march 31/RUN

5.5 miles
marshall loop, variation
38 degrees

Back to the running-with-Scott-on-the-weekend tradition. Today a variation of the marshall loop that we probably won’t try again. Over the lake street bridge, up the marshall hill, right at cleveland past St. Thomas and Summit, right on St. Clair, then down to the east river road. St. Clair was mostly a long downhill which sounds nice but was a little too steep.

For the first mile, we talked about the differences between Big Bang (which we don’t like) and Community (which we do). My theory: many of the differences are about the shows relationship to what it means to be normal.

The river looked so cool today — brown, mostly calm but with slight ripples. A bright circle of light and wavy texture — the sun and clouds reflected on the water.

The river was calm enough to see the bridge’s upside down smile reflected on its surface.

Heard the St. Thomas bells, some birds, a squeaking squirrel. The trails weren’t crowded because today is Easter.

added a few hours later: before and after the run (also after dropping FWA back off at college), I worked on my latest birding poem. Will I try to get these published? Maybe, but I’m more interested in them as the opportunity to work on how to turn my daily observations, mostly using peripheral vision and/or senses other than sight, of birds into poems. Something was missing in my poem from yesterday, so I thought about it some more this morning. Yesterday, I kept thinking about how the birds’ singing didn’t hesitate at all as the plane flew above them. This morning I suddenly thought: what if their song was the response to plane — a warning song? I looked up birds and their reactions to planes and found this article, with a line that conjured an image for me.

the line:

Using modern electronic instruments, it is possible to measure the heart rate of brooding birds. Measurements show that these birds often react to the appearance of airplanes with a marked increase in heart rate, in other words they become nervous, even if no outward reaction is visible.

the image: tiny heart beats beating out a rhythm underneath the trill and buzz tune.

A plane’s buzz
mixed with

frantic trills
in trees.

Underneath
this tune

tiny hearts
beat in

a rapid
rhythm

ancient and 
modern. 

march 30/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
36 degrees

Hello spring! Much of the snow has melted and the sun was out. There were rowers on the river — not seen, but heard. Passed so many happy runners — Hi! Good Morning! Heard lots of birds. Felt strong and happy and free, able to forgot about the bad mood I woke up with. No calf pain today, hooray!

Listened to the birds running north, my winter playlist running south.

10 Things

  1. the river, sparking and burning a bright white
  2. only a few clumps of snow on the trail
  3. a squirrel that I first thought was a dark tuft of grass — or maybe a ripped up bit of weed blocker, which makes no sense because this was above the gorge, not near someone’s lawn
  4. the coxswain’s voice, calling out instructions
  5. a group of women running, talking about tempos and repeats
  6. the floodplain forest — open, bare, a white floor
  7. voices on the old stone steps
  8. bright blue sky
  9. stopped at the trestle — someone moving just below
  10. at the very beginning, birds calling out — can’t remember how they sounded, just that I felt like they were telling me to have a good run

Walking back, heard more birds. Stopped to record them just as a plane roared above — a duet? Watched the silvery white plane, its nose up, cutting through the blue sky. Listened to the recording. Not a duet, more like layers of sound, disconnected, no noticing of each other. The birds kept on singing their song, the plane buzzing its buzz.

noisy trills
in trees

the buzzing
of a

plane — neither
seem to

notice the
other

I see a
silver

nose rising
but no

small throats . . . ?

Not quite finished with this little birding poem. I’ll try to come back to it later today.

Raining, Outlined/ Margarita Pintado Burgos

Translated from the Spanish by Alejandra Quintana Arocho

The forest. To say the forest. To suggest some music.
To carve the breeze.
To see a landscape. See it raining. Without rain but with raining.
With that raining that I always conjure when slowly, softly,
filled to the brim with tiny traces of an air that’s weightless,
I say to myself I’ll see it rain. I say it again, beside the window,
that it’s going to rain. That I’m going to see it rain.

To put forth the idea of rain before. The downpour plants
all its doubts.

To pour oneself on the raining. Allow oneself to rain.

To see raining. To say I see it’s raining.
Until the raining.
Until the rain.
Until then.
Until.

I love this poem and idea of rain/to rain versus raining.

I’m thinking about the connection between a rich green or heavy gray and the word, raining, appearing in my head — maybe, it’s about to be raining? I’m also thinking about my interest in the difference between the sun setting (raining) and a sunset (rain).

To see a landscape. See it raining. Without rain but with raining.
This line makes me think of looking off in the distance and seeing it raining, or have Scott tell me its raining — and not having rain where we are. Raining without rain.

march 28/RUN

4.15 miles
minnehaha falls and back
28 degrees

Back outside! There were a few patches of ice and some of the walking trails were covered in snow, but the rest was clear and dry. So bright, not just the sun but the sun reflecting off of the snow. My calf continues to make noise — mostly gentle whispers or soft, short groans. Today I didn’t wear the calf sleeves during my run. Maybe I should next time.

Did my usual thing: ran south listening to the world, north to music — Winter 2024

Heard lots of chirping and tweeting birds. Sharp squirrel claws on rough bark. A noise that I thought was a bird or a drill but decided was a dog that wouldn’t shut up — bark bark bark bark bark bark

The favorite shadow I (thought I) saw: approaching a tree, I suddenly saw a shadow moving up the trunk, then realized it was actually a squirrel climbing up the tree.

birding:

Right after my lower calf near the ankle — or was it a tendon? — tightened a little and I was worried, I saw the shadow of a small bird flying over the snow, almost like it was saying, don’t worry; notice me instead.

tweeting birds. I heard: TWEET tweet tweet tweet tweet — Walking back, this tweeting mixed with water dripping from a gutter, a squirrel’s nails scratching tree bark, a kid across the street squealing with delight.

One mixed with
many

the drips and
squeals and

scratching feet
and the

Tweet tweet tweet
tweet tweet

That’s the version I spoke into my phone. I’ll work on it some more.

before the run

one

Red Shoulder Hawk by Ciona Rouse was the poem of the day on poets.org. Instead of just posting the poem, as I usually do, I

We met in the middle of the street only to discuss 
the Buteo lineatus, but we simply said hawk 
because we knew nothing of Latin. We knew nothing 
of red in the shoulder, of true hawks versus buzzards, 
or what time they started their mornings, 
what type of snake they stooped low 
and swift to eat. We knew nothing.

I like how we meet in the middle sounds. The discussion of not knowing the latin name of the bird reminds me of J Drew Lanham and his interview with Krista Tippet — you don’t have to know the name, just be with the bird. It also makes me think of Robin Wall Kimmerer and how she navigates her scientific and indigenous ways of knowing, how she values the Latin names but also the names beings call themselves. And it makes me think of May Swenson and section 7 of her wonderful poem, “October,” which is part of my My 100 list of memorized poems: His shoulder patch/which should be red looks gray. I like how this first sentence unspools.

Or, I should say, at least I knew nothing, 
and he said nothing of what he knew that day 
except one thing he said he thought, but now I say 
he knew: I’m going to die soon, my neighbor said to me 
and assured he had no diagnosis, just a thought. He said it 
just two weeks before he died outdoors just 
twenty steps away from where we stood that day— 
he and I between the porch I returned to and twisted 
the key to my door to cross the threshold into my familiar 
like always I do and the garage he returned to 
and twisted some wrench probably on a knob of the 
El Camino like always he did every day when usually 
I’d wave briefly en route from carport to door 
sometimes saying “how’s it going,” expecting 
only the “fine” I had time to digest.
 

I knew nothing, and he said nothing of what he knew. Is this a chiasmus, where the order of the words is reversed for dramatic effect (I wrote about this device on 13 nov 2023)? Again, the unspooling of the story is wonderful: how the neighbor’s death is revealed, the details that help us to imagine the scene. There is punctuation in these lines, but there are also a lot of lines that are written in a way that make sense without punctuation. I’m reminded of June Jordan’s rules for critiquing other people’s poems:

Punctuation (Punctuation is not word choice. Poems fly or falter according to the words composing them. Therefore, omit punctuation and concentrate on every single word. E.g., if you think you need a question mark then you need to rewrite so that your syntax makes clear the interrogative nature of your thoughts. And as for commas and dashes and dots? Leave them out!)

June Jordan

I don’t know if I completely agree with her, and I know Emily Dickinson wouldn’t, but I do like the idea of trying to focus on each word and trying to have them work without punctuation.

I think I like, to cross the threshold into my familiar like always I do. Do I? I like the use of threshold into my familiar instead of home, but is it too wordy, and awkward with the like always I do?

Except today 
when I stepped out of my car, he waved me over to see 
what I now know to call the Buteo. When first I read its 
Latin name, I pronounced it boo-TAY-oh 
before learning it’s more like saying beauty (oh!).
 
I can’t believe I booed when it’s always carrying awe.

Booed instead of awed? Love it.

Like on this day, the buzzard—red-shouldered and 
usually nesting in the white pine—cast a shadow 
upon my lawn just as I parked, and stared back at us— 
my mesmerized neighbor and me—perched, probably hunting, 
in the leaning eastern hemlock in my yard. Though 
back then I think I only called it a tree because I knew nothing 
about distinguishing evergreens because I don’t think I ever asked 
or wondered or searched yet. I knew nothing about how they thrive 
in the understory. Their cones, tiny. And when they think 
they’re dying, they make more cones than ever before. 

A bird casting a shadow — a favorite of mine. The way time works in this poem is interesting. I didn’t know yet. How far in the future is the narrator telling their story? How long after the neighbor’s death did they begin learning trees? note: I keep wanting to refer to the narrator as he — why? I can’t distinguish evergreens and I’m constantly calling pine trees fir trees and all evergreens fir. Will I ever learn? Something in my brain resists this sort of specificity, and not just because of my bad vision. A line from Diane Seuss in “I look up from my book and look out at the world through reading glasses: All trees are just trees/ death to modifiers

How did he 
know? Who did he ask and what did he search to find 
the date that he might die, and how did he know 
to say soon to me and only me and then, right there 
in that garage with his wrench and the some other parts 
unknown for the El Camino and the radio loud as always 
it was, stoop down, his pledge hand anxious against his chest,
and never rise again?
 

I’m always fascinated by how people know certain things, like, how did Truman in The Truman Show know that something wasn’t right? What enabled him to trust that knowing and not discount it? Or, another perspective: how do our wandering brains lead us to knowing? I like tracing the strange circuits I take to arrive at ideas.

There are many details in this poem, but also many details left out. What kind of loud music is coming out of the radio?

And now the hemlock, which also goes 
by 
Tsuga canadensis, which is part Latin, part Japanese, 
still leans, still looks like it might fall any day now, weighed 
down by its ever-increasing tiny fists. And the 
Buteo returns 
each winter to reclaim the white pine before spring.

The passing of time, vague: now, still, returns each winter

Most hawks die by accident—collision, predation, disease. 
But when it survives long enough to know it’s dying, it may 
find a familiar tree and let its breath weaken in a dark cranny.

to know it’s dying — Back to Swenson’s “October”: this old redwing has decided to/ stay, this year, not join the/ strenuous migration. Better here,/ in the familiar, to fade.

And my neighbor’s wife and I now meet in the middle, 
sometimes even discussing birds but never discussing 
that day. And I brought her roses on that first anniversary 
without him because we sometimes discuss a little more 
than birds. And the 
Buteo often soar in twos, sometimes solo. 
So high I cannot see their shoulders, but I know their voices 
now and can name them even when I don’t see them. No matter 
how high they fly, they see me, though I don’t concern them. 
They watch a cottonmouth, slender and sliding 
silent in tall grass.
 

Birding by ear, the indifference of nature. Another line, this one from Frederic Gros: You are nothing to the trees. To me, this is a good thing.

And the cardinals don’t sing. 
They don’t go mute, either. They tink. 
Close to their nests and in their favorite trees, they know 
when the hawk looms. And their voices turn 
metallic: tink, tink, tink.

A metallic tink as warning call? I’ll have to listen for that. I like how the poem ends with the robins and the narrator-as-transformed-through-curiosity. The narrator has been changed by their neighbor’s death, they have learned to notice and to listen. As I write this, I realize that these last few lines are all about listening and not looking. Very cool!

two

I keep returning to the ekphrastic poem, or ideas close-by/near-enough to the ekphrastic. Thinking about made things and things being made and makers and the world somewhere between wild (as “untouched”?) and civilized (culture/made). Landscapes as not just there, but the living beings/systems, crafted through various “hands” — three in particular: the brain and its way of filtering and guessing and shaping visual data into something I can see; the Minneapolis Parks Department (and maybe other actors in and of the city, too: Army Corps, with its locks and dam and timber and flour industries) and how they’ve managed the land and created the paths I run on, the views I admire — and also created illusions of the “wild”; and water — the river, seeps, springs, drips down to limestone ledge, all carving out and slicing through rock, making: a gorge, rubbled asphalt, cracks, rust, waterfalls.

With all of this I wonder, What is Art? Who is/can be an artist? What is the difference between art and the everyday? There are too many things I could read about how other artists/poets have approached this — that would be the work of past Academic-Sara. And maybe I don’t want to answer these questions, just pose them through my juxtapositions? Or, maybe I should try to stop asking these questions, and just start writing!

march 20/RUN

4 miles
trestle+ turn around
22 degrees
wind: 21 mph gusts

Straight into the wind running north. Not fun, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. Felt stronger, faster for parts of it. Running up the hill just south of the lake street bridge my calf tightened up a little. I stopped, walked, then started again, more cautious this time. Thought about Thomas Gardner and Poverty Creek Journal and his brief descriptions of sore calves after a tough session of hill repeats. After lots of anxiety for weeks, calf pain is now just a normal/regular part of my running. I’m glad — not for the off and on pain, but for the everydayness of it.

Some shadows — soft, crooked, in motion: birds, gnarled tree branches, broken fence rails. Other shadows — dark, on trees, looking like someone standing there. Don’t remember seeing the river but I do remember the floodplain forest — open, bare, beautiful. No chain across the top of the old stone steps. Wondered what will happen in a few days; big snow predicted, well, possible.

Listened to birds and cars and grit on the trail running north, my winter playlist running south.

before the run

Encountered these lines on twitter this morning, from Charles Wright:

When what you write about is what you see, what do you write about when it’s dark?

Charles Wright

I like thinking/reading/writing about the dark. Imagining it otherwise, not as the absence of light, where light = life and happiness and safety, but as where more things are possible, outside the scrutiny of those watching and judging and classifying. The dark, soft. The dark, no need for sharp vision or eye contact. The Dark, where Emily Dickinson’s little men hurry home to their house unperceived and robins in a trundle bed try and fail to hide their wings under their nightgowns. Where Carl Phillip’s willow wants more for compassion than for company. The dark: the moon, the stars, louder silence. The dark, where reds and greens and blues and yellows are no longer necessary —

A strange thing I’ve realized about my color vision. I can still see colors — the light green placemat my computer sits on, the purplish-reddish-blueish of my computer desktop, my bright blue hydroflask. And I can still see when things are in color. But, when something lacks color, like a movie in black and white or the middle of the night in my bedroom, I can’t tell that there isn’t any color. It looks and feels the same.

4 moments when I noticed this:

one and two: from a log entry on 13 nov 2022

1 Yesterday afternoon, in the chapel at Gustavus, which was not dim but not bright either, I started to notice that looking one direction, toward the far window on the other side, the only color I could see was an occasional red square embedded in the walls (I double-checked with Scott; there were also a bunch of blue squares too). The hymnals 15-20 feet away, which I know are red, looked dark but colorless. Staring out at the crowd of people, everyone looked like they were dressed in dark or light — not quite black or white, just dark clothes or light clothes. No variation, no purples or blues or oranges or anything but dark and light. It was strange, partly because it didn’t feel strange. It wasn’t like I thought, where is all the color?

2 It felt more like when I wake up in the dark and, after my eyes adjust, I see the room and it looks like the room, but just darker, dimmer and without color. And, usually I don’t think there’s no color — sometimes I might even think I see color because I know my robe is purple or the pillow is yellow, or I don’t see yellow, but I recognize the pillow on the couch as that yellow pillow because I already know it’s yellow.

three: from a log entry on 12 jan 2024

The other day, Scott, FWA, and I were discussing the scenes in Better Call Saul that are set in the present day and are in black and white. Scott and FWA both agreed that those were harder to watch — they had to pay more careful attention — because they lacked color, which is harder because visual stories often rely heavily on color to communicate ideas/details. I said I didn’t realize that they were in black and white; they didn’t look any different to me than the other scenes, which are in vivid color (at least that’s what they tell me). I realized something: it’s not that I don’t see color, it just doesn’t communicate anything to me, or if it communicates it’s so quiet that I don’t notice what it’s saying.

four: this week

A few days ago, we decided to finally watch Maestro. Wow! We haven’t finished it yet, but Scott and I are really enjoying it. The first scene is in color, which is intended to represent the present, at least the present as it exists in the movie. The second scene is in black and white and represents Bernstein just before his big break. After watching it for a minute or two Scott said, you see that this in black and white, right? And I said, oh, is it? I didn’t notice. I was focused on the contrast — the dark, closed-curtain window and the outline of brightness around it.

Color exists, it just doesn’t speak to me in the same ways (as it used to, or as it does to other people). It’s not a foreign language, it is just turned down, whispering. Yes, it does make it harder to understand visual stories that rely on color to tell part of the story — a favorite: present times = color; the past = black and white — but it doesn’t bother me that much. Instead, I find it fascinating, the opportunity to notice the constructs of color and to see the world (and color) differently.

Okay, that was a long ramble about color and black and white, but I think I’d like to write another color poem about it.

Now back to the quote from Charles Wright on twitter. As is often the case, there was no mention of where it came from, other than it was from Charles Wright. I always find this frustrating. But, I found it easily enough: Littlefoot, 32 in The New Yorker, 2007. Such a wonderful poem!

Back yard, my old station, the dusk invisible in the trees,
But there in its stylish tint,
Everything etched and precise before the acid bath
—Hemlocks and hedgerows—
Of just about half an hour from now,
Night in its soak and dissolve.
Pipistrello, and gun of motorcycles downhill,
A flirt and a gritty punctuation to the day’s demise
And one-starred exhalation,

V of geese going south,
My mind in their backwash, going north.

my old station: love this way of describing a usual spot to sit
the stylish tint: oh, the softness of near-night!
everything etched and precise: I love walking at night in the winter and noticing the contrast between the sky and the bare branches, which I can see more clearly than at any other time. During the day, those branches are a fuzzy blur, but at night they are etched!
Hemlocks and Hedgerows: sounds like a musical act or a comedy duo Scott adds: proto Prog rock/psychedelic band, Margaret’s Electric Forest or Garden, first album: Hemlocks & Hedgerows
a pipistrello is Italian for bat, or “small mouse-like animal that flies”
sounds of day’s demise: a flirt of a bat, the gritting punctuation of a motorcycle’s gun downhill
one-starred exhalation: me, almost every night — o, look at the stars!
I love hearing, then seeing, a V of geese in the evening. The choice of backwash instead of wake is interesting — and flying south/mind going north is a wonderful way to suggest being out of sync

Wow, that is one packed first stanza! I’ll skip the next one to get to the quoted lines:

When what you write about is what you see,
what do you write about when it’s dark?
Paradise, Pound said, was real to Dante because he saw it.
Nothing invented.
One loves a story like that, whether it’s true or not.
Whenever I open my eyes at night, outside,
flames edge at the edge
Of everything, like the sides of a nineteenth-century negative.
If time is a black dog, and it is,
Why do I always see its breath,
its orange, rectangular breath
In the dark?
It’s what I see, you might say, it’s got to be what my eyes see.

I’ll have to think about these lines some more. Right now I wonder, when your peripheral vision is fraying, do you see strange things, like flames, at the edges? What do edges look like to me in the dark? I’ll try to remember to notice when I wake up in the middle of the night tonight, like every night. In the light, they are fuzzy and dance a soft shimmy.

It’s real because we see it? Different ways to respond to this. I’m thinking about how so much of what our eyes see is illusion or guessing based on habits and repeated practice and context and other brain tricks. Even so, most people believe that what they are seeing is real. If they believe, and act as if what they are seeing is real, why can’t I believe and act as if what I’m seeing is real too? All those soft, generous things; those strange headless and legless torsos walking towards me; that river burning with a white heat that sets the trees on fire?

Okay, it’s almost 11 am. I need to go out for my run before I finish this!

during the run

Did I think about this poem at all while I was running? I can’t remember.

after the run

During the run, I noticed bird shadows crossing my feet, both of us flying, the birds in the air, be just above the trail. I decided to add it into a fun poem I’m writing called “Birding.” It’s a series of small verses in my 3/2 form in which I describe how I see birds with my cone-dead eyes.

Not sure if this works:

vi.

a shadow
travels

over feet
running

downhill — flight
4 ways:

the moving
shadow

the descending
runner

a belief
shadows

signal some

thing and

the small form
gliding

closer to

the sun.

shadows

1

And just like that, my plan to return to Wright’s poem will have to wait. Instead, I’m thinking about shadows, which is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I realized, earlier this month, that shadows see more real to me (as in, having more substance, easier to see as solid) than the object from which they’re cast — is that the most awkward way to say that? Here’s what I wrote on march 9, 2024:

As I was admiring the fence railing shadows I thought about how clear and real they seemed to me. Much more there than the actual fence railing, which was staticky and vague.

log / 9 march 2024
2

So, in the draft of my poem, I wrote: a belief/shadows/signal some/thing. In a different version, I wrote: a belief/shadows/have substance. Do I like that better? I can’t decide. I think it was inspired by a passage I read in Becoming Animal (which was a recommendation from my super smart niece):

One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. If I am strolling along a street on a cloudless afternoon and I notice a shapeshifting patch of darkness accompanying me as I walk, splayed out on the road perpendicular to my upright self, its appendages stretching and shrinking with the swinging of my limbs, I instantly identify this horizontal swath as my shadow. As thought a shadow was merely this flatness, this kinetic pancake, this creature of two dimensions whom one might peel of the street and drape over the nearest telephone wire.

Becoming Animal / David Abram

I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but I was able to access it through the reading sample on amazon — so I’ll return to finish later.

3

The line about draping the shadow over a telephone wire enabled me to remember a delight poem I read by Paige Lewis a few years ago:

When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows/ Paige Lewis

what I really mean. He paints my name

across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners
to my ankles. Then he paints another

for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game,
saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your

shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels
of your shopping cart.
It’s all very polite.

Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take
them to the Laundromat—the one with

the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine—
and watch our shadows warm

against each other. We bring the shadow game home
and (this is my favorite part) when we

stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled
my husband grips his own wrist,

certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.


march 19/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
43 degrees
wind: 31 mph gusts

So windy today! My legs felt heavy. I wonder if part of the problem is that I’m running so late in the morning? I didn’t start until almost 11:30. Still glad I went for a run, but I wish it would have felt a little easier and I would have worn less layers — maybe skipped the buff?

Listened to kids on the playground, birds, random voices, falling water for the first half of the run. Put in headphones and listened to Taylor Swift for the second half.

before the run

Reading through an entry from March 19, 2017 about the new poetry class I was taking, I found this:

In the editor’s note it’s mentioned that Mayer writes hypnogogic poems. I looked up the word and found the definition (a state between waking and sleeping, when drowsy) and an interview with Mayer about how, after suffering a stroke, she experimented with using a tape recorder to record her thoughts in this drowsy/dreamy state. So cool. Currently, I’m writing about running and I’d like to experiment with ways to express the dreamlike state I sometimes enter during long runs.

Reading this bit, I got an idea, which I typed up in my “Notes for Haunts, fall 2023” pages document:

the dream like state of running, when the mind is shut down
haunting = possessing or being possessed — what if haunting was not just being taken over by someone/thing else (possessed) or taking over someone/thing else (possessing) but becoming untethered or loosely tetered from your body — floating on the path in-between in that strange empty space between banks between sky and ground between worlds between You and I? this could be another form of haunting — what if I started writing small-ish poems that offered different definitions of haunt? 

A few definitions of haunt I’m thinking about right now: feeling disembodied, having an out-of-body experience and being obsessed/preoccupied/consumed by a thought or idea — having a bee in your bonnet.

bee in your bonnet

Here’s an article about the origins of the phrase. According to the article, the phrase is still being used in popular culture. I use it, usually when I notice Scott hell-bent on some task — and usually it seems like a task, or idea, that is fool-hardy but that he needs to work through and figure out for himself.

Sometimes instead of saying, bee in your bonnet, I say that someone (or me) is hellbent. Of course, writing that immediately makes me think of Jackie from the 1979 Death on the Nile:

Jacqueline De Bellefort : One must follow one’s star wherever it leads. 
Hercule Poirot : Even to disaster?
Jacqueline De Bellefort : Even to Hell itself.

When I envision a bee in my bonnet, I see something that is relentless, impossible to ignore, urgently needing to be dealt with. That’s not quite how I imagine my preoccupation with haunts and ghosts and writing about the gorge. Still, I like the idea of bees in bonnets, and bees in general, so maybe I’ll spend more time with them this morning?

Reading through several ED “bee” poems, I suddenly had a thought: could the bee in your bonnet be your soul, trying to escape the confines of the body?

This thought was inspired by a poem I wrote about in an On This Day post: Body and Soul/ Sharon Bryan. I didn’t mention it in the post, but the description of the soul in the poem, as leaving the body at night to roam around, reminded me of an ED poem I read a few weeks ago, when I was thinking about the difference between the brain and the mind:

If ever the lid gets off my head/ Emily Dickinson

If ever the lid gets off my head
And lets the brain away
The fellow will go where he belonged —
Without a hint from me,

And the world — if the world be looking on —
Will see how far from home
It is possible for sense to live
The soul there — all the time.

So much to think about on my run (I’m writing this before I headed out). Will I see any bees about by the gorge? Very unlikely, I think.

during the run

Thought about a bee in my bonnet as an obsession that I wanted to release, so I imagined opening the top of my head like the door of a cage and letting the bee fly free. What would/could happen if I did this? Would I find some new ways to think about my experiences?

Also, randomly remembered something about bees in a horror movie, then remembered the movie, Candyman. Looked up, “gothic horror bees” and found this 1978 movie, The Bees.

Not too far into the run I think I forgot about the bee. I was too distracted by my heavy legs and wondering if my calf would do something strange, and the wind. No escape from my body today.

after my run

Now, ED’s poem about the lid of her head coming off makes me think of a favorite Homer Simpson bit:

Homer reluctantly listens to Ned Flanders drone on about the differences between juice and cider. A voice says, You can stay, but I’m leaving, and Homer’s brain exits his head and floats away as we hear a slide whistle. A few seconds later his body collapses on the floor and we hear a thud.

I love the image of the brain floating away. And, instead of a daydream where Homer’s brain gets to wander while his zoned-out body stays and pretends to listen, his body collapses, unable to continue without the brain. This idea brings me back to the Sharon Bryan poem I mentioned earlier:

then they [body and soul] quarrel over which one of them 
does the dreaming, but the truth is, 

they can’t live without each other and 
they both know it, anima, animosity, 

the diaphragm pumps like a bellows 
and the soul pulls out all the stops— 

sings at the top of its lungs, laughs 
at its little jokes . . .

. . . the soul 
says, with a smirk, I was at the end 

of my tether, and it was, like a diver 
on the ocean floor or an astronaut 

admiring the view from outside 
the mother ship, and like them 

it would be lost without its air 
supply and protective clothing,

Okay — I’ve been thinking about a few things here: being weighed down/preoccupied with ideas/thoughts/subjects (obsessed); a desire to be released from the body and obsessions; images of bees in bonnets and bees in general. Maybe I’d like to explore some different images of bees, especially in Dickinson? Also, here are 2 other ways to think about obsessions as repetition and habit:

Camille: Some of the obsessions are never going to leave you, and to me, that was part of what I loved. With each page I thought, Oh, I’ve seen this before, but how is she going to manage it differently? It reminded me of the Miles Davis quote about John Coltrane that was a guiding force for me as I was writing my first book, when I was really worried that I was doing the same thing over and over and over again. And I read the liner notes where Davis wrote about Coltrane’s first solo album. He said, “I don’t understand why people don’t get John Coltrane’s music. All he is trying to do is play the same note as many ways as he possibly can.”

Writing a Grove: A Conversation with Poet Laureate Ada Limón

FADY JOUDAH: There is no life without repetition, beginning at the molecular, even particle level. There is no art without life. To remain viable, art, inseparable from the circularity of the human condition, also repeats. What is a life without memory? And what is memory if not repetition. But not all repetition guarantees what we call progress, a euphemism for wisdom. Repetition with reproducible results, for example, is a foundational concept of the scientific method. Yet science can be an instrument for the destruction of life as for its preservation. This suggests to me that repetition in art is our unconscious memory at work: art mimics the repetition of the life force within us. All art is a translation of life. Take Jackson Pollock’s so-called action painting. What is it if not a rhythm of a life force in all of us? In those paintings, the pattern is recognizable yet unnamable. It’s like watching electrons bounce off each other. The canvas contains entropy. We understand this at a cellular or quantum level.

When It Takes Root in the Heart: Conversations with Fady Joudah

march 17/RUN

6.2 miles
minnehaha dog park and back
wind: 13 mph / gusts: 27 mph

Another weekend run with Scott. We talked about Ada Limón’s National Park project and I recited Scott’s favorite line from one of the poems featured in the project. The line — Surely you can’t imagine they just stand there loving every minute of it. The poem — Can You Imagine/ Mary Oliver. Scott likes the line because it’s also a line from the Loverboy song, “Loving Every Minute of it.” As we ran into the wind I mentioned the terrible wind (and rain and cold) in the 2018 Boston Marathon. Scott talked about a dream he had last night that he went to a friend’s gig and how, when he woke up, he realized that that friend did actually have a gig last night. He also talked about birds — wild turkeys and his favorite encounter with them when he saw two walking side-by-side down a busy sidewalk near lake street.

When we started running, it was snowing — small flurries. At some point it stopped, but it stayed cold and windy. Writing this now, a half an hour later, I’m still cold.

image of the day: a robin on the edge of path, hopping along then flying across the path. Having noticed the leaves skittering in the wind on the other side of the path, at first I thought the robin was a leaf. But then, when it landed on the fence, I could tell it was a bird. After mentioning it to Scott, I recited a line from ED’s “A bird came down the Walk –“. I think I’ll write a little birding poem about this Robin!

10 Things

  1. skittering leaves
  2. a robin — first on the ground as a dark form that could be anything and that I thought was a bird, then fluttering across the path, then landing on the top of the fence
  3. flurries in the air — steady, then swirling, then a clump of them dumped
  4. water falling at the falls, a few bits of ice near the edge
  5. the creek, mostly flowing, but still on the edge, and low
  6. a walker with an unleashed dog, wandering around the trail
  7. the view of the river obscured by a screen of thin, unleafed branches
  8. the fake bells of the light rail on the other side of Hiawatha
  9. the curve of the river below us as we ran south toward fort snelling
  10. a steady cadence — the lift lift lift of my feet, slightly slower than Scott’s

march 16/RUN

2.2 miles
neighborhood
39 degrees / feels like 30
wind: 16 mph / 30 mph gusts

Windy! Colder. Winter layers: black running tights, black shorts, black shirt, purple jacket, pink ear band, black gloves, hat. Thought about running more but remembered that Scott and I are doing a 10k tomorrow. So I ran 2 miles through the neighborhood. My restraint was partly due to the wind, which I ran almost straight into heading north.

10 Things

  1. some dull wind chimes — it wasn’t the clunk clank of wood chimes, but also not the tinkle-tingle-shimmer of metal ones — an unpleasant cacophony
  2. right before starting: a crying kid on the next block — by the time I reached then and their entourage (mom, dog, stroller) — they were laughing — oh to be a kid and to shake anger or disappointment or whatever bad feelings they were having off that quickly — my 8 year old self used to be that way
  3. the trail on edmund between 32nd and 33rd started muddy then turned into hard, packed dirt
  4. heavy gray sky — the type of light that makes it hard for me to see anything completely
  5. the sky was dark enough that a house had on their garage light — I felt a flash of light! as I ran by
  6. harder to see the dirt trail and the roots
  7. voices across the road and below, on the trail — next to me, then ahead of me, then gone
  8. smoke from a chimney on edmund — reminder that winter is still here
  9. a loud rush of noise — an approaching car? No, the wind moving through a pine tree
  10. the swishswishswish of my ponytail hitting the collar of my jacket

Thinking about the wind, I reread ED’s poem, “The Wind.” Here are some ways she describes the wind:

  • old measure in the boughs
  • phraseless melody
  • fleshless chant

Searched “wind” on poems.com and found this amazing poem by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, “All Wild Animals Were Once Called Deer“:

High up a plane droned, drone of the cold, and behind us the flag
In front of the Bank of Hope’s branch trailer snapped and popped in the wind.
It sounded like a boy whipping a wet towel against a thigh

Or like the stiff beating of a swan’s wings as it takes off
From the lake, a flat drumming sound, the sound of something
Being pounded until it softens, and then—as the wind lowered

And the flag ran out wide—there was a second sound, the sound of running fire.
And there was the scraping, too, the sad knife-against-skin scraping
Of the acres of field corn strung out in straggling rows

Around the branch trailer that had been, the winter before, our town’s claim to fame
When, in the space of two weeks, it was successfully robbed twice.
The same man did it both times, in the same manner.

This whole poem is amazing, but too long to post here. What a storyteller BPK is! I should read her collection, Song.

more Lorine Niedecker and “Lake Superior”

On Thursday and Friday I read more of “Lake Superior.” I came to these lines and stopped:

Ruby of corundum
lapis lazuli
from changing limestone
glow-apricot red-brown
carnelian sard

Greek named
Exodus-antique
kicked up in America’s
Northwest
you have been in my mind
between my toes
agate

Huh? I am not an agate expert, so I had to look up everything but the last three lines. Without explaining it all (if I even could), I noticed how fascinated she is with language and culture and the history of the agate as it traveled across cultures.

Of course I might have understood more of the references if I had read her journal first, LN opens her travel journal with this:

The agate was first found on the shores of a river in Sicily and named by the Greeks. In the Bible (Exodus) this semi-precious stone was seen on the priest’s breastplate.

A rock is made of minerals constantly on the move and changing from heat, cold, and pressure.

On the next page, she writes: So—here we go. Maybe as rocks and I pass each other I could say how-do-you-do to an agate.

Then, a few pages later:

The North is one vast, massive, glorious corruption of rock and language—granite is underlaid with limestone or sandstone, gneiss is made-over granite, shales, or sandstone and so forth and so on and Thompsonite (or Thomasonite_ is often mistaken for agate and agate is shipped in from Mexico and Uruguay and can even be artifically dyed in the bargain. And look what’s been done to language!–People of all nationalities and color have changed the language like weather and pressure have changed the rocks.

And then:

I didn’t miss the Agate Shop sign. Woman there knew rocks. whole store of all kinds of samples, labelled. Sold them cheaply too, i.e. agates mounted on adjustable rings cost $1.75. I bought one of these, not the most beautiful but a Lake Superior one, I was told. Also bought . . . a brilliant carnelian from Uruguay. There were corundum samples—also from Canada, the stone that is next to diamonds in hardness. (Deep red rubies, which are corundum minerals, are valued more than diamonds.)

and:

The pebble has traveled. Long ago it might have been a drop of magma, molten rock that oured out from deep inside the earth. Perhaps when the magma coooled it formed part of a mountain that was later worn down and carried away by a rushing stream. Of the pebble may have been carried thousands of miles by a slowly moving glacier that finally melted and left it to be washed up for someone to pick up.

I love how LN took all of her notes and ideas about rock and language and culture and commerce and turned them into this small chunk of the poem. So much said, with so little words! And then to end it with: you have been in my mind/between my toes/agate Wow!

The trails above and beside the gorge have not been between my toes but under my feet and in my mind — maybe I could add a variation of this line to the first section of my poem?

march 14/RUN

4 miles
beyond the trestle turn around
50 degrees

Another 50 degree day! The right number of layers: black shorts, blue t-shirt, orange sweatshirt. Some wind, but not too much. Noticed (probably not for the first time) that they removed the porta potty by the 35th street parking lot. Why? There aren’t any porta potties — for runners or bikers or anyone who needs one — on the Minneapolis side between ford and franklin. Did they remove the one near Annie Young Meadow too? I’ll have to check next time I run down into the flats.

A good run. More soft shadows, other runners, one walker in a bright orange sweatshirt — just like me.

Near the beginning thought about the ringing of a bell as the signal of a ceremony starting. Then ED’s lines popped into my head: As all the Heavens were a Bell/And being, but an Ear — In the earlier versions of my Haunts poem, I begin with a bell. I could return to that, or maybe that is the start of another poem?

I ran north without headphones. I can’t remember what I heard. Running south I put in my Windows playlist.

After I finished my run, I listened to a podcast about perimenopause as I walked home. On this log over the past seven years, I’ve mentioned moments of increased anxiety and ongoing constipation. Present Sara (me) really appreciates that past Sara documented these. It’s helping me to understand my body better as I move into perimenopause. Last week, I discovered a great podcast about perimenopause, menopause, and beyond for active women (runners, ultra runners, cyclists, etc) called: Hit Play Not Pause. So far, I’m on my second episode — the first one was about anxiety, this one is about symptoms of perimenopause other than loss of a regular period. So helpful, especially since it seems there’s so little known about perimenopause!

Lorine Niedecker and Lake Superior

I’ve decided I’d like to do a line-by-line read through of Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior.” Such a good poem, one that I appreciate more as I give more attention to poetry and the gorge.

Iron the common element of earth
in rocks and freighters

Sault Sainte Marie—big boats
coal-black and iron-ore-red
topped with what white castlework

The waters working together
internationally
Gulls playing both sides

This is the second verse? section? fragment? of the poem, with some blank space and an asterisk dividing each short section. I’ll get back to the first section a little later.

coal-black and iron-ore-red — I’d like to put some more color, my versions of color, into my lines — topped with what white castlework — I think I’m being dense, but what does she mean here? Like, (oh) what white castlework!

the waters working together — between Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron — internationally — Canada and the US

Gulls playing both sides — I love how she phrases this with such brevity, the idea of gulls not being subject to the lines/border humans have created. Reading through her notes for this poem, she writes about having to wait in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada until the banks opened in order to exchange money. Was she envious of the gulls who could freely travel between Canada and the US?

opening lines: Yesterday I posted the opening line of “Lake Superior.” Here’s the whole first section:

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock

Two other sources of inspiration for my place-based poem are Alice Oswald’s Dart and Susan Tichy’s North | Rock| Edge. Here are their opening lines:

Dart/ Alice Oswald

Who’s this moving alive over the moor?

An old man seeking and finding a difficulty.

North | Rock | Edge/ Susan Tichy

If you can, haul-to within

the terms of anguish :

this rough coast a gate

not map, no compass rose

sketched in a notebook

with certain positions

of uncertain objects

marked—

Reviewing the three sets of lines, I’m noticing how they move differently. LN offers brief, ordered chunks — little rocks? — that you travel between, while AO’s words wander and run into each other. Sometimes she has sentences, sometimes fragments — it flows like a river? ST shares similarities with AO, in terms of wandering and not stopping, but each word almost seems to have equal weight — is that the right way to put it?

In terms of distance, LN is far away, abstract; MO is closer, as we observe a man near the Dart; and with ST, we are right there, on the edge of the rock, moving beside the sea.

Is this helpful to me? To read these three poems closely and together? I’m not sure. Perhaps I should return to LN first. For today, just one more “chunk”:

Radisson:
a laborinth of pleasure”
this world of the Lake

Long hair, long gun

Fingernails pulled out
by Mohawks

I like how LN weaves in some of the “facts” that she discovered in her research — almost like notes, but carefully selected for effect. I think the contrast between Radisson’s pleasure comment and his fingernails being pulled out says a lot. How can I weave in facts? Do I want to?

The poem “Lake Superior” is in two books that I own: Lorine Niedecker Collected Works and Lake Superior. Lake Superior includes a journal with LN’s notes and some critical essays by others. It’s fascinating to read how she transformed her journal notes into these brief lines.