oct 21/RUN

2.1 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north
35 degrees

7.9 inches of heavy wet snow yesterday. I wasn’t excited about it but I also wasn’t upset. This morning, after shoveling the front sidewalk and the deck, I took Delia for a walk. Wonderful. No wind. Above freezing. Quiet, beautiful snow. Fresh cold air. We walked 2 slow blocks and I breathed deeply and realized that I love winter and being outside in this air, able to breathe without worry or panic. I felt calm, relaxed. Winter will help me get through all of this.

A few hours later, I went out for a short run. Running this winter will be more difficult. Narrower paths with no where to go when others are coming. I will have to start wearing a mask or my yak trax all the time and run in the snow. Or maybe I’ll just run earlier? The path was clear; they must have plowed it this morning. I don’t remember looking at the river or the snow. Did I? I had planned to recite the poem I memorized yesterday but I forgot. On my walk, I noticed a huge limb (or limbs?) of a tree bent down, leaning onto the street, barely hanging on. I forgot to check if it had fallen or been moved as I headed back from my run.

Today’s October Surprise

Yesterday’s snow decorated our backyard trees, leaving thick slabs of white on the limbs. It was especially pretty on the crabapple tree which is loaded to its very tips with tiny red apples that up until a few years ago, when RJP figured out what they actually are, we thought were cherries. The red, covered in white snow, made the entire tree glow pink. And not just to me with my limited color vision. I asked my son and he saw the pink too. Very cool.

oct 16/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
36 degrees

Sitting in my office in the front room this morning, working on my mood ring poems, I looked out the window and thought I saw a flurry. Not possible. Must have been a small leaf. About 10 minutes later I looked out the window again. Snowing. Big fluffy flurried flakes. I don’t mind. Went out for a run about 20 minutes later. Wonderfully uncrowded. If it clears the paths and keeps more people inside, bring on the bad weather! I can handle the wind and snow and ice and cold much better than having to constantly weave around to avoid people. And I want to run above the river, to admire the gorge and the other side–the St. Paul side.

Today the gorge was beautiful. I need a better word than beautiful. Too generic and frequently used. What do I mean by beautiful? Alluring? Calming? Handsome, dazzling, delightful, fine, resplendent? The word beautiful is not the problem. The problem is my lack of specificity. Why was it beautiful? I think it was beautiful today because there was a clear, open view with pleasing, recognizable, calming forms: tall, almost leafless brown trunks with a few slashes of red or yellow; blue-gray water winding like a serpent towards the falls; a mass of fuzzy treetops, greenish-orangish-reddish-yellow, across the way on the other bank. Looking up definitions of beautiful in the online OED, there was frequent mentioning of perfection. I didn’t find the gorge or the forms I saw to be perfect. Maybe they were splendid or gorgeous instead?

While looking up synonyms for beautiful I found pulchritudinous (beautiful, attractive) which seems to me to be a rather ugly word for describing something beautiful. Is there a term for a word that sounds the opposite of what it’s intending to convey? The opposite of onomatopoeia? Somebody asked this exact question on reddit 3 years ago and received one somewhat helpful, somewhat overly jargon-y response which you can read for yourself if you’d like.

I want to continue to push myself to express why the open view of the gorge moves (pleases, satisfies, amazes, delights) me so much. Maybe this expression won’t come in specific words but in images and feelings? A project for late fall and early winter?

Speaking of words, I’ve been meaning to post this from the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs’ “Lexicon for a Pandemic”:

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week

Today’s October Surprise

Like most of the October Surprise’s, this one happened yesterday afternoon. Scott, RJP and I took Delia the dog to Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. Wow! So much open space and views of waving water and wide wooded trails and grassy knolls with picnic shelters and steep wooden stairs winding down to leaf-covered trails closer to the water. What a delightful surprise to find this space perfect for solitude and breathing and being! There’s one image that I will try to return to when I need to calm down and feel more hopeful: Walking down the steep wooden stairs, each step offering a leafless view of the blue lake stretching wide. Behind: a hidden field with only a few trees and benches and a small picnic shelter and some still green grass for company. Above: blue sky. Below: a leaf-covered trail, lined with trees, some still bearing yellowing leaves.

Scott took many pictures, but not any of my favorite spot.

But RJP did! This is the view from halfway down the stairs.

oct 15/RUN

3 miles
1.5 loops on closed river road + neighborhood
38 degrees

Brrr. Colder today. I overdressed in (almost) full winter gear: tights under shorts + long sleeved shirt + orange sweat shirt + vest + bright pink headband + black gloves + orange and pink buff. Ran the closed section of the river road while I still can. Was planning to do another loop, but some trucks were parked at the bottom of the hill–they must be doing more work. I wonder when they will be done and when the road will open again? Sunny, bright, difficult to see. A few trees remain with colorful leaves. My favorites are the orange ones. There are 2 of them on the grass between Edmund and the river road. The river was sparkling. Lots of ripples for sunlight to dance on in this wind. Listened to a playlist and tried to ignore my runny nose. I can’t wait for this round of sinus troubles to be over. I’m tired of feeling stuffed up and having a slight tightness? soreness? in my chest. I’m grateful that when I’m running I don’t feel any congestion or tightness. O, if only it were possible to run non-stop until this pandemic was over! Of course I could never do this. 30-40 minutes a day is all I can manage.

Today’s October Surprise

There was so much wind yesterday and last night (almost 30 mph), that I was convinced that every leaf would be off of every tree by the gorge today, but when Scott and I took Delia on a walk there this morning, we saw a few trees that managed to stay dressed. Orange leaves are my favorite.

oct 15/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
50 degrees

Felt colder than 50 degrees with the wind and the occasional brief downpour. A beautiful fall morning. Because of the wind and rain, there weren’t too many people out on the trail. Running above the river was wonderful–so much more of a view as the leaves leave. I love late fall. More of a view, winter and winter running are coming, less people will be on the trail which means less fear and distraction over keeping a safe distance.

Things I Remember

  • The sun just barely glowing through the clouds behind me, enough to enable my shadow to make a faint appearance in front of me. Hello friend!
  • So much wind on the Lake Street bridge that I was blown across the sidewalk and had to hold onto my hat for several minutes
  • The river! Every year I forgot how wonderful the view is, having not seen it since May. Open, airy, a chance to breathe, to stare at the water as it winds down the gorge!
  • Glancing down at the floodplain forest from the tunnel of trees and admiring the soft glow of yellow leaves
  • Noticing the dog park at Meeker Island is open
  • The curve of the black wrought iron fence at an overlook on the Winchell Trail not too far from Franklin
  • Being able to see the entire trestle, stretching to the other side, wondering when/if a train would cross it
  • Running at least 10-12 feet from some walkers and smelling the perfume of one of them, being reminded of how far someone’s presence/scent/air can travel, wondering if I should be wearing a mask when I run

Today’s October Surprise

Last night, walking through the neighborhood, Scott and I heard a dog barking–I think it was a french bulldog or a boxer?–whose bark sounded like they were yelling out the word bark. “Bark! Bark! Bark!” It made me giggle. Some day I would like to have a dog that I named Bob Barker.

Working on my fourth mood ring poem today. As I ran, I reflected on a line about what, in a face, indicates life–a glimmer in the eye? the raising of an eyebrow? a slight head nod? the curve of a mouth?

Speaking of head nods, I have been intending to post this poem for several months. It seems fitting today as I think about how people connect through gestures:

Ode to the Head Nod/ Elizabeth Acevedo

the slight angling up of the forehead
neck extension quick jut of chin

meeting the strangers’ eyes
a gilded curtsy to the sunfill in another

in yourself tithe of respect
in an early version the copy editor deleted

the word “head” from the title
the copy editor says it’s implied

the copy editor means well
the copy editor means

she is only fluent in one language of gestures
i do not explain i feel sad for her

limited understanding of greetings & maybe
this is why my acknowledgements are so long;

didn’t we learn this early?
to look at white spaces

thank god o thank god for

you

are here

oct 14/RUN

3.45 miles
extended hill, 3 times
54 degrees

Yesterday while walking Delia up above on Edmund, I noticed that all of the trucks at the construction site just above the tunnel of trees were gone. Oh no! They’re going to open up this stretch of the river road again–the last stretch still closed, the stretch where I had just started doing hill workouts. Bummer. Oh well, I’ll find somewhere else to run. As of this morning, it’s still closed but now, because the trucks are gone, I can run the entire stretch of it, from the top of the hill at 36th to another (slight) rise at 32nd. Nice. I almost had the road to myself; only a runner or two and the street sweeping truck. Very windy this morning. 28 mph gusts. Lots of leaves on the ground and in the air. The dominant leaf color: yellow. Such a gorgeous fall color season. I noticed the river glowing below me. As I ran on the river road–and when I walked on it yesterday afternoon–I couldn’t see the river or into the gorge because I was too far away from it, but I could tell it was there. I could feel the openness, the gap, the abundance of air.

Today’s October Surprise

Wild grass of some sort, with a dark purple stalk and cream colored feathers–maybe Purple Fountain Grass?–in a neighbor’s yard. I love ornamental grasses, especially the ones with fluffy tops. Whenever I walk by them, I always want to run my fingers through the top. When is the best time to plant these grasses? I would love some for next year. I will try to remember to get a picture of this grass on our walk this afternoon.

Here’s the picture:

Still working on my mood ring poems. I have the first two done and I’m pleased with the results. Yesterday’s mood was curiosity. I started with a table in a pages document and laboriously filled in the letters for the main poem, making many mistakes and having to delete a lot of letters in individual boxes.

Main Poem

Then, I inserted the shorter, ring poem into the empty spaces. Lots of counting boxes and characters and rethinking words.

Inner, ring poem

And here’s the completed poem, in 2 parts. The left highlights the main poem, the right the secondary, ring poem.

oct 10/RUN

3 miles
2 schools loop
50 degrees

Another beautiful fall morning. I thought about doing a longer run, crossing the ford bridge, running up the east side of the river, but I knew it would be annoyingly crowded on a Saturday morning. So I did what I often do on the weekends, ran around the kids old elementary schools: Hiawatha (K-2) and Howe (3-5). Started on the river road trail but soon crossed over to edmund. I don’t remember the view, only the multiple times I had to stutter step to avoid streaking squirrels. Inspired by a podcast I listened to yesterday, I tried to focus on my breathing and striking feet. I chanted triples. At first, it was difficult. I kept repeating “strawberry/blueberry/raspberry” but eventually I expanded my list:

  • delightful
  • bemusement
  • mystery
  • logical
  • circular
  • wonderful
  • difficult
  • diffident
  • caterwaul
  • symphony
  • musical
  • deduction
  • induction

I am a little out of practice with these. I haven’t spent much time chanting; I’m too busy trying keep my distance.

Today’s October Surprise

First: Watching the original 101 Dalmatians with Scott last night. I love the jazzy, be-spotted opening credits. I couldn’t read all the text (not even close) but I still enjoyed it. Interesting fact from Scott and Mental Floss: 30% of all Dalmatians are deaf:

Around 30 percent of all Dalmatians are inflicted with deafness as a result of their spotted markings. Breeding dogs with this coat can lead to a lack of mature melanocytes (melanin producing cells) in the inner ear. Without these, dogs can become hard of hearing. Dogs with larger patches of black are less likely to be deaf. 

Second: Running around Howe School, I noticed a quick white flash up in the clear blue sky. Was it the moon or a plane? Even though the upper regions of my central vision are all dark, I was able to tilt my head and see that it was a plane. Such a small thing, but the more I learn about my vision, the more astonished I am when I see anything that small in such a broad field of blue!

oct 9/RUN

2 miles
45th ave, north/32nd st, east/tunnel of trees, south/edmund, south/37th st, west
69 degrees

Warm this morning! We might hit 83 today. No thanks. Still, it was beautiful running through the neighborhood and by the river. Glanced at the water a few times and it was glowing in the sun. The tunnel of trees was glowing too: marigold. I love that color. I didn’t encounter a single runner on the narrow trail winding up to the ancient boulder. No stones stacked on top of it. I forgot to greet the welcoming oaks or check if they were a goldengrove unleaving.

Today’s October Surprise

This surprise comes from our long walk last night, all the way to turkey hollow and back. Walking round the neighborhood, Scott and I encountered bright, beautiful wildflowers still blooming. Light purples, dark purples, oranges, yellows, hot pinks. And halfway up a cedar fence, a trail of flaming red leaves. I noticed them first in my peripheral, the feeling of a bright color. Then, looking at them straight, I could see the red. Scott took a picture, after I asked him to, of some funky purple flowers:

oct 8/RUN

2.15 miles
a few loops by the river
46 degrees

A shorter run this morning. I took Edmund to the river road and then did a few loops. I listened to an audiobook, Circe by Madeline Miller. Encountered at least one roller skier, several strollers, some dogs and their owners. A nice morning but so bright that I couldn’t see much–not because the sun was in my eyes but because of my failing vision. Felt like I was in a daze. I don’t remember noticing the river or any squirrels. No brightly shirted runners or speeding bikes blasting music. No yellow-vested workers digging holes for high-speed internet. No energetic, bare-footed boys racing me as I run up the hill.

Today’s October Surprises

Today’s first surprise is from last night’s walk with Scott. We saw an albino squirrel running across the road, looking like a rat or a mouse instead of a squirrel. Part of the surprise was that it was an albino squirrel, such a bright white!, and part of it was that I could see it at all, moving so fast, not giving me much time to focus my remaining cones. I’m always in awe of my ability to still see things.

The second surprise was also from yesterday: a northern cardinal drinking from Delia’s water dish on the deck while RJP and I sat in the yard, enjoying the sun. For at least a minute it drank and chirped, as we tried not to move or breathe too loudly so we could watch it.

excerpts from Corsons Inlet/ A. R. Ammons

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,   
from the perpendiculars,
      straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends   
               of sight:

There’s a lot I love about this poem but it was too long to post the whole thing. I picked this bit because I love how he describes his walk as a release from rigid forms. As the poem continues, he suggests that there are forms (formless forms) but that they are not closed or fixed:

I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,   
shutting out and shutting in, separating inside
          from outside: I have
          drawn no lines:

But the lack of conclusion and clear boundaries doesn’t mean there is no order:

in nature there are few sharp lines: there are areas of   
primrose
       more or less dispersed;
disorderly orders of bayberry; between the rows
of dunes,

The order that you encounter during a walk near the sea (or by the gorge) takes a different form that can’t be fully grasped by our logic:

by transitions the land falls from grassy dunes to creek   
to undercreek: but there are no lines, though
       change in that transition is clear
       as any sharpness: but “sharpness” spread out,   
allowed to occur over a wider range
than mental lines can keep:

oct 7/RUN

3 miles
over and back, lake street bridge
57 degrees

Another beautiful morning. The whole gorge glowed orange and red and yellow. I don’t remembering noticing the river when I was on the trail, but I stared at it as I ran over the lake street bridge and then at the overlook on the St. Paul side. I love that view. Clear, calm, blue. No rowers on the river today. No eagle in the dead tree near the stairs leading down to the river road trail on the east side. No Daily Walker. I did hear a roller skier behind me on the river road–the constant click of a pole striking the ground. Ran over some more pine needles. This time they made a delightful crunching sound. Heard a rushing noise and thought it was the wind; it was a sprinkler on someone’s lawn. I don’t remember thinking about anything–no lines from poems or deep questions.

Today’s October Surprise

Not the house next to mine but the house next to that, has a beautiful flaming red tree in the front yard. It was been burning red for a few weeks now. This morning, as I walked by it before starting my run, I noticed many of the leaves had fallen and were covering the ground, making the entire lawn look pinkish-red in the sun. O, such color! If there had only been one flame leaf on an otherwise green tree, or only a few leaves on the ground, I probably would not have been able to see it, but because the entire tree was red, I could stop and marvel at it.

I did a quick search of “red leaves poem” and found this great poem which I’m fairly certain I posted on this log a few years ago.

from Leaves/ Lloyd Schwartz

3

You’ll be driving along depressed when suddenly
a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through
and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably
won’t last. But for a moment the whole world
comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—
red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermilion,
gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning. You’re on fire. Your eyes are on fire.
It won’t last, you don’t want it to last. You
can’t stand any more. But you don’t want it to stop.
It’s what you’ve come for. It’s what you’ll
come back for. It won’t stay with you, but you’ll
remember that it felt like nothing else you’ve felt
or something you’ve felt that also didn’t last.

I want to memorize this part. What a wonderful poem.

oct 6/RUN

3.75 miles
the hill, 5 times
52 degrees

After a warm-up mile, I ran the hill 5 times. While warming up, I didn’t listen to anything, when I started the hill, I listened to my Sara2020 playlist with an additional song I added this morning: Maniac. Another beautiful morning. Windy and sunny. Running by Cooper School, I noticed a yoga class on the field. A great morning for outdoor yoga. Heading down 32nd, I didn’t see, but thought about, the aspen eyes as I ran near them. Each time I ran up the hill, the river sparkled through the trees.

Today’s October Surprise

Ran over some soft pine needles on the side of the road–what would it feel like to run on a trail completely covered in pine needles? Wonderful, I bet. My stretch of pine needles lasted only about 5 seconds, but I like imagining it as longer and deeper in the gorge or on a mountain trail. Thinking about that, I found this wonderful brief story on NPR: An Audio Postcard from New York’s Adirondack Mountains

oct 5/RUN

1.4 miles
walk/run with FWA
3 miles
river road, south/42nd, west/edmund, north/32nd, west/47th ave, south
51 degrees

Warmer today. Windy. Went out with FWA for another walk/run. I like getting to spend time with him in my favorite place. Also, it’s a nice warm-up before my run.

Starting out after walking back home with FWA, I ran into the wind and chanted to myself, “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble but I am invisible” (Richard Siken). I ran on the trail right above the river for a mile. Much more of a view these days! I can see the river through the trees. The surface of the water was glowing silvery-white in many spots. The only bird I heard was a black capped chickadee doing the feebee song. Looking over at the gorge from the river road, it was glowing gold. We must almost be at peak color. Anything else? Yes! I remember, about a mile into my solo run, feeling happy and relaxed. Such a nice feeling, rarely felt these days, especially now during “October Surprise” season, when I have been sucked into the endless cycle of asking, does 45 have the virus or not, is he barely sick or about to die, is this all an attempt to distract/confuse/frighten/enrage/weaken us?

Speaking of October surprise, I’d like to reclaim that phrase–or maybe REFRAME–and make it about something other than orchestrating (or appearing to orchestrate) an event that could influence the outcome of next month’s election. I like October–it’s a great month with all the Halloween decorations and scary horror movies from the 70s and crisp air and falling leaves. And, I like surprises and the unknowing bewilderment and excitement they can cause. Looking up surprise in the dictionary, one definition is astonishment. I also read in Merriam-Webster, “to strike with wonder or amazement, especially because unexpected.” In that spirit, I’d like to offer some of my own October Surprises for the rest of the month. Some of them might be moments of pure astonishment and wonder (I hope), others might be milder. All will be genuine instances of delight and joy.

Today’s October Surprise

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the black-capped chickadee out by the gorge this morning. I thought that they only did their “feebee” song in the spring and summer. I looked it up and discovered that they continue to sing these two notes throughout the winter. I’ll have to listen in January and February. Will I hear them as I run through the snow? I hope so!

This morning, checking one of my poetry sites, I found another green poem. Such a great description of greedy, gluttonous green and what happens after it leaves (or un-leaves?).

First Leaf/Lia Purpura

That yellow
was a falling off,
a fall
for once I saw
coming —
it could
in its stillness
still be turned from,
it was not
yet ferocious,
its hold drew me,
was a shiny switchplate
in the otherwise dark,
rash, ongoing green,
a green so hungry
for light and air that
part gave up,
went alone,
chose to leave,
and by choosing
embellishment
got seen.