jan 22/RUN

5K
45th ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/edmund, north/36th st, west
7 degrees/ feels like -3

Last week I said I would much rather it be colder with clear sidewalks, than warmer with icy sidewalks. That was proven today. As I was saying to Scott, you can always add layers to be warm, but you can’t do much to make uneven icy paths safer–yak trax work, sort of, but not when the ice is jagged and filled with ruts. Hooray for sun and not too much wind and mostly empty streets and a soundtrack of birds and clear, cold air and new Presidents getting shit done!

Encountered only a few walkers, no runners (I think) and one biker. Heard lots of birds. Smelled some smoke as I ran on Edmund. Noticed a foot wide stripe of faded white on the edge of the street–what’s left of the salt used to treat the road. The stripe stretched for a quarter mile or more. Once I realized it was only salt stains and not a thin sheet of ice, I ran on it. Heard some park workers and their chainsaws, trimming trees above the gorge. Yes, a better view! I should remember to stop during my run and go check out the river. I miss it! If I can’t run right beside the river for long stretches, at least I can admire it for a moment.

a moment of sound

Earlier this morning, sitting at my desk in the front room, I heard a black capped chickadee calling outside. Quickly, I got my phone to record it. It wasn’t until after it stopped that I realized I had forgotten to push the record button. Bummer. Still, I recorded some other birds and a bird or a squirrel or something knocking on wood or an acorn. You can hear the tap tap tapping. Towards the end, you can also hear my 17 year old son, yelling out from his room (behind a closed door) to his friends online as they prepared to raid a base or something like that on whatever online game they were all playing. He was yelling the whole time I was recording, but this was the only bit of it that I can hear on the recording.

Jan 22, 2021

I am almost positive I have posted this poem before, but I would like to memorize it, so I posting it again.

Winter Trees/WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

All the complicated details 
of the attiring and 
the disattiring are completed! 
A liquid moon 
moves gently among 
the long branches. 
Thus having prepared their buds 
against a sure winter 
the wise trees 
stand sleeping in the cold. 

jan 21/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 2.1 miles
basement

I guess I’m turning into a wimp this winter because the sidewalks looked uneven and icy and the wind was howling, so I decided to stay inside and work out in the basement. Actually, I think it has less to do with being a wimp, and more to do with it being harder to run in the road and the sidewalks than on the river road trail and harder to avoid people and harder to stay motivated to run outside when I can’t see the river or the gorge. That’s okay. I don’t mind running inside a bit more this month–hopefully just this month.

Watched some races while I biked, and listened to an audiobook, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, for the first half of my run. For the second half, I listened to a playlist and recorded video of my running. With my right knee prone to subluxations and my left hip and lower back often sore, it’s helpful to study my form. I think I need to do a better job of setting up the camera–either that or I really hunch over with my shoulders. Maybe I should try checking my form from the side too? It’s fascinating to me how, over almost my 10 years of running, I’m slowly learning how to accept and take care of my aging body. Oftentimes it sucks to have to worry about all of these aches and pains, but it is also very helpful and satisfying to learn how to work with my body instead of being afraid of its failures.

a moment of sound

I recorded today’s moment of sound on my driveway, back near the alley, in a spot sheltered from the wind. It was very windy. The loud whooshing sounds are not traffic but the wind rushing through the trees. If you listen carefully, you can hear wind chimes (my favorite) and water dripping off of the eaves on my garage (not my favorite). At one point, there’s a pop or a creak or a crack–some siding or wood fence contracting.

Jan 21, 2021

THINGS TO DO/ James Schuyler

Balance checkbook.
Rid lawn of onion grass.
“this patented device”
“this herbicide”
“Sir, We find none of these
killers truly satisfactory.  Hand weed
for onion grass.”  Give
old clothes away, “such as you
yourself would willingly wear.”
Impasse.  Walk three miles
a day beginning tomorrow.
Alphabetize.
Purchase nose-hair shears.
Answer letters.
Elicit others.
Write Maxine.
Move to Maine.
Give up NoCal.
See more movies.
Practice long-distance dialing.
Ditto gymnastics:
The Beast with Two Backs
And, The Fan.
Complain to laundry
any laundry.  Ask for borrowed books back.
Return
junk mail to sender
marked, Return to Sender.
Condole.  Congratulate.
” . . . this sudden shock . . . “
” . . . this swift surprise . . . “
Send. Keep.  Give.  Destroy.
Brush rub polish burn
mend scratch foil evert
emulate surpass.  Remember
“to write three-act play”
and lead “a full and active life.”

-from Collected Poems

I love lists. Making them, reading them, turning them into poetry. I think I’d like to write another series of lists.

jan 20/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

Finally, it’s over! Already, Biden and Harris are working to undo some of the damage. What an awful, exhausting, traumatic 4 years. Yet, some good too, in spite of it all: a renewed faith in democracy, the chance for an actual reckoning with slavery and racism, and, most personally, a rediscovery of poetry and a new direction for my work on a feminist ethics of care. I started this running log in January of 2017, right as Trump was becoming president. There were many reasons I started writing here, but the urgent need to find a new way to be in the Trump era was surely one of them. In ways that I can’t yet articulate, this blog and my project of paying attention and of finding the small moments of delight–always letting the wonder win, as Aimee Nezhukumatathil says–was a form of resistance, a refusal to lose my faith in the world and my hope for the future. I must admit, it got much harder to resist these last few months, but the habits I built up from my miles and my words (and the beautiful words of many others), have helped me to persist and I know they will help me as I work hard to rid myself of all of the Trump-era toxins I’ve had to absorb. Does this sound too dramatic? Maybe, but today feels like a day for being dramatic!

I didn’t think about any of these things as I biked or ran. I just enjoyed moving and feeling free, even if it was in my dark unfinished basement.

Hooray for new administrations! Hooray for hope and possibility and room to breathe and grieve and imagine better worlds! Hooray for a renewed desire to do the work! And hooray for this beautiful poem by Amanda Gorman:

The Hill We Climb/ Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

a moment of sound

After the inauguration, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. It wasn’t too cold, but it was windy and blustery and slippery–and difficult to get a moment of sound. In this recording, you can hear the wind and Delia’s collar clanging and our feet walking over the crusty ice and snow.

jan 20, 2021

jan 9/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

Watched a race while I biked. Ran with a playlist, then remembered a runner mentioning listening to “thunderstruck” while they ran and liking it, so I switched to that for my final minutes. Nice. AC/DC is fun to run to. Didn’t think about anything except that I breathe better when I’m working out. I also breathe better outside and in the winter, which I noticed (again) earlier today when Scott and I were walking Delia the dog. So bright with the white snow.

A nice relaxing day. Managed to stop myself from obsessively checking the news every few minutes. Sat on the couch and read Agatha Christie’s “The Secret Adversary” with the sleuthing duo, Tommy and Tuppence. Scott and I discovered their 1982 (or 83?) BBC show a week or so ago and we’ve been watching it almost every night. I like their dynamic and saying “Tuppence” as much as I can–maybe Tuppence and Bunty from Father Brown should team up for a show. Such strange names.

Went out on the deck for my moment of sound this afternoon. Managed to convince my 14 year old daughter to join me. Today’s sound is mostly the scampering of Delia the dog–her collar clanging as she shakes, her claws scratching the deck, her scampering paws. Delia loves leaping through the snow like a bunny.

jan 9, 2021

I’m already liking these moments of sound. The quality isn’t that great and maybe what I’m capturing isn’t that interesting, but the act of capturing a moment of sound outside and then listening back to it and writing about it is helping me develop (or reinforce) great habits–making sure I get outside and that I stop and stand still and listen are important/helpful things to do right now. Plus, it helped me to get my daughter outside to play in the snow for a few minutes–something she hardly ever does.

Discovered this afternoon that there’s an animation for an awesome poem by Marie Howe:

And here’s a poem I found the other day that I like:

I Refuse to Report Bugs to Their Creator/ BRAYAN SALINAS

During roll call
a black beetle
wanders to the sink,
near my toothbrush,
and I say,
“Poor thing,
I better let you go.”

                                 My father says,
                                 “You better smash that thing
                                 before it multiplies.”
                                 I think he says the
                                 same about me.

I lie awake at night
and think
about crunchy leaves
crushed in the autumn.

                                 My mother sees
                                 six red ants
                                 running around
                                 the loaf of bread
                                 anticipating their breakfast.
                                 She says to me,
                                 “Get those things off
                                 the table.”

My sister panics
at the sight of a spider.
She runs to the kitchen
and screams bloody murder.
I remind her,
“We don’t find
scary things
scary anymore.”

                                 My mother flicks
                                 the grasshopper off  her book.
                                 She asks how I am doing.
                                 I lie to her
                                 and say,
                                 “I’m doing quite all right,
                                 I smashed a bug
                                 with my shoe.
                                 We all do
                                 what we don’t want to do.”

I see a cockroach
on the ground.
“Gregor,” I whisper,
“you better run fast.”
He says to me,
“I only need to run faster
than you.”

jan 6/RUN

5K
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/edmund, north
29 degrees
50% snow-covered

Still lots of snow on the road and the sidewalk even though it’s been above freezing most afternoons this week. The uneven, sometimes sloppy, trail makes my legs more sore, but I don’t mind it too much. I slipped today on a patch of ice as I ran up from the road to the sidewalk. I didn’t fall–or even feel like I might–just felt that brief loss of control. I couldn’t get that close to the river but I was able to catch a very brief glimpse of it through the trees as I ran on the highest part of Edmund. It looked white and covered–is it, or are there still open spots? No sun to make it sparkle or dance. It looked flat and still. Listened to a black-capped chickadee–it was difficult to hear over the roar of the city. It has been so loud these last few days–is it the air quality? What does humidity (80%) do to sound? I looked it up, and yes, humid air makes sound travel farther. I think I heard some helicopters–does it have to do with any protests? Anything else? Noticed someone over on the river road trail wearing a bright orange shirt–or was it shorts? I can’t remember now. Heard someone (thankfully 20 or 30 feet away) vigorously coughing. Saw a few dogs–identified them more from the clanging of their collars than actually seeing them. Felt strong and fast and happy as I headed back north on Edmund.

a moment of sound

I like the idea of doing a moment of sound everyday, but I don’t always want to run everyday and I only want to post on days when I run (mostly for the calendar so I can quickly glance at it and see which days I ran in a month, and which days I didn’t). So I’m trying to figure out how to post the moments. For now, I’ll post the non-run day moments of sound on the next running day (how boring was that explanation, future Sara?):

For yesterday’s moment of sound, I was sitting on the deck, with only a sweatshirt on, feeling the warm sun on my face, listening to the snow melting off the eaves. Such a nice moment!

jan 5, 2021

For today’s moment of sound, I stopped right after I finished running (listen for my heavy breathing). For the first half, I stood on the sidewalk, holding my phone out, listening to the birds and the roar of a plane. For the second half, I started walking and sniffing and making the delightful sound of crunching snow. If you listen carefully, you can hear the crunch sound change a little as I move from mostly snow to a stretch of ice.

jan 6, 2021

Yesterday, while cleaning out my safari reading list, I found this great poem from last year–or the year before?

notes on winter holidays/ daniel biegelson

Even you are responsible
to more than you. My daughter likes visiting
the pet store. It’s like a zoo she says. She wants
a calico she can walk with a string. On the way
home she says do we sing poems before we light candles.
‘Not to see by but to look at.’ On one level,
the mind doesn’t impose order. The mind
doesn’t impose order. Order presumes
priority. Good credit score. A forwarding address.
My bills accumulate in empty spaces.
My subject position won’t stand still.
On one level, we are not casual acquaintances.
Imagine we are pressed upon one another.
For a while we lived on the second story
above The Leader Store just down the street
from The Woolworth, which still had a griddle
and a soda fountain and smelled of melted butter.
I am not nostalgic. No need. I can still remember
the photographs. I am a frame. Sometimes
a window enclosing and disclosing. We take
the subway to the museum exchanging yous
through the tunnel and into the terminal. Imagine
we are pressed against each other. ‘Mingled breath
and smell so close’ The silver doors. A cell membrane.
You are a witness only to what you admit. Some words
emit so many possibilities they threaten to burst.
What is light. What is rain. Now a metaphor.
Take two and answer in the morning. We look
and do more than look. My daughter says
you talk with your eyes off. Why should everything
we see interact with light. I am counting
clouds destined for Florida. I moved the store here.
This is inescapably common. Where is here. Will you pray
with me. Pray with your feet on the pavement.
When she was born we didn’t know if she would ever
walk. Now my daughter says my whole body is a winter
storm as she leaps across the couch cushions. No digging
out. The self is a reintegration of exponential
apologies—a crowd of people in multi-colored coats
holding handmade signs and choosing to sit or stand
in the same world. After you. No, I insist. After you.

Some favorite lines for today:

I am not nostalgic. No need. I can still remember
the photographs. I am a frame. Sometimes
a window enclosing and disclosing.

My daughter says
you talk with your eyes off. Why should everything
we see interact with light. I am counting
clouds destined for Florida.

Favorite parts of words: the ts in tunnel and terminal, the pleasing rhyme in admit and emit,

jan 4/RUN

5K
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/edmund, north
28 degrees
75% slushy, soft, uneven snow/ 25% bare pavement

More wonderful winter running! Warmer today. The path wasn’t clear–sidewalks, roads, the trail–but I didn’t care. Had to run closer than 6 feet to 2 walkers while I was running on the trail, which bothered me, but I ran by so fast and it was outside so I didn’t care. It’s difficult in the winter because it’s hard to move off of the trail with all the snow piled up on the side. Guess I won’t get too many river views this winter–or at least until it gets colder and keeps more people inside.

Things I Remember

  • Two people by Dowling Elementary, shoveling snow and breaking up the thick slabs of ice on the road, right in front of the school. I wondered, were they volunteers? Were they preparing for kids to come back to school? Are Minneapolis elementary school kids going to return for in-person school soon?
  • Turning around at 42nd, I noticed a few snowflakes. I hadn’t expected it to snow so I thought I was imagining it or there was stuff coming off of a branch above me. Soon, it started to snow a lot, covering the ground with a thin, mushy blanket of wet sludge. Falling, the flakes were hard and small, like little bullets or missiles aimed at my mouth. I choked slightly at least twice when I swallowed them. A few years ago I did some research on snow so I used to know the different types of flakes. I’ll have to find my notes. As I type this entry now, it is sunny and clear and there is no more snow.
  • Several times I heard some interesting sounds and I thought about stopping to record my moment of sound, but I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep running, so I waited until I was done and recorded the moment by my garage. 2 of the places: 1. on edmund, in a sheltered spot, in front of some fancy houses, near my favorite little stand of trees, the cottonwood three, I wanted to stop and record the chirping birds. 2. Again on edmund, close to 42nd, running past a van with its radio on, hearing some rock song mixing with a few power tools, a plane overhead, and the snow hitting the pavement.
  • Caught a glimpse of the river through the trees before turning off the trail to avoid a pack of walkers. I think I saw more big chunks of ice on the surface.

a moment of sound

I recorded this moment of sound after I finished my run. I thought that it might be quieter and more shielded from the city noise and wind back by my garage, behind the house, in the alley. Not sure if it was. The hum of the city is so loud! My main focus for this sound was the little pellets of snow falling on my vest–that’s what the soft crunching noise is–but I also captured some kid losing her shit down the block and some awesomely wet footsteps in the snow at the end.

Jan 4, 2021

In honor of the surprise snow shower this morning, I’d like to memorize some snow poems for the next few days. Here are a few I might consider:

update, a few hours later: I looked back in my notes from February 2018 (also, my log posts from February 2018) and figured out what the little hard pellets are called: graupels.

jan 3/RUN

5K
2 school loop
18/feels like 8
95% snow covered

Winter running is the best! I’m not sure how to express the joy I feel during and after I finish a run when it’s cold–but not arctic hellscape cold–and snowy–but not too snowy or icy–and I get to be outside breathing in fresh air and moving with warm fingers and toes. I love running over the snow, hearing it crunch, feeling it propel me forward–a bit of slide but not a slip. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel for just getting out the door–there’s no pressure to be fast or run for a long time because it’s enough to be there, resisting the urge to stay inside and be warm and protected (from the elements, from too many people, from hidden ice that might make me slip).

Things I Remember

  • As I was tying my laces, just about to go outside, I heard a black capped chickadee calling. I like imagining them singing to me: “Sara. Join us. Be brave, find joy.”
  • Several cawing crows–not a murder of crows because they weren’t flocked together.
  • Smelled smoke at the usual spot, on Edmund Boulevard. Still don’t know, does it come from a house or the gorge?
  • Saw my shadow and felt the warm sun on my face.
  • Running north on 43rd, I smelled the too flowery, too fake scent of dryer sheets. Must be laundry day on this block!
  • Never got close enough to see the river or hear it.
  • Heard a crow and a train having a conversation–first a caw, quickly followed by a “beep beep”–and I think an airplane joined in, roaring from high above.
  • Ran under the bushy fir tree with the limb that arches over the sidewalk on 43rd and thought about how it was covered with snow way back in November.

a moment of sound

While running around Hiawatha School, I got trapped: another pedestrian approaching, a knee-high wall of snow on the curb preventing my quick escape onto the street. I decided to try running in the deeper snow in the baseball field. When that didn’t work, I stopped for a minute to record my moment of sound. The sun was too bright for me to tell when the recording had reached a minute, but that’ okay because this is moment of sound, which is less precise than a minute.

Jan 3, 2021

Listening back to this recording, I’m struck by how loud the planes are. I didn’t even notice that there were planes when I was standing in the field. The next thing: if you listen close and you know what you’re listening for, you can hear the sprinkling of water. That’s someone watering the ice rink at the park. Every year the field, that can fit at least one soccer field and 3 baseball fields, is turned into a huge ice rink, with a large open section from just skating and a closed-in section for hockey. I love this about Minnesota. When I was a kid, I adored ice skating, but living in the South, I rarely skated–only when we went to the big mall in Charlotte with the indoor ice rink. My 8 year old self wouldn’t have imagined that now, at age 46, I live within a mile of 2 big outdoor rinks and 1 indoor one. Last year, I didn’t skate even once. Will I this year?

Was reminded of a poetic form that I tried 4 years ago (yikes, here it is), when I first rediscovered poetry: the triolet. It’s 8 lines with line 1 being repeated as line 4 and line 7, and line 2 being repeated as line 8. Here’s the rhyme scheme (with the capitals representing the repeated lines): ABaAabAB

Here’s the poem that made me think of the form again:

Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther/ A.E. STALLINGS

Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
The booze and the neon and Saturday night,
The swaying in darkness, the lovers like spoons?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?
Does he hum them to while away sad afternoons
And the long, lonesome Sundays? Or sing them for spite?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
The booze and the neon and Saturday night?

I love this poem. Right now I especially love it because of its rhythm and how successful it is in inhabiting this form without making it cheesy or awkward or obvious–that is hard to do.

jan 1/RUN

5K
turkey hollow
14 degrees
95% snow covered

Happy New Year! Of course I had to get outside and run on the first day of the year. 14 degrees didn’t seem too cold to me with all of my layers: green shirt, blue hooded shirt, orange sweatshirt, black vest, 2 pairs of running tights, headband covering my ears, baseball cap, hood, 2 pairs of gloves, 1 pair of socks, yak trax. Not too much wind. Ran south on the river road trail. Encountered a few others runners or walkers but we stayed close to our opposite sides, which I think was about 6 or 7 feet apart. Yelled at the one biker I encountered who was biking in the middle of the trail–at least I thought he was. My depth perception is not the greatest. Saw 2 or 3 cross country skiers! One was crossing the river road, their skis scraping on the bare pavement.

birds!

No turkeys in turkey hollow, but as I ran on the river road trail, above the oak savanna, I heard the drumming of a woodpecker on a tree. The noise was deep and metallic. Was the tree dead inside? I read a poem or an essay that described how a tree can be dead and you can’t tell until you cut it down; it could be dying inside for years. Where did I read that? I almost stopped running for a minute to try and locate the woodpecker but I didn’t–I doubt I would have been able to see it anyway. I also heard some male black-capped chickadees and their feebee call. A three note call this time with a 2 note response. Nice! Such a good omen for the year, hearing my favorite bird, running close to the river!

the river!

Running south on the trail above the oak savanna, at first all I could see were trees, a hill, snow. Suddenly, the gorge sloped down near 38th and the river appeared. Wow! Shining in the soft spots that weren’t yet sharpened by cold . I love the visual effect of sparkling, glittering water–sometime soon I want to read this article about glittering patterns. Talking with Scott, I thought I remembered that the effect was called glint, but looking it up again, it’s glitter. Glint is a flash of light, not to be confused with glisk which is a gleam of light through a cloud. As I described the image to Scott, we also discussed whether the river had sheets of ice or, as I delightfully suggested, floes. Scott thought floes were only in the ocean. Looking it up, Wikipedia says that a floe is defined by it’s size–big!

“An ice floe is a large pack of floating ice often defined as a flat piece at least 20 m across at its widest point, and up to more than 10 km across.[1]Drift ice is a floating field of sea ice composed of several ice floes.”

Maybe I like using the term because it’s big and grand and makes the river–which is fairly big, but nothing compared to an ocean or a sea, at least where I see it–seem bigger and grander and my images more magical or fantastical or epic?

Another word encountered: brash ice. “Brash ice is an accumulation of floating ice made up of fragments not more than 2m across. It is the wreckage of other forms of ice.” Cool.

After I finished my run, I could hear so many birds. I decided to stop and record a minute of it–I might try to do this every day this month or this year.

jan 1, 2021

In addition to the feebee call, I hear the “chickadeedeedee” and some other chirping I can’t identify. Some dudes laughing, me still breathing hard after my run (and then adding in a gross sniff), and the delightfully irritating crunching snow! I love hearing the biomechanics of my feet walking–listen to the different types of crunches as one foot lifts off and the other sinks down.

Winter Poem/ Donika Kelly

We climb the stalk of early winter
into the sky. Below: the car, the road,
the gray branch. The sun, a mirage, multiplies
in the earth. The light beetles, makes of our
bodies a mirror. We are fallow
as the land beneath us. We climb, though our
arms tire and our legs burn, a gesture
of absolution–we forget,
are forgotten. We are fire or
the image of fire, the day, or
the breaking of it. We disappear, chaff
of myth, what held the story of a season’s end.

This poem! It’s from her collection, Bestiary. How did I miss it when I read that book this summer? I love beetles as a verb–the light beetles. Does she mean “to scurry” (like a beetle) or “project/jut”?

So many great words in this entry! brash, beetle, glint, glitter, glisk. I want to use some of them in a poem.

dec 30/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Biked and ran again today. Thought about running outside on the snow-covered paths, but I wimped out. Not because it was cold or icy, but because I was worried if I fell and hurt myself–which has never happened in my 5 years of serious winter running–I wouldn’t want to go to a doctor or the emergency room. Too many covid cases, too much scary talk about new, more infectious, strains. Am I being too cautious? Perhaps, but I can still run in the basement and when it’s not the day after 3 or 4 new inches of snow. And I’ll still make sure I get outside for at least 20 minutes a day (already did today, when I shoveled the snow!).

Before I worked out, I spent the morning with my favorite poetry lines, trying to shape them into a poem or something resembling a poem. Last year, I printed out all the lines, cut them out, spread them on a table, and then experimented with different groupings. This year, I decided to type up the lines and then keep narrowing them down, reading through them repeatedly and picking out the ones that I liked, until I had a manageable amount. Then I printed and cut those out and played around with how to categorize them. After a few ideas, I came up with: The Is, The Ought, The Why Not. The Is includes lines that describe. The Ought includes lines that prescribe. And the Why Not includes lines that wonder and imagine and dream up new ways to be. Is this a poem? Not quite. I might try messing with it more at some point. Still, I’m posting it as my final poem for my monthly poem challenge: December Decisions

I am very pleased with these lists and my idea for them and my ability to complete this a poem-a-month, always alliterative, challenge!

dec 18/RUN

2.6 miles
neighborhood
33 degrees

Overdressed this morning in my green shirt + pink jacket + black vest. Windy and gray. No snow. Listened to a playlist and didn’t think about much. Too far from the river to see it. Briefly ran on Lake Street. Lots of cars, but only one a few people walking. What else do I remember? The gutters were cluttered with dead leaves. The pavement was wet–was it from street sweepers? Favorite song to run to: Harry Styles’ “Treat People with Kindness.”

ABECEDARIAN FOR THE DANGEROUS ANIMALS/ Catherine Peirce

All frantic and drunk with new warmth, the bees
buzz and blur the holly bush.
Come see.
Don’t be afraid. Or do, but
everything worth admiring can sting or somber.
Fix your gaze upward and
give bats their due,
holy with quickness and echolocation:
in summer’s bleakest hum, the air
judders and mosquitoes blink out,
knifed into small quick mouths. Yes,
lurking in some unlucky bloodstreams
might be rabies or histoplasmosis, but almost
no one dies and you
owe the bats for your backyard serenity.
Praise the cassowary, its ultraviolet head, its
quills and purposeful claws. Only one
recorded human death, and if a boy
swung at you, wouldn’t you rage back? Or P.
terribilis, golden dart frog maligned by Latin,
underlauded and unsung, enough poison to
vex two elephants into death but ardent
with eggs and froglets, their protection a neon
xyston. And of course,
yes, humans. Remarkable how our
zeal for safety manifests: poison, rifle, vanishment.

I love this abecedarian. What a great ending! And the descriptions throughout: so good. I think I ‘d like to compose an abecedarian using facts from my vision research this fall.

dec 17/RUN

2.75 miles
loop around Hiawatha
24 degrees

Gray, damp, chilly but not cold. Some wind, but not too much. Ran the first (almost) 2 miles with no headphones, listening to the gorge and reciting “The Meadow” by Marie Howe in my head. Listened to a playlist for the last three quarters of a mile. Was able to run above the gorge. Heard a kid below me on the Winchell Trail in the Oak Savanna. Hardly anyone else on the trail–I think I passed 2 people. Heard a few voices down on the lower trail, saw someone’s bright blue jacket. Admired the river–a pale blue with a few chunks of ice. I don’t remember hearing any woodpeckers or chickadees or crows or busy squirrels. Noticed a few flurries. Anything else? Felt good, even thought I am tired and ready to take a break. Only 20 miles left until I hit my goal, 1000 miles!

Wondered about some of the words in the poem I was reciting. Is the line, “it knows for certain that two horses walk upon it, weary for hay” or “weary of hay.” [I checked: it’s of hay, which makes more sense] Got distracted somewhere around the line, “Two crows, rising from the hill, fight and caw-cry in mid-flight, then light and fall on the meadow grass” and never returned. Maybe I was thinking about how my son is going to college next year and he just received his financial aid package and he is very smart and I’m so proud of him and he won several big scholarships and it will still be difficult (but not impossible) for us to pay for it because college costs way too much. Or maybe I was just not thinking, letting my body stretch and move and fly and strike the ground in an even rhythm?

Here’s a poem I discovered the other day on twitter:

How It Happens/ W.S. Merwin

The sky said I am watching
to see what you
can make out of nothing
I was looking up and I said
I thought you
were supposed to be doing that
the sky said Many
are clinging to that
I am giving you a chance
I was looking up and I said
I am the only chance I have
then the sky did not answer
and here we are
with our names for the days
the vast days that do not listen to us

dec 15/RUN

3 miles
neighborhood
18 degrees / feels like 9

Colder today. As I said to Scott, “I was the only fool out there.” Strange, though, because it’s really not that cold for Minneapolis. On this day last year, I ran outside when it felt like -3.

It was a good run. I started without headphones, reciting Diane Seuss’ “I Look Up From My Book At the World Through Reading Glasses.” Favorite first line, which I used in one of my mood ring poems, “the world, italicized.” Also love the next line, which really resonates for me and my seeing objects as forms, like Tree or Rock or Person. “Douglas fir blurs into archetype.”

When I got to the Minnehaha Academy parking lot, I decided to put on a playlist and listen to headphones as I ran south. Favorite songs today: Screwed/ Janelle Monae and Midnight Sky/ Miley Cyrus. Ran into the wind; glad to have a hood on. I didn’t get close enough to the river to admire it, or the ravine, or the oak savanna. I do remember hearing, and then seeing, a wedge of honking geese in the sky. Oh– and I heard the “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” as I ran by someone’s garage. Anything else? The sidewalks were stained white from salt, or was it from the dusting of snow we got 2 days ago? No slippery spots. And, a new over-the-top decoration at the already excessive house with Olaf, a minion, Charlie Brown, and Darth Vader: a giant reindeer. I ran past it to fast to notice, but I bet it’s Rudolph from the old holiday special.

sleep

Ever since I had my first kid, way back in 2003, I’ve struggled to sleep through the night more than a few times a month. I usually wake up for a few minutes every couple of hours. For the past few days, my sleep has been extra *fun*: go to sleep around 10:30, wake up at 11:45, then just before 1, then again at 1:30 before finally sleeping for 4 or 5 hours straight. My usual counting by sevens–which I started doing a few years ago–isn’t cutting it, so I’ve started listening to Taylor Swift’s new album, evermore, until I fall asleep again. I love this album. So many good songs with great words to enjoy. “Marjorie” is one of my favorites–such a beautiful song about grief and losing someone you love! Always makes me think of my mom.

Marjorie/ Taylor Swift

Never be so kind, you forget to be clever
Never be so clever, you forget to be kind

And if I didn’t know better
I’d think you were talking to me now
If I didn’t know better
I’d think you were still around
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive

Never be so polite, you forget your power
Never wield such power, you forget to be polite

And if I didn’t know better
I’d think you were listening to me now
If I didn’t know better
I’d think you were still around
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive

The autumn chill that wakes me up
You loved the amber skies so much
Long limbs and frozen swims
You’d always go past where our feet could touch
And I complained the whole way there
The car ride back and up the stairs
I should’ve asked you questions
I should’ve asked you how to be
Asked you to write it down for me
Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt
‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me
Watched as you signed your name Marjorie
All your closets of backlogged dreams
And how you left them all to me

What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, you’re alive in my head
What died didn’t stay dead
What died didn’t stay dead
You’re alive, so alive
And if I didn’t know better
I’d think you were singing to me now
If I didn’t know better
I’d think you were still around
I know better
But I still feel you all around
I know better
But you’re still around

dec 11/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.9 miles
treadmill, basement

Not too cold or too covered in snow outside today, but I decided to stay inside to cross train and try out my new shoes on the treadmill. Can’t remember what I watched while I biked–some running race, I think. After about 20 minutes on the bike, when my heart rate was at 120 bpm, I recorded myself reciting the two poems I reviewed this morning: Emily Dickinson’s “Before I Got My Eye Put Out” and Vincente Huidobro’s “Natural Forces.”

Dickinson and Huidobro/ 11 December

I love fun challenges like this–trying to remember and recite a poem while working out. I did a good job. I like the juxtaposition of these two poems, with Dickinson cautioning against the hubris of “owning” objects–Mountains, Meadows, Dipping Birds, Amber Roads– by seeing them, and Huidobro celebrating the power of his glances to hold back a landscape or relight the stars or hold down a plummeting train. I memorized both of these poems as part of my Loving Eye/Arrogant Eye theme this summer. I like thinking about it in relation to Kelly’s scouring eye “that scrubs clean the sky and blossomed tree” in “Perhaps You Tire of Birds.” What if vision’s power was not in its penetrating gaze, but something else? I used this question as the start of my “Awed” mood ring poem:

Behold the power of sight! Not found in one destructive glance but in the accumulation of looks. Against the odds and in spite of damaged cones misfiring signals and incomplete data these looks produce something resembling vision — an image feeling fuzzy form.

It’s cool to think about how the poems I memorized and recited this summer helped to inspire my work this fall.

After I finished reciting the poems, I hopped off the bike and ran almost 2 miles on the treadmill. Listened to my Bday 2018 playlist while I tried out my new shoes. Very nice! I wonder if I will run faster outside in these? Felt good to move and sweat and not think about much.

This morning I made it outside for a walk with Delia the dog. Cooler and windy, but clear, uncrowded, and seeming like October and not December. No snow or ice, just lots of brown leaves, bare branches, and yellowing grass. Passing a house on the corner of a street a few blocks away, I noticed the curtain slightly open and the face of an eager dog–a small poodle or Bichon?–watching us walk by. I had noticed the open curtain the day before and thought there might be a dog or cat in the window, but couldn’t look long enough to see. It takes a lot more time (than it used to, and than “normally” sighted people) to be able to determine what I’m looking at. Often I don’t bother; I dislike stopping and staring. It seems rude. One day I will get over this and take as much time as I want stopping to look at things until they make sense. I’m working on it!

From a twitter thread about poems that changed your life, I found this great one by Rumi. I’ve hardly read any Rumi, although I know Mary Oliver (one of my favorites), read them every day.

The Guest House/ Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and
invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

dec 4/RUN

2.5 miles
neighborhood
38 degrees

Feeling sore–not hurt, just sore–in my legs and lower back so I wasn’t sure I would run today but when Scott said it seemed like a great day to run outside, I had to do it. Sunny, mild, clear. A bit windy, but not too bad. A few more people since it is warmish and closer to noon, but I managed to keep distance from all of them. Listened to a playlist again so I didn’t hear any birds or leaves or far away traffic. I’m very close to my goal of 1000 miles for the year! I should take 3 or 4 days off from running once I reach that goal. My body needs it. 1000 miles has demanded a lot–I’ve run almost every day this year. Almost all of those runs have been short–4 or 5k–but frequent. Will I ever be able to run more than 1000 miles in a year? Would that be good for my body? I’m not sure.

Anything I remember from my run? My mind has gone blank. No views of the river, no remarkable trees, no roller skiers or fat tires or Daily Walker. I do remember running on the dirt trail between the river road and edmund. Uneven and windy (as in lots of meandering, not a stiff breeze). I remember wanting to stop at the top of the edmund hill to change my music but deciding to keep going. I remember seeing lots of cars on the river road and running in the grass at Howe field to avoid pedestrians. I remember stepping off the sidewalk and running in the street several times to avoid some more people, doing a loop around Cooper and Howe, smelling something overwhelmingly fruity coming from a van and guessing that someone inside of it was vaping. I remember feeling especially strong and smooth as I ran down the hill on 32nd and especially nostalgic as I ran by the main entrance at my kids’ old kindergarten. I don’t remember taking note of my breathing or making up any chants or noticing any connections between my striking feet and my inhales and exhales.

Richard Siken is the Best

I think it was last year that poets.org began including an “About this poem” author’s note with the poem-of-the-day. I find them helpful and interesting and always look at them after my initial reading of the poem. Richard Aiken’s “About this poem” note for today’s “Real Estate” is the best, most delightful one I’ve ever read. It offers an explanation that helped me to (start to) understand the poem, which is great, but it also offers itself up as another poem to place beside the first one. How cool to turn the note into a poem! I want to experiment with doing this, especially since I am so resistant to offering explanations for what I’m doing (even as I feel I should and/or long to).

Real Estate/ Richard Siken

My mother married a man who divorced her for money. Phyllis, he would say, If you don’t stop buying jewelry, I will have to divorce you to keep us out of the poorhouse. When he said this, she would stub out a cigarette, mutter something under her breath. Eventually, he was forced to divorced her. Then, he died. Then she did. The man was not my father. My father was buried down the road, in a box his other son selected, the ashes of his third wife in a brass urn that he will hold in the crook of his arm forever. At the reception, after his funeral, I got mean on four cups of Lime Sherbet Punch. When the man who was not my father divorced my mother, I stopped being related to him. These things are complicated, says the Talmud. When he died, I couldn’t prove it. I couldn’t get a death certificate. These things are complicated, says the Health Department. Their names remain on the deed to the house. It isn’t haunted, it’s owned by ghosts. When I die, I will come in fast and low. I will stick the landing. There will be no confusion. The dead will make room for me.

About this poem

“I had a stroke and forgot almost everything. My handwriting was big and crooked and I couldn’t walk. I slept a lot. I made lists, a working glossary. Meat. Blood. Floor. Thunder. I tried to understand what these things were and how I was related to them. Thermostat. Agriculture. Cherries Jubilee. Metamodernism. I understand North, but I struggle with left. Describing the world is easier than finding a place in it. Doorknob. Flashlight. Landmark. Yardstick.”
Richard Siken

I want to experiment with adding these notes to my mood ring poems–and maybe my earlier Snellen chart ones too. Is that too much?

dec 3/RUN

2.7 miles
river road path, south/edmund, north
30 degrees

Another great morning for a run. Not windy or crowded. Lots of sun. Clear paths and sidewalks. Listened to Taylor Swift on Spotify. Felt strong and happy to be outside above the river which was glowing brightly again through the bare trees, looking almost like a heat mirage in the summer. The air, wavy. Noticed at least one person below on the Winchell Trail wearing a bright blue jacket. Anything else? No fat tires or roller skiers or groups of runners or turkeys or squirrels.

Critter Sighting!

A fox! At least, I’m pretty sure it was a fox hauling ass across the street straight into someone’s back yard, probably heading to 7 Oaks and its massive sinkhole. Looked too big and too fast to be a cat, too furry and feline-like to be a dog. Glad they kept running and left me alone! I am a wimp when it comes to wildlife. Sure, I’m very excited to spot a coyote or a fox or a muskrat, but only from a safe distance.

Discovered this awesome poem about a woodpecker this morning:

A woodpecker’s/ PHILIP GROSS

working the valley
or is it the other way round?

That bone-clinking clatter, maracas
or knucklebones or dance of  gravel

on a drumskin, the string of  the air
twanged on the hollow body of  itself …

It’s the tree that gives voice,
the fifty-foot windpipe, and the bird

is its voice box, the shuddering
membrane that troubles the space

inside, which otherwise would be
all whispers, scratch-and-scrabblings,

the low dry flute-mouth of wind
at its  just-right or just-wrong angle,

the cough-clearing of moss
or newly ripened rot falling in.

But the woodpecker picks the whole
wood up and shakes it, plays it

as his gamelan, with every sounding
pinged from every branch his instrument.

Or rather, it’s the one dead trunk,
the tree, that sings its dying, and this

is the quick of  it; red-black-white, the bird
in uniform, alert, upstanding to attention

is its attention, our attention, how the forest,
in this moment, looks up, knows itself.

I want to study this poem. So many amazing descriptions! I think I’ll print it out and add it to the poems I have displayed under the glass on my desk.

Gamelan (gam elan): an Indonesian orchestra primarily made up of percussion instruments such as gongs, xylophones, drums.

And that last line! “upstanding to attention/is its attention, our attention, how the forest, /in this moment, looks up, knows itself.”

dec 2/WALK

45 minutes
neighborhood + gorge with Delia the Dog
33 degrees

This year, I’ve only been posting here after a run, but I wanted to rest from running but not from writing, so I decided to break my rule and write about my wonderful walk with Delia the Dog. What a gorgeous late fall morning! What wonderful light! And the birds! I heard a few “chick-a-dee-dee-dees” and plenty of caws, at least two drum rolls from pecking woodpeckers. I stood still and stared high up into the trees, but I couldn’t see either of the woodpeckers. How small were they? The view to the other side was calming and pretty–not breathtaking but breath giving. Everywhere was filled with sounds–rustling leaves, clanging collars, chirping birds, whooshing car wheels–yet it was quiet and empty. I let Delia sniff as much as she wanted down in the leaf-covered grass beside the river road and below Edmund. At some point during the walk, moving slowly and breathing in deeply, I felt a slight comforting buzz through my entire body. Such a great feeling.

Here’s a great poem I discovered this morning on twitter:

In drear nighted December/ John Keats – 1795-1821

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity—
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy—
But were there ever any
Writh’d not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

dec 1/RUN

3.05 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, west/river road trail, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
18 degrees/feels like 10

Colder today than yesterday, which was already pretty cold for most–and too cold for Scott. Love it! Less people, fresher air, a feeling of accomplishment from just getting out the door and braving the cold. Beautiful sun. Not warm, but giving the illusion of warmth and making the frost on the field at Cooper School look enchanted, almost like fairy dust or the aftermath of a glitter bomb.

Running down 32nd towards the river, I noticed a lone black glove on the sidewalk. Saw some people across the street and almost called out to them, “excuse me! did you drop a glove?” I didn’t. Why is the lone glove I see on the sidewalk always black? Do I just notice the black ones, or are most gloves that color? Have I ever seen any other color of glove left behind? I don’t think so. When (and if) I do, I will make a ridiculously big deal about it on this log, which makes me happy that I have been able to find delight and joy in such small things. Finding a blue (or red or pink) glove when I usually find a black one is enough for me.

Delight of the Day, or Today’s Reason for Joy

One: the river, again. Glowing, shimmering, flashing. The light didn’t bother me, but I could feel it reflecting off of my face.

Two: A male black-capped chickadee! I heard the feebee call this morning as I ran south. It was almost drowned out by all the crows, but I’m sure I heard it. Normally, I only notice these in the spring. Ever since I read that they sing all winter, I’ve been listening harder for them and today it paid off!

Anything else? Was able to keep plenty of distance between me and the few people out on the trail. Encountered only 1 bike. Again, no roller skiers.

layers

green shirt, pink jacket, gray jacket, 2 pairs of black running tights, 2 pairs of socks, pink headband, black baseball cap, hood, buff, 2 pairs of gloves

layers lost: buff started on my ears and mouth, ended around my neck, hood down, took off one pair of gloves during mile 2

What Things Want/ Robert Bly – 1926-

You have to let things
Occupy their own space.
This room is small,
But the green settee

Likes to be here.
The big marsh reeds,
Crowding out the slough,
Find the world good.

You have to let things
Be as they are.
Who knows which of us
Deserves the world more?

Love this poem by Minnesota poet Robert Bly and completely agree with the idea that “You have to let things/Be as they are.”

Almost forgot. I posted my Mood Rings chapbook on my writing site! Very proud of the work I have done with these poems.

nov 30/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
20 degrees/feels like 13

Much colder today, which is fine with me. I’m ready for some proper winter running.

layers I started with: hood, black cap, ear bands (a headband to cover my ears), pink jacket, black vest, green shirt, 2 pairs of running tights, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a buff

layers I shed: hood, 1 pair of gloves

I encountered a few runners and walkers but we were all able to keep our distance. No fat tires or roller skiers. Heard the kids on the playground at Minnehaha Academy. Minnesota kids learn early how to handle the cold. Didn’t see any turkeys in turkey hollow. Don’t remember hearing any leaf blowers or chainsaws.

Listened to a playlist, mainly because I was trying to get a Christmas song out of my head that I heard when I turned on the radio this morning–the really dark new year’s eve one about when a famous singer returns to his home town encounters his first love at a grocery store and pity drinks a 6 pack with her in the car. Of course, now I have the song in my head again.

Delight of the Day

The river! Running south on the river road, suddenly I noticed it through the tall, slender tree trunks: bright, sparkling white. Or was it glowing or shimmering or flickering like the flame from a fire? Not just one spot, but the whole river. Wow. The brightness of it all didn’t bother me, even though light sensitivity is one of the symptoms of cone dystrophy. I’m not sure it completely fits, but the light on the river this morning reminded me of Danez Smith’s description of a frozen Minnesota lake in “I’m Going back to Minnesota Where Sadness Makes Sense”:

Have you ever stood on a frozen lake, California?
The sun above you, the snow & stalled sea—a field of mirror

all demanding to be the sun too, everything around you
is light & it’s gorgeous & if you stay too long it will kill you

& it’s so sad, you know? You’re the only warm thing for miles
& the only thing that can’t shine.

Would I call the sun this morning a mirror? I’m not sure but I love their description of the lake and everything but us being light and able to shine.

Other words for sparkle: gleam, glow, glint, glitter, glisten

Scrolling through my Safari reading list, looking for something else, I found this poem and cold mornings:

Cold Morning/ Eamon Grennan

Through an accidental crack in the curtain
I can see the eight o’clock light change from
charcoal to a faint gassy blue, inventing things

in the morning that has a thick skin of ice on it
as the water tank has, so nothing flows, all is bone,
telling its tale of how hard the night had to be

for any heart caught out in it, just flesh and blood
no match for the mindless chill that’s settled in,
a great stone bird, its wings stretched stiff

from the tip of Letter Hill to the cobbled bay, its gaze
glacial, its hook-and-scrabble claws fast clamped
on every window, its petrifying breath a cage

in which all the warmth we were is shivering.

Love the description of the morning light as gassy blue and the metaphor of the mindless chill as a great stone bird with the glacial gaze and breath that cages our warmth and leaves us shivering.

nov 29/BIKERUN

bike: 23 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Windy and dusty and chilly. After taking a walk with Delia and Scott earlier this morning, I decided to stay inside for a bike and run workout. It’s hard spending a lot of time on either the bike or the treadmill in the basement but it still felt good. So nice to move and listen to music and not worry about pandemics or soon to be ex presidents or allergies or clueless people refusing to be careful. Don’t remember thinking about much when I worked out. Maybe, if I run more in the basement this winter, I should work on memorizing and reciting more poems?

Here’s a poem from William Blake in honor of his 263rd birthday:

A Divine Image/ William Blake – 1757-1827

Cruelty has a Human heart
And Jealousy a Human Face,
Terror, the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy, the Human Dress.

The Human Dress is forgéd Iron,
The Human Form, a fiery Forge,
The Human Face, a Furnace seal’d,
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.

I like this last line about the heart as a hungry gorge.

And another one:

The Fly/ William Blake – 1757-1827

Little fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

I remember poets.org posted this one the day after the vice presidential debate when Pence had the fly on his head. Ha ha. This one might be fun to memorize and try to recite while running on the treadmill.

nov 28/RUN

3 miles
neighborhood
36 degrees
COVID cases: 295,001 (MN)/ 13.1 million (US)
COVID deaths: 3,476 (MN)/ 264,977 (US)

More sun today. Very nice after the gloom even if it makes it harder to see other people. Thankfully, I hardly encountered anyone with my meandering sidewalk route. Very nice. Ran with my shadow for at least part of the time. Tried to go slower, but it was hard; I still went much faster in my second and third miles. Don’t remember hearing any roller skiers or seeing any fat tires. No big groups of runners or bikers or walkers. Never got close enough to see the river. No geese or turkeys or squirrels. I do remember hearing a runner calling out to someone about how it was a nice day for a run. Anything else? I smelled the smoke near Edmund and 38th. Is that coming from a chimney or fire pit in someone’s yard or the gorge?

Just heard on the radio that the high today is 54. Nice! I think I’ll sit on the deck or the front steps sometime today. Yesterday I sat on the front steps and heard a black capped chickadee. I’ll take these small delights in the midst of the scary news about uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.

Praise Song for the Day/ ELIZABETH ALEXANDER

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Oh this poem! “What if the mightiest word is love?” “love with no need to pre-empt grievance.” “today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air” “on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp”, and “we walk into that which we cannot yet see”.

nov 19/RUN

4 miles (1 with FWA, 3 by myself)
river road trail + turkey hollow
46 degrees

FWA had to run for online gym class this morning, so we went out together. Yes! I always enjoy getting to run with him even if we do more walking than running. As we ran + walked, we smelled a lot of things: meat, soap, almost burnt toast, thawing half-mulched leaves. FWA recounted a childhood memory of tasting blueberry syrup and hating it so much that we never wanted to return to the restaurant where he tried it. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted blueberry syrup but I imagine it’s gross. After dropping FWA back off at home, I went out for another run. We had run north, to I went south. Such a wonderful time to be running above the river! All the leaves gone, so much view! Hardly any wind, some sun. No ice, not too many people. For most of my run, I listened to the sounds around me but for the last mile I turned on a playlist and tuned everything else out.

For a short stretch of time after the election, I enjoyed checking the news. Now, it’s time to avoid it again. I believe in December when the electoral college meets, this will all be worked out. Until then I can’t get sucked into the daily shit show of contesting results, lawsuits, threats of violence, etc. Instead, I’ll spend more time by the gorge and with poems like this:

In the Evening/ William Reichard

The night air is filled
with the scent of apples,
and the moon is nearly full.

In the next room, Jim
is reading; a small cat sleeps
in the crook of his arm.

The night singers are loud,
proclaiming themselves
every evening until they run

out of nights and die in
the cold, or burrow down into
the mud to dream away the winter.

My office is awash in books
and photographs, and the sepia/pink
sunset stains all its light touches.

I’ve never been a good traveler,
but there are days, like this one,
when I’d pay anything to be in

another country, or standing on
the cold, grey moon, staring back
at the disaster we call our world.

We crave change, but
turn away from it.
We drown in contradictions.

Tonight, I’ll sleep
blanketed in moonlight.
In my dreams, I’ll have

nothing to say about anything
important. I’ll simply live my life,
and let the night singers live theirs,

until all of us are gone.
I won’t say a word, and let
silence speak in my stead.

I like the simple, graceful form of this poem, how it flows, and how it captures and expresses so many contradictions. I’d like to try out this form in some poem about the gorge.

nov 18/RUN

3.15 miles
43rd ave, north/lake street, west + bridge/edmund, south/37th st, west
39 degrees
wind: 14 mph (26 mph gusts)
COVID-19 cases: 236,949 (MN) 11,369,504 (US)
COVID-19 deaths: 2,943 (MN) 248,824 (US)*

*I haven’t put up the COVID numbers since spring. Scary how much they’ve grown and how much illness/death we get used to

A little warmer today so only one long-sleeved shirt and a vest + tights and a headband covering my ears. The right number of layers. Ran to lake street and didn’t encounter a single pedestrian–was it the wind? the alarming escalation of covid cases? Ran onto the lake street bridge and admired the beautifully blueish gray river with the snowy banks and bare branches. Wow, what a calming wonderful view! Made it halfway and decided, after seeing some people up ahead that I didn’t want to encounter on this narrow bridge and battling too hard with the wind and my cap that wanted to fly away, that I would turn around. Ran through the parking lot of Minnehaha Academy–a full lot of students and teachers–and past the aspen eyes. One of them was watching me. Smelled the longfellow grill, which didn’t make me hungry, breakfast food hardly ever does. Felt like I was running into the wind almost every direction I went. Thought about nothing and everything. I think I saw the Daily Walker at the end of my run, but I wasn’t sure and he was up ahead so I didn’t want to yell out and startle him.

Encountered this moving poem on twitter yesterday by Katie Farris. She wrote one of my favorite green poems–What Would Root. So sad to read a few months ago that she has breast cancer. What a poem!

In the Event of My Death/ Katie Farris

What used to be
a rope descending
my vertebrae to the basement
of my spine
grows thin.

In solidarity with my chemotherapy,
our cat leaves her whiskers on
the hardwood floor,
and I gather them, each pure white parenthesis
and plant them
in the throat of the earth.

In quarantine,
I learned to trim your barbarian
hair. Now it stands always on end:
a salute to my superior barbary skills. In the event
of my death, promise you will find my heavy braid
and bury it–

I will need a rope
to let me down into the earth.
I’ve hidden others
strategically around the globe, a net
to catch my body
in the wearing.

The rope descending to the basement of the spine, the pure white parenthesis of a cat’s whiskers, the throat of the earth, the ropes buried around the world to offer a way down into the earth. Wow.

Current COVID mood: some hope (over vaccines and a new president soon) mixed with fear (terrifying increase in number of cases) and anger/disgust (over assholes not taking this virus seriously).

nov 15/RUN

3.2 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north
33 degrees/ feels like 20
wind: 17 mph (30 mph gusts)

Blustery this morning. Pale gray sky. Clear path. More people than I expected but not too many. Looking out for others, I forgot to check on the river. Was it blueish gray? Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any geese. No dogs or fat tires. I can’t remember thinking about anything except the wind and the random patches of ice on neighborhood sidewalks. Sitting here, writing this at my desk in the front room, I can hear the wind howling. Did I hear it while I was running? I’m not sure.

Thinking about the wind, decided to google “Emily Dickinson wind”. Here’s what I found:

Wind/ Emily Dickinson

Of all the sounds despatched abroad,
There’s not a charge to me
Like that old measure in the boughs,
That phraseless melody

The wind does, working like a hand
Whose fingers brush the sky,
Then quiver down, with tufts of tune
Permitted gods and me.

When winds go round and round in bands,
And thrum upon the door,
And birds take places overhead,
To bear them orchestra,

I crave him grace, of summer boughs,
If such an outcast be,
He never heard that fleshless chant
Rise solemn in the tree,

As if some caravan of sound
On deserts, in the sky,
Had broken rank,
Then knit, and passed
In seamless company.

I love her descriptions of the sound of wind as “old measure in the boughs,” “phraseless melody,” “tuftless tune,” and “fleshless chant.” I think fleshless chant is my favorite. Oh, and I really like the verb thrum. I need to use that in something.

mood: relentless

Working on my mood ring poem about the mood relentless, trying to figure out the last line for the inner ring/scotoma poem. Here’s what I have:

Ten thousand years ago water from melting glaciers began to wear down limestone to form a gorge. Thirty years ago cone cells in my macula began to malfunction to form a scotoma. I am both limestone and water. As I dissolve my slow steady flow carves out a new landscape.

Now I’m wondering if I should use “geography” instead of landscape? Landscape seems more visual than geography–and passive, with the land like a background. Yes, I think I like geography.

As I dissolve my slow steady flow carves out a new geography.

nov 13/RUN

2.6 miles
river road path, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
19 degrees/ feels like 10
50-100% snow and ice covered

A bit of an ice rink out there today but I didn’t care. I didn’t slip or fall or twist anything. Felt great to breathe in fresh air and run with my shadow. Such wonderful sun! The river was glowing through the tall, bare trees. Encountered at least one fat tire, a few runners and walkers. No cross country skiers or squirrels or dogs. No geese in the sky or snow plows on the path. Was greeted with a “Good morning!” by a runner on the road.

As predicted, the virus is very bad. 7000 cases in Minnesota just yesterday. Mostly, I’m okay. Staying inside unless I’m out by the gorge for a run. I haven’t been in a store for 8 months and the only public buildings I’ve entered are a few rest areas. It’s strange how it feels both normal and not normal at the same time.

Just revisited one of my favorite November poems by Lucy Larcom. Love this verse:

This is the month of sunrise skies  
      Intense with molten mist and flame;  
Out of the purple deeps arrive  
      Colors no painter yet could name: 
Gold-lilies and the cardinal-flower  
Were pale against this gorgeous hour.

Yes! Yesterday I witnessed the most amazing sunrise. Opening the curtains, I exclaimed, “Oh!” as I encountered a bright pinky orange sky. It only lasted a minute or two but Wow! what a beautiful view.

nov 12/RUN

3.2 miles
river road path, north/river road, path, south/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south
29 degrees
5% snow-covered

Winter running! I love the cold air, the snowy gorge. Encountered a few irritating runners who refused to move over to the other side of the trail. Had to run in the snow to avoid them. Are they really comfortable running that close to someone else, especially as we enter another, even scarier phase of the pandemic? I don’t get it. But, these two runners were such a small part of the run. The rest was wonderful. The sky was grayish-white which made everything seem other-worldly or at least at a distance from this world. Quiet and calm and empty, uncluttered.

Things I Remember

  • The overpowering and mostly unwelcome smell of pork–bacon? sausage?–wafting down from the Longfellow Grill as I ran under the lake street bridge
  • Voices down in the gorge, near the rowing club. Were they rowing in the water? On the shore? I couldn’t tell
  • The crunch-cracking of feet striking hard shards of super packed and icy snow. The same sounds even louder as tires drove over the icy snow
  • A wedge of geese–4 or 5–flying high in the gray sky
  • Some yellowish-brown leaves still on a few of the branches in the tunnel of trees
  • So many cars on the river road

As I ran, I thought about my latest mood ring poem. Relentless. Some lines popped in my head: “I am not the river but the limestone…” and “I am not the limestone but the river” and “I am both the limestone and the river.” Thinking about how the relentlessness comes both from me as I try to make sense of my vision loss and write about it and from the erosion of cone cells as they continue to destroy my central vision.

Encountered a poem this morning that I liked a little with one reading, then liked a lot after reading the poet’s explanation of it.

A Rogue Dream/ Melanie Figg

after Olivia Gatwood

I get ready for my first day as the new girl in high school
already knowing what not to wear. I dress perfectly
to stand out and disappear. I know how to put on
makeup, and I do it exactly right. My hair
looks awesome, of course! I step onto the bus,
pause by the driver, raise my arms like a superstar,
and meet the eyes of my adoring audience.
Three different beautiful girls punch
each other in the face to have me sit next to them.
I decline and the school’s most lovely, artsy boy
slides over to make room. He knows his feelings
and only goes too far
when he honestly misunderstands. He’s one of the safer ones.

I walk down the halls and no one makes fun of me.
I pass the section of lockers where her locker is, and
she is there, taking a book out of her backpack.
She’ll go running this weekend, as usual, and won’t
be followed. The man who won’t be following
her has already followed half a dozen women
to rape and kill and leave in the woods. But she won’t be
followed. She’ll survive her fate this time, and come back

to school on Monday, avoid the mean girls in the bathroom.
She’ll pick on the new girl, call her a virgin of all things.
She’ll limp her way through math, cheat a bit in science,
do pretty good in history and English. She’ll graduate,
and go to the state school on a track scholarship. She’ll
have two girls and keep them safe. She’ll almost forget

about this other ending: her in the woods near her house,
staring at the ground beneath her, wondering why.

This line! “Three different beautiful girls punch/each other in the face to have me sit next to them.” And the ending with the reimagining of the girl as not being followed. Wow.

nov 10/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
31 degrees

Yes! Love this weather for running. Just around freezing, overcast, not too windy. Ran above the river on the trail. Why can’t I remember what the river looked like? Did I forgot to check? Not sure. I remember glancing at the oak savanna and the Winchell trail as it climbs just slightly up to 38th, changing from dirt to asphalt. I remember looking at the sky above the gorge and the other side as I ran by the inviting bench between Folwell and 42nd. I remember noticing how the steps down from 38th were already closed off and that the paved trail below was bare. But I don’t remember the river. It must have been grayish blue. Today we might get half a foot of snow. Will the river be covered in white tomorrow?

The turkeys were in the same yard that they had been in the last time I saw them, doing the same things: munching on something and performing a part run, part trot, part bob to get away from me as I neared. Nice. I love their awkward grace.

I don’t remember thinking about much, which is nice. The joy from last week’s election results has worn off as the refusal to concede continues. Social media doom scrolling returns and so does the need to be much more deliberate about managing anxiety and avoiding media. This week is all about distraction, I think. And shoveling and continuing to work on my mood ring poems and memorizing a few poems?

Speaking of my mood ring poems, I’ve noticed that I used certainty/uncertainty (too?) often. What are some other words I could use?

  • stable/destabilized
  • faith/doubt
  • convinced/unconvinced
  • known/unknown
  • indisputable/in doubt, questionable
  • assuredly/without assurance
  • clear/unclear
  • definite/indeterminate
  • sure/unsure

As I write this at my front desk, the snow has started. This snow seems like it might stick around. Will the grass stay gone? Here’s one of my favorite poems about eagerly anticipating winter. I’ve posted it several times on this log but I always like remembering it:

Fall, leaves, fall/ EMILY BRONTË

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

As I’ve said before, I don’t like misery and dreary days. Just leafless trees, bare branches, crunching snow, and cold clear air.

nov 8/RUN

3 miles
around the neighborhood
58 degrees

BIDEN DEFEATS TRUMP! Such a wonderful, needed headline. Sitting upstairs at my desk, working on my poem in the late morning yesterday, Scott called out, “He did it” or “It’s over” or “He won,” I can’t remember which. I started walking down the stairs, stopped, then began to cry. So much relief and joy. It will take weeks for all the fear and despair to leak out, I think. I recognize this is not the end of all that, just the beginning of a renewed hope in the world and the belief that we can avoid the darkest timeline.

Very windy and warm this morning. Noticed my shadow a few times. She’s very excited about Biden and Harris (Harris!) winning too–I could see it in how she held her frame as she ran. Listened to a playlist and felt happy to be outside moving. I wore shorts. I might be able to do that again tomorrow, but after that it’s running tights. We might get snow on Tuesday.

Admired the sparkling river as I ran above on Edmund. I can’t wait until I can run by the river again without worrying about getting too close to people. Next spring?

Scrolling through twitter, one of my favorite poetry people just tweeted: An open gate. Love it! Possibility…not guaranteed, but a chance to enter a new world, a new era, somewhere other than where we’ve been for the past 4 years. Reminds me of a poem I memorized this summer (and have already almost forgotten, sadly…I’ll have to review it a few times):

The Gate/ MARIE HOWE

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?

nov 3/RUN

1.5 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south
45 degrees

Last week I felt some pain in my lower pelvic bone. Very slight but I’m not taking any chances as I try finally (after 3 past attempts) to run 1000 miles in a year. I think it’s a very early/mild case of osteitis pubic. The treatment? Nothing but rest. So I didn’t run on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Today I decided to try a short run. Went for a mile and a half before I felt a slight twinge. No worries. I stopped, happy to have had the chance to run outside on this beautiful morning!

Listened to a playlist that I’m choosing to believe is a good omen for the election results. I hadn’t looked at any of the songs before I picked it; I just scrolled through my list and chose it randomly. It’s from 2014.

Playlist for a Better Tomorrow

  • I’m Going To Go Back There Someday/Gonzo
  • Don’t Dream It’s Over/ Crowded House
  • I Made It Through the Rain/ Barry Manilow
  • Another One Bites the Dust/ Queen
  • The Best of Times/ Styx
  • Gonna Fly Now/ Bill Conti

Since it’s November, here’s my favorite November poem. I am the crazy woman in November! (although it’s not quite fitting today because it’s sunny and warm; it might get up into the 60s today!)

The Crazy Woman by Gwendolyn Brooks

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”

oct 30/RUN

3.25 miles
turkey hollow
31 degrees

I love this weather for running! Right around freezing. Not much wind. Clear paths. No rain or snow or ice. Ran south on the river road trail, listening to an audio book. Near 42nd, I heard a wedge of geese honking as they flew south to my right, and a playground of kids, yelling and laughing to my left. Which was louder? Not sure. Ran by those same kids again later as I ran north. So loud–there’s no way they were wearing masks and I doubt they were keeping distance from each other. Is that safe?

Ran past turkey hollow looking for the turkeys. All of sudden, there they were. 7 or 8 of them bunched together in someone’s yard. So close to me. They gobbled and started running a little as I passed by. Nice!

Admired the river again. A wide open view.

The Friday before the election. Woke up this morning and made the mistake of scrolling through twitter and finding some tweets about how violent it might get if Trump loses. How worried should I be about this?

Thankfully twitter isn’t all bad. I only go on it because of the poetry people and all their posts about poems. Here’s one I found just now. I love the first stanza:

Black Cat/ Rainer Maria Rilke – 1875-1926

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

A ghost, though invisible, is still like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear