august 4/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop (short)
62 degrees
8:00 am

Ran the marshall loop with Scott. The plan was to end at Dogwood and get some coffee, but Dogwood was too busy, so we skipped it (and saved $20 which makes the frugal me happy).

The river was a beautiful blue. Calm. On the way back over it, I heard the distant voice of the coxswain. The rowers! Also noticed the shadows of the trees on the water — on the far side, turning the water a dark green, on the near side, reflecting fuzzy outlines of the tops of the trees.

No sound of water trickling as we ran above shadow falls. It’s very dry here.

august 1/RUN

5K
dogwood loop (marshall)*
69 degrees
9:00 am

*43rd ave, north/31st, east/up to lake street bridge/marshall hill/cretin/river road/lake street to dogwood

Ran with Scott this morning. Ended at Dogwood Coffee. Didn’t notice as much becasue we were talking the whole time. Can I remember 10 things? I’ll try.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: blue, empty except for a few glittering spots
  2. road work just the end of the lake/marshall bridge: the beep beep beep of a truck backing up and the clunk of some big machine pounding the pavement
  3. graffitti on the backs of some signs — where was that? I can’t recall — probably on marshall
  4. passing a man with a tight hold on the leash of a big dog — he stepped onto the grass to let us pass
  5. a runner who ran in the grass as he approached us
  6. a car in a driveway waiting for a break in the traffic
  7. a little kid on a scooter, about to cross the street with an adult
  8. no one near Black Coffee
  9. stepping into the street to avoid a sprinkler
  10. hot sun but cool shade

Wow, that was difficult. It took a few minutes to come up with this list of 10!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned collective nouns in my class. Here’s a great poem I just found with some collective nouns for humans:

Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild/ Kathy Fish

A group of grandmothers is a tapestry. A group of toddlers, a jubilance (see also: a bewailing). A group of librarians is an enlightenment. A group of visual artists is a bioluminescence. A group of short story writers is a Flannery. A group of musicians is — a band.

A resplendence of poets.

A beacon of scientists.

A raft of social workers.

A group of first responders is a valiance. A group of peaceful protestors is a dream. A group of special education teachers is a transcendence. A group of neonatal ICU nurses is a divinity. A group of hospice workers, a grace.

Humans in the wild, gathered and feeling good, previously an exhilaration, now: a target.

A target of concert-goers.

A target of movie-goers.

A target of dancers.

A group of schoolchildren is a target.

july 22/SWIMRUN

swim: 1 loop
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees
9:30 am

FWA did it! Today, he swam across the lake and back again. 1200 yards. It was fun to stop at the little beach and talk with other swimmers, while we took a break. We met an older woman, who loves to swim around the lake, even when it’s not open swim. She said her kids told her she better stop because the fine is big if you are caught. (I think it might be $2500!) One of her responses, Technically I’m not swimming across the lake, but around it. I like her.

The water was great for the swim: smooth, and not choppy at all. Much easier than when it’s windy. It has been fun training with FWA. I’m hoping he’ll swim some in August. What a gift to spend this time with my wonderful son!

run: 3 miles
marshall loop, shortened
80 degrees
11 am

A little while later, I ran with Scott. It was hot. We walked a lot, which was fine with me. A memorable sighting: an eagle circling around, high above us, riding a thermal. It took a while for me to be able to see it in my central vision, but finally I could. What a wing span!

The other day, searching for something else, I found this beautiful interview with Marie Howe from 2013 for Tricycle. She’s talking about losing her beloved brother Johnny and the space she had for grieving. These words fit with other words of her that I’ve read and loved and just used in my class. Putting them in the context of her grief makes them glow even brighter for me:

MH: That was really a big deal. I was given this place to be without any expectations really. And everything changed so that the particulars of life—this white dish, the shadow of the bottle on it—everything mattered so much more to me. And I saw what happened in these spaces. You can never even say what happened, because what happened is rarely said, but it occurs among the glasses with water and lemon in them. And so you can’t say what happened but you can talk about the glasses or the lemon. And that something is in between all that.

KPE: It’s like the Japanese esthetic word of ma. It’s so wonderful. The space between….

MH: This is the space I love more than anything. And this became very important, but there’s no way to describe that, except to describe “you and me.” And there’s the space. I make my students write 10 observations a week—really simple. Like, this morning I saw. . . , this morning I saw. . . , this morning I saw. . . —and they hate it. They always say, “This morning I saw ten lucky people.” And I say, “No. You didn’t see ten lucky people. What did you see?” And then they try to find something spectacular to see. And I say, “No.” It’s just, “What did you see?” “I saw the white towel crumpled on the blue tiles of the bathroom.” That’s all. No big deal. And then, finally, they begin to do it. It takes weeks. And then the white towels pour in and the blue tiles on the bathroom, and it’s so thrilling. It’s like, “Ding-a-ling, da-ding!” And some people never really take to it. But I insist on it. What you saw. What you heard. Just the facts, ma’am. The world begins to clank in the room, drop and fall, and clutter it up, and it’s so thrilling.

KPE: Because it clanks and falls?

MH: Yes! It does. It’s like, “Did you see it? Did you see it?” Everybody goes “Whoa!”

Marie Howe: The Space Between

It is thrilling to notice the world! To hear it clank and drop, watch it create clutter. This reminds me of 2 other things I have recently encountered, one for the first time, one again, after a few years.

First, this poem was posted on twitter the other day:

Do Not Ask Your Children To Strive for Extraordinary Things/ William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

The space between us, reminds me of Juliana Spahr’s amazing post 9-11 poem: This Connection of Everyone With Lungs

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.

july 21/RUN

3.3 miles
douglas trail / rochester, mn
67 / humidity: 81%
7:45 am

Ran with Scott this morning on the Douglas trail, right next to his parent’s new apartment in Rochester. A great path! Mostly shaded, off road, smooth. Heard some birds I didn’t recognize; they were very bird-y, meaning their chirps and trills seemed to embody the classic form of a bird. It had rained earlier, and there were puddles on the road and moisture in the air.

10 Things I Encountered

  1. a short pedestrian bridge, crossing over a road, at the start of our run
  2. a long pedestrian bridge, arching over a highway
  3. a helmet-less biker, one hand carrying a small cooler
  4. a fast walker
  5. a speedy runner with long, loping limbs
  6. an adult biker, whose on your left from behind sounded like a little kid’s
  7. only one small, empty road to cross
  8. a runner approaching, listening to music — it was either loud music coming out of headphones, or soft music coming from a speaker
  9. 2 guys, dressed in business casual, walking on the other side of the trail
  10. the parking lot at the trailhead, which included: a big sign with a map of the trail, 2 bathrooms, a picnic trail tucked behind a tree, lots of lush grass

breaklight/ lucille clifton

light keeps on breaking.
i keep knowing
the language of other nations.
i keep hearing
tree talk
water words
and i keep knowing what they mean.
and light just keeps on breaking.
last night
the fears of my mother came
knocking and when i
opened the door
they tried to explain themselves
and i understood
everything they said.

this poem! tree talk, water words! so wonderful!

july 12/RUNSWIM

run: 3.1 miles
dogwood coffee run
66 degrees
6:45 am

An early run with Scott to beat the heat. We ran north on the river road trail, then over to Brackett Park, then to Dogwood Coffee. We stopped to admire my stacked stones at the ancient boulder. Heard some bluejays. Noticed the sun sparkling on the water, and cutting through the thick, humid air. Heard the loud whooshing? thrashing? of an eliptigo as it sped past us on the bike trail. Scott said he thought it sounded like two lumberjacks were sawing down a tree, with one of those big saws that you hold on either end and push back and forth. I remember thinking Scott’s acting out of this saw was entertaining.

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
80 degrees
5:30 pm

Another great swim, even though it was very choppy on the way back from the little beach. Managed to stay on course with barely any sighting of the orange buoys. I write about this so much, but it’s always strange and amazing to be able to swim straight and keep going when I can’t really see where I am.

Half the sky was blue and clear, the other half looked like a storm was moving in. Later, after we left the lake, it poured. I wondered how much it would have to be raining for them to cancel open swim. Usually they only cancel it when there’s thunder or lightening.

Saw more silver flashes below me. Also, a dark shadow as I swam around one of the buoys. At some point, I heard a squeak. Someone else’s wetsuit? I got to punch the water a few times, when I swam straight into it. Fun! Breathed every 5, then when it got choppier, every 4, or 3 then 4 then 3 again. I don’t remember seeing any swan boats or sail boats or paddle boarders. No music or yelling, laughing kids.

Back in April, I collected poems about dirt — soil, humus, fungi, and dust. Here’s another poem to add to the dust pile. It’s by Ted Kooser. He is such a wonderful poet!

Carrie / Ted Kooser

“There’s never an end to dust
and dusting,” my aunt would say
as her rag, like a thunderhead,
scudded across the yellow oak
of her little house. There she lived
seventry years with a ball
of compulsion closed in her fist,
and an elbow that creaked and popped
like a branch in a storn. Now dust
is her hands and dust her heart.
There’s never an end to it.

I love his line breaks and his beautiful first sentences. I should check out his collected works and study him more.

june 29/RUN

5k
river road trail, north/south
69 degrees
9:00 am

A birthday run with Scott. Beautiful out by the gorge. Greeted Dave, the daily walker as we ran through the Welcoming Oaks. Too busy talking about something to remember to notice running through the tunnel of trees or past the old stone steps or even under the lake street bridge. Running with Scott was great, but it was hard to notice much. Can I remember 10 things I noticed? I’ll try:

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a roller skier and their poles singing, click click click click
  2. a man talking on a bluetooth phone with his arm extended across the path pointing — at what?
  3. some blue jays whispering their screeches
  4. a few narrow streaks of blue river through the thick thatch of green
  5. faint voices of rowers talking below near the boathouse
  6. a runner on the path, accompanied by a young girl on a bike
  7. no memorial flowers at the trestle today
  8. the sweet rot of the sewer near the ravine
  9. the cracks in the asphalt just past the trestle bridge, remembering the peace sign spraypainted at this spot last summer
  10. the satisfying crunch of the sandy gravel under my feet as I ran on the side of the trail up to the greenway

Whew! I did it. The last 3 took some time to remember.

june 15/RUN

2 miles
dogwood coffee run
73 degrees
8:30 am

Ran with Scott. North on the river road to the trestle, then left and up to the greenwood trail, through Brackett Park, and over to Dogwood Coffee on lake street for an iced latte. Overcast. It was supposed to rain all day, but something shifted and it’s missing Minneapolis. Nice. Without the sun, everything was a deep, dark green. I remember noticing how green and mysterious and calm it was in the tunnel of trees. I think I heard some rowers down below, or maybe it was a few hikers? I don’t recall ever seeing the river, or much of what Scott and I talked about, other than complaining about some changes to apple pay that make it impossible to transfer money to our 16 year old. Heard some blue jays and thought, again, about how I used to think “crow” everytime I heard their screeching.

Sitting here, trying to remember things that happened, or that I thought about, on the run, I’m…not amazed or suprised…struck by how much I don’t remember, how lost I was for those minutes. I don’t mind getting lost. Sometimes I wish it would happen more.

Things I Don’t Remember

  1. the river
  2. if there were any stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  3. the welcoming oaks
  4. above the rowing club
  5. if anyone was sitting on a bench

Writing the list above, I suddenly remembered something, which might explain why I don’t remember noticing the welcoming oaks because I think it was near them that this happened: a chipmunk darted in front of both of us and we had to jump to avoid stepping on it. Dumb chipmunk! I’m glad that neither of us injured our feet or ankles or knees trying to avoid it. Of course, the chipmunk was fine. I recounted the story to Scott of when RJP and I had been biking to Fort Snelling and a chipmunk darted across the trail and ran right into my wheel. It was stunned or dead, I’m not sure which one.

Thinking about Simone Weil for my class this morning. I like this paraphrasing of her in a lithub article:

To attend means not to seek, but to wait; not to concentrate, but instead to dilate our minds. We do not gain insights, Weil claims, by going in search of them, but instead by waiting for them.

Thinking about being open, patient, willing to wait, letting go, trying to relax.

may 13/RUN

2.5 miles
austin, mn
68 degrees

Last run in Austin before Scott’s parents move. I will miss running through the town, past the SPAM museum, then getting coffee from Kyle at the Coffee Place. Scott was feeling nostalgic and told me stories about many of the places we passed as we walked back home after the run. A good and necessary move for aging parents with health problems. A little sadness, but mostly relief.

april 23/RUN

3 miles
marshall loop in reverse
66! degrees
wind: 20 mph

Ran with Scott after the rain stopped on a (finally) warm spring morning. It was so windy I had to hold my hat then take it off while running on the lake street bridge. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We talked about Debussy (Scott) and mycelium (me) and tried to avoid loud-talking-only-slighter-faster-than-us runners. Didn’t hear any rowers or roller skiers or radios blasting from bikes. Did hear some geese honking and some crows cawing and wind howling.

Spent the morning reviewing my notes and re-reading descriptions of fungi and mushrooms and mycelium. Here are a few notes I took:

  • a different sort of We, not a me or an I, but a we, an us
  • a different way of looking/sensing/becoming aware: not seeing straight on, but feeling, looking across and to the side, down, beneath and below
  • stop looking up to the heavens, start feeling/sensing what’s below
  • a hope that is not predicated on evidence, when evidence = seeing and Knowing and fully understanding (seeing things as parts or discrete categories or individual things)
  • entangled is not separate or pure but messy and enmeshed

this is why we are all here — from my haibun and what I heard coming out of the little old lady’s phone

this 
why 
we 
all
here

why = curiosity, wonder

The why is not an explanation — this is why/this is THE reason — but an invitation to imagine differently, expansively, wildly.

we all = ecosystems, organisms, networks, asemblages

Organisms are ecosystems.
I find myself surrounded by patchiness, that is, a mosaic of open-ended assemblages of entangled ways of life, with each further opening into a mosaic of temporal rhythms and spatial arcs (Tsing, 4) .

here = a place, located in history, a specific place, not transferable or easily translatable, can’t be scaled up or turned into assets

april 17/RUN

1.5 miles
winchell trail, south/42nd st east/edmund, north
41 degrees

Headed to the gorge with Scott this morning — a quick run above the river. I know I looked at the river, but I can’t remember much about it. Most likely, with this gloomy sky, it was a brownish-gray or grayish-brown with no sparkle. We talked a lot about Lizzo and what a great job she did on SNL last night, both as the host and the musical guest. The only other thing I remember right now is running the opposite way on the Winchell Trail (usually I run north on it) and noticing how much longer the Folwell hill was this way. The other way it’s steep but short, this way it’s slightly less steep, but winding (or wind-y?) and long.

before the run

Yesterday I suggested that my next dirt topic should be gardens/gardening. Here are a few ideas:

1 — tune my body and my brain

My exploration of dirt began when I started thinking about the phrase from a kids’ song, or a song often sung to or by kids: “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.” Here’s another kids’ song that doesn’t have the word dirt in it, but is about dirt and death and life and gardens. Both my kids sang it in elementary school concerts:

Here are a few verses:

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin’ down

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand

Rainful rain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

2 — Alice Oswald and “echo-poetics”

It is perhaps this blending of the ecological sensibilities learned through gardening with those of the poet that makes reading Oswald’s editorial and poetic work so compelling, and not only for the many pleasures it brings. It also offers an acoustically informed aesthetic, a way of re-tuning how we think about and make beauty and meaning in verbal forms, especially those inspired by the earth’s processes, things, places. Principled with the desire to bring living things unmediated into text, Oswald’s writings illustrate a heightened and recursive sensitivity to the acoustics of environment, with the ear, of course, in its critical role as converter of signals. They recognize sound as summons, access, and mode. They value gardening (and other physical work) for the ways it creates possibilities for encounter by situating the body in motion and out-of-doors. They invite and invent expressive forms that are organic to these encounters, or that modify existing forms so they are apt and up to the task. They reveal a rootedness in rhythm, syncopation, harmony, or some other musicality within the external world. They practice acute hearing and engage in humble, patient, and empathie listening. They gesture toward the sonic rounding out of envi-ronments and their many natural, social and cultural complexities. And they practice accretion as a writer’s technique inspired by a natural process. Thus Oswald begins to define what I might term an “echo-poetics.”

Voice(s) of the Poet-Gardener: Alice Oswald and the Poetry of Acoustic Encounter/ Mary Pinard

3 — digging work

It’s certainly true that when you’re digging you become bodily implicated in the ground’s world, thought and earth continually passing through each other. You smell it, you feel its strength under your boot, you move alongside it for maybe eight hours and your spade’s language (it speaks in short lines of trochees and dactyls: sscrunch turn slot slot, sscrunch turn slot slot) creeps and changes at the same pace as the soil. You can’t help being critical of any account of mud that is based on mere glimpsing.

“The Universe in time of rain makes the world alive with noise” / Alice Oswald

Digging/ Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

4 — listening work

People often ask me what I like best about gardening. . . . The truth is it’s the sound. I don’t know anything lovelier than those free shocks of sound happening against the backsound of your heartbeat. Machinery, spade-scrapes, birdsong, gravel, rain on polythene, macks moving, aeroplanes, seeds kept in paper, potatoes coming out of boxes, high small leaves or large head-height leaves being shaken, frost on grass, strimmers, hoses . . .

“The Universe in time of rain makes the world alive with noise”/ Alice Oswald

Poems are written in the sound house of a whole body, not just with the hands. So before writing, I always spend a certain amount of time pre- paring my listening. I might take a day or sometimes as much as a month picking up the rhythms I find, either in other poems or in the world around me. I map them into myself by tapping my feet or punch- ing the air and when my whole being feels like a musical score, I see what glimpses, noises, smells, I see if any creature or feeling comes to live there. Then, before putting pen to paper, I ask myself, “Am I lis- tening? Am I listening with a soft, slow listening that will not obliter- ate the speaker?” And if, for example, I want to write a poem about water, I try to listen so hard that my voice disappears and I speak water.

“Poetry for Beginners” for the BBC’s Get Writing/ Alice Oswald

5 — In Search of our Mother’s Gardens*

*a reference to the powerful essay by Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” that I often taught in my Fem Theory classes.

things to think about while running:

  • How can I “tune my body and brain to the music of the land”?
  • What is digging work? Where can/do we do digging work?
  • What are the sounds of my backyard garden?
  • What can I plant in my garden this year?
  • Why do I love doing physical, outdoor work? How is digging/gardening/weeding work different from listening/noticing/caring/writing work? How is it similar?

during the run

Ran with Scott, and we didn’t talk about gardens or digging until the end, when I mentioned gardening, digging, and the digital story about my mom. He suggested that I look up the lyrics for Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt.”

after the run

Here are a few lyrics from Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt”:

Digging in the dirt
Stay with me, I need support
I’m digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
Open up the places I got hurt

The more I look, the more I find
As I close on in, I get so blind
I feel it in my head, I feel it in my toes
I feel it in my sex, that’s the place it goes

This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
I told you, I told you, I told you, I told you
This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
I told you, I told you, I told you, I told you

And the refrain at the end, repeated several times:

Digging in the dirt
To find the places we got hurt

And here’s the video, which I can’t embed). Wow, the imagery in this fits with so many things I’ve been discussing! Worms, digging as excavating deeper truths (I think I’ve mentioned this before), death, dust, grass, pebbles, sand, rocks, mushrooms speaking! (in the video they spell out “help”).

video: Digging in the Dirt/ Peter Gabriel

addendum, 18 april 2022: almost forgot to add this image from my notes for my memoir (still in progress) about my student and teaching life”

planting a seed, lower right

Instead of cropping out the key part — the picture of a plant growing inside a head in the lower right with the text, “planting a seed” — I decided to post the entire image. When I taught feminist and queer classes a decade ago, my aim was to plant seeds. Not to force ideas on students or to expect instant results — where they could immediately “get” something or be transformed, but to introduce ideas and offer up invitations that might, in the future, lead to transformation and deeper understandings.