sept 20/RUN

2 miles
neighborhood + river road
59 degrees

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

sept 18/RUN

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

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

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

mood: wonder

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

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

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

1. impossible magic

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

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

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

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

2. optical illusions

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

sept 7/RUN

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

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

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

is my vision really that bad?

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

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

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

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

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

The eye, close-up on macula

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

ring scotoma

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

my blind ring

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

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

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

sept 16/RUN

3 miles
the loop that kept getting larger*
63 degrees

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

Running Route, 16 Sept

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

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

Holmes Lake/ Jessica Poli 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my whole life trying to find it.

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

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

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

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

sept 14/RUN

3 miles
lake street bridge loop*
67 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

sept 13/RUN

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

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

Blind (r) ing

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

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

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

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

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

Not looking at what you want to see.

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

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

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

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

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

In the preface, Aldous writes:

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

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

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

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

Okay, I’ll stop here for now.

sept 11/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + river road + trails*
49 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

Sun Yu Pai, Optometrist

sept 10/RUN

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

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

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

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

LEAF HUTS AND SNOW HOUSES/Olav Hauge

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

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

sept 9/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
48 degrees

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

Sound, Sight, Smell

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

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

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

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

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

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

sept 8/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
47 degrees

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

things I remember

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

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

Found this awesome letter poem by Aracelis Girmay on twitter:

ODE TO THE LETTER B / Aracelis Girmay

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

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

B is like a set of lips.

BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB

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

B,

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

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

Beso
Besos
Because
Bodies Bloom

?

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

sept 5/RUN

3 miles
school loops*
57 degrees

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

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

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

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

View this post on Instagram

13 Turkeys. (Sequel to 12 Monkeys.)

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

sept 4/RUN

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

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

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

To the Light of September/ W. S. MERWIN

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

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

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

you 
who fly with them 

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

perfect in the dew

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

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

Version 1
Version 2

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

sept 3/RUN

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

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

Running Route, 3 Sept

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

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

a conspiracy of ravens

Wind in the Grass/ Mark Van Doren

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

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

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

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

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

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

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

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

sept 2/RUN

3 miles
another looping route avoiding people*
63 degrees

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

Running Route, 2 Sept

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

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

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

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

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

august 31/RUN

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

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

Running Route, 31 Aug

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

8 Things I Noticed on my Run this Morning

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

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

face blindness

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

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

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

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

august 30/RUN

3 miles
winding through the neighborhood*
62 degrees

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

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

Running Route, 30 Aug

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

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

august 29/RUN

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

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

Things I Remember

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

on metaphor and mood

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

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

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

When I feel [name emotion] __________________

It is the color _____________________ – like _____________________

I hear ___________________ – like _____________________________

I taste _______________ – like _________________________________

I smell _____________ – like __________________________________

I see ____________________ – like _____________________________

I feel ___________________ – like ______________________________

I want to ___________________ and ___________________________

But ___________________________.

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

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

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

RING

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

august 28/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees
90% humidity

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

things I remember

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

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

Idea: Mood Rings

august 27/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

state fair mannequins

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

august 25/RUN

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

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

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

Things I Remember

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

blind spot

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

Plague Notebook, Vol 2

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

Blind Spot, Right Eye

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

august 23/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout/ GARY SNYDER

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

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

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

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

Vertigo/ LES MURRAY

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

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

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet.

august 21/RUN

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

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

sound of the morning

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

fall is coming!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening/ Elizabeth Hoover

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

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

august 20/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + trail*
73 degrees
78% humidity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

loaded gun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

august 19/RUN

2.5 miles
43rd ave, south/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/winchell trail, south/river road trail, north/edmund, north
68 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Another good run, although I wish the road was still closed to cars. I’m managing to keep distance from other runners, but I’m encountering them more on the trail. I suppose it’s good for me to loosen up a little on my extreme avoidance of others? Ran north on 43rd, then right on 32nd. Passed the half-finished house on the corner of 32nd and 46th. Abandoned for almost a year now, I think. Such a big house; another one of the ugly beasts taking over the neighborhood. Out of scale and over-priced. I wonder how long it will be before someone finishes it.

Ran past the aspen eyes and the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, now filled with cars. In-person school begins there in less than 2 weeks. Ran through the tunnel of trees–all clear! Forgot to check if there were stones stacked on the ancient boulder at the top of the hill. Also forgot to greet the Welcoming Oaks. Didn’t hear any water dripping off of the limestone ledge in the ravine. Remembered to look at the river. What a river! Was able to admire it on the river road path up above, then a little closer, down below on the Winchell trail. A glitter of glints. Gorgeous.

Today I decided to take my chances and run on the lower trail for a short, 1/2 mile stretch, between 38th and Folwell. Success! Didn’t encounter another runner, walker, stroller, or dog. Hooray! I love this trail and how it’s perched halfway down the hill (or bluff? or gorge?), farther from the road, closer to the river.

Noise of the Day: the steady, unrelenting drop drop drop of acorns from the oak trees. So many acorns! Thumping and thudding to the ground. How many of these acorns fell and how many of them were thrown by squirrels? I thought I remembered there being a lot of acorns dropping early last year, but when I searched through my log I didn’t find any mention of acorns until September. When I googled it, I found an MPR article about acorns dropping as early as June because tiny wasps were laying their eggs in them. The most likely cause of early acorns is that the tree is stressed–too hot or too cold, too much rain, not enough. These stressed, “aborted” acorns are green. Checking with Scott, the acorns falling around us this August are brown, which means they’re full grown.

Right after finishing my run, I recited “Writing a Poem.” I thought I did a great job reciting it–aside from the pauses when I felt self-conscious as I encountered other walkers–but listening back to the recording, I messed up several words. I think it’s such a useful practice to record myself reciting these poems and checking the lines. If I didn’t check I might never notice I’m getting it wrong. I’m fascinated by how I am sure I am thinking/saying one thing, when I’m actually saying something else.

Writing a poem, August 19

One line I’m still trying to figure out: “history’s dental chair”?

I like the rhyme: “frantic and still” with “until only spit oozes” and “spills over” and “fills cavities”.

august 18/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Low 60s, not too much wind, sunny. Ran on the trail and spent a lot of time focused on avoiding other people. I remember looking down at the river near the steps at 38th st, but I don’t remember anything about it. With all the sun, it must have been sparkling. Didn’t hear any rowers on the river but I bet there were some somewhere. Maybe closer to the bridge? No turkeys in turkey hollow again today. No geese or ducks or woodpeckers. At some point, I heard a crow.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while running: the plink–or was it plunk?–of small acorns bouncing on the road.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while walking: the loud, uncovered sneeze of a woman inside a house somewhere on my block.

Recited the first part of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s “Writing a Poem” as I ran. Thought about trying to write a poem while unable to block out an annoying noise as Bernadette Mayer’s exercise in “Please Add to this List”: Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial. There weren’t any annoying noises that I remember today. No leaf blowers or roaring planes or honking cars or zooming motorcycles or walkers whose voices cut through everything or slowly approaching runners or dog collars clanging or kids with high-pitched whistles that blow them over and over and over again.

Right after finishing my run, I took out my phone and recorded myself reciting it. Too many errors–heavy instead of giant machine, mixing up helpless and hopeless. Need more practice memorizing. Probably the most interesting thing about this recording is the cicada’s buzzing in the background. So loud! I don’t remember hearing them.

Writing a Poem, August 18

Let the Wonder Always Win

Last night, I attended a virtual book launch for Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “World of Wonders.” I think she’s my favorite poet. Ross Gay (who is also amazing) was interviewing her. He asked about how she balances a love of wonder with sadness, grief, and rage. She said something about how she’s not happy or joyful all the time; she feels a lot of sadness and rage, but she always lets the wonder win. I love that line. It might be my new mantra.

Earlier in the talk, she also discussed how, as young kids, we are always exclaiming, excitedly calling out, Look! Look at the flower! or look at that cloud, shaped like a horse! Later on in life, we forget or are too self-conscious of that enthusiasm for wondering. We need to reclaim our love of exclaiming. Yes!

This makes me think of this poem (one of my favorites) by Maggie Smith:

Poem Beginning with a Retweet/ Maggie Smith

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don’t say
oh my god look at that moon. If you don’t smell
smoke and don’t search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone.

august 17/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees

Ran south on the river road trail, right above the river. I glanced at it a few times but wasn’t able to see anything specific–I know I was looking at the river, framed by trees, but I can’t say what color it was or whether or not it was shimmering. No turkeys in turkey hollow today.

5 Sounds I Heard As I Ran

  1. The repeated thud, sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, of acorns hitting the pavement on Edmund.
  2. The far off buzzing of a leaf blower or lawn mower or some type of machine.
  3. The electric buzz of cicadas, growing louder then softer then louder again.
  4. The roaring of a chainsaw, then the crack of a big branch hitting the ground.
  5. A biker approaching from behind, blasting opera music from the speaker of their bike.

A noisy morning with lots of buzzing. In the above list, I wanted to give straight description without judgment. Here’s a list with judgment:

Ranking of Sounds Heard on Run, from Least to Most Annoying

  • Gently falling acorns onto the boulevard
  • A cicada serenade
  • Roaring chainsaws and cracking branches
  • Relentlessly droning leaf blowers, buzzing in my brain
  • Over-wrought opera singers ruining my calm, quiet mood

Speaking of buzzing, here is the first part of the new listen poem I started memorizing today:

Writing a Poem/ Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
the just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. It it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write.

Noises While Running that I Feel Helpless to Avoid

  • leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws
  • howling wind
  • a walker talking loudly into their phone
  • a runner talking loudly to another runner
  • a biker talking loudly to another biker
  • a speeding motorcycle
  • the shuffling footsteps of a runner, approaching too slowly
  • a honking horn

Some days I want to listen more, other days I wish I could block out all of the noise.

Here’s a sound I’d like to identify. I heard this bird singing (or calling out) in my backyard yesterday afternoon. What is it?

What bird makes this sound?

august 16/RUN

1.8 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd, east/around Cooper school/32nd, east/edmund, north/36th st, west
70 degrees

A quick run through the neighborhood this morning. Decided to run around Cooper school once as part of the route to see how much distance it would add. Noticed how much shorter the east/west blocks seem compared to the north/south ones.

so loud!

Yesterday, running and reciting “Babel” I mentioned how quiet it was. Not today! So loud. Buzzing cicadas, humming crickets. Right before I started my run, I heard, in quick succession, a kid yelling, a man hocking a loogies, a women violently sneezing. Yuck! Glad they were all inside somewhere and that I was running away from them.

After I finished, went out on a walk with Scott and Delia the dog. Unintentionally, we walked the exact route I ran, minus the loop around Cooper. Right next to the Aspen eyes, on the edge of the Minnehaha Academy parking lot, we witnessed about half a dozen monarch butterflies fluttering by. Scott got some video:

august 15/RUN

3.3 miles
winding down to the river, pt 2*
62 degrees

*A slight variation on yesterday’s route: 43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/45th ave, south/36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road, north/bottom of hill/river road, south

What a nice morning for a run! Cooler and calm. Sunny. Relaxed. Ran through the neighborhood and ended by running up and down the hill near the Welcoming Oaks twice. Saw some bikers, runners, and walkers. Heard some music blasting from a bike’s speaker but couldn’t identify the song–the biker was going too fast and/or the doppler effect was distorting the music too much. Also heard the quiet, gentle hum of crickets. So many acorns littering the sidewalk! No spazzy squirrels in sight. Are they too busy up in the trees? No roller skiers or rowers. No Daily Walker or tall, old guy in short running shorts.

Recited “Babel” several times as I ran. Struggled with the word blustered in the line, “the trees/blustered to howls.” Throught about the order of this line: is it, “the tesla bees/whine loudly to the shocked air” or “the tesla bees/loudly whine to the shocked air”? Is the second not grammatically correct, or is it just preference? The first seems better, so why am I sometimes drawn to reciting the second? It felt strange to be reciting this poem, especially the first line, “My God, it’s loud down here,” when it isn’t loud at all this morning. It’s calm, peaceful, with only a quiet hum.

Thought about reciting the poem as I ran up the hill for the second time, but I wimped out. I should really try doing this sometime soon. Instead, I recited it a few seconds after I stopped running, as I walked home, still out of breath. Just like I had struggled with the word blustered as I ran, I couldn’t remember it now. I like how I captured this moment of forgetting and then remembering: blustered!–you can almost hear the exclamation point in my voice. I thought I knew this poem better than yesterday, but I still struggled with some wrong words and the flow seemed off. It feels like I can’t quite connect with this poem or the poet’s writing style. Will I ever? From where does this lack of connection come?

Babel, August 15

august 14/RUN

2.4 miles
winding down towards the river*
77 degrees
humidity: 88%
dew point: 70

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/47th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south (including tunnel of trees)/36th st, west

Inspired by Scott and his winding routes through the neighborhood, I decided to try one of own. It’s a nice change of pace to run on different streets after running the same way for so long. I’m surprised this route isn’t a bit longer.

When I reached the river, I noticed Dave the Daily Walker up ahead! I haven’t seen him for months–since April or May, I think. So glad he’s doing okay. I’ve wondered about him.

Ran through the tunnel of trees. Dark and thick and wonderful. Encountered one runner but we both moved over as far as we could–almost 6 feet apart, I think.

I’m pretty sure I glanced at the river quickly. I can’t remember if I heard the rowers today, or was it yesterday? Yesterday.

I recited “Babel” several times as I ran. I know it better today than yesterday. The most awkward lines:

the electrical bugs so loud
the air is stunned, windy the trees’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings
of magpies?

Windy the trees’ applause? That sounds strange to me. I tried to find some audio of Johnson reading the poem but I couldn’t. I don’t feel like I can properly deliver that line yet because the windy the tree part doesn’t quite make sense. Favorite bits? “the trees blustered to howls,” the “huckster cackle,” and “the air stupid with the shrieks of devils,–of angels,–“

I recorded myself reciting it when I returned home. I’m finding this poem to be awkward to read. Some of the lines, like the awkward one about windy the leaves’ applause, are very difficult to keep flowing. I struggle to keep the tone of a question throughout the long sentence. I’d like to try recording myself reciting this while I run and/or walk? Would it be flow better or worse?

Babel, August 14