oct 3/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
58 degrees
dew point: 55

Ran with Scott to the falls before the marathoners raced on the river road. Not too warm, but humid. A mile in, I already felt like a damp sponge. A nice run with lots of fall color. Saw at least 2 turkeys chilling in the parking lot, the same spot they were at last week. Heard a bird calling out as we entered minnehaha park. Might have been a red-breasted nuthatch. The falls were rushing but not quite roaring, the creek was higher but not high. Listened to the leaves crunch as I ran over them. Saw at least one roller skier and lots of volunteers getting ready for the race — the twin cities marathon. Anything else? I’m sure I heard at least one goose, avoided more than one squirrel. I recall looking down at the river through the thinning leaves and hearing some rowers.

random thing for future Sara to remember: “Out of an abundance of caution” (as they like to say at RJP’s high school), we got covid tests last week. The spit test. I have a lot of trouble spitting and filling up the cup. That, combined with my inability to see signs or anything else well at the testing site, makes getting these tests incredibly difficult for me. Spitting into a cup seems like a basic thing that everyone can do without thinking. Not me. I’m actually going to have to practice before we take another test — whenever that will be. I’m trying to see this as funny, because it is, but it’s hard to laugh when it’s so upsetting. Not just because I can’t spit, but because I can’t see — it’s a reminder of how bad my vision is getting.

I love this October poem:

Neighbors in October/ DAVID BAKER

All afternoon his tractor pulls a flat wagon
with bales to the barn, then back to the waiting
chopped field. It trails a feather of smoke.
Down the block we bend with the season:
shoes to polish for a big game,
storm windows to batten or patch.
And how like a field is the whole sky now
that the maples have shed their leaves, too.
It makes us believers—stationed in groups,
leaning on rakes, looking into space. We rub blisters
over billows of leaf smoke. Or stand alone,
bagging gold for the cold days to come.

sept 19/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
67 degrees
humidity: 90%

Ran with Scott in Austin. It felt much warmer than 67 degrees. Very humid. The gate was open, so we ran through the county fairgrounds. Scott and the kids made it here, but I was on my trip up north, so I missed it. No cheese curds for me this summer. At the far end of the fairgrounds, dozen of geese had were congregating in a treeless, empty field. Lots of geese in Austin, lots of geese up here in Minneapolis too. Sometimes, the sky is filled with their honking. Love that sound, and love this time of year.

Found this poem by Rumi on twitter the other day. I think this fits with my theme of approximate:

Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing
and rightdoing
is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

sept 12/RUN

2.25 miles
dogwood loop
58 degrees

Ran with Scott north on the river road trail to the trestle, through Bracket Park, then over to Dogwood Coffee. Great weather for a run. Not too hot or humid, hardly any wind, overcast. Saw Dave, the Daily Walker and after I called out to him, he greeted both us, remembering Scott’s name. Impressive, considering he’s only met Scott once, and it was when I introduced them while running by quickly about 2 years ago! Noticed a few red leaves. Heard the rowers below us. No geese (yet) or wild turkeys or large groups of runners. Some bikers and walkers and signs for an event by the river yesterday: “free rowing” and “free canoe rides.” It would have been fun to try the rowing. Oh well.

Here’s an updated version of the poem I posted yesterday. I’ve fit it into my five beat form. Not sure if it works yet, and I’d like to add more.

At the lake the fish in me escapes

All winter she waits
barely alive iced
under skin. By june
restless. Together
we enter the cold
water but before
the first stroke she’s gone
reborn in endless
blue remembering
fins forgetting lungs
legs january.


august 28/RUN

3.1 miles
austin, mn
70 degrees

Ran by the county fairgrounds, a few schools, a very high creek (or “crick” as Scott’s mom pronounces it), and a few churches. Stopped in downtown Austin, right before reaching the Planter’s peanut mobile. Ended with some iced lattes at the coffee place across from the SPAM museum. Life looks almost normal here–except for the masks we wore when going inside anywhere. Lots of rain. Too much rain. Flash flood warnings. Over-saturated grass. Puddles. I remember that we talked a lot, but I can’t remember what we talked about.

august 12/WALKRUNHIKE

walk: 2 miles
run: 2 miles
hike: 1.3 miles
lake superior, north shore
70 degrees, sunny

Walked north along the Gitche-Gami State Trail, which runs for 28 miles (and eventually 86, all the way from Two Harbors to Grand Marais) beside Lake Superior with my dear friend from college, Michele. Turned around and ran back. Later, on the way to Grand Marais, stopped at Cascade Falls and hiked to a water fall, over a few bridges. Encountered 2 older women who asked us if we were having a reunion. When we said yes, they said they were too–ours was a reunion of 5 college friends who met 29 years ago, theirs was of 2 high school friends who met much longer ago than that–they didn’t say, but they were at least 15-20 years older than us. Very cool.

august 11/RUN

3.2 miles
marshall hill
76 degrees

Ran with STA before I left for my trip up to Lake Superior and the North Shore. Over the lake street bridge, up the marshall hill, down the east river road trail, back over the bridge, through the minnehaha academy parking lot. Don’t remember anything about the run–we stopped very briefly at a light at the bottom of the hill; encountered someone walking into Black Coffee and Waffle Bar; and marveled at half of tree, on the ground, blocking the sidewalk, the remaining half looking completely dead inside.

july 19/RUNSWIM

run: 3.5 miles
austin, mn
62 degrees
humidity: 96% / dew point: 60

Cool but humid. Ran through Austin with Scott. We were in town, but parts of it felt like running through the country, especially the parts with narrow, windy roads and no sidewalks. Reminded me of rural North Carolina where I lived from ages 4-9, and where I would, on the rare occasion, “run” with my mom. A fuzzy memory: asking to run with her, becoming separated when I couldn’t keep up, getting trapped for a few minutes by a loose, barking dog (no leash laws in rural early 1980s North Carolina). How much did the Austin landscape really resemble Hickory, NC? Probably not that much, but enough to trigger this memory and make me look around for any loose dogs that might be about to attack.

swim: 2 miles / 5 cedar lake loops
cedar lake open swim
85 degrees

Back in Minneapolis in the late afternoon. Went to open swim at Cedar Lake. Wow, the water was warm near the shore. Almost too warm. Wore my new suit, my birthday suit–the one I bought with birthday money from Scott’s parents. The “birthday suit” joke never gets old for me. I remember turning 7 or 8 or 9 and getting a bathing suit for my birthday. I ran around the neighborhood, wrapped in a towel, looking like that was all I was wearing, and calling out to anyone nearby: “Want to see my birthday suit?” I’d open the towel, show them my suit, and laugh at their surprise–and relief, I’m sure, to see that I wasn’t naked. I was one of those irritating kids.

I think my central vision is getting a little worse. It’s harder to sight the orange buoys, even when the water is calm, the sun hidden. It doesn’t matter too much because I don’t really need the buoys to know where I’m going. I love my brain and whatever else in my body that’s allowing me to gradually adjust to this loss so that by the time it gets worse, I’ve already adapted enough that it doesn’t matter. Do most people have this experience when they’re losing something?

The swim was great. Earlier in the season, I was criticizing this lake, writing about how I wasn’t chill enough for it, but now I love it again. It feels more like a lake up north than one at the edge of Minneapolis. Gravel trails, no buildings, canoes and kayaks everywhere. What a great night for a swim! I felt buoyant and fast and confident. No planes flying overhead, circling like sharks. Only water and a clear landmark to sight: the split in the trees at the beach. Couldn’t see below me–at its deepest point, the lake is 51 feet down. I wonder if that’s anywhere near where I swim? Had a few encounters with vegetation. Scratchy.

Here’s a poem by Ellen Bass that I found on twitter. I’m posting it for the water image, but the idea of loving the world, in spite of its awfulness, resonates for me too.

The Thing Is/ Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, Haw can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violent eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will you love you, again.

Thinking about the image of water as heavy, making the air harder to breathe. When I’m running, and it’s hot, the wet air feels heavy and thick on my skin. Oppressive. But when I’m in the lake, swimming, the water feels light, free. Breathing is much easier for me. Somehow, I don’t need to do it as much, even while I’m wearing a nose plug and can only breathe through my mouth. The more I swim, the less I need to breathe. Every five strokes, then every six or seven. To love life, I don’t want to hold it in my hands and look at it, I want to swim in it. What to do with this image/metaphor?

july 12/RUN

5k
downtown loop
82 degrees

Ran downtown with STA during FWA’s clarinet lesson. Only 3 more and he’s done. He’s been taking them since 5th grade. 8 years. Wow.

Hot and bright sun, but we ran slow and steady so it was fine. Running over the Plymouth Ave bridge, saw a boat below. 1/2 mile later, saw the same boat just ahead. Anything else? Running on Nicollet Island, right in front of The Nicollet Island Inn, smelled something foul, like horse poop. Do they have carriage rides again at the Inn? Encountered lots of lyft scooters, some bikers, runners, walkers. A nice, easy, sweaty run.

july 6/RUNSWIM

run: 1.5 miles
river road trail, north/south
76 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 70

Before it started raining again, STA and I went out for a quick run. Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. Amazing. Everything felt hot and wet and thick, but I enjoyed it, especially running through the tunnel of trees.

swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
70 degrees
overcast, then light rain

I love open swims when it’s overcast and rainy. No one else at the beach. The buoys easy to sight. The rain drops fascinating to watch from underwater. Tonight’s swim was wonderful. I might have done more if my watch hadn’t died and I didn’t have STA and Delia the dog waiting for me in the parking lot. Just like last night at Cedar, I was able to look through the water a few feet in front of me. Tonight I watched my hand as I stretched it out, noticing the bubbles it generated. I felt strong, especially my shoulders, as I plunged my hands into the water. I mostly breathed every 5, but in the first loop I did some every 3, then every 4. And, in the last loop, I did some every 5, then 6. At one point in the middle of the lake I had a scary thought: what if my kneecap displaced mid-lake? How would I push it back in place? Quickly, I realized this was unlikely and returned to happier thoughts about powering through the water and being able to see the buoys and the Indian takeout STA and I were planning to eat after the lake.

Water in Love/ Ed Bok Lee

How to love like water loves
when it’s impossible to even taste
all the ghostly sediments
each time you take a sip

Impossible to savor
the salt in your blood
the light and island shorelines
in each living cell

When even the plainest mouthful
tastes more of you than you of it

Sweetest of absences
that frees in wave after wave
debris of thought like the dead,
the drowned, the vanished, and yet
sails your lips
on a voyage toward another’s, plying
all luck and regret

Worship, splash, guzzle, or forget
It clears any difference
Stone washer and mountain dissolver
that will
outlive us, even the memory of
all any eyes touched

Wasp and cactus in a desert
Comet through outer space
Sleep among all the cloud-shepherds’ children

A love so perpetually current
it doesn’t care that you love
without even knowing you love
what you couldn’t survive
three days without

How to love like that: wild
dream-sparkler and meticulous architect
of every snowflake
Wise, ebullient, and generous
as the rain

Deepest of miracles
for a time
borrowing and replenishing
a self
overflowing with fate

july 4/RUN

5 miles
austin, mn
Hog Jog 5 mile race route
72 degrees
80% humidity/ dew point: 66

Out the door by 7. Still hot. We ran the route for the 5 mile race they usually have for the 4th here in Austin. Stopped for a few walk breaks. In the shade it was fine, in the sun it was not. Very hot. We started at east side lake and ran, mostly on a trail, to Todd Park.

things I remember

  • STA talking a lot, which was nice; I’m usually the one having to talk
  • The sound of the boards on the bridge banging as we ran over them
  • Trying to quicken my cadence to match STA’s. Not to go faster, just to lift my feet more
  • A runner greeting us as we passed–“Good morning! It sure is getting hot”
  • STA telling me a story about a pedestrian bridge that collapsed a few years ago in london
  • Hearing a few firecrackers (already, at 7 in the morning) and joking that someone was pre-partying before the parade. Then we talked about how rarely we have had a drink before noon
  • Remembering past years of running in the race on this trail, especially the people–the heavy breather, the girl who stopped to puke near the end, the guy who ran fast, then stopped, then ran fast, then stopped repeatedly, all the women wearing shorts/skirt combos

june 21/RUN

3.15 miles
downtown loop
64 degrees

Ran the downtown loop with STA while FWA was at his first in-person lesson at MacPhail since March of 2020. Downtown loop = stone arch bridge + st anthony main + nicollet island + boom island + plymouth bridge + west river parkway. A great afternoon for running, not too hot. We checked out the new park and the indigenous restaurant opening next month. Nice!

All morning, I was putting together a rough timeline of the history of the area, starting 12000 years ago when the glacial Lake Agassiz spilled over its edge and traveled through the River Warren all the way to St. Paul. For some time, I have been confused about conflicting dates I encountered–was the gorge formed 12000 or 10000 years ago. Today I learned more: 12000 years ago the River Warren eroded the softer sandstone under the limestone near downtown St. Paul which created the massive—apparently bigger than Niagra Falls–Warren Falls. For almost 2000 years the falls slowly traveled up the Mississippi River to the confluence (where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge, near Ft. Snelling). Then it split into 2 waterfalls, one followed the Minnesota River then fizzled after entering an existing river bed, the other followed the Mississippi River and slowly carved out the gorge, traveling 4 feet every year until thinga become more precarious and erosion accelerated–about 100 feet a year in the 1860s, right before the falls had to be shored up with a concrete apron in 1870. So, I guess you could say the gorge began forming 12000 years ago when the Warren Falls started it’s slow march from St. Paul, or you could say 10000 years ago when the falls reached Ft. Snelling and moved upstream to Minneapolis.

We ran by some of the entries in my timeline, like the Hennepin Avenue bridge–the first bridge to span the river, built by Franklin Steele in 1855 and replaced 3 times, or the Stone Arch Bridge, built by James J. Hill in 1885, or St. Anthony Main which is older than Minneapolis but became a part of it in 1872.

june 20/RUN

1.4 miles
austin, mn
65 degrees
drizzle

In Austin for Father’s Day. Ran with STA at the park by his parent’s house, trying to stay close in case the light rain turned heavy. Windy, slightly wet, humid. Noticed the remnants of a Juneteenth party at the park building–just a few bits of trash that missed the trashcan. Also noticed the gentle curves of the trail as it winds through the (almost completely) shade-less, square park. These curves make all the difference–well, I think the giant evergreen trees help too–spruce? pine? I better check with STA about what kind of trees they are. Barely felt the rain drops as we ran. Rain! They needed it in Austin. Yesterday, it was strange and unsettling to walk through the brittle, hard, thirsty grass. Up in Minneapolis, we need it too–and now, writing this in the evening, back home, it’s raining. No more 90s, tomorrow in the 60s. For a day or two, that’s fine with me.

I’ve posted this one before, but it’s worth posting again. A favorite of mine–poet and poem.

A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

june 14/RUN

2 miles
austin, mn
70 degrees

Ran with STA to the downtown coffee shop. Saw the “Peanut Mobile” parked outside of the SPAM museum and then was approached by an old guy wanting to talk. At first, it was fine, but then he inched too close and wouldn’t stop talking. Then, after he left, STA mentioned as he talked, the guy spit a lot. I’m vaccinated, so I am confident I’m fine, but I’m not ready for this type of normal. It bothers me how quickly we went from lockdown to completely open. Where is the gradual transition? Where is the space for being uncomfortable, for still wanting to keep distance, for acknowledging and working through the difficulty and fear and anxiety involved in learning to see people as more than covid-carrying weapons (ED’s loaded gun)? I am not ready for normal again. And who wants that old normal, anyway? I want something better, less harmful.*

*update on 15 June

Just read “Dionne Brand: On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying” and it fits so well with some of my thoughts about the normal:

The repetition of “when things return to normal” as if that normal, was not in contention. Was the violence against women normal? Was the anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism normal? Was white supremacy normal? Was the homelessness growing on the streets normal? Were homophobia and transphobia normal? Were pervasive surveillance and policing of Black and Indigenous and people of colour normal? Yes, I suppose all of that was normal. But, I and many other people hate that normal. Who would one have to be to sit in that normal restfully, to mourn it, or to desire its continuance?

and

But I hear what they say and many others do as well, “Look we should never live the way we lived before; our lives need not be framed by the purely extractive, based on nothing but capital.” Everything is up in the air, all narratives for the moment have been blown open — the statues are falling — all the metrics are off, if only briefly. To paraphrase Trouillot, we want “a life that no narrative could provide, even the best fiction.” The reckoning might be now.

Searching for poems about “rock,” I found this great one. I like the multiple meanings of rock bottom here:

ROCK BOTTOM/ Eamon Grennan

So this is what it comes down to in the end: earth and sand
skimmed, trimmed, filleted from rocky bone, leaving only
solid unshakeable bottom, what doesn’t in the end give in
to the relentless hammer, whoosh, and haul-away of tides
but stands there saying “Here I am here I stay,” protestant
to the pin of its absolute collar, refusing to put off the sheen
on its clean-scoured surface, no mourning weeds in spite of loss
after loss–whole wedges of the continent, particles of the main
plummeting from one element to the other and no going back
to how things were once, but to go on ending and ending here.

It’s interesting to put this beside my above discussion about the before times and the after times. How does it and doesn’t it fit for me?

I’m also thinking about the literal bedrock of the Mississippi River Gorge: what is the deepest layer of rock? I think it’s St. Peter Sandstone, but I will gather together my research to verify.

june 6/RUNswim

2.5 miles
lake nokomis
75 degrees

STA and I drove over to the lake early to avoid the heat and then ran around it. Hot and sunny, but not too bad for me; STA was having some difficulty with his knee and hip, so not so good for him. Lots of people to dodge, mostly in packs of 2 or 3 or more. We weren’t trying to avoid them as much as just not run into them. The highlight of the run: passing 3 people standing near a pooping dog, hearing one of the people say: Such a big poop and right by a trashcan! Good dog! He said this in a voice that you usually hear when someone is praising a toddler. Okay, maybe I also liked feeling the breeze coming off of the lake and watching it glimmer and feeling almost normal and locking into a steady rhythm with my arms swinging the same amount and in perfect chorus with my legs. Oh–and I also remember stretching at a table near Sandcastle and noticing the light from the overhang reflecting on the pavement, making it glow a pale, pretty blue.

swim: just a quick dip in the drink (100 yards?)

I wanted to test out the water before open swim, which starts on the 15th!, so I decided to try a quick swim. It wasn’t that cold, just lots of waves from all the wind. My first time swimming since August of 2019. It felt like I never stopped, and strange and unknown at the same time. In other Junes the lake water has been clear, but not today. Couldn’t see a thing below me. Also hard to see above water. Time to prepare for vague shapes, and not knowing where I’m going, and trusting straight strokes. Always good practice and it makes every swim more exciting–will I get way off course? will the lifeguard have to come get me? I really hope that I can swim a lot this summer. Could I manage 100 miles? I’ll see. Open swim has expanded; I can swim 6 days a week. Minneapolis Parks is amazing.

Here’s a poem for this month’s theme of water and stone. Wow.

The Museum of Stones/ Carolyn Forché – 1950-

These are your stones, assembled in matchbox and tin,
collected from roadside, culvert, and viaduct,
battlefield, threshing floor, basilica, abattoir–
stones, loosened by tanks in the streets
from a city whose earliest map was drawn in ink on linen,
schoolyard stones in the hand of a corpse,
pebble from Apollinaire’s oui,
stone of the mind within us
carried from one silence to another,
stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, horneblende,
agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards,
chalk, marl, mudstone from temples and tombs,
stone from the tunnel lined with bones,
lava of a city’s entombment, stones
chipped from lighthouse, cell wall, scriptorium,
paving stones from the hands of those who rose against the army,
stones where the bells had fallen, where the bridges were blown,
those that had flown through windows, weighted petitions,
feldspar, rose quartz, blueschist, gneiss and chert,
fragments of an abbey at dusk, sandstone toe
of a Buddha mortared at Bamiyan,
stone from the hill of three crosses and a crypt,
from a chimney where storks cried like human children,
stones newly fallen from stars, a stillness of stones, a heart,
altar and boundary of stone, marker and vessel, first cast, lode and hail,
bridge stones and others to pave and shut up with,
stone apple, stone basil, beech, berry, stone brake,
stone bramble, stone fern, lichen, liverwort, pippin and root,
concretion of the body, as blind as cold as deaf,
all earth a quarry, all life a labor, stone-faced, stone-drunk
with hope that this assemblage of rubble, taken together, would become
a shrine or holy place, an ossuary, immoveable and sacred
like the stone that marked the path of the sun as it entered the human dawn.

This poem. Beautiful and powerful and haunting. I need to spend some time with it. So much to think about and reflect on. Here are two other things to put beside it:

From the Emily Dickinson Lexicon, entry for stone

stone (-s), n. [OE stán, wall; Gk. ‘pebble’.] (webplay: body, buildings, cold, dead, earth, express, eye, fall, fences, forgot, glance, gold, great, hard, heart, lie, lifeless, means, mirror, myself, perfectly, Philosopher’s, sense, set, small, stand, still, supposed, turning, universally, use, walls, water, weight).

  1. Hard mineral substance.
  2. Piece of rock; [fig.] thing which has a characteristic of a rock: unbreakable, inanimate, unfeeling, immovable, lack of consciousness, used to throw at things, used to break things, used in building structures.
  3. Jewel; precious gem.
  4. Grave; sepulcher; crypt; mausoleum; burial vault; [fig.] large stone covering the entrance of Jesus Christ’s sepulcher which was removed at the time of his resurrection.
  5. Coffin; casket; solid enclosure holding a dead body.
  6. Headstone; monument marking a grave.
  7. Imaginary substance thought to be able to turn other substances into gold. 
  8. Phrase. “[Written / set / stamped] in stone”: unalterable; prescribed by fate; will of God.

gneiss (which has come up in a few different places for me in the last few days):

Gneiss is a foliated metamorphic rock identified by its bands and lenses of varying mineral composition. Some of these bands (or lenses) contain granular minerals that are bound together in an interlocking texture.

Gneiss: Metamorphic Rock

STA’s favorite joke from high school science class:

She was gneiss, but he took her for granite.

june 1/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha creek trail + lake nokomis
71 degrees

Today is STA’s 10 year anniversary of running (his runnaversary); mine is tomorrow. We decided to celebrate them together by running part of the path where it all began in 2011: Minnehaha Creek Trail. What a beautiful day! Maybe a little too bright and warm, but it feels like summer, normal summer.

Running on the trail brought back memories of the kids when they were kids. We lived over by this trail, and not as close to the river, for 10 years. I walked and biked it with FWA and RJP countless times, probably mostly in the summer–to camps, to and to the lake. It was strange to be on this path—for the first time in almost a year–and notice all the differences, like how the trail travels under 28th avenue now instead of steeply climbing up to a crosswalk. As we ran on it, STA remarked on how you would never be able to tell there had been a different trail here unless you remembered it. Yes, the importance of remembering. I’m good at that. It’s strange to be visiting these known, yet unfamiliar, places in the same city in which I still live. Growing up, I never lived in a town for more than 5 years: 4 years in UP Michigan; 5 years in Hickory, North Carolina; 1 year in Salem, Virginia; 4 years in a northern Virginia suburb of D.C; 4 years West/Des Moines, Iowa–well, when I was in college in Minnesota, I still lived in West Des Moines for the summer, so I guess you could count that as 8 years. Anyway, after a few years in the LA area, and a few years in Atlanta, we moved to Minneapolis for good. We’ve lived here since the late fall of 2003, when FWA was 6 months old. He’s 18 now. Wow. I love this place, and I love it even more since I started running around it. Tomorrow is my official 10 running anniversary, so I think I’ll write about what running means to me tomorrow.

Remembering Today’s Run

  • Such a warm, bright sun. Annoyingly (to STA, I’m sure), I had to recite a few lines from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”–the part after the Mariner has killed the albatross and the whole ship is paying the price: no breeze, “all in a hot and copper sky/the blooding sun at noon/right up above the mast it stands/no bigger than a moon.” The part I recited was: “Day after day, day after day/we stuck, no breath, no motion/as idle as a painted ship/upon a painted ocean.” We were moving but the air was not. When in the direct sun, I remember feeling hot and stuck
  • Checking out the menu for Sandcastle and thinking about how we could get some beers and fries after some of my swims this summer
  • Feeling sad about the big willow tree just past the echo bridge–a tree that I’ve featured in at least 2 poems–was recently cut down. Bummer
  • Stopping a lot so STA could take pictures (he posted them on instagram). At one spot, we noticed how still the water was and how clear the reflection of the boat was on its surface. I remember mentioning the myth of Adonis and how he looked at his reflection–but, I should have known better; checking my log entries I found the entry where I first mentioned this story and it was Narcissus. Here’s my entry from just over a year ago:

a mirror reflecting the fluffy clouds. I imagined that the water was another world, doubled and reversed, like in May Swenson’s great poem, “Water Picture“: “In the pond in the park/ all things are doubled:/ Long buildings hang and/ wriggle gently. Chimneys/ are bent legs bouncing/ on clouds below.” Love how “In the pond in the park” bounces on my tongue. I kept glancing over at the water and admiring its smooth beauty and how it looked like a mirror. I started thinking about the Greek myth (which I couldn’t really remember) about the hunter who looked at his reflection. I looked it up just now–of course it was Narcissus. Here’s an interesting article I found that discusses him and the idea of mirrors in water–it even has a picture of Salvadore Dali looking into the water.

april 27, 2020

A new month, a new theme. Last month was birds; this month is water and stone. Today’s poem is one I posted on this log a few years ago (I think), but it’s time to revisit it:

Wind, Water, Stone/ OCTAVIO PAZ

TRANSLATED BY ELIOT WEINBERGER

for Roger Caillois

Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,
stone’s a cup of water,
water escapes and is wind.
Stone, wind, water.

Wind sings in its whirling,
water murmurs going by,
unmoving stone keeps still.
Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:
crossing and vanishing
through their empty names:
water, stone, wind.

Stone: stops/blocks, holds things, is still
Water: carves out stone, escapes and transforms, sings

may 30/RUN

5 miles
downtown loop
56 degrees

STA and I drove to the Bohemian Flats parking lot then ran to downtown Minneapolis: starting on the steep hill, past the Guthrie, under the Hennepin Avenue bridge, over the Plymouth bridge, through Boom Island Park, over the railroad bridge, over the North line tracks, on the cobblestones in St. Anthony Main, over the Stone Arch Bridge, up past the Guthrie again, and down the steep hill. My IT band was tight afterwards, but it feels okay now. I guess I need to keep taking it easy. A great run. It almost felt normal. A few things I wrote down in my plague notebook to remember: ran up the entire steep hill, noticed the calm water, heard so many birds everywhere–not cardinals or robins or chickadees, maybe finches and warblers and sparrows? Lunging dogs, porta potty stops, and the rush of the light rail crossing the Washington Avenue Bridge as I stretched in the flats parking lot.

Right as we reached the Stone Arch Bridge, I remembered Scott saying that the past tense of glow should be glued not glowed (he said this after I remarked on how someone’s bright yellow vest glowed in my peripheral vision), which made me wonder if “glued” might be an archaic past tense, which then made me think about the archaic words in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” like swound–“The ice was here. The ice was there./The ice was all around./It cracked and growled and roared and howled/like noises of a swound.” Swound is an archaic version of swoon, but I like thinking of it in the context of the poem as a collection or gathering of swoons–noises of a swound would be all the noise you’d hear when a bunch of people fainted, like maybe in a revival tent or at a pentecostal service. A rushing and wailing and whooshing and thudding and gnashing.

Yesterday I finished memorizing the first section of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”– all 80 lines. Last night I recited it to STA on the deck while we drank some beer. Then we listened to Iron Maiden’s epic, 13+ minute tribute to it. Very cool. It was hard to make out the words because they were sung so fast, but it was exciting when I heard “wedding guests” or “hermit” or “the albatross” or the dice. Nice! I’m going to try memorizing some (or all) of the next part today. I’m a little reluctant because I don’t want memorizing this epic poem to consume me. I’ll see how I feel after today.

In the midst of memorizing this poem, I came across Robert Frost’s “The Oven Bird,” and wondered, why the hell is it called an oven bird? Looked it up: it’s because the nest of this bird is shaped like an old-fashioned oven. It has a small round hole for an opening.

may 14/RUN

5.25 miles
ford loop
60 degrees

To celebrate being fully vaccinated, Scott and I ran the Ford loop together. Today marks 2 weeks since our second pfizer shots.

Things I Remember

  • The river looking blue and calm
  • Seeing a robin’s red breast as they walked down the path in front of us
  • Hearing but not seeing some rowers starting out from the rowing club dock
  • Thinking about the eagle that used to perch on the dead branch right by the lake street bridge as we walked down the steps from the bridge to the trail
  • Noticing how big some of the houses on the east river road were
  • Hearing the water at shadow falls gushing down in the ravine as we ran up the big hill towards Summit Avenue
  • Stopping at the overlook and admiring the view while talking about how having more than a billion dollars was not evidence of success but of unconscionable excess
  • STA counting the pillars on Ford–according to him there are 101. Today he only counted 98
  • As we headed down the hill back to the trail hearing geese honking
  • Waving and greeting lots of people

Seeing the robin and their red breast on the walk in front of us, reminded me of Emily Dickinson and her poem about the bird that came down the walk one day and did not know she saw, but since I already posted that one in March, I looked for another ED robin poem. I like this one:

If I shouldn’t be alive/ Emily Dickinson

If I shouldn’t be alive
When the Robins come,
Give the one in Red Cravat,
A Memorial crumb –

If I couldn’t thank you,
Being fast asleep,
You will know I’m trying
With my Granite lip!

may 9/RUN

2.1 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st, west/44th ave, north
63 degrees

A short run in the afternoon with STA. Lots of bikes, not too many runners or walkers. Talked about being useless and doing useless things as forms of resistance to capitalism (me) and as clever instagram descriptions (STA). Also, I complained about Mother’s Day and how much I dislike “special days” like it or birthdays–partly because my mom is dead, partly because they create unrealistic expectations about what it means to celebrate and be celebrated.

Here’s one of the first poems I read from J. Drew Lanham’s Sparrow Envy last week:

Octoroon Warbler/ J. Drew Lanham

As a taxonomic committee of one,
I alone have decided
that the past transgressions of long ago dead and rotted
bird watchers must be amended.
That it is my sole responsibility—and pleasure—
to right the wrongs
of racist slave-holding artist ornithologists.
of genocidal complicit naturalists.
of grave-robbing skull-fondling phrenologists.
of the lot of white-supremacist men with the
self-serving penchant
for naming things after themselves.
I hereby declare my solo vote singularly unanimous.
Everything I decide here and now—
passes.
So shall it be written. Let it be done.
Word is bond.
My opinions good as any other treaty
signed in the shifting sand of time.
I do hereby exchange, alter or replace
the names of the birds that follow.
Their former identities by patriarchal rule to be expunged.
That they should have new identities
by my demand.
Bachman’s sparrow, denizen of long-leaf pine savannah;
of wiregrass, of fire-kissed sandy ground
shall be once again be
“pine woods.”
A true great again recovery worthy of celebration!
And whilst I’m releasing species from bondage,
consider the likely forever gone warbler
of the same Charleston preacher’s
human-chattel-possessing label,
can we not do better?
Yes.
“Swamp Cane warbler,”
appropriately by design of damp dank place
it so chose when still in existence, escaping notice.
I would have suggested “Tubman’s warbler,”
but then why make it any easier to erase blackness
when extinction has already done the job?
LeConte’s Sparrow will hence forward be
“orange-faced.”
The brown-backed secretive skulker
of wet weedy rank with tangled overgrown fields,
hider in thickety traces, deserves better fate than linkage
to a Confederate armorer working
to put in place a permanent apartheid nation.
Townsend’s Solitaire,
thrush-esque thing of western slope migration
is now “Up-and-Down Solitaire.”
Mobile altitudinal propensity
taken into full account.
The lemon yellow-headed black and white
western jewel of a warbler
tagged by that same Indian grave-robbing man,
shall now be a “Doug Fir” specifically,
knowing for its tied to evergreen boughs.
No disarticulated Native heads required.
To correct an oversight
of Manifest Destiny,
(and opening the western door to indigenous genocide
not accepted),
behold Clarke’s Nutcracker,
the capacious resourceful intelligent corvid,
given title by the fire-haired Captain of the Corps!
Henceforth shall be York’s Crow.
Designated the first bird so named for a man of color
About damn time the brother got credit
for saving the Corps of Discovery’s always imperiled bacon.
Even as property his contributions went largely
without merit.
To even the score a bit more
redact the other leader Lewis
from the northern Rockies woodpecker.
He of Trail of Tears Cherokee removal infamy.
Christen the gorgeous picid Sacagawea’s Woodpeecker
instead.
As for John James Audobon,
“JJ,” if I might?
He of the posed painted birds,
of ego larger than life to go along
with his Baby Elephant folio.

What does a slave-owning,
man-passing for white might deserve?
What might the demigod of birdome merit
after all these years?
Let his name now be struck.
For malfeasance to humanity.
For being prickish and a generally abhorrent man,
Audubon’s orioles shall be Rio Grande.
The sea-going petrel with the artist’s moniker shall now be
“Warm-Sea Wanderer.”
An identity worthy of its tropic-trotting status.
And last but not least, for review
the yellow-rumped warbler of occidental “race,”
occurring beyond the Mississippi to points beyond that.
Since Johnny couldn’t bear the very thought
of interracial miscegenation,
let’s call the butter-butted bird what it is
in hindsight of his own mixed-raced denial.
The Octoroon Warbler.
Thus, I proclaim on this very day,
whenever this ruling shall be read on whatever future date,
that we remember the identity of the brids for waht they are,
and never forget hte signs of past imperfections too,
to not repeat the nubris of taking good for granted.
But letting creatures have their own names.
No interference from haters required.

An important history of naming that I didn’t know. I looked up Townsend and his warbler and found an article about his grave-robbing: Stealing from the Dead: Scientists, Settlers, and Indian Burial Sites in 19th Century Oregon Also found this: Townsend, John Kirk | Bird Names for Birds. And, found this more general article: A Bird Named for a Confederate General Sparks Calls for Change

may 8/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
50 degrees

Windy and cool. Ran in Austin with STA. Less than a week away from being fully vaccinated.

Vanishing/ Brittney Corrigan

Nearly one-third of the wild birds in the United States
and Canada have vanished since 1970, a staggering
loss that suggests the very fabric of North America’s
ecosystem is unraveling.
–The New York Times (September 19, 2019)

As the world’s cities teem
with children—flooding
our concrete terrains with shouts
and signs—as the younglings balance
scribbled Earths above their heads,
stand in unseasonal rain
or blistering sun,

the birds quietly lessen
themselves among the grasslands.
No longer a chorus but a lonely,
indicating trill: Eastern meadowlark,
wood thrush, indigo bunting—
their voices ghosts in the
chemical landscape of crops.

Red-winged blackbirds veer
beyond the veil. Orioles
and swallows, the horned lark
and the jay. Color drains from
our common home so gradually,
we convince ourselves
it has always been gray.

Little hollow-boned dinosaurs,
you who survived the last extinction,
whose variety has obsessed
scientific minds, whose bodies
in the air compel our own bodies
to spread and yearn—
how we have failed you.

The grackles are right to scold us,
as they feast on our garbage
and genetically-modified corn.
Our children flock into the streets
with voices raised, their anger
a grim substitute
for song.

may 2/RUN

4.5 miles
franklin loop
62 degrees

Ran with STA this morning. Very nice. Noticed the river as we crossed Lake Street. It was brown and calm. No rowers this morning. Are we too early or too late to see them? Ran in reverse today and noticed many houses for the first time. Over-sized houses on over-sized lots. STA pointed out three benches in a half circle, facing the sun with no trees, sitting in a triangle of grass just off of Franklin near a bus stop. He said he hadn’t noticed them before. I don’t think I have either. They don’t look like much fun, sitting there facing the sun–except for maybe on bright, warm-ish days in the winter. Crossing the Franklin bridge we noticed how the sky north of us, over downtown, had an ominous purple tint, while the sky south of us, closer to the falls, was a placid blue. Stopped at STA’s favorite spot–a big tree above the river road–and noticed how much the leaves by the gorge have filled in. Goodbye view to the other side. I can’t remember when it happened during the run, but I remember a robin right in front of us on the path and STA jokingly calling out, “Get outta here, you Robin” and then as it scampered or scuttled? off, STA remarking, “I like how it couldn’t be bothered to fly.” As I remember it, the Robin kind of looked like someone crossing the street and doing that strange hurrying but not hurrying walk run.

may’s exercise?

A new month, which means a new monthly exercise. March was Emily Dickinson, April Mary Oliver. At first I was thinking Robert Bly for May because STA and I just watched this awesome documentary about him on the local PBS channel, but Bly seems more fitting for the winter. Tentatively I have decided not to focus on a single poet, but on a theme: birds. I’ve been reading a great collection of bird poems by the ornithologist J. Drew Lanham, and slowly watching/listening/reading a lecture from Marta Werner on her project, Dickinson’s Birds. Both ED and MO feature birds in many of their poems, and so do so many other poets. Will I want to read about birds for the entire month? Not sure yet.

GROUP THINK: NEW NAMES FOR PLURAL BIRDS/ J. Drew Lanham

A Hemorrhage of cardinals
red-staining the backyard
A Consideration, Council
or Congress of crows;
call them anything but murderers, please.
A Whir of hummingbirds
A Riff (or Mood) of any bird that’s blue
A Thicket of sparrows
A Mine of goldfinches
A Skulk of thrashers
A Cuddle of chickadees. (Cute is a definite field mark.)
A Thuggery of jaegers
A Piracy of skuas
A Crucifixion of shrikes
A Mattering of Black birds—
Lives ignored, hated and dissed.
How did darkness become so despised?
A Melody of thrushes
A Palette of painted buntings
An Audacity of wrens—
finding every crevice ever created
and signing loudest about that fact.
A Vomitus of vultures.
A Swarm of flycatchers—
Empidonax “spuh” be damned.
A Tide of shorebirds—
rising more than falling,
wishful thinking on past abundance;
knots, whimbrel, peeps, plovers, curlews
darkening salt marsh skies.
A Privilege of all birds white—
thought it’s not their fault
for almost always being given the benefit of doubt or being
mostly respected; usually liked.
An Immigration of starlings,
loved to tears in distant murmuration
but deplored to legalized killing on the street.
Deprived of breath without penalty or cause.
A Herd of cowbirds. Given the gift of never parenting.
Evolutionary brillance.
A Flurry of snowbirds;
juncos my grandmother claimed she pitied
and threw them handfuls of grits.
A Wandering of warblers
An Envy or swallow-tailed kites
A Front of waterfowl
—forecasting gray winter days to come.
A Cache of nuthatches
A Wheeze of gnatcatchers
A Throne of kinglets (or court if you please).
A Missing of Carolina parakeets,
too smart for their own good.
An Echo of passenger pigeons
—billions dwindled to none.
A Memory of ivory-bills
in praise of the Great Lord God
maybe not all gone.
An Inclusion of mixed migratory flocks,
hopefully integrated by choice
and not forced to co-mingle
in whatever gulfs they must cross.
Wondering what they would call themselves?
if there is disagreement over plumage color, wing bar width,
leg hue, call tone or habitat of origin?
How would they name us? Would the tables turn?
Am I a greater Southern Black-backed two-legged thing?
You perhaps a common White-fronted human being?
Someone else named after a passerine of respectable fame
or raptor of murderous infamy?
Here in gratitude of everyone there ever was—
Whatever the name.
A Love of birds. My collective label.

some terms I looked up after reading this poem:

a thuggery of jaegers/piracy of skuas:

Parasitic Jaegers, known as arctic skuas in Europe, are fast-flying relatives of gulls with a piratical lifestyle. They breed on the Arctic tundra, where they prey mainly on birds and their eggs. They spend the rest of the year on the open ocean, harrying other seabirds and sometimes attacking in groups, until they give up their catch. Jaegers come in several color morphs. Immatures can be extremely difficult to separate from other jaeger species.

All About Birds

a crucifixion of shrikes:

The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. A denizen of grasslands and other open habitats throughout much of North America, this masked black, white, and gray predator hunts from utility poles, fence posts and other conspicuous perches, preying on insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals. Lacking a raptor’s talons, Loggerhead Shrikes skewer their kills on thorns or barbed wire or wedge them into tight places for easy eating. Their numbers have dropped sharply in the last half-century.

All About Birds

Empidonax “spuh” is twitcher’s jargon (committed birdwatchers who travel far distances to see a new species to add to their “life list”
Empid (US): any of the flycatchers of the genus Empidonax, infamous among North American birders for being difficult to identify in the field without the aid of vocalizations.
spuh: birds that are only identifiable to genus level

Juncos:

Juncos are neat, even flashy little sparrows that flit about forest floors of the western mountains and Canada, then flood the rest of North America for winter. They’re easy to recognize by their crisp (though extremely variable) markings and the bright white tail feathers they habitually flash in flight. 

All About Bird

passerine (def):
(adj) relating to or denoting birds of a large order distinguished by feet that are adapted for perching, including all songbirds.
(noun) a perching bird

Thinking about collective nouns for animals and insects, partly because of this poem, partly because I love collective nouns, and partly because of the ending to this short essay, “Seeing” from Late Migrations that I read yesterday:

Farther down the trail, my beautiful niece, whose eyes see twenty-twenty even without glasses, paused before a fallen tree covered with shelf fungi. She pointed to a ladybug nearly hidden in the folds. “When I was hiking in Colorado, I saw a whole bunch of ladybugs, so I checked Google to see if there’s a name for a group that gathers in one place,” she said. “It’s called a ‘loveliness.'”

“Seeing” from Late Migrations/ Margaret Renkl

april 21/RUN

2.5 miles
neighborhood
41 degrees

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty. All 3 counts. Thank god. I cried when I heard the judge, from both grief and relief.

Ran through the neighborhood with STA in the afternoon. Cold and windy. I don’t remember much, except for STA’s description of the video project he’s working on. Anything else? A for sale sign at the house on the next block, a cracked sidewalk, a few dogs, a kid outside the daycare at the church on 43rd and 32nd, the warm sun, the brisk wind, a fat tire hauling ass on Edmund, a truck stopped at the stop sign unwilling to move until we passed even though we were still far from the intersection.

Reading an article about Mary Oliver last week, I was struck by this passage:

…it’s tempting to be blinded by the more immediately visible parts of speech: the monolithic nouns, the dynamic verbs, the charismatic adjectives. Mousier ones—pronouns, prepositions, particles—go ignored. In “Cold Poem,” for instance, from her 1983 collection American Primitive, overlooking the “we”s and the “our”s, of which there are many, is almost irresistible. One is tempted instead to luxuriate in the broader strokes and be seduced by the wholesome imagery: “I think of summer with its luminous fruit, / blossoms rounding to berries, leaves, / handfuls of grain.” There’s a mental manipulation to Oliver’s rhapsody, a mesmeric quality, as though by conjuring these organic elements, she leaves her readers vulnerable to hypnotic suggestion. Do you feel relaxed? Are you ready for nature? But you miss a lot by allowing the large language to overshadow the more muted connective tissue.

Mary Oliver and the Nature-esque/Alice Gregory

Mary’s Mousier Words: A Few Favorites

Meanwhile (adverb): at the same time

from “Wild Geese”

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain…
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air…

Meanwhile is a cousin to my favorite word, besides. Maybe more so than besides, it suggests that there are other lives/worlds/events happening too, that it is not just about you.

Anyway (adverb): as an additional consideration or thought

from “Flare”

Anyway,
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

from “Don’t Hesitate” in Swan

It could be anything, 
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the 
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Anyway leaves room for other ideas, maybe even encourages you to get over whatever idea you’re fixated on.

Everyday (adjective): ordinary
note: not the same as every day, which means each day and evokes routine, repeated practice

from “Work”

Everyday—a little conversation with God, or his envoy
Everyday—I study the difference between water and stone.
Everyday—I stare at the world

Everyday—I have work to do:

It took me some time to realize that MO meant everyday, as in ordinary time (which she discusses in Upstream), and not every day as in habit, repeated practice. The distinction seems subtle, but rhetorically more powerful to start each line with Everyday instead of Every day. And, everyday suggests a more distant connection with specific time. It isn’t that you do these things each day on repeat, but that you do them when in the realm of the ordinary–does that make sense?

But, actually, I like to read her use of everyday/every day as both at the same time, or as both being possible meanings: the ordinary world (which is inside the clock, is ordered time, and is disciplined and useful), and the creative work she does every day that is both ordinary and extraordinary–the work of paying attention, being astonished, and telling others about it.

As I’ve been reading MO’s poems, I’ve been sensing this tension over what “work” means and the relationship between her work (poems), the world, and Eternity. I feel like the double-meaning/ambiguity of everyday/every day might be speaking to this tension—maybe it’s not intended to be resolved but to puzzled over and that’s part of the work? Or, maybe the ambiguity of it is about our circling around it, always looping through everyday and every day?

Here’s an example of MO expressing the tension between her work, the poem, and the world:

From The Book of TIme

1.
I rose this morning early as usual, and went to my desk.
But it’s spring,

and the thrush is in the woods,
somewhere in the twirled branches, and he is singing.

And so, now, I am standing by the open door.
And now I am stepping down onto the grass.

I am touching a few leaves.
I am noticing the way the yellow butterflies
move together, in a twinkling cloud, over the field.

And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

april 18/RUN

2.7 miles
neighborhood + Howe loop
46 degrees

Sometimes 46 feels cold, but not today. Sunny and calm with a symphony of birds calling and trilling and chirping and drumming. Ran with STA through the neighborhood. I don’t remember much of what I saw or what we talked about. Just lots of birds….oh–and bikes. We saw at least 2, maybe 3, pelotons on the parkway or the trail. Yesterday during our morning walk with Delia, we saw a group of 15 or so bikers speeding down the road, their wheels whirring and buzzing. Also yesterday we saw some rowers racing on the river! Excellent. The rowers were so loud, yelling to each other as they tried to win.

Reading more Mary Oliver and thinking about the idea of the flare–a sudden burst of light, or understanding, or ecstasy, or illumination, or lifting out and free of yourself, or experiencing eternity “now, now, now, now.” Found this poem in Dream Work:

Sunrise

You can
die for it —
an idea,
or the world. People
have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But
this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

Reading through more of MO’s The Leaf and the Cloud and noticing her reference to circles, which has me thinking about her love of Emerson (who wrote, Circles), and of how her use of circles does or doesn’t fit with ED and her idea of Circumference. More reading and thinking is needed.

april 16/RUN

2.8 miles
river road trail, south/turkey hollow/Winchell Trail, north
58 degrees

Ran with STA in the afternoon. Sunny and warm! We were able to run on both the upper and lower trails. Not too crowded. I remember the river looking pale blue–such a pretty complement to the light green limbs below us. Encountered a few annoying bikers and a roller skier who refused to move over. Boo–normally, I love roller skiers. I can tell that it is going to take some time for me to love the world again–especially the people in it who don’t seem to care about the amount of space they take up or about the effects of their actions on others. But, I believe I can get there. Maybe Mary Oliver can help?

Speaking of MO, here are some useful words for enabling me to think and reflect on what work is for her:

Everything/ Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Vol 2

I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,
what I mean, that don’t go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves. I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister
the dash. I want to write with quiet hands. I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daisies and everlasting and the
ordinary grass. I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be
songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything

from Mysteries, Four of the Simple Ones

And what else can we do when the mysteries peresent themselves
but hope to pluck from the basket the brisk words
that will applaud them

What I Have Learned So Far

Meditation is old and honorable, so why sould I not sit, every
morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining
world? Because, properly attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is
suggestion. Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the
sublime, and the holy and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I
don’t think so.
All summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kind-
ness begins with the sown seed. Thought buds toward radiance.
The gospel of light is the crossroads of–indolence, or action.
Be ignited, or be gone.

from Sometimes/ Red Bird

Instructions for living a life:
Pay Attention.
Be Astonished.
Tell About It.

from “Work” in The Leaf and the Cloud

3.

Would it be better to sit in silence?
To think everything, to feel everything, to say nothing?
This is the way of the orange gourd.
This is the habit of the rock in the river, over which
the water pours all night and all day.
But the nature of man is not the nature of silence.
Words are the thunders of the mind.
Words are the refinement of the flesh.
Words are the responses to the thousand curvaceous moments—
we just manage it—
sweet and electric, words flow from the brain
and out the gate of the mouth.

We make books of them, out of hesitations and grammar.
We are slow, and choosy.
This is the world.

7.

So I will write my poem, but I will leave room for the world.
I will write my poem tenderly and simply, but
I will leave room for the wind combing the grass,
for the feather falling out of the grouse’s fan-tail,
and fluttering down, like a song.

april 11/RUN

2.5 miles
neighborhood
47 degrees

Ran with Scott this almost afternoon. Windy and bright. I remember hearing some calling–not drumming–woodpeckers and a couple of cardinals, maybe a robin, a few warblers. Noticed some dogwood blossoms, a lot of green grass. Ran by turkey hollow. No turkeys. Didn’t see the river or many other runners. Did see a surrey over on the bike path as we ran up edmund just past turkey hollow. It must be spring. Anything else? Ran on the grass between Becketwood and 42nd in the soft, muddy dirt straight into the wind.

I’m really enjoying my time with Mary Oliver. Yesterday I checked out her collection West Wind from the libby app for my library. Such convenience!

Stars from West Wind/ Mary Oliver

Here in my head, language
keeps making its tiny noises.
How can I hope to be friends
with the hard white stars
whose flaring and hissing are not speech
but pure radiance?
How can I hope to be friends
with the yawning spaces between them
where nothing, ever is spoken?
Tonight, at the edge of the field,
I stood very still, and looked up,
and tried to be empty of words.
What joy was it, that almost found me?
What amiable peace?…
Once, deep in the woods,
I found the white skull of a bear
and it was utterly silent-
and once a river otter, in a steel trap,
and it too was utterly silent.
What can we do
but keep on breathing in and out,
modest and willing, and in our places?
Listen, listen, I’m forever saying.
Listen to the river, to the hawk, to the hoof,
to the mockingbird, to the jack-in-the-pulpit-

then I come up with a few words, like a gift.
Even as now
Even as the darkness has remained the pure, deep darkness.
Even as the stars have twirled a little, while I stood here,
looking up,
one hot sentence after another.

What can we do
but keep on breathing in and out,
modest and willing, and in our places?

I like this idea of the breathing in and out, and of the humility, the openness, the recognition of having our place (in the family of things?–Wild Geese).

an excerpt I like from The Osprey/ West Wind:

I came back
and stood on the shore, thinking—
and if you think
thinking is a mild exercise,
beware!
I mean, I was swimming for my life—

another, from Fox/ West Wind:

I was hot I was cold I was almost
dead of delight. Of course the mind keeps
cool in its hidden palace—yes, the mind takes
a long time, is otherwise occupied than by
happiness, and deep breathing. Still,
at last, it comes too, running
like a wild thing, to be taken
with its twin sister, breath. So I stood
on the pale, peach-colored sand, watching the fox
as it opened like a flower, and I began
softly, to pick among the vast assortment of words
that it should run again and again across the page
that you again and again should shiver with praise.

april 8/RUN

3.25 miles
43rd ave, north/seabury, north/seabury, south/41st ave, south
63 degrees

Rained in the morning, so STA and I ran in the afternoon. We thought the rain was done, but 2 or 3 times during the run it started up again. A soft, steady, colder than expected rain. A good distraction from the effort of our striking feet and swinging arms. Heard lots of black capped chickadees and cardinals. Avoided many sidewalk puddles. I don’t like how the puddles soak my socks but I do like how they reveal the dips and cracks and holes in the sidewalk that I normally can’t see.

As I dig deeper into the work of Mary Oliver, I’m conflicted. I find myself saying, “Yes!” then “yes?” then “Yes. But…” Her words are seductive and entrancing. Easy to read and understand and share–so many pleasing lines. And easy to consume quickly–to skim once and imagine you fully understand them. But, is that all they are? In reference to a tweet I posted about yesterday, are they candy instead of kale? (And, is that a bad thing?) Well, even as I find myself skimming through her poems quickly, or as quickly as I can with my bad vision, they are still making me think, suggesting associations, raising interesting open-ended questions, inviting me into deeper understandings of my own project and the idea of attention as an ethical/moral/political practice. This last bit is key to me: through her words, Mary Oliver is offering a “door–a thousand opening doors!” (Upstream) into new worlds.

Here are 2 poems from Swan that get me thinking more about the limits and possibilities of naming and language and knowing.

Wind in the Pines

It is true that the wind
streaming especially in fall
through the pines is saying nothing, nothing at all,
or is it just that I don’t know the language?

Bird in the Pepper Tree

Don’t mind my inexplicable delight
in knowing your name,
little Wilson’s Warbler
yellow as a lemon, with a smooth, black cap.

Just do what you do and don’t worry, dipping
branch by branch down to the fountain
to sip neatly, then flutter away.

A name
is not a leash.

I’d like to put these poems beside:

Sometimes, what I try to get people to do is to disconnect for a moment from that absolute need to list and name, and just see the bird. Just see that bird. And you begin to absorb it, in a way, in a part of your brain that I don’t know the name of, but I think it’s a part of your brain that’s also got some heart in it. And then, guess what? The name, when you do learn it, it sticks in a different way.

On Being episode with Drew Lanham

and

Goldenrod/ Maggie Smith

I’m no botanist. If you’re the color of sulfur
and growing at the roadside, you’re goldenrod. 

You don’t care what I call you, whatever
you were born as. You don’t know your own name. 

But driving near Peoria, the sky pink-orange,
the sun bobbing at the horizon, I see everything

is what it is, exactly, in spite of the words I use:
black cows, barns falling in on themselves, you.

Dear flowers born with a highway view, 
forgive me if I’ve mistaken you. Goldenrod, 

whatever your name is, you are with your own kind. 
Look–the meadow is a mirror, full of you,

your reflection repeating. Whatever you are,
I see you, wild yellow, and I would let you name me.

april 4/RUN

4.6 miles
franklin loop
64 degrees

Mostly ran, with a little bit of walking, the franklin loop with STA. Sunny and over-dressed in shorts and a long-sleeved shirt. Who cares when it feels this wonderful outside! Usually I lament the leaving of winter, but not this year. I’m ready for summer and vaccines and less time inside. We talked for almost the entire time, but I can’t remember what we discussed. Noticed the river, looking calm and blue, glittering in a few spots. No rowers today. Easter, I guess. Heard some pileated woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, cardinals. Still no geese. Also heard one runner’s deep, booming voice cutting through everything else. So loud, creeping up behind us. We slowed way down, almost to a walk, so he could pass faster, but it still took forever. Someday I’ll be able to block out these irritations–or, will I?

Sitting on the deck an hour after the run, I thought about some differences between Mary Oliver and Emily Dickinson. Here’s one: MO focuses on the moment when we are able to find meaning or understanding or joy or delight or something worthwhile, despite the mess of the world. Yesterday I described it this way: “MO is interested in that moment, albeit fleeting, of clarity that opens you up, or opens to you, inviting you in.” So, MO wants to find a way in. Maybe Emily Dickinson does too, but, with her emphasis on Circumference–the edges, seams, periphery, the perimeter, she also urgently wants to find a way out, an exit.

Mary Oliver is a big fan of Walt Whitman (she has a brief essay in Upstream titled, “My Friend Walt Whitman”). Could this be point where her differences with ED are visible? Here’s what Joyce Carol Oates says about the differences between ED and WW in her introduction to Essential Emily Dickinson:

Between them, our great visionary poets of the American nineteenth centry, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, have come to represent the extreme, idiosyncratic poles of the American psyche: the intensely inward, private, elliptical and “mystical (Dickinson); and the robustly outward-looking, public, rhapsodic and “mystical” (Whitman). One declared: “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” The other declared: “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos…”

Here, ED’s understanding of in is being outside the world, and WW’s out is being fully inside it (at the center?). I think this in/out, private/public, introvert/extrovert is too reductive. Still, it is helpful as a way to start thinking about the differences. In her essay on her friend, Whitman, MO writes this about why she values him:

Whitman’s poems stood before me like a model of delivery when I began to write poems myself: I mean the oceanic power and rumble that travels through a Whitman poem–the incantatory syntax, the boldness affirmation. In those years, truth was elusive–as way my own faith that I could recognize and contain it. Whitman kept me from the swamps of a worse uncertainty, and I lived many hours within the lit circle of his certainty, and his bravado. “Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!” And their was the passion which he invested in the poems. The metaphysical curiosity! The oracular tenderness with which he viewed the world–its roughness, its differences, the stars, the spider–nothing was outside the range of his interest. I reveled in the specificity of his words. And his faith–that kept my spirit buoyant surely, though his faith was without a name that I ever heard of. “Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have…for the April rain has, and the mica on the side of a rock has.”

Upstream/ Mary Oliver

Such bold, confident, excessive declarations! I wonder if Susan Howe has anything to say about this in My Emily Dickinson when she writes about ED’s new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation? Lots to digest here. Now I want to read more about ED’s faith and her understanding of Circumference and how it’s positioned in relation to inside and outside.

Here are 2 MO poems, originally from Swan, that I found in Devotions:

I Worried/ Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Don’t Hesitate/ Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

March 29/RUN

2.65 miles
austin, mn
56 degrees
wind: 24 mph, 35 (gusts)

In Austin (mn) for the kids’ birthday—RJP is 15, FWA is 18! Ran with Scott through the neighborhood. So windy and warm. For the first mile, my legs felt like inflexible stumps. They didn’t hurt, just seemed stiff. Scott agreed. I wonder, is the pavement harder here in Austin? Do they use a different material than in Minneapolis? We talked as we ran but I can’t remember the conversation. Maybe something about the start of the Chauvin trial? I can’t wait until it’s over; I hope it ends with justice.

Nearing the end of my Emily Dickinson month. I am deeply grateful that I decided, almost on a whim, to spend a month with her words and her life. Today’s poem comes from “the Essential Emily Dickinson,” selected and with an introduction by Joyce Carol Oates:

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind—/ Emily Dickinson

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind—
As if my Brain had Split—
I tried to match it—Seam by Seam—
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to bind
Unto the thought before—
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
Like Balls—upon a Floor.

Wow, this poem. Her descriptions of coming undone, physically and mentally, are incredibly powerful. I want to memorize this one.

note from march 31st: I found a brief analysis of this poem and they suggested that the balls in the last line are balls of yarn. Very helpful. Why didn’t I think of that? Not sure, but it totally works with the ravelled of the previous line. Ravelled can mean frayed or unraveled or pulled apart/undone.

march 21/RUN

4.7 miles
franklin loop
43 degrees

Scott and I ran the franklin loop this morning. First, we talked about The Dukes of Hazard and how Uncle Jessie was related to Beau and Luke, if at all, and how Daisy fit into it (Scott brought it up). Then we talked about realism and truth and postmodernism and academic street fights and the scientific method (my topic). A lot of fun. Not sure how much I remember about the run. Sometimes it’s nice to be completely distracted. I remember noticing the big lion sculptures on the front stoop of a big house by the river. A few trees leaning towards the road. The boat dock over at the rowing club. The row of gloves and one hat perched on the fence posts at the Town and Country club. Running through a lot of sandy grit and potholes on the edge of the river road. Smelling cigarette smoke. Feeling warm and overdressed. Hearing the bells at St. Thomas.

There is no Frigate like a Book (1286)/ EMILY DICKINSON

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

I think this would be a fun poem to memorize and always have at the ready when thinking about why I love reading. I remember when I first encountered the word frigate. It was from one of my son’s friends. I think they were both 11 or 12 at the time. He mentioned how fascinated he was by old warships, including frigates. Then he gave me a lecture on the different types of frigates. Strange.

So, reading this, I knew frigate, but I was unfamiliar with courser. According to the OED, it’s a swift horse. Something interesting: a frigate is “a light and swift vessel, originally built for rowing, afterwards for sailing,” which is what I think ED intends here, but it is also a war vessel, which is what FWA’s friend meant. A courser is a swift racing horse, but it is also “a powerful horse, ridden in battle.” Was ED thinking at all about the frigate or courser as images of war? That wouldn’t seem to fit with the overall meaning of the poem, but I just found it interesting that both of these figures have that double meaning. Oh–and the chariot too–that’s a “vehicle used in ancient warfare.”

I agree with ED’s sentiment here: reading is wonderful in its ability to transport us to other worlds, to learn about other places and people, to be moved by others’ stories. Reading does has its limits too, however. Yesterday morning I read a twitter thread about the problems with suggesting that white supremacy can be solved by just reading more widely about non-white experiences, that is, through reading, we can gain empathy and understanding, or reading = empathy = no more racism. As Lisa Ko (the thread starter) suggests, empathy is not enough to counter or correct state violence. I’m not bringing this up to challenge ED’s championing of reading and books; I just wanted to place another idea about reading beside it.

Speaking of reading, I just started Braiding Sweetgrass. Wow! Love it. Only a few pages in, and I already found this great bit about the Original Instructions:

These are not “instructions” like commandments, though, or rules; rather, they are like a compass: they provide an orientation but not a map. The work of living is creating that map for yourself.

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!