oct 27/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
17 degrees/ feels like 10

Coldest day of the season. Double tights + green shirt + orange sweatshirt + vest + buff + stocking cap. Sunny. I must have glanced at the river but I don’t remember what it looked like. Too busy trying to avoid other runners and walkers. A wonderful morning. I like (love?) this cold. Clears out the sinuses and keeps me from getting overheated. Running on Edmund, heading back home, I saw my shadow. It was nice to run with her. Thought about another mood ring poem: doubt. Had some ideas as I moved–something about how the doubt is related to the awe and the brain’s remarkable ability to enable me to keep seeing. It’s a relief but when I can still see I question whether my vision is really that bad. I doubt myself. I want to think more about doubt and what it means today. Here’s a poem to get me started.

My Doubt/ Jane Hirshfield – 1953-

I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.

I dress doubting,
like a cup
undecided if it has been dropped.

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.

I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a suddenly gone-quiet truck.

I dream you, doubt,
nightly—
for what is the meaning of dreaming
if not that all we are while inside it
is transient, amorphous, in question?

Left hand and right hand,
doubt, you are in me,
throwing a basketball, guiding my knife and my fork.
Left knee and right knee,
we run for a bus,
for a meeting that surely will end before we arrive.

I would like
to grow content in you, doubt,
as a double-hung window
settles obedient into its hidden pulleys and ropes.

I doubt I can do so:
your own counterweight governs my nights and my days.

As the knob of hung lead holds steady
the open mouth of a window,
you hold me,
my kneeling before you resistant, stubborn,
offering these furious praises
I can’t help but doubt you will ever be able to hear.

oct 25/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
28 degrees
snow flurries

Another colder day with some snow flurries. Ran by turkey hollow. Forgot to check for turkeys. Distracted by a dog with its owner on the far sidewalk. I do remember wondering (again) where the turkeys go in the snow. Are they up in the trees? Listened to a playlist as I ran. Started on the trail right above the river but when I encountered some people, crossed over to the grass between the river road and edmund. Cold, hard, packed dirt with some snow in the ruts. Not too difficult to run on. Yesterday’s snow was wet and steady, today’s was intermittent flurries swirling in the wind and in my face as I ran north. Noticed at least one bike but no fat tires or roller skiers. No groups of runners. No peloton on the road. Anything else? Noticed that I had a clearer view of the Oak Savanna. I wonder if one of my favorite winter views is clear? It’s the spot where the hill in the Savanna slopes down and suddenly the river appears.

Surfaces I Ran On

  • clear sidewalk
  • cold, hard road–I could hear my feet loudly striking the pavement
  • yellow leaves slightly slick with snow
  • green leaves, thick and soft
  • rutted, hard dirt
  • brittle grass

Watching the Vuelta a España with Scott. Today Primož Roglič crapped out on the final climb and lost the red jersey. Bummer. So strange to be watching a bike race while it’s snowing. It looked very wet and cold for the cyclists as they climbed the mountains.

Here’s a poem I discovered this morning. So lovely with such quiet grace.

Beginning/ JAMES WRIGHT

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.   
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
Now.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

oct 20/RUN

3.15 miles
2 trails!
31 degrees

One last run before the snow comes. We’re supposed to get 4-7 inches of snow today. Snow can come early here, but never this much this early. In fact, if we get 4 inches, it will be a new record. What will the trails/roads be like this winter? In the winter I always run on the trails because Minneapolis Parks does a great job of clearing them right away, usually much faster than the road or sidewalks. How crowded will the trails be this winter? I might have to start running with my mask.

Hardly anyone out on the trail this morning. I decided to go for it and head down to the Winchell Trail after turning around and heading north. I only encountered one other runner and no walkers. It was gorgeous, especially the stretch between the 44th street parking lot and 42nd street. Wow! There the leaf-covered trail hugs the side of the bluff. I had to focus on the uneven trail most of the time, but once or twice I quickly glanced down the steep, high bank to the river. Nearing 42nd, the trail curves up and out and at one point you feel like you could run straight off the edge. Amazing! I love this trail. I wish it were wider and longer.

I recited the first half of the October poem by May Swenson I posted yesterday as I ran. I struggled to remember the last line about the roots. I never could so, when I stopped running, I looked it up on my phone and then repeated it several times: “sprawled roots exposed. sprawled roots exposed. sprawled roots exposed.” I’m a little rusty with the memorizing since I haven’t done it in a few months.

Update on the ultra marathon I wrote about yesterday. It is a World Championship and the US runners were competing against other countries virtually. The 2 US runners made it to loop 67 (283 miles). Heading out for loop 68, Harvey Lewis was hallucinating so much that he turned around and came back. Courtney Dauwalter completed the loop and won. Sabbe Karel, a runner for Belgium, eventually won the race completing 75! loops, which is 312 miles or almost an entire marathon more that either US runner. Holy shit. How can a body run that much almost continuously?

In honor of the impending snow (which I am mostly okay with because I love snow and winter and cold, fresh air and watching fluffy flakes from my window and running through it and listening to it crunch under my feet), here’s an Emily Dickinson poem I found a few days ago:

Snow flakes. (45)/ Emily Dickinson

I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town –
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down –
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig –
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!

I had to look it up. Prig is a fussy, self-righteous, stuffy person who is too proper to enjoy snow. Dickinson’s idea of snow as irresistibly delightful reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

Dust of Snow/ Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

oct 19/RUN

4.1 miles
river road path, north/seabury and edmund, south
33 degrees

Saw a few flurries as I ran. More coming tomorrow. Up to 6 inches. What? A nice run above the gorge. I had a clear view of the river, but I don’t remember what it looked like. Too busy admiring the bare trees and thinking about how my chest hurt slightly. Not much, just a small, dull ache. Off and on for the past five days. Smelled the toast, always slightly over-toasted, at Longfellow Grill. Heard one dark barking below me on the Winchell Trail. Imagined it running gleefully through the leaves. Was it barking at a squirrel? A tree? A swirling leaf?

Right now I’m tracking this hardcore ultra marathon taking place in Bell Buckle, Tennessee called Big’s Backyard Ultra. The runners–they started with 14–run a loop of 4. 16 miles every hour for as long as they can. Once they can’t finish the loop in an hour, they’re out. Right now, there are 2 runners left and they have just completed 216.66 miles and 52 laps. I don’t usually pay attention to ultra marathons but last year I discovered Courtney Dauwalter and I started following her on Instagram. It’s fascinating to check every hour and see how she’s doing. I can’t imagine running for that long, but I can appreciate the strange other-worldly space it would put you in for the 48+ hours you’re moving or eating or trying to quickly rest before starting again. At what point do you start hallucinating? I think she’s talked about having strange visions before. I wonder how long they will be able to go? And when the second to last person drops out, will the last person standing stop or try to make it to 300 miles? Very hard core. At some point in the past, I might have judged something like this, but now I’m just fascinated–but not nearly enough to try something like this.

Just now I was scrolling through my various feeds, trying to find a poem to post. But then I remembered I already have so many poems posted on here that I love and haven’t spent enough time with. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite October poems:

October/ May Swenson

7

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed. Will
something move?—some vision
come to outline? Yes, there—
deep in—a dark bird hangs
in the thicket, stretches a wing.
Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.” His shoulder-patch
that should be red looks gray.
This old redwing has decided to
stay, this year, not join the
strenuous migration. Better here,
in the familiar, to fade.

I want to memorize this excerpt today. Is there any way that I could use this bit as inspiration for my mood poem about acceptance, accommodation? I will try!

oct 18/RUN

3 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north/33rd st, west/43rd ave, south
31 degrees

Below freezing this morning. Sunny. Clear, uncrowded paths. A delightful view of the gorge. The wind has done a wonderful job of taking down most of the leaves so I could see the sparkling river and the bluff on the other side. I don’t think I will ever tire of that view, especially when the sun is shining through the few remaining leaves, making everything glow yellowish-orange. Running on Edmund, I admired an amazing, almost fully leaved tree. At first glance, it looked light orange to me, but gradually it looked more yellow. What color was it actually? Since I don’t have many cone cells left–the photoreceptor cells in the macula that enable us to see color–my colors are sometimes strange. Duller, off. You might see yellow when I see pink, gold when I see green. Recited a few Emily Dickinson poems as I moved. I need to start reciting poems again. How many of the poems I memorized this summer do I still remember?

The Precision of Pain and the Blurriness of Joy/ Yehuda Amichai

16
The precision of pain and the blurriness of joy. I’m thinking
how precise people are when they describe their pain in a doctor’s office.
Even those who haven’t learned to read and write are precise:
“This one’s a throbbing pain, that one’s a wrenching pain,
this one gnaws, that one burns, this is a sharp pain
and that––a dull one. Right here. Precisely here,
yes, yes.” Joy blurs everything, I’ve heard people say
after night of love and feasting, “It was great,
I was in seventh heaven.” Even the spaceman who floated
in outer space, tethered to a spaceship, could say only, “Great,
wonderful, I have no words.”
The blurriness of joy and the precision of pain––
I want to describe, with a sharp pain’s precision, happiness
and blurry joy. I learned to speak among the pains.

Oh, I love this poem and the idea of finding more precise ways to describe/catalog joy. Makes me think of how I want to describe, in more specific words, the joy I feel when looking out at the gorge (and why). It also makes me think of Ross Gay and his book of delights and Eula Biss and her essay on the pain scale.

Even as I like this poem and the idea of precision, particularly in terms of giving attention to joy in the same way we do pain, I’m also thinking about precision as cutting, sharp, violent. Blurriness as soft, less harsh, spreading wider, gentle.

(a few hours later)

Wow, the poetry people on twitter are really delivering today. Here’s another great poem that I don’t (yet) understand, but I love the topic of the other side of the river:

Wrong Side of the River/ Stanley Plumly

I watched you on the wrong side
of the river, waving. You were trying
to tell me something. You used both hands
and sort of ran back and forth.
as if to say look behind you, look out
behind you
. I wanted to wave back.
But you began shouting and I didn’t
want you to think I understood.
So I did nothing but stand still,
thinking that’s what to do on the wrong side
of the river. After a while you did too.
We stood like that for a long time. Then
I raised a hand, as if to be called on,
and you raised a hand, as if to the same question. 

oct 17/RUN

3 miles
2 school loop
40 degrees

A little warmer. Sunnier. Too bright for me to see much. Had a few close encounters with people and while trying to avoid them ran out in front of a car. I didn’t hear any brakes squealing or drivers yelling so it must not have been too close. Need to be more careful next time. I don’t like running on the weekends as much anymore. Too crowded. Still, had some nice moments being outside, glancing over at the bare trees above the gorge. Running over leaves, feeling (but not hearing because I was listening to a playlist) them crunch.

This past summer I bought Richard Siken’s War of the Foxes which has one of my favorite poems in it, “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.” Here’s another wonderful poem from that collection. Like Lovesong, it has the line about “the hammer as a hammer.” And, like Lovesong, there is much about it I don’t understand.

Logic/Richard Siken

A clock is a machine. A gear is a tool. There is rarely
any joy in a frictionless place, so find your inner viscosity.
The mind says viscosity is resistance to flow. The body
puts glue on a twig and catches a bird. Glue is a tool,
unless you are a bird. If you are a bird, then glue is
an inconvenience. A tool does work. A bird flies away
from danger and lands where it can. All thinking is
comparison. A bear is a weapon, a bear claw is a pastry.
A bear trap, if you are a bear, is an inconvenience.
Logic is boring because it works. Being unreasonable is
exciting. Machines have knobs you can turn if you
want to. A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail.
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke
up tired of being the hammer. There’s a dream in the
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever.
I taped a sword to my hand when I was younger. This
is an argument about goals.

Started work on a new mood ring poem. This one is about the mood of acceptance. Here’s what I have so far:

Instead of getting angry or searching for experimental cures or finding second opinions I’m listening harder. Memorizing the path. Mentally mapping the potholes the dips the cracks where it twists to the right too close to the road where it narrows on the left. I’m searching for better words to describe what is happening. I’m switching to the pithiness of poetry with sparser pages. More room to ruminate. Less effort on the eyes. Slowing down.  Breathing and accepting not knowing instantly. Letting go of what I won’t ever see on my favorite tv show. Avoiding commericals and memes. I’m finding more light brighter lightbulbs. Asking for help. Not pretending to see things that I don’t. Relying on imagination. Learning to love softer, fuzzier forms. Learning to accept constant uncertanty. Learning how to be when I cannot see. 

I’m thinking that the seemingly positive aspects of acceptance will be in the main poem and then in the scotoma/blind spot part of the poem, I’ll focus on my doubts about accepting as giving up or giving in.

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 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 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.

oct 4/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin hill
35 degrees

What a wonderful morning for a run! Sunny, no wind, cool. Saw my shadow a few times. Admired the river, the glowing thinning trees. Felt nice and strong and happy to be breathing deeply outside, especially since I am having another sinus/allergy thing–I haven’t had one since June. Such a drag being stuffed up and tired–and devoting considerable energy to convincing myself I’m fine and it’s not the virus and it will only last a few days or a week. So glad running (and the nasal washes I’ve started doing) help. Ran down the franklin hill and then by some geese, taking over the path closest to the water. The water was still and thick–that wasn’t little bits of ice I was seeing? Not cold enough yet, right? Ran up the hill until I reached the Franklin bridge. Walked for a minute or 2, then ran back on seabury.

some random things to remember from this weekend

This morning I watched the London Marathon and saw Sara (without an h!) Hall run an amazing race, sprinting the last 400, after running for 2 hours and 21 minutes, to catch the person ahead of her and take second place. So exciting and inspiring to watch someone run so well and try as hard as she absolutely could.

Yesterday we drove to Duluth to see Lake Superior. On the way up, we stopped at a rest area. This was my first time inside a building with other people since March 8. Wow. Everyone was wearing a mask. It wasn’t too bad. I was reminded of my bad vision as I struggled to figure out which bathroom was which and whether or not there was someone in a stall when I tried checking for feet. It takes a much longer time for my eyes to focus and see, so I can’t just quickly walk into a bathroom and know I’m in the right one. I hate being slow or having to slow down to figure something out.

On the ride home in the evening, we heard “Maniac” on the radio from Flashdance. Those lyrics! (mostly cheesy, but I liked a few lines.) Scott and I both struggled to understand the line, “on the wire between will and what will be.” We wondered, was he actually saying “will and what won’t be”? but then Scott realized the first will meant your own agency while the second one referred to fate–on the wire between what you can control and what has already been decided. Wow, deep.

Speaking of lyrics, the other day, during online school, FWA asked me to suggest two songs with similar themes that he could use for analyzing lyrics in his AP Comp and Lit class. After struggling for a minute, I suggested, Beck’s “Loser” and Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardner.” How did I come up with those? Not sure, but they worked well for him. Nice.

What a beautiful October poem:

October/ ROBERT FROST

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

oct 2/RUN

3.35 miles
turkey hollow
41 degrees

41 degrees?! I wore by winter running vest this morning and a hood. No gloves, yet. I love this cooler weather, although it made my lungs burn a little. Ran south on the river road trail. Not too crowded. Was able to see the river through the unleaving trees. Hooray! My view is coming back. Admired the glowing orange trees near the gauntlet and the lower campus of Minnehaha Academy. Heard a bunch of kids (collective noun? a playground of kids? a yell of kids? an exuberance of children?) on the playground at the academy, having fun, swinging on some swings that I couldn’t see because they were behind a stand of trees. Briefly I wondered if they were wearing masks on the playground? I hope so, but doubt it. Can you yell that loudly with a mask on? Forgot to check if there were any turkeys down by turkey hollow. Heard a few people shuffling through the dead leaves on the ground. I don’t remember hearing any birds or dropping acorns, but I did hear a leaf blower starting up. No roller skiers or spazzy squirrels or crows or Daily Walker or Man in Black or rowers on the river.

Woke up around 1 am to stretch my restless legs and checked my instagram (I know, always a bad idea) and discovered that the Trumps tested positive for COVID-19. It crossed my mind, but I never seriously considered waking up Scott to tell him. Thought about how bad this was from a variety of angles but still managed to get back to sleep without any bad dreams.

Here’s a beautiful opening about fall from the amazing Maggie Smith:

from Home-Free/ Maggie Smith

There’s no rhyme for how high the corn should be
in September, but I can see it, and I’m telling you

it’s up to my chest, maybe even my neck–
it’s hard to tell from the road–and it’s brown,

and judging by the sibilance when the wind
rubs the husks together, it must feel like paper.

I love this description of corn and what a great opening line–with “knee high by the fourth of july” echoing in my head.

And, because I used “unleaving” in my run description, I feel compelled to post again one of the first poems I remember loving:

Spring and Fall / GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

sept 29/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
50 degrees

What wonderful fall weather! Cooler, partly cloudy. I ran north on the river road trail and didn’t encounter too many people. Heard the rowers on the river, with the coxswain calling out instructions through their bullhorn. Saw the river, I think. Did I? I don’t remember noticing many brightly colored leaves.

Things I Remember

  • one roller skier skiing on the bike path, their poles clickity-clacking
  • a sudden shower of acorns–a whoosh then thump thump thump
  • a stroller right off the edge of the path, an adult and young kid under the lake street bridge, looking down at the river right by the edge of a chain link fence
  • running through the tunnel of trees, barely looking down, but noticing a few yellow trees

A good run, an opportunity to get lost and lose track of time.

And here’s the wonderful opening from Yi Lei’s Nature Aria. Very fitting for this windy, autumn day, when leaves are swirling and scattering:

Autumn wind chases in
From all directions
And a thousand chaste leaves
Give way.

sept 28/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, south/both sides of ford bridge/wabun park/turkey hollow/47th st/edund
51 degrees

Good-bye summer and hot, humid weather! Hello fall and winter and wonderful runs along the river! A good morning for a run, even if the wind was gusting and in my face for much of the second half. Heard geese honking in the sky and my shoes squeaking on the wet leaves. Dodged dropping acorns and swirling leaves. Every so often the sun came out–glorious. I think I remember the river occasionally glowing. Not too many people out on the trail. Running up the hill to the ford bridge, I saw a big turkey hanging out by a bench. I looked a couple of times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing–was I? Who knows for sure. Ran over the ford bridge for the first time since February. Then ran under it and over it again on the other side, looking out at Locks and Dam #1. Took a walk break through turkey hollow (no turkeys there today). Almost forgot: heard some kids playing on the playing ground at Minnehaha Academy’s lower campus.

Here’s a beautiful opening to a poem by Carl Phillips, Wake Up:

The road down from everything even you had hardly dared
to hope for has its lonely stretches, yes, but it’s hard to feel alone
entirely: there’s a river that runs beside it the whole way down,
and there’s an over-song that keeps the river company: I’m leaves,
you’re the wind…

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 12/RUN

2.25 miles
edmund, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/edmund, south/37th st, west/around Howe School/44th ave, north
59 degrees
humidity: 93%

Running Route, 12 Sept

I love the picture this route makes.

A slighter shorter run this morning with headphones on. Didn’t think about much, just enjoyed listening to music and getting lost in the sounds and motion. So humid it felt like it was still drizzling. Was it? Not sure. Didn’t encounter that many people. Hardly any bikers or runners. No roller skiers. As I listened to Lizzo, I decided that I should make a playlist for my hill sprint workout. A fun, fast song for each sprint.

Les Étiquettes Jaunes/ Frank O’Hara

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!
As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me.  I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf! don’t be neurotic
like the small chameleon.

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 7/RUN

3.15 miles
lake nokomis
55 degrees

Scott and I decided to drive over near Lake Nokomis and run (in opposite directions) around the lake. We parked on Nokomis Avenue and ran together on the creek trail, then under 28th ave on the part of the path they just built this year, over by Lake Hiawatha, up the hill to Lake Nokomis Community Center, and then down to Lake Nokomis where we split up. I turned left, he turned right. So wonderful to be running by water and around the lake. This is the first time I’ve run here since last November 14.

Ran by the little beach first. The buoys are still up. Will I try swimming once this season? I’m not sure. Had to run on the grass a lot to avoid people. Noticed how many changes they’ve made: plastic fences up to protect the shoreline, some trees missing. As I ran over the big bridge, I looked down at the water and the wide strip of shimmering light on the surface. Luckily Scott took a picture of it when he ran over the bridge.

Thought briefly about open swim as I ran by the big beach. I checked to see if anyone was swimming this morning. I don’t think so. Saw at least one kayak but no rowing shells or sailboats. I’m sure they’ll be there later today. I miss being by the water. I miss not being slightly terrified all of the time.

blind spots and mood rings

Still thinking about my latest writing project on blind spots and mood rings. I think I’ve finished the text for the mood 1: wonder. I haven’t quite figured out the visuals behind it. How to show the ring? How to show my vision loss? I’ve been researching concrete/visual poetry and found this cool eye poem by Lauren Holden:

further & further & further

I really like how this looks and its effect. And I like the repetition of the words/phrase. Maybe I want to do this too? As part of a ring chapbook? I’m thinking that each of my mood rings would involve 2 poems:

  1. A justified block of text with my blind ring superimposed on the text
  2. A visual poem similar to the one above made up of 2-4 words describing the mood repeated and making the shape/effect of my blind ring.

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.

sept 1/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, south/edmund, north/the hill
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Started on the trail but it was too crowded. Had a moment when there were 2 runners and 2 bikers approaching me at the same time. I had to fit through the small sliver in-between them. Ugh. I’m tired of having to focus so much attention on avoiding people. It would be nice if I could figure out the best time to run when no one else was. Does that exist? Oh well, it’s still not too bad and I am happy to get out for a run almost every day. I have a streak of almost a month straight going–my last day off was August 8th. I might try to keep going until I reach a month. I think I’m able to do it because I’m not running too much–only about 4-5K a day (2.5-3.1 miles).

I listened to a playlist so I don’t remember much of the run. Anything? Can’t remember if I could see the river. Don’t think I saw any roller skiers. Was it sunny or cloudy? I can’t remember that either. I know it was cool-ish and that I had to run into the wind for a bit. That’s all.

September First Again/Phillis Levin

Blighted light at the tip
Of a branch, why so early
Do you turn?—leaf
Dipped in vermillion,
Close to the end, you point
To a sidewalk wet
Once with names
Signed in cement to seal,
For all time, a vow
Uttered by two
Standing under the crown
Of a tree you cleave to still,
For now: solitary witness
Standing alone, limbs
Crisscrossing in shadows
Beginning to scrawl
Lines to a world hell-
Bent (with or without intent)
On obscuring
Whatever they meant.
Blighted light
At the topmost bough,
Little flag hailing
Another day, do not go
So early to ruin, green,
Do not turn so soon.

Found this wonderful poem on my instagram feed this morning. Unlike the poet, I am not lamenting the turning of the leaves. Begone gluttonous green! I’m ready for my views of the river and the other side again. I’m thinking that I should memorize another series of poems to recite while running about changing leaves, early fall, and the end of green?

august 26/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/the hill
79 degrees
dew point: 66

Very hot today. 77 degrees at 7 in the morning. I decided to do a shorter run. Not too bad. Listened to a running playlist so didn’t notice any other sounds. No chirping birds or backing up beeps or roaring lawn mowers or plink-plonking acorns or zapping cicadas. Ran in a lot of shade, which was nice. Felt strong running up the hill on Edmund. Checked out my form a few times by looking at a shadow running beside me, then ahead. Encountered many more walkers than runners.

Didn’t get close enough to see the river. Forgot to check out the aspen eyes. I did notice how the tree on the corner of Edmund and 32nd, the one that usually glows a glorious yellow in the fall, was almost all goldish-brown. Is it dying? I hope not.

Had another pandemic dream last night–my second, I think, which isn’t too bad considering how long we’ve been in this mess. Same scenario, different setting. In a crowded place (first time it was a Justin Bieber?! concert, this time in a restaurant). Suddenly, I realize I’m around too many people, none of us socially distancing or wearing masks. What am I doing here? Why am I being so reckless? I freak out, then wake up. It’s unusual for me to have such literal dreams–of course, a bunch of other weird shit happened in the midst of this that I can’t remember now too, but the basic anxiety is my actual, literal anxiety. Usually, anxiety dreams are like the one I mentioned a week ago when I was late for a band concert and couldn’t find a black shirt. Or, it’s the last week of the semester and I haven’t shown up to class at all–either as the teacher or the student. Being late for a concert, forgetting to attend class are not things I have to worry about right now–and I’m not. What is it about this pandemic and my fears/worries about it that is making my dreams so boringly literal?

I think (I hope) I’ve discovered my new project. It’s a companion project to the Snellen charts. I’m tracing the blind spot in my central vision and then superimposing it on text about vision to create erasure poems. I’m still not sure how this will all work or how many of them I will do or whether or not I will only do erasures with found text or include my own text. Last night, while experimenting with this, I tried it out. This is not the actual erasure, just an experiment taking text about blind spots from Sight Unseen, staring at it until I can see my blind spot, then tracing that blind spot on top of the text.

Blind Spot Experiment

Not sure how to make this work yet. In the above experiment, I focused my eyes on the center of the page–the W I think–and then traced the blind spot I saw. I could try focusing on different spots. Should I create the blind spot tracing with every new experiment or create a template of my blind spot that I can easily place on different texts? Should the text be blacked out or just not there–an absence in white?

Scott suggested creating two poems out of it, one with the blind spot words removed–so a ring of white, and one with only the blind spot words. This makes me think of the amazing poems of Diana Khoi Nguyen in Of Ghost, especially Triptych.

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.