may 28/RUN

may 27/REST

This morning, as I listened to the rain and absorbed the green gloom, I read more about birds. Today I learned about birds’ unique and highly efficient respiratory systems. Small lungs and a series of air sacs around their bodies that store extra air and act as bellows–typically they have 9 sacs. Birds that fly higher might have more sacs, birds that do a lot of deep diving, less–birds who dive in the water need to be less buoyant. I love thinking about how birds are made up of so much air. I was wondering how much air–what percentage of their bodies is air–but I couldn’t find anything. Instead I found an article about the new record holder for the longest continuous flight: the common swift can stay in the air for 10 months straight! Common swifts raise their chicks for 2 months in Scandinavia, then migrate to sub-Saharan Africa. Wow. I also read that they are lost and “pathetic-looking” when on the ground. Awkward, clumsy, and easy prey.

It’s fun (and maybe a little dangerous because I could wander forever through bird facts) to learn more about birds–to devote attention to these “little dinosaurs” that I have often ignored in the past. And it’s satisfying to move past the generic concept of “birds”, to explore more involved, specific understandings of swifts or cardinals or two birds I read more about today:

guillemot: a deep diving bird that lives on the Arctic coast + rocky shores of Canada and Maine and looks almost like a duck except it’s black with some white and has bright red legs

albatross: a high soaring bird with the largest wing span of birds–11 to 12 feet–who flies long distances, often without even flapping their wings, through the fiercest storms, and that has tubes–called “tubenose”–in and just above their bills that remove salt so they can drink seawater

Speaking of the albatross, I came across the name while searching for “poems about birds” and “bird metaphors in poems”: Bird Metaphors in Writing. The albatross is often used as a symbol of burden or curse. This meaning comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Instead of the cross, the Albatross 
About my neck was hung. 

I’ve always thought of the albatross as the burden, as an annoying, pesky bird. But it’s not. It was thought to be good luck for sailors and it’s beautiful and graceful and impressive to see with its long wingspan. The burden is not the albatross, but the sailor’s reckless, immoral act of shooting it. It’s almost as if the albatross is killed twice, first by the sailor/ancient mariner and second by the harmful, negative metaphor it must bear!

Wow, this is a long poem. At some point while reading it I had the idea of challenging myself to memorize it–that was when I thought I was close to being done, but wasn’t. 143 verses. Could I do it? Not sure, but maybe I’ll try to start it and see if it’s possible?I like the challenge because ever since I started memorizing poems, I’ve read about how it used to be required in school, sometimes even this ridiculously long poem. Memorizing this poem could serve as the “final exam” for my memorizing exercises?!

update, 1/2 a day later: Today I memorized the first 10 verses (40 lines), which is 1/2 of the first part of 4. I will experiment with practicing while I’m running tomorrow (may 28).

From the article, “Why We Should Memorize”:

Much of our daily lives would be dizzyingly unrecognizable to people living a hundred years ago: what we wear and what we eat, how we travel, how we communicate, how we while away our leisure time. But, surely, our occasional attempts to memorize a poem would feel familiar to them—those inhabitants of a heyday of verse memorization. Little has changed. They, too, in committing a poem to memory, underwent a predictable gamut of frustrations: the pursuit of stubbornly elusive phrases, the inner hammering of rote repetition, tantalizing tip-of-the-tongue stammerings, confident forward marches that finish in an abrupt amnesiac’s cul-de-sac.

Why We Should Memorize

The author mentions the frustrations, but I also think of the joy that happens when you suddenly remember the word or the phrase you’d forgotten. I’ve found many more discussions of forgetting/losing words than of remembering them. Why is that?

may 28/RUN
3.25 miles
trestle turn around
49 degrees

Sunny, bright, and cold. Brr. I wore shorts, and warmed up by the end, but at the beginning my hands and feet were cold. Was distracted by an approaching runner that turned around in front of me. She was going about the same speed so I just had to follow her. And I did until we reached the hill from under the lake street bridge and I powered up it faster. I ran faster partly because I sometimes do that when climbing hills and partly because there was a group of elementary school kids biking up the hill and, without realizing it, I decided to race them. Of course, once I passed her, I had to keep going faster so she didn’t catch up, which messed up my plan for an easy run.

All of these encounters distracted me as I tried to recite “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in my head. Earlier today, while looking for an audio version of the poem, I found Ian McKellen’s wonderful recitation of it and discovered that there is an earlier, and in my opinion better, version of the poem. It’s from 1797, while the one I had been memorizing is from 1817. Most of the lines are the same, but there are a few different verses, with different lines that I think are helpful for me as I try to not just memorize the poem but convincingly try to tell the story of it from memory. Even though the popularly accepted/known version is from 1817, I’m memorizing the 1797 version.

Anyway, I attempted to recite this version as I ran. Difficult with all of the distractions. I can’t remember if I made it through all of the lines or what I thought about any of them. I struggled with this stanza, one of the few that is different in the 2 versions: “He holds him with his skinny hand/He quoth—There was a ship /Now get thee hence, thou gray beard loon!/Or my staff shall make thee skip!” In looking at it, I realized the problem: I had memorized it wrong and had quoth he at the end instead of ship; everytime I got to the line that ends skip it sounded wrong. Of course it did; it’s supposed to rhyme with ship!

Here’s the version I’m using: The Original Lyric Ballads Version of Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
And here’s a link to Ian McKellen reciting the poem (the video is 30 minutes long! Yikes): Ian McKellen reads “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

jan 23/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 5K
basement

Unless I get out the door early, I don’t like running outside on the weekends. Too crowded on paths already narrowed by snow and ice. So I biked and ran in the basement. Watched the HOKA 100k challenge live online as Jim Walmsley tries to break the world record for 100K (currently held by Japan’s Nao Kazami 6:09:14/ 5:56.5 mile pace for 62.2 miles). Good god. Almost 5 hours in, he’s still holding on, running with blood on his shoulder–he clipped his shoulder on the edge of a fence early into the race. Hard core. Then I listened to my audio book as I ran. I decided to do a relaxed 5k. It’s getting easier to run longer on the treadmill. It will never be as fun or inspiring or invigorating as being outside, but it’s still the chance to move and not feel trapped in my restless body.

Before I starting working out, I memorized Emily Dickinson’s “Snow flakes,” partly because it’s supposed to snow later today. Such a fun little poem! I learned that this poem is only 1 of 3 (out of 1780) poems that Dickinson titled. Cool.

Snow flakes/ Emily Dickinson

I counted til 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 most stately toes
are marshalled for a jig!

I love the energy and the surrender to the delight of falling snow and her word choices: jolly, resign the prig, stately toes, marshalled a jig.

a moment of sound

Playing with Delia in the backyard, walking up the deck steps, then opening the door to let her in the house. I hear a few birds as the snow begins to fly on this cold (20 degrees/feels like 10) afternoon.

jan 23, 2021

jan 15/BIKE/RUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement

Very wet outside today. Sloppy and icy, the temperature hovering right around freezing. Yuck. Decided to stay inside today and bike and run. Watched a race and then checked the news while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Ran more than I thought I would. Heard songs by Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Adele, Miley Cyrus. Mostly avoided thinking about anything, but every so often thoughts about impending violence and possible civil wars and how many people are at risk, and which people are more at risk, crept in. What a terrible time. I mentioned to Scott last night that we need to engage in a lot of public grieving (and reckoning) after all of this is over–Biden should establish a national day of mourning, I think–maybe an annual one.

At the end of my run, as I did my warm down walk, I recited Robert Frost’s “Dust of Snow” from memory. I couldn’t remember the line, “a change of mood.” I said “a better mood” instead. I spent a lot of time yesterday reciting this poem over and over again, working on getting the meter right. Why was it so hard for me to remember the correct lines? Not sure. Also not sure why meter is so hard for me to get right. I can’t seem to hear what’s stressed and what’s not.

a dust of snow, jan 15

a moment of sound

for jan 14: yesterday, I took Delia the dog on a walk when it was just starting to snow. We walked 4 blocks to the gorge, checked out the ravine, and then walked right above the rim to the overlook at 34th st. So beautiful. You can hear Delia’s collar jingling and snow falling on my coat, some cars passing behind us, and several birds: the “chickadeedeedee” song and a woodpecker drumming away + some other birds that I can’t quite identify.

jan 14, 2021

for jan 15: today’s moment of sound was recorded after my workout on my back deck. The crinkling noise is hard pellets (graupels!?) of snow falling on my coat. You can also hear the drip drip dripping of melting snow in a gutter. How delightful and strange and not that common in January to hear falling and melting snow at the same time. And there’s a loud rush/roar sound of city traffic from a freeway. It’s hard to believe, but we live more than a mile away from any freeway. The sound is traveling far today.

jan 15, 2021

jan 13/RUN

5K
43rd ave, north/32nd ave, east/edmund, south/edmund, north
37 degrees
clear roads, slushy sidewalks

So warm! And not too much wind! Tomorrow, snow. Running down 32nd, at the top of a small rise, I could see the gorge ahead. I decided to cross the river road and stop at the edge of the bluff to record my moment of sound. I stood in the snow and looked through the bare branches at the open water. Brown and ice-free. Too warm, I guess. In this moment, you hear an occasional car, some birds down in the gorge, my feet crunching in the snow, the hum of far away freeway traffic. I remember there was a bark from somewhere as I stood there, but I can’t hear it on this recording.

jan 13, 2021

Things I Remember

  • A whole gaggle of kids playing on the snow banks at Cooper School, making lots of noise as I ran by
  • A stupid squirrel, running out in front of me, forcing me to stop
  • Hardly any cars in the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy–are they doing distance learning now?
  • Admiring the beautiful river, thankful that I decided to stop and stare at it for a minute
  • Someone way over on the river road trail, speeding by on an outdoor elliptical bike! At least I think it was–I turned my head to look but it was too hard for me to see. The whirring of the wheels sounded like one, and not a bike, but I’ve misheard things before. I’ll choose to believe it was an ElliptaGO and continue to wonder, how does it handle icy, slushy trails?

Earlier today, I did 30 minutes of Yoga. Right after finishing, when I felt the most relaxed and buzzed from the amazing stretching (it almost always feels so good!), I recorded Snow-flakes:

snow-flakes, jan 13, after yoga

I also recited it a little as I ran. While it was easy to match my feet up with the first line–“Out of the bosom of the air”–the second line was hard–“Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken.” I’ll have to try it again.

jan 11/RUN

5K
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south
29 degrees
sidewalks, some roads: 99% slushy snow-covered

A great day to be outside in the warm sun! Not as great a day for the ankles–so much soft, slightly slippery, slushy snow. I didn’t slip or twist my ankle, but my legs felt sore trudging through the half melted snow. It was worth it to be outside, breathing in the fresh air, noticing the river sparking on the water piercing through the floodplain forest. What a view from up on edmund! What a great opportunity to forget about all of the uncertainty and awfulness happening right now–at least for 30 minutes.

As I started running, I was reciting Longfellow’s “Snow-flakes.” Did I make it to the end? I can’t remember; I was focusing too much on avoiding icy patches and keeping my striking feet soft and my ankles loose.

For my moment of sound, I stopped less than 10 minutes into the run, at the edge of Cooper field, to record some chatting birds and one annoying blue jay (I think. Here are some blue jay calls for comparison–the blue jay call is the worst, overpowering everything else). I also managed to capture a few instances of this rubbing sound–first at 22 seconds in. Not sure what someone was doing to make that noise, but as I approached the corner, a minute earlier, I thought the noise was a dog barking by the church. I almost stopped to try and see what was happening and record it, but decided to keep going. But then the birds were so delightful (except the blue jay) a block later, that I stopped anyway.

jan 11, 2021

Speaking of birds, scrolling through my Safari Reading List, I found this lecture on YouTube that I’d like to watch/listen to sometime soon: Dickinson’s Birds

While I was running, House Democrats announced their intention to impeach Trump for a second time. Yes. Very necessary.

jan 10/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 2.1 miles
basement

It’s the weekend and since it looked crowded near the gorge when Scott and I took Delia out for a walk this morning, I decided to stay inside and bike and run on the treadmill. Watched some YouTube videos while I biked and then listened to a good playlist as I ran: The Man/Taylor Swift; Sunflower/Harry Styles; Midnight Sky/Miley Cyrus; You Should See Me in a Crowd/Billie Eilish; We Can’t Stop/Miley Cyrus; Tightrope/Janelle Monae. All good songs for staying distracted (or not being distracted?) while running. I still cringe at the lyrics of Miley’s “We Can’t Stop,” but the beat works for my cadence. At the end of my run, as I walked and got my heart rate down, I recorded myself reciting a snow poem I memorized earlier today: Snow-flakes/ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. What a beautiful poem!

Snow-flakes/ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Out of the bosom of the air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow,
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded.
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

Love the rhythm and the easy rhymes and the idea of snow as the poem of the air. I’m not as enthusiastic about his love of the word “bosom,” although it sings much better than boobs or chest.

Snow-flakes, Jan 10

Earlier today, after returning from my walk with Scott, I recorded a moment of sound on my front steps. I had hoped to capture the sound of the wind chimes we had heard as we walked, but I guess there wasn’t enough wind. Bummer. Not much to hear in this moment: some birds, faintly singing, some traffic one block over, a car rumbling by. It is very quiet on my block, which is nice.

a moment of sound, jan 10, 2021

dec 23/RUN

5.1 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees

Ran with Scott on the Franklin loop! Warm this morning; snowstorm/blizzard this afternoon. The Weather Channel app predicts 5-8 inches and Dark Sky, 10-15. Yikes. It was great out there today. Not much wind, only a little misty rain, bare pavement. We ran slow and stopped many times. The river was a beautiful gray–no sun today. Noticed the lions in front of a house had Santa hats on. And–almost forgot!–we saw 5 big turkeys crossing the road over in St. Paul. Anything else? I recited the poem (Babel/ Kimberly Johnson) I re-memorized yesterday to Scott as I ran and he mentioned how much it sounded like Captain Beefheart lyrics, especially the line, “while the tesla bees whine loudly at the stunned sky.” I love the idea of tesla bees and a stunned sky.

countdowns

only 28 days/ 672 hours left of Trump!
just 3.25 miles left to run to reach my goal of 1000 miles!

dec 22/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
25 degrees/ feels like 16

A great day for a run! Cold but not too cold, not too much wind. No snow or ice (that’s coming tomorrow). Not too many people. Ran south on the river road trail right above the river. O, the river! An unobstructed view. I think it was blue. I don’t remember seeing any ice on it, but I do remember admiring the pleasing contrast between the brown branches and the pale blue water. Saw several groups of walkers down below on the Winchell trail, spotted someone in a bright blue jacket. Why is the jacket always blue when I notice people below me? Is it the same person, always walking when I’m running, or am I only noticing when it’s blue, or is it not blue at all–I just always see blue? I didn’t see any turkeys down in turkey hollow–I made sure to look–but I did see a giant wreath on the door of one of the funkiest, late 70s/early 80s modern houses on that stretch of Edmund.

Sounds

  • a nail gun on a roof–running south I wondered where it was coming from, running back north I found out: down Dowling Avenue (or is it street? I’m too lazy to check right now)
  • chainsaws cutting down some trees–sounded like a big tree or many trees
  • a kid talking to an adult below as I ran above on the trail
  • the queen of the block (the cat who often escorts me across the sidewalk when I walk by her house) meowing loudly as I tried to recite a poem after my run

Favorite Spot for Admiring the River

Running on the trail, on the stretch between 42nd and 44th, where the bluff is steeper and higher and the lower trail (below me) hugs the edge. So wide and open and gorgeous!

Tried a (slightly) new experiment today. Memorized a poem. Recorded myself reciting it from memory before heading out for my run. Recited it all through my run. Then, recorded it again on my walk home. I wondered what the difference would be? Would I know the poem better after my run? In the first attempt: no. I knew it better before, but I think that had more to do with being tired at the end of my run. The poem I memorized (or re-memorized) was: Babel/ Kimberly Johnson

Babel, before running
Babel, after running

Biggest mistake I noticed: both times I screwed up the verb tense, reciting could instead of can. I might try this experiment again.

Only 8.35 miles left to run until I reach my goal of 1000 miles. Then, a break! Also, only 696 hours until Trump is down–only 2% of his presidency left!

dec 20/RUN

5k
2 school loop
27 degrees

What a beautiful morning for a run! Frost everywhere, even on the road, sparkling in the bright sun. Not too much wind. Encountered a few patches of ice on the sidewalk, but no snow. Heard a strange bird, with a strident double cry, as I ran. Was it a bluejay? Lots of people on the trail and on the grass between Edmund and the river road.

Decided to recite “What Would Root” from memory. Normally it takes me about 3 minutes to recite it all (it’s a long poem), but while running it took 7 and a half minutes. Many distractions and repeated lines. I stumbled over the line, “The squirrels, I mentioned them already, etc, and the lizards ran down the spines of rocks like a bad feeling.” I kept wanting to recite climbed instead of ran even though I felt like that was wrong, which it was. Also got stuck on the line, “that they were a part of my body I could not doubt; they were living and enervated and jutting out.” In my typed up version, I had alive instead of living. Reciting it in my head, that sounded wrong rhythmically, which it was (again). I love the scolding squirrels and the chill red-crested woodpecker that “was not offended I didn’t know his name” and the land spreading greenly before me and the roots in my skull shifting. Such a magical, strange poem!

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 16/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles

It wasn’t too cold outside, but I decided to stay inside so I could do some biking too. Watched a few races and, when I heard Lorde’s “Royals” playing during one of the races, I decided to watch that video. Wow, just looked it up and it’s hard to believe that “Royals” is from 2013. It’s 7 years old?! With some more (albeit cursory) digging, I found that it was on popular radio in the US in August of 2013. I probably heard it around then, or later. In the fall of 2013, I was just shifting away from my TROUBLE blog and writing about researching and creating an interactive documentary about my family’s farm on a new blog, STORY.

Because I always feel compelled to document my life, I have a summary of the creative/intellectual work I did at that time:

SUMMER 2013
  • Edited my Grandma Ines’ memoirs, which she wrote in the late 1980s a few years before she died, by breaking it up into manageable chapters and combining it with supplementary videos, photos, a scan of her scrapbook and a forward and concluding essay written by me. Excitedly published it in iBooks, eagerly shared the link with family members and unrealistically and perhaps unfairly hoped that they would read it and recognize it for what I imagined it to be: a gesture of love and an invitation to reconnect with each other through a shared investment in the Puotinen heritage
  • Created and began posting content on a new site for archiving farm-related materials and documenting the process of reflecting and remembering the farm and its inhabitants
FALL 2013
  • Analyzed interactive documentaries, did research on how people tell stories online and created a resources page with links about online storytelling, interactive tools and examples of projects that were inspiring and influencing me
  • Crafted a storytelling manifesto
  • To make the most out of an annoying time gap between when I dropped off my son for school and when I dropped off my daughter, began another digital storytelling experiment with digital moments documenting brief moments of life with a second-grader who was curious about the difference between a pie and a tart, who liked playing hopscotch and swinging on the monkey bars, who was transfixed by freaky trees that looked like they had teeth and who hated swimming the butterfly stroke
  • Researched and wrote an Interactive Media Project Grant Proposal for a $50,000, two-year project that I correctly predicted would never be accepted but that I (mostly) enjoyed doing anyway because it enabled me to learn a lot of new things and forced me to get off my ass and actually start working with all of the farm materials that I had collected and had promised to use in farm stories for years

I still lived in my old house but my son was starting 5th grade at one elementary school a block and a half from our future house while my daughter was in 2nd grade at another school. (This was the start of them being at separate schools. Scott and I always talked about how they wouldn’t be back together again until FWA was a senior and RJP a freshman in 2020. Of course, now it’s 2020 and they aren’t in school at all, but at home doing online school during the pandemic). That summer, I swam across Lake Nokomis for the first time and fell in love with open water swimming. That swim changed my life. Now, I cannot imagine not being an open water swimmer–which made my decision to not swim in the lake this summer even more difficult.

The idea of changing your life reminds me of the poem I reviewed today and then recited a few times during my bike ride: Marie Howe’s “The Meadow.” Such a beautiful last sentence!:

Bedeviled,
human, your plight in waking, is to choose from the words
that even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that
tangled among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change our life.

After biking, I changed into my new berry red shoes and ran for 12 minutes while listening to Taylor Swift and Lizzo and Justin Bieber. I almost, but didn’t, fell of the back of the treadmill when I got distracted, checking my pulse. Oops.

note: This post, and my ability to find so much of what I did in 2013 online, reminds me again of how grateful I am for past Sara. She did such a great job giving accounts of our life.

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 14/BIKERUN

bike: 18 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 5k
treadmill, basement

Because I’m feeling extra sore at the end of the year and because it’s icy and cold (feels like 5) outside, I biked and ran in the basement this morning. While I biked, I watched more of Netflix’s Prom. Still not sure if I like it, but it’s good to watch while biking. A nice distraction. Near the end of my biking, I stopped the movie, pulled out my phone, and recorded myself reciting an excerpt of “Halos.” Several mistakes, but not too bad. I love this poem with its myopic me and soul ubiquitous like water and the idea that “to the dead, we’re the ghosts.”

Reciting Halos/ Biking, heart rate 120 bpm

While running I listened to a spotify playlist that included some Harry Styles, Janelle Monae, Demi Lovato, and ended with Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” Wow, that last song. Not too bad to run to, with its slow steady beat, but those lyrics. Yikes. That was a particularly bad phase for Cyrus–so much troubling cultural appropriation. Wore my new berry red shoes and felt fast and free–even though my app claimed I was running slow. Pretty sure that my speed on the treadmill is always faster than it says. I ran for a little over 30 minutes–that’s a lot for me on the treadmill.

Today the electoral college votes. Foolishly I had assumed that that would be it, all of the doubt and unsubstantiated claims about the election will end. But then I reviewed how all of this works and realized that we still have the potential shit show of January 6th, when Congress can chose to debate the results. Of course, it couldn’t be resolved in 2020–2020 must continue to (mostly) suck.

Here’s a poem I’ve been meaning to post for some time now; I wanted to wait until it was winter, or at least felt like winter: cold, with snow on the ground. It’s from December 1972.

In Wiry Winter/ James Schuyler

The shadow of a bird
upon the yard upun
a house: it’s gone.
Through a pane a
beam like a warm hand
laid upon an arm.
A thin shell, trans-
parent, blue: the
atmosphere in which
to swim. Burr. A
cold plunge. The bird
is back. All the same,
to swim, plunging
upward, arms as wings,
into calm cold. Warm
within the act,
threading air, a
shadow on the yard.
Or floating, gliding,
a shadow on the roofs
and drives, in action
warm, the shadow cold
but brief. To swim
in air. No, Not in
this wiry winter air.
A beam comes in the
glass, a hand to
warm an arm. A hand
upon the glass
finds it a kind
of ice. The Shadow
of a bird less cold.
Window, miraculous
contrivance, sun
hot wires in
meshed cold.
The bird goes
quick as a wish
to swim up
and cast, like
it, a shadow
on the years.

dec 12/RUN

3.15 miles
2 school loop
29 degrees

Gloomy, light gray today. Wind coming from almost every direction. My lower back hurt when I started but was okay by the end. Less than 30 miles to go now, then a break. Nice to be outside, moving, and not thinking. Ran to the river and started on the trail, but there were too many people so I crossed over to the grass between edmund and the river road. No view of the river today. Encountered a few irritating squirrels, a big white dog. I don’t remember hearing any geese or seeing any big birds in the sky. No fat tires or roller skiers.

Running around Hiawatha School, I thought about when my kids went there. FWA started in pre-school in 2006, RJP finished 2nd grade in 2014. It seems so long ago and like it was a different Sara who took her kids to the playground, soccer practice, the wading pool, school concerts. I like the Sara I am now better than the Sara I was then.

This morning I reviewed part of Ed Bok Lee’s wonderful poem, “Halos,” and then recited it in my head as I ran. No recording today because I ran all the way to my front door without a cool-down walk. Here’s my favorite part of what I reviewed:

That visual impairment improves hearing,
taste, smell, touch is is mostly myth.
With it, however, I detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each streetlamp a pink-orange dawn.

So much in this bit that I love and that makes me think.

  1. Visual impairment, in and of itself, has not improved my other senses. Instead, it has made me want to work harder on them: to learn to listen, to notice and make note of what I smell, to find words to describe the textures I encounter.
  2. And, not being able to see normally most often doesn’t mean you can’t see anything. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), 93% of blind and partially sighted people can see something. I like how Lee describes that something as beautiful and magical and not damaged or partial or less than: fuzzy spirits, halos, streetlights casting pink-orange dawns as light. Pretty cool. Quite often, I like the soft, fuzzy, gentle way I see the world these days. In an earlier part of the poem, Lee describes how he sees people: “any nearing face is surely smiling, gorgeous; each blurry body’s aura numinous.” Yes, I see this too and I like it. So much better than harsh lighting with sharp features and haggard faces.

As I was trying to write out the lines of this poems, I was thinking–and not for the first time–about how difficult it is for me to memorize line breaks and punctuation in poems. I googled “memorizing poems difficult punctuation” and found a discussion of how and why some contemporary poets write poems that deliberately resist memorization. Interesting. Here are some sources I’d like to check out:

The idea of writing poems that are hard to memorize–awkward phrasing and rhythms, for example–made me think about my poems about vision, the Snellen charts and mood rings. How hard are they to memorize? Are they too dependent on vision and reading to be understood? I think I want to do a poem/some poems about vision that are not so visual. I like the idea of experimenting with memorization and speaking/reciting in new ways. I’m also thinking about how I’ve been partly drawn to poetry because it’s easier to read as reading gets harder for me. Easier because there are usually less words to read and they are grouped differently, with lots of white space. Not easier in terms of understanding; I love how chewy and difficult they are in that respect. Yes, I want to think about this some more!

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 10/RUN

3 miles
edmund + loops around Cooper and Howe
43 degrees

Wound my way through the neighborhood to avoid people. My route makes some interesting shapes, I think:

Screenshot of my running route, marked with yellow lines winding through the neighborhood--
Running Route, 10 December

Very mild this morning with bright sunshine. Not blinding, just warming and reminding me of early spring. From up above on Edmund, the tunnel of trees below glowed. I would have liked to run through it, but I am keeping as much distance as I can from others. Too many cases, too many deaths. Between 33rd and 32nd, encountered an adult running and laughing while a young kid chased them. Their joy made me smile. Just before heading up the 32nd street hill, I saw Dave the Daily Walker way up ahead on the river road trail. Too far away to greet. I don’t remember noticing the parking lot at Minneahaha Academy–was it empty again? Ran around Cooper School. A family was playing in the field. Headed south on 45th and ran around Howe School too. Another family playing in that field.

Celebrated less than 1000 hours of Trump’s presidency last night at 7 PM; woke up this morning to scary tweets about his latest court cases. Time to distract myself until this is over–will it ever be over? Time to focus all of my energy on the small and big joys I can find.

Today’s reason for joy: New Shoes!

Since starting to run in 2011, I’ve been wearing Saucony Grid Cohesions. The pair I’m wearing right now I bought last winter. They’re blueish gray and mind green accents. Very nice. Last week, I decided to upgrade one level to Clarion 2s. They are berry red! with copper accents. So cool! I’ve never had red shoes. I’ve had: white, gray, bright pink, orange, teal, electric blue but never red. And they feel faster. I’m excited to try them out–maybe on the treadmill this winter.

Reciting while Running, Review

Reviewed two more poems this morning: Ted Kooser’s “Turkey Vultures” and Donika Kelly’s “Perhaps You Tire of Birds.” Recited them in my head while I ran, then recorded “Perhaps” right after finishing, and “Turkey Vultures” on my deck a few minutes later. Only minor mistakes, but ones that weakened the power of each poem–forgetting the my in “O, my scouring eye” and “O, my heart” and “O, my bones” in “Perhaps” and making it was instead of is at the end of “Turkey Vultures.”

Perhaps You Tire of Birds/ December 10
Turkey Vultures/ December 10

dec 9/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1 mile
treadmill, basement

What a beautiful day outside today! 50 degrees as I write this log entry. Already this morning, I took Delia the dog for a long walk to the gorge overlook at the 35th street parking lot, and then later sat on the deck, facing the sun for about 20 minutes. O warming, healing sun! I didn’t run outside because I’m trying to go easy on my left lower back and hip. Also, I wanted to do my reciting while running experiment. I recorded myself reciting Mary Oliver’s “Invitation” from memory while biking (heart rate: 120 bpm) and then later while running (150 bpm)

Reciting “Invitation” while biking
Reciting “Invitation” while running

Listening back to both recordings, I like the one when I am running better than the biking one. A bit smoother–even with the “melodious” mistake.Was there a difference in breathing and cadence? I’m not sure.

dec 8/RUN

5k
43rd ave, north/edmund, south/loop around Howe
31 degrees/90% humidity

So humid this morning. The moisture in the air didn’t bother my skin or my breathing, only my eyes. Difficult to see. No problems recognizing objects, but it felt like I was looking at everything through a thin veil. Strange. My lower back on the left side–the usual spot–was sore for the first mile. My body is ready for a break. I just need to make it for a few more weeks. Less than 40 miles to reach my goal. After I warmed up, it was a nice run. Here’s a few things I remember:

  • The upper campus (high schoolers) at Minnehaha Academy seems to be closed for in-person school; the parking to was almost empty
  • Hardly anyone out walking or running or biking
  • Couldn’t see the river–I was too far away, but could see the air above it and the possibility of the river below, if that makes any sense
  • I got to greet Dave, the Daily Walker! “Hey Dave!” “Hi Sara. It’s been a long time.” What a nice surprise. He was dressed in black today.
  • Saw a house with a blown-up Darth Vader with candy canes + a minion + Olaf from Frozen+ Mickey Mouse. Wow

Recited several of the door poems I memorized this summer: “I dwell in possibility” “Praying” and “I Remember.” When I finished, I recorded myself reciting “I Remember” by Anne Sexton.

I Remember by Anne Sexton/ 8 December

I got almost all of the words right. A few errors that made the poem seem clunkier–a was instead of is, an extra that, days instead of times. It is fascinating to listen back to myself and see the mistakes I don’t realize I’m making. Favorite lines: “the grass was as tough as hemp” and “we wore our bare feet bare since the 20th of June” and “while the sun blew out of sight like a red picture hat” and those invisible snoring beetles! I love them.

dec 7/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
32 degrees/86% humidity

No sun this morning but also not much wind or people. No snow on the ground or on the path. A great morning for a run! No turkey at turkey hollow but plenty of kids yelling joyfully at the school playground–Minnehaha Academy is still having in-person classes. Ran right above the river on the trail but I don’t remember looking down at the river even once. Did I? I remember looking out to the other side, the St. Paul side, and hearing a strange buzzing sound across the gorge. It was not a leaf blower but a saw or something that grinds or chips or cuts. I remember noticing the bare mesa and the leafless trees in the oak savanna and the chain on the 38th street stairs closing them off for the winter. I remember glancing down at the Winchell Trail between 42nd and 44th and briefly considering taking it. I remember thinking the hill on 47th, just past turkey hollow, seemed steeper today.

Delight of the Day: Geese!

Running on Edmund right by Dowling Elementary I heard some honking. Geese! Flying above me, not too high. As I ran, I tipped my baseball cap up and craned my neck to watch them. I imagine they were calling to me, like Mary Oliver’s wild geese, harsh and exciting, announcing my place in the family of things.

This morning, before going out for my run, I re-memorized Rita Dove’s “Voiceover.” Then, while running, I recited it in my head. Finally, within a minute of finishing my run, when my heart rate was probably 160 or 170, I recorded myself reciting it into my phone. Not perfect, but not too many mistakes. Such a fun way to run. I have missed reciting while running!

Voiceover by Rita Dove/ 7 December

Favorite passage today (even though I didn’t get it quite right in the recording):

It likes a dream when a voice whispers
Open wide and you do but it’s not your mouth anymore
because now you’re all throat
a tunnel skewered by air.
And so you rewind and this time
when you open wide, you’re standing
outside your skin, looking down
at the damage, leaning in close…
about to dive back into your body
and then you wake up.

When I was doing this reciting while running project in the spring/summer, I also mentioned this: I memorize the words, but not the punctuation or the line breaks so when I try to write out my memorized poems, I don’t always get those right. Is it just me? Are other people able to memorize everything? Is it important to do so? I’m sure it changes the poem, but is that a problem?

Covid Cases: 350,000 MN/ 14.76 million (US)
Covid Deaths: 4,000 MN/ 282,375 (US)*

*I use my run and being outside and memorizing poems and getting lost in words and making note of daily delights as a way to endure this terrible, unbelievable time. Such shocking numbers and, while there’s hope with the vaccine, there’s also a lot of death and suffering still to come. Mostly, I’m doing okay but I worry about the toll of all this fear and anxiety and stress on my body–on all of our bodies. What new diseases and disorders will we develop from all of this?

dec 6/WALKBIKE

walk: 45 minutes
neighborhood, boulevard, beside the gorge
bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement

Almost there. I have 24 more days to run 44.2 miles. My body is getting tired and needs more breaks as I get closer to the end. I’m trying to be cautious and not over do it. I wanted to run outside this morning–the paths are clear and it’s not too windy, but my lower back and hip are a bit sore so I biked instead. Difficult to not run when I want to. Always more difficult than getting myself out the door on a day when my body’s healthy and I should be running.

Even without a run, was able to walk with Scott and Delia across from the gorge on the grassy boulevard. Beautiful! I love looking over to the gorge, with all the grayish-brown leafless branches offering a view to the other side. Not sure how many people agree, but I think it’s wonderful. We couldn’t see the river or the gorge, but I could tell it’s there, I can feel the openness, the uncrowded air, the possibility.

Last night, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk when it was dark. We didn’t know when we stepped outside but it was snowing. Quiet, soft, steady flakes falling, dusting the sidewalk. Looking at all the Christmas lights inside and outside of the houses, it felt like a winter wonderland. Not too cold, not too icy, not too crowded. Just right. I am ready for snow. I am starting to gather together some snow poems to memorize for the occasion.

Speaking of memorizing, I’m reviewing all of the poems that I memorized this spring and summer as part of my end of the year wrap-up. Today’s poems: It’s all I have to bring today, Threshold, and Dear One Absent this Long While. I recorded myself reciting them while I biked in the basement. Here’s the final one:

Reciting “Dear One Absent…” 6 December 2020

I had forgotten how much I enjoy memorizing and reciting poems. I’ve missed it while I’ve been working on my own writing project. It’s nice to take a break from my writing and return to the words of others. Reviewing these poems makes me want to memorize more Emily Dickinson. She is the best. So much fun to say her words and they stay with me much better than some of the poems by other poets. I also love Rita Dove. Her “Ode to my right knee,” that I reviewed yesterday is one of my favorites.

oct 22/RUN

2.15 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south
33 degrees
tiny and sharp snow

Rain and snow coming later this morning so I tried to get out early before it started. Ended up running most of it in the snow–small, sharp pellets that felt like little knives on my face. I wish I would have worn my visor or glasses. I was concerned that the snow might cut my eyes–although it doesn’t really matter for me because my retina is already pretty thin and damaged. (Writing this in my front office, I suddenly saw a flash. Was that lightening? Then thunder. Holy shit. Snow then thunder and lightening. What’s next?)

I was the only fool out there and I loved it. I didn’t mind the weather, except for the sharp shards on my face. The rest of me was completely covered and warm. I didn’t have to worry about avoiding people. It wasn’t slippery. If all winter running could be like this–the uncrowded, not slippery paths–I would be happy.

It was dark and out of focus and other-worldly outside. And loud! The falling snow or freezing rain or sleet or whatever it was was so loud. When I got home, I did a recording.

falling snow, 22 october

I ran past the aspen eyes and by the house that finally sold and several trees still covered in orange leaves. I recited the excerpt from October by May Swenson that I memorized a few days ago. Favorite lines:

See, along the scarcely gliding stream
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still spills into

and

Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.”

It’s fun to say the word, “chuck.”

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.

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.

august 21/RUN

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

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

sound of the morning

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

fall is coming!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening/ Elizabeth Hoover

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

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

august 20/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + trail*
73 degrees
78% humidity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

loaded gun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

august 19/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing a poem, August 19

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

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

august 18/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
62 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

Writing a Poem, August 18

Let the Wonder Always Win

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

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

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

Poem Beginning with a Retweet/ Maggie Smith

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

august 17/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees

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

5 Sounds I Heard As I Ran

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

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

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

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

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

Writing a Poem/ Shirley Geok-lin Lim

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

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

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

Noises While Running that I Feel Helpless to Avoid

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

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

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

What bird makes this sound?

august 16/RUN

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

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

so loud!

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

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