class at the Loft Literary Center this summer. I’m very excited! It’s based on my work over the past 5+ years here on this blog. Here’s the description for “Finding Wonder in the World and the Words While Outside and in Motion“:

In this class, we’ll explore how cultivating the habit of being outside and moving regularly can make us more attentive and open to finding wonder in the world. And we’ll experiment with different methods for transforming that wonder into words, including creating and maintaining a movement log. We’ll read how writers use moving outdoors to help their creative process; investigate different forms of attention and how being in motion influences them; practice wonder, both as delight and curiosity, on our walks or runs; spend time with poems while moving to see what happens to them and to us; study how moving through land transforms how we know and describe it; notice our breathing as we move at different speeds, then compose poems that match its rhythms; and develop ways to remember ideas that occur as we move outdoors. 

Each week will consist of discussion, writing prompts, sharing strategies for your own outdoor-in-motion habits, and a few experiments to try during the week. Optional meet-ups by the Mississippi River Gorge are possible for those interested. Readings will be from Ross Gay, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, J. Drew Lanham, Aracelis Girmay, Mary Oliver, Georgina Kleege, Ada Limón, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Gardner, and others.

The class starts in 11 days and it’s all online, so I’m working on creating the content for it right now. It’s about the value of developing the habit of being outside and in motion for your writing/creative process/life. I’m especially interested in experimenting with how paying attention while moving (instead of while stopped, standing still) might open us up, and open up certain forms of attention that many of us don’t often use: soft attention or passive attention or attention that’s not about focusing closely on one thing, but on getting a bigger picture (the forest, no the trees). Not staring at or scrutinizing something in order to KNOW it, but becoming aware of something, feeling it, beholding it. How does that type of attention work, and how can we translate it into words? That’s what we’ll be playing around with in the class.

I mentioned chickadees earlier in this entry — the ones chattering noisily near my backyard — so I looked up “chickadee” on the poetry foundation site. Here’s the last section of a poem by Juan Delgado:

The Evidence is Everywhere/ Juan Delgado

V.

Outside my window,
the sky is suddenly
draped by a hum,
a hummingbird’s hunger.
Her wings wrinkle the sky.
Unlike
a chickadee too busy
and full of seed chatter,
the hummingbird
puffs up the air,
feeding like a storm,
a redness, a sideway rocket
past the world’s ear.

That spark reminds me of you.

Thin-rooted, lingering too
long, absorbed in window
reveries, I’ll be released. Here,
the soil is moist, sponge-like,
storing. Worms surface,
digesting their way up.
I, too, am ready
for the driving winds
of another season.

june 10/RUN

3.6 miles
marshall loop
71 degrees

71 degrees at 9:30 in the morning. I need to start my runs earlier. Today is my daughter’s last day of school so I can. Hooray for not having to wake her up, help her find something to eat, get stressed out when school has already started and she hasn’t even come downstairs! Another good run. Hardly any wind, not too much sun. Dry. Too dry. I could feel it in my tight skin and the inside lining of my nose.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river, nearing the lake street bridge on the west side: such a pale blue it was almost white, a nice contrast with the vibrant green
  2. the river, heading east over the lake street bridge: still, quiet, no waves, no sparkling. Something about its flatness, combined with the unruly green made it look hot — not like the water was hot, but that being near it was
  3. the river, heading west back over the lake street bridge: the water was split with one half blue, the other half brownish-green — a reflection of the trees along the shore
  4. the river, standing at the overlook at the middle of the bridge: more cloudy currents below. What causes this? Is it sand bars, or something else?
  5. on the bridge, I noticed a big crane over on the St. Paul side. I wondered if I encounter it while running through the neighborhood (I didn’t).
  6. below the bridge, I noticed the walking trail was open again — they must have fixed the bit that caved in
  7. a runner ahead of me on the bridge and then running up the marshall hill. They kept going on marshall; I turned on cretin
  8. at the top of the hill, Blacks coffee looked mostly empty, at least the low of empty stools I saw in the front window
  9. today, I remembered running through the tunnel of trees. This time I was heading south instead of north. What I remembered: a blur of green off to the side, a paved path stretching far in front of me, no one else around
  10. no stones stacked on the boulder

Did I hear any birds out by the gorge? I can’t remember.

Bird/ DORIANNE LAUX

For days now a red-breasted bird
has been trying to break in.
She tests a low branch, violet blossoms
swaying beside her, leaps into the air and flies
straight at my window, beak and breast
held back, claws raking the pane.
Maybe she longs for the tree she sees
reflected in the glass, but I’m only guessing.
I watch until she gives up and swoops off.
I wait for her return, the familiar
click, swoosh, thump of her. I sip cold coffee
and scan the room, trying to see it new,
through the eyes of a bird. Nothing has changed.
Books piled in a corner, coats hooked
over chair backs, paper plates, a cup
half-filled with sour milk.
The children are in school. The man is at work.
I’m alone with dead roses in a jam jar.
What do I have that she could want enough
to risk such failure, again and again?

june 9/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails, longer version*
70 degrees

*the longer version = paved river road trail, south/take the paved trail down to the overlook in the 44th street parking lot/Winchell Trail, north — past the 38th street steps, through the oak savanna, down the dirt hill studded with rocks in the ravine, up the gravel/ return to the paved river road trail, north, through the tunnel of trees, past the old stone steps/cross the river road to edmund at 33rd, go south on edmund

Is summer finally here? Warm and sunny this morning. Most of the time, I ran in the shade. I may not like how the leaves conceal my view of the other side of the gorge, but I appreciate how they make it cooler and shield me from the sun. A good run, no big revelations or moments of delight. Thought about the class I’m prepping and how grateful I am for the practice I developed of getting outside, moving, then writing about it. I started it partly as a way to survive the new administration in 2016, then relied on it a lot during the early years of the pandemic. Now, it’s central to my work on care and wonder. These thoughts, while I ran, came in flashes or bursts or flares — which word do I like best?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river! It was a beautiful blue. I didn’t stare straight at it, but noticed it off to the side, looking extra blue because of the sun and the green that framed it. No details to add, like sparkling waves or fast moving currents or big branches floating downstream. Just blue. As I ran, I felt the constant, pleasant presence of blue.
  2. running in the 36th street parking lot, past the entrance to the Winchell Trail, I heard a strange horn-like sound. It was LOUD — what was it? Then I saw a very little kid on a bike, no adult that I could see (which doesn’t mean they weren’t there; I often don’t see people who are there). They called out, “daddy?” a few times. I wondered if I should stop to see if they were okay, but their “daddy” didn’t sound urgen or scared so I kept going
  3. 4 people gathered on the walking trail, sort of, but not quite, off to the side
  4. a few kids crossing the river road just past the gathered group
  5. encountering several bikes, staying in their same, still seeming too close
  6. a squirrel standing still, which I initially mistook for a cardinal (because, yes, my vision is that bad)
  7. a person, or 2 people?, stretched out on one of the many benches resting right above the river — not the bench by the big old rock or near folwell, but near the old stone steps
  8. water trickling out of the sewer pipes
  9. update on #1: passing through the oak savanna at the end of my run, I encountered “daddy,” the kid, and the source of the loud horn: an extra loud bike horn. The dad blasted it for his kid’s amusement right before I reached them. He was on a fat tire, the kid on one of those training bikes without pedals — what are those called?
  10. the smell of chemicals for a lawn, or water from a hose

No clicks or clacks from a roller skier’s poles, no doppler effect from a radio, no chirping robins or screeching blue jays, no rowers, and, again, no memory of what happened while I ran through the tunnel of trees. Forgetting this stretch of 3 or 4 minutes has happened twice now. Interesting….

Five Landscapes/ COLE SWENSEN

One

Green moves through the tops of trees and grows
lighter greens as it recedes, each of which includes a grey, and among the
greys, or beyond them, waning finely into white, there is one white spot,
absolute; it could be an egret or perhaps a crane at the edge of the water
where it meets a strip of sand.

Two

There is a single, almost dazzling white spot of a white house out loud
against the fields, and the forest in lines
receding, rises,
and then planes. Color,

in pieces or entire; its presence
veneers over want; in all its moving parts, it could be something else

half-hidden by trees. Conservatory, gloriette, gazebo, or bandshell,
a door ajar on the top floor.

Three
The trees are half air. They fissure the sky; you could count the leaves, pare
time
defined as that which,
no matter how barely, exceeds
what the eye could grasp in a glance;
intricate woods opening out before a body of water edged
with a swatch of meadow where someone has hung a bright white sheet
out in the sun to dry.

Four

A white bird in a green forest is a danger to itself. Stands out. Shines. Builds
up inside. Like it’s dangerous to cry while driving or to talk to strangers or to
stare at the sun and a thousand other things
we’ve always heard
people who wear white see better at night, though they gradually lose this
trait as they age.

june 7/RUN

3.25 miles
2 trails + extra
66 degrees

The rain that looked like it was coming never did, so I went out for a run. It’s overcast. Not cloudy, but CLOUD — one big cloud covering everything, making the sky gray and the greens more green. It seemed humid to me and I sweat a lot, so I thought the humidity would be high. Nope, only 47%. The run felt good, relaxed.

On the surface, all I remember is trying to lift my knees and my left hip and looking out for other walkers or runners or bikers. Can I remember more if I try? Yes!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. lots of bikers, mostly single bikers or groups of 2, one large, spread out group, several of them wearing bright yellow jackets
  2. no blue jays or chickadees, but lots of little chirping birds — I wondered if they were warblers
  3. the faint voices of kids playing on the Dowling Elementary playground
  4. exchanging deep head nods with a man using a walker
  5. Minneapolis parks is mowing today — saw and heard a big lawn mower speeding by on the path. More evidence of the lawn mowing: the smell of freshly cut grass
  6. encountering another runner down below on the winchell trail, near its southern start, where all the asphalt has reverted to dirt. They were wearing sweatpants and maybe (I can’t quite remember) a sweatshirt too?
  7. voices below, in the gorge — rowers?
  8. mud on the trail from yesterday’s rain, but not enough to slip in or on or through
  9. trickling water in several different spots in the ravine, just north of the oak savanna
  10. the dirt trail below the mesa that the parks dept cleared out last year is showing signs of being reclaimed: weeds popping up in the middle of the path

Today I got lost in the run, in some sort of reverie or just my mind shutting down for awhile. I can’t remember what the river looked like, though I know I looked at it. I can’t remember anything about running through the tunnel of trees, not even a hint of a memory of the dark green or the sound of cars above, or whether I encountered someone as I ran past the old stone steps. Strange and wonderful. I like getting lost.

Found a beautiful poem through this tweet:

As from a Quiver of Arrows/ CARL PHILLIPS

What do we do with the body, do we
burn it, do we set it in dirt or in
stone, do we wrap it in balm, honey,
oil, and then gauze and tip it onto
and trust it to a raft and to water?

What will happen to the memory of his
body, if one of us doesn’t hurry now
and write it down fast? Will it be
salt or late light that it melts like?
Floss, rubber gloves, and a chewed cap

to a pen elsewhere —how are we to
regard his effects, do we throw them
or use them away, do we say they are
relics and so treat them like relics?
Does his soiled linen count? If so,

would we be wrong then, to wash it?
There are no instructions whether it
should go to where are those with no
linen, or whether by night we should
memorially wear it ourselves, by day

reflect upon it folded, shelved, empty.
Here, on the floor behind his bed is
a bent photo—why? Were the two of
them lovers? Does it mean, where we
found it, that he forgot it or lost it

or intended a safekeeping? Should we
attempt to make contact? What if this
other man too is dead? Or alive, but
doesn’t want to remember, is human?
Is it okay to be human, and fall away

from oblation and memory, if we forget,
and can’t sometimes help it and sometimes
it is all that we want? How long, in
dawns or new cocks, does that take?
What if it is rest and nothing else that

we want? Is it a findable thing, small?
In what hole is it hidden? Is it, maybe,
a country? Will a guide be required who
will say to us how? Do we fly? Do we
swim? What will I do now, with my hands?

For reasons I can’t totally express, this poem seems fitting to post this late morning, after spending time working on an introductory lecture for a class I’m teaching on noticing the world, then documenting that noticing in a log, and after writing in this log entry that I got lost in the run.

Also, it’s always a good time to post a Carl Phillips poem. His work is wonderful.

june 6/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin hill + extra
67 degrees

Everything green. Not dark green, like yesterday, but glowing green. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks as I ran past them. Noticed again — and I’m remembering this time, finally, to mention it — the non-oak (what kind is it?) tree that looks like a tuning fork. A few months ago, looking at it, I thought, “time to tune my body to the gorge.” I think this came to my mind because I had just listened to John Denver’s version of “The Garden Song” and the lines, “Tune my body and my brain/ To the music from the land.”

Things the Flew in my Face, a list

  1. a small, but not too small, bird flying out of the leaves towards me, then veering quickly, making me stutter step and raise my hands to my eyes
  2. a gnat, into the liquid protein in my right eye — it might still be in there…yuck!
  3. cottonwood fuzz
  4. another bird, not as close this time
  5. the leafy branch of a tree on the side of the trail
  6. wind

Speaking of wind, there was a point early on in the run when I noticed the wind in several different versions, all at once: the sound of rushing air past my ears; a sound that was not roaring or howling but talking loudly in the trees; the dancing shadows of the leaves on the trail.

Heard the rowers; encountered some roller skiers; greeted Dave, the Daily Walker and Mr. Morning!; looked up at the fluffy white clouds; wondered if the big bird soaring high above me was an eagle or a hawk or a turkey vulture; noticed all the empty benches; tried to, but couldn’t, identify the song coming out of a biker’s speakers as they passed me; thought about how fast the river was going and whether or not that was faster than I was running up the hill; appreciated my shadow ahead of me; smelled too much lilac; successfully avoided lots of groups of walkers; ran way too fast down a hill.

Inspired by an interview I encountered this morning, here’s the first poem from Ada Limón’s latest collection, The Hurting Kind:

Give Me This/ Ada Limón

I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.

Here’s the final question, and her answer, in the interview:

Question: What is the poet’s role in finding meaning in the world, and what is our duty in deciding to reject meaning? Talk to me about the work of meaning making. Talk to me about the work of surrender and release?

Answer: That’s the nature of life, isn’t it? To desire to make meaning and then surrender to the mystery and the repeat and repeat and repeat. Toni Morrison once said, during her Nobel Prize speech in 1993, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” And to me that quote is all about surrendering to our mortality, accepting our end, and yet recognizing the ways in which we honor our time here. How we point out the beauty, the pain, the full spectrum of all of our experience, so that we can live wholly, completely, and not miss the living we’ve been granted. Sometimes the message is only, “Look, I am alive.” And it does not have to transcend that. Why would it? What could be bigger than that?

june 5/RUN

2 miles
neighborhood wander
66 degrees

As I write this, about an hour after my run, there’s bright sun, but when I ran it was gray and ominous. The thick green looked especially dark and the sky felt heavy. The rain isn’t supposed to arrive until around 6, but it has already seemed like it’s about to rain twice. I ran through the neighborhood to avoid crowded trails and because I felt like trying something different.

Neighborhood Haunts

  1. Running by cooper school, I thought about the man I saw a few years ago working out by flipping a heavy sand bag across the field. Does he still do that, or has he moved onto some other strange (at least to me) way of keeping fit?
  2. Running down the hill toward (is it toward or towards?) edmund, I looked for the house with the fruit vines closest to the sidewalk. 2 or 3 years ago, the owners had posted a sign that encouraged anyone to take the fruit. The sign also said what kind of fruit it was, but I can’t remember.
  3. Also ran by the big, super cool 60s ranch house on the corner with the three gigantic cottonwood trees. The lawn was almost white with cottonwood fuzz. How difficult is that to rake up? Do you rake it up, or leave it — and, does it ever leave?

The run was helpful; it improved my mood, at least a little. And writing this entry while sitting out on my back deck listening to different birds, makes me feel even better.

Becoming Moss/ Ella Frears

I lie on the ground.
I open my mouth.
I suck on a spoon.
I embrace a stone.
A beetle crawls by.
I empty my mind
I stuff it with grass
I’m green, I repeat.

The sun is a drink
the yellowest squash
I can’t get enough
I can’t get enough
I can’t get enough
I can’t get enough
I can’t get enough
I can’t get enough

I love the idea of repeating, I’m green! I’m green! Also, it was fun to type I can’t get enough over and over again, even line after even line, the feel of the fingers on the keys and the look of the letters lined up so neatly.

june 4/RUN

3.5 miles
marshall loop
65 degrees

Saturday, mid-morning. I was worried that the path would be very crowded, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe that was because I avoided some of the trail right above the river, through the tunnel of trees? Ever since I realized that I’m often hearing bluejays when I think I’m hearing crows, I hear bluejays all the time. Should I try to build some affection for them, or wallow in my annoyance? Mostly a good run. My left hip felt tight towards the end. Thought about trying to let the wonder win and being more open and generous to everything and everyone I encounter. It’s difficult. I suppose today’s run (and most of my runs) helped. So many other people out by the gorge, sharing in its awesomeness (can I find a better word? I wanted to say amazing-ness but, is that an actual word? I’m tired of “beauty” and it doesn’t quite capture what the gorge is, or what it does (to me). I’m using “wonder” too much. Fabulous? I’ll keep searching).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. heading east, over the lake street bridge, the water was blue and had lots of white, ghostly streaks near the surface. Not swirls but something else — what causes these cloudy currents? A few years ago, I wrote about these, referring to them as cataracts, or the clouds that come when eyes develop cataracts
  2. heading west, over the lake street bridge, the water was brown and the ghostly streaks less visible, even more ghostly
  3. lots of traffic everywhere — on the bridge, up the marshall hill. Running on the sidewalk, a safe distance from the road, I was able to pass some cars as they waited to merge or at the light
  4. running up the hill, I smelled some flowering bush. Not lilacs, but something else that I should remember but can’t right now. Too much!
  5. running at the top of the hill, I smelled waffles from Blacks coffee
  6. a kind pedestrian moved out of the way to let me pass on the sidewalk. When I thanked them, they replied, “Oh, no problem!” or something friendly like that
  7. some sort of sporting event happening at st. thomas. I could hear the cheers and an announcer saying something over the loudspeaker
  8. 3 bikers biked passed me on the bridge. I was pressed as close to the railing as I could. One of them whizzed by so closely that I almost felt their breeze. I whispered under my breath, “people suck.”
  9. music coming out of (I don’t think it was loud enough to be described as blasting) the speakers of a passing bike. No doppler effect
  10. emerging from the tunnel of trees, I heard (but didn’t see) the click click clack of the ski poles of a roller skier!

Listening/watching again Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s book launch for World of Wonders, I finally found the source of one of my new mantras: let the wonder win. In the Q & A at the end, AN says:

It’s there. A grief is there. Sadness and rage is always there. And then the wonder wins. I make sure the wonder wins. And definitely there are harder days than others, but that’s where the practice is. I try with all my might to make the wonder win by the end of the day.

Live with Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Ross Gay

Yes, that is where the practice is for me: struggling, finding ways, working dilligently on letting the wonder win out over everything else. Hanging onto the love and the joy and the generosity and the belief that there are good, delightful, beautiful, amazing things in the world that always make it worth it. Letting the wonder win is an expression/performance? of hope.

Found this poem by Jane Hirshfield on twitter this morning:

Termites: An Assay/ Jane Hirshfield

So far the house still is standing.
So far the hairline cracks wandering the plaster
still debate, in Socratic unhurry, what constitutes a good life.
An almost readable language.
Like the radio heard while traveling in a foreign country—
You know that something important has happened, but not what.

What is an assay? Searched online and found this: “the term, she says, is used as it is ‘in the mining industry, where a substance is disassembled and analysed to determine the strengths and quality of its various parts; only in this case the examination is done with the imaginative mind rather than the chemical one.’

june 3/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin hill and back
60 degrees

Ah, such lovely weather this morning! Ran north on the river road, through the tunnel of trees, under the lake street bridge, above the rowing club and the white sands beach, under the trestle, down the franklin hill, then everything again, in reverse. A nice run. I sped up too much in the second mile, and paid for it at the bottom of the hill. Decided to walk a bit of it. Then put in a playlist and ran back.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. cigarette smoke from somewhere — a car driving by? a person below, in the gorge?
  2. a screeching blue jay (or is it bluejay?)
  3. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  4. rowers on the river! I didn’t see them, but heard the coxswain calling out instructions through her bullhorn
  5. a roller skier slowly approaching from behind, not moving much faster than me. At first, the striking of the their poles was a loud sharp “clack!” in a steady rhythm. Clack! Clack! Clack! Clack! Then, heading up a hill, it shortend and softened: “clack clack clack” It took them almost half a mile to pass me
  6. saw at least 3 people with fishing poles — 2 walking on the trail, one by the edge of the river, ready to cast their line — what fish can you get in the river near franklin avenue?
  7. wind and a few creaks from the trees
  8. a large group of bikers spread out on the franklin hill, traveling up it at various speeds. Some were charging up it, others steadily plodding, one biker was weaving back and forth, another barely crawling. The bikers at the very back were walking their bikes
  9. all the benches were empty — were they lonely or relieved to have some solitude?
  10. ended in the tunnel of trees and marveled at the dappled/dappling light

Standing in the tunnel of trees was wonderful. Quiet, sheltered, calm. And, no bugs! Pretty soon that won’t be possible. I did a recording of the wind in the trees but listening back to it, I mostly hear static and car wheels whooshing from up above. I have decided that I’d like to give some more attention to the creaking trees and the sound of the wind moving through the branches. I have such happy memories of listening to the wind in the aspens up at my grandparent’s farm. It used to be my favorite sound.

The Sound of Trees/ ROBERT FROST

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.