After picking up FWA from college for spring break, drove back to Minneapolis and ran the Marshall Loop with STA. It feels like spring. Most of the snow has melted. The river was open and rippling in the wind. As we crossed the lake street bridge, I looked for the eagle that used to perch on the dead tree many years ago. I’m not sure I’ve seen eagles anywhere for some time now. Are they gone, or am just not seeing them?
Read some more of Dart, including this great part voiced by “the swimmer”. I love so much about this, but right now, I’ll just point out the third line as a stand alone poem: “into the fish dimension. Everybody swims here”
from Dart / Alice Oswald
Menyahari — we scream in mid-air. We jump from a tree into a pool, we change ourselves into the fish dimension. Everybody swims here under Still Pool Copse, on a saturday, slapping the water with bare hands, it’s fine once you’re in.
Is it cold? Is it sharp?
I stood looking down through beech trees. When I threw a stone I could count five before the splash.
Then I jumped in a rush of gold to the head, thought black and cold, red and cold, brown and warm, giving water the weight and size of myself in order to imagine it, water with my bones, water with my mouth and my understanding
when my body was in some way a wave to swim in, one continuous fin from head to tail I steered through rapids like a cone, digging my hands in, keeping just ahead of the pace of the river, thinking God I’m going fast enough already, what am I, spelling the shapes of the letters with legs and arms?
Slooshing the Water open and
for it Meeting shut behind me
He dives, he shuts himself in a deep soft-bottomed silence which underwater is all nectarine, nacreous. He lifts the lid and shuts and lifts the lid and shuts and the sky jumps in and out of the world he loafs in. Far off and orange in the glow of it he drifts all down the Deer Park, into the dished and dangerous stones of old walls before the weirs were built, when the sea came wallowing wide right over these flooded buttercups.
57 degrees? Wow, was I over-dressed. Shorts + tights + shirt + jacket. Ran with Scott through Austin, ending at the coffee place downtown (as usual). No snow on the ground, hardly any puddles on the sidewalk. Returned to Minneapolis in the afternoon: a mucky mess! Lots of snow and puddles. Still, spring is coming.
What a morning. After talking with one parent about anxiety, and another about the gamma ray that obliterated their small brain tumor, I only read a few pages today of Dart. Here’s some of my favorite lines:
woodman working on your own knocking the long shadows down and all day the river’s eyes peep and pry among the trees
when the lithe water turns and its tongue flatters the ferns do you speak this kind of sound: whirlpool whisking round?
woodman working on the crags alone among increasing twigs notice this, next time you pause to drink a flask and file the saws
Ran with Scott this morning. Sunny, spring-like. Lots of black-capped chickadees. I mentioned to Scott that lately I’ve only heard the fee bee call, but not the response. Notes that ascend, but never descend. Today, we also heard woodpeckers and cardinals. Yesterday, the river was covered with a thin sheet of ice; today it’s open again. We stopped at the falls and leaned over the stone wall. I could hear the creek water moving. Scott said he could see it; I hardly ever rely on my vision for things like that anymore.
As we were heading over the tall bridge, above the creek, that leads to the Veterans’ Home, Scott told me about a Sesame Street video with Luis he watched the other day. Scott watched a lot of Sesame Street as a kid; me, not so much. Was it because I had HBO and sisters older than me? Not sure. Anyway, in this Sesame Street clip Luis is helping Telly deal with his worries about forgetting a friend’s name. In giving advice, Luis is super chill and talks to Telly like he’s an equal person, not a freaked out little kid. Wow, I would love to be that chill.
The friend’s name is Alexander Cheesefloss Hollingsworth Cantaloupe the IV. Wow.
Our run was a combination of running and walking. I like running and walking, sometimes stopping to study things more closely. I should try to do more of these in the spring and summer. It’s especially fun doing them with Scott.
So, a few days ago I was reviewing a thread I had saved about meter and how you learn it. In addition to advice (memorize and speak it, move with it, think of it as swing notes in jazz, spend a lot of time breaking it down, focus on poems with very strong meter), many people discussed their struggle with hearing meter because of dialects and english not being their first language. One person mentioned a great essay by Nate Marshall about this, and I found it: A Code Switch Memoir. Nate Marshall describes how, as a young elementary school student, he would struggle with the set of questions on his vocabulary test that asked for the stressed syllable:
This absolutely stumped me. My grandmother, the librarian, was from Montgomery, Alabama and I often heard her pronounce words in ways unlike many of my white friends at school. Her friend, the Arab dude who ran Fame Food & Liquor a few streets from our house, had his own wild pronunciation. Even my mother, her daughter, would shift her vocal patterning on words and phrases depending on if she was talking to us kids after a long day at work or calling the police to report men drinking and shooting dice in the park across the street. The idea that words had specific patterns to be followed did not make sense to me, though I did not know how to articulate why.
I struggle with meter. Before reading this essay or the tweets on the meter thread, I hadn’t thought about my own experience with accents and dialects. I was born in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with its thick Yooper accent until I was almost 5. Then I moved to Hickory, North Carolina, a small southern town with thick southern accents until I was 9. Then southern Virginia (more of the south), and norther Virginia (more East Coast), and Des Moines, Iowa for high school (midwest twang). I went to college in southern Minnesota (lots of Canadian long os), and grad school in the LA area and Atlanta, Georgia. My dad grew up in the UP, my mom in St. Paul. Both of them spent a lot of their early adult life in Illinois (Rock Island, then Chicago). All of these locations and their distinctive dialects have crept into how I speak and how I hear words. Could this be one of the reasons meter is difficult for me? Maybe.
Speaking of accents, as Scott and I were running back from the falls, we talked about cycling and the amazing and unstoppable Tadej Pogačar. In one sentence, Scott said Pogačar’s name in 2 different ways: 1. sounds like Po GA cha and 2. sounds like: PO ga char. The tv announcers often use both of these pronunciations interchangeably. When I pointed it out to Scott, we talked about which one might be right. I mentioned my own name, Puotinen and how there’s the “right” way to pronounce it (as in, how it’s supposed to sound in Finnish), and then there’s the way I pronounce it. My version has much more of a puWAtinen sound, as opposed to the “right” way, which is more PUwotinen. Anyway, I thought I’d find a video of Tadej Pogačar saying his own name:
What do you hear?
I’m fairly new to studying poetry (only seriously since 2017), but my sense is that poetry people have lots of different feelings about meter and whether or not it’s still important. Here’s what Nate Marshall writes about it:
I’ve grown to have a great fondness for formal poetry. I still don’t understand metrical prosody very well but I understand its importance in the tradition. I was asked the question recently whether or not meter was still a useful tool in poetry. I think meter, like anything else, is at play when building the small geniuses of a poem. I think form and verse are important ways to give artistic challenges that can lead to great results. With that said, I believe that every poet and generation of poets has to define and redefine their relationship to form and the role it will play. Whether it’s the fourteen-line sonnet, the sixteen-line rap verse, the six-line stanza of a sestina, or the tercet of a blues poem each poet has to figure how to find and employ the weapons that offer each poem its truest voice.
3.5 miles around austin, mn 28 degrees 0% snow-covered
The return of a Christmas tradition: running with Scott around Austin on Christmas day. In past years, there has been snow on the ground, but not this year. Bare, brown, beautiful, at least to me. We ran alongside the cedar river, which was partly frozen in pale blue, and littered with geese or ducks or both. We also walked out on the dock by the old mill pond, which winds behind the library, the new fitness center, and the pool. The ice looked thin and barely frozen, but one person was walking across it, fishing. They didn’t fall in, at least while we were there. In Minneaplis, these docks are unmoored and left to float out into the middle of the lake. Here in Austin, they stay linked to land and accessible. It was very strange walking on the dock, over unmoving ice instead of water.
We started and ended the run at the parking lot by “skinner’s hill” and Scott told me, not for the first time, about sledding there in the winter. Scott: “This hill always seemed steeper when I was kid.” Me: “I bet it was a struggle walking back up that hill to the top!”
It was a nice Christmas. I wasn’t planning to, but I read a few of my poems from my new collection on ghosts to Scott’s parents. They really liked them. While some of their enthusiasm was just because they love me, I think some of it was also out of a genuine appreciation and connection with the words. Very cool.
Ran with Scott on a blustery, dark morning. It was not gloomy, but dark, with a veil over the sun. Strange and beautiful with the bare trees, brown gorge, blue river. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker and few other runners.
10 Things I Noticed
Extremely windy crossing the franklin bridge, pushing us around, kicking up dirt that got in my eyes
After exiting the bridge, a wind gust from behind pushed us on the path. A wild ride!
The trail below, in the east flats, is finally visible
Last week, or sometime not too long ago, I mentioned a missing fence panel. Today, there was caution tape marking it off
The white line they were painting on the road earlier in the week was straight and bright
Running on the east side, looking over at the west and the bright, glowing white of the white sands beach
Crossing lake street bridge: small waves on the water — straight lines parallel to the shore — making it easy to determine the direction of the wind
A small pack of runners approaching us
The scraping of a ski pole on the asphalt from a roller skier in a bright orange vest
A passing runner, tethered to a dog
Here’s an essay? a prose poem? by Mary Ruefle from her collection, My Private Property:
Observations on the Ground/ Mary Ruefle
The planet seen from extremely close up is called the ground. The ground can be made loose by the human hand, or by using a small tool held in the human hand, such as a spade, or an even larger tool, such as a shovel, or a variety of machines commonly called heavy equipment. We bury our dead in the ground. Roughly half the dead are buried in boxes and half the dead are buried without boxes. A burying box is an emblem of respect for the dead. We are the only species to so envelop our dead. An earlier, more minimal, way to envelop the dead was to wrap them in cloth.
Besides burying the dead in the ground, we bury our garbage, also called trash. Man-made mountains of garbage are pushed together using heavy equipment and then pushed down into the ground. The site of this burial is called a landfill. The site of the dead buried in boxes is called a cemetery. In both cases the ground is being filled. A dead body in a box can be lowered into the ground using heavy equipment, but we do not consider it trash. When the dead are not in boxes and there is a man-made mountain of them we do use heavy equipment to bury them together, like trash. It is estimated that everywhere we walk we are walking on a piece of trash and the hard, insoluble remains of the dead. Whatever the case, the dead and the garbage are together in the ground where we cannot see them, for we do not relish the sight or smell of them. If we did not go about our burying, we would be in danger of being overcome.
Also buried in the ground are seeds, which we want to see when they emerge from the ground in their later form–that is, as plants. Plants rising from the ground are essential to life. To bury a seed it to plant it. When a seed is planted and not seen again, those who buried it are made sad. The anticipated plant of wished-upon seed has not materialized. It is dead, and remains buried. Heavy equipment is used to plant large expanses of ground with seed. When a whole field of shivering grain rises from the earth, there is a growing sense of happiness among those who buried the seeds. Happiness is also present when a tree emerges, or a tree that will bear fruit, or leafy green, edible plants that were formerly planted. When flowers arise from the ground, colorful and shapely in an astonishing variety of ways, the living are made especially happy. Not only are flowers admired for their outward beauty of form, but their scents are capable of overcoming us and therefore prized. Nothing, it seems, makes the living as happy as a flower. Flowers are among the most anticipated things on earth. For this reason, we separate the flower from the ground and present it to another to hold or to look at. After a while, the flower that has been separated from the ground dies, and we throw it in the trash. Flowers are often planted where the dead are buried in boxes, but these flowers are never cut. That would be horrible. Whoever did such a thing would be considered a thief. Those flowers belong to the dead.
Ran with Scott up the Marshall hill and around Shadow Falls on the east side of the river. Stopped a little short. Warmer this morning. Still humid. We both greeted Dave the Daily Walker. I felt over-dressed a few minutes in. Tried out my new Saucony’s: black with light pink soles. Very nice. I’ve wanted black shoes for a couple of years now.
10 Things I Noticed
River, 1: Running over the lake street bridge, the water was a few different shades of blue: dark blue near the bridge, then gradually lightening as it moved downstream
River, 2: The white heat of water through a break in the trees. Mostly woods, with one sliver of the river
River, 3: Sparkly, shiny, a cylinder of light traveling from one shore to the other
Passing by a full black garbage bag on the bridge
The clicking and clacking of roller skier approaching from behind
At least 3 different small packs of runners on the east side of the river
No rowers, no geese, no crows
My shadow, off the side, her pony-tail swishing
Passing lots of walkers on the bridge without worrying about covid
Leaving the house, about the start the run, admiring our front tree on full display: brighter than gold
Yesterday, I started working on a poem (or a series of poems?) based on my October focus on ghosts and haunting. I’ve decided to use my rhythmic breathing pattern as the form: couplets with 1 three syllable line and 1 two syllable line (3/2). Here’s a bit that I like about going over the same trail, again and again that doesn’t fit in my current poem (and maybe doesn’t quite work?):
run: 3 miles hike: 2 miles franklin loop + extra trails 56 degrees
Scott and I decided to run part of the franklin loop, and hike the rest of it on a few of the extra trails near it. We started by running north on the river road trail, crossing the lake street bridge, then continuing north on the st. paul side. We stopped to walk when we reached the steep road that descends to the paved trail that winds through the flats right beside the east shore of the river. When we reached franklin, we climbed the steps — so many steps! — and crossed the bridge. We stopped to read the plaque for the Winchell Trail then searched for the northern start of the Winchell Trail. We hiked the trail, even the part that extends below the railroad trestle — a first for me — all the way to lake street and the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Very cool!
We talked about all of the vision stuff I’ve been skimming for the past 2 days and the differences between peripheral and central vision. There Plant Eyes (Godin) + Brainscapes (Schwarzlose) + Downcast Eyes (Jay Martin) + The Mind’s Eye (Sacks). And we talked about what Scott has been reading on extroverts and introverts (Quiet, Cain). We talked about the relationship between the senses (like touch and sight), how we navigate using senses other than sight, and “Batman” and echolocation.
10+ Things I Noticed
A downy woodpecker. Heard it’s tap tap tapping first. I wondered if it was a squirrel pounding on a nut, then I saw it at the top of a dead tree. The tapping was rhythmic and persistent, reminding me of morse code or an old-fashioned typewriter
Loud thumping and knocking and slapping — steady and rhythmic — oars from a 8 person rowing shell*
Paths, dirt and asphalt, covered in yellow leaves
Cheering coming from a football game at St. Thomas
The coxswain instructing the rowers
A man and a woman walking in the east river flats. Overhead the man say, “We are experiencing a drought” or something like that
Scooters passing us on the trail, calling out, “on your left”
Dead leaves floating on the surface of the river. From high above on the Franklin bridge, they made a strange mottling pattern on the water
Smell: strong sewer gas coming out of a cluster of vents near the rowing club
Many limestone ledges, exposed. At one of these ledges, the drip drip dripping of water, slowly seeping down
Countless trails leading down to the river, created by seeping/draining water
The white sands beach, just off the winchell trail and far below the paved trail above, is steep and broad and has trash and recycling cans
From the shore at white sands beach: seeing the remains of the long-defunct meeker dam, which you can only see when the water is low
*Although I have written many times over the years about hearing the rowers below on the river, I have NEVER heard the sound of their oars slapping the water or the boat until today. What I was hearing before were their voices. It is very cool to hear the loud, awkward, unromantic, almost clumsy sound they make.
one more thing, added on 31 oct: I just remembered a moment during the hike/run that I don’t want to forget. Walking through the part of Winchell Trail that is wider, between the white sands beach and the minneapolis rowing club, I mentioned to Scott how, when I was a kid growing up in north carolina and virginia, I loved exploring the woods and semi-wilderness that existed at the edges of the many sub-divisions I lived in. I liked walking on trails that had already been made, not wandering through the thick woods, making my own path. I think I said something like, “I wanted to go where someone had already been.” Not sure if that quite captures the appeal of the already traveled path? Whenever I see a break in the trees, and a dirt trail winding somewhere, I long to take it. Or, if I don’t want to take it, I at least enjoy thinking about where it might lead. The path, created by countless feet tamping down the earth, or water descending to the river, is an invitation to imagine other worlds. Maybe also, I like it because it’s evidence that I am not alone, that others have been where I am, wanting to go deeper. To follow the trail they’ve made through their haunting (frequenting), is to connect and contribute to the reinforcing of that invitation. Will this make sense to future Sara? Does it make sense to present Sara? Almost.
Ran with Scott in Austin. 40 but sunny, so it didn’t feel too cold. Unless you were in the shade, which we weren’t for most of the run. Started at East Side Lake and ran on a trail that leads to Todd Park. I don’t think we saw anyone else on the trail. No bikers or walkers or runners. Is that right? What I remember most about it was running slightly uphill into the wind at the end and how beautiful the lake looked in the late morning sun. I don’t think it was sparkling, but it was calm and blue and dotted with geese.
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.
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.
4 miles most of the franklin loop 68 degrees humidity: 81%
I love October. Today it looked like October but didn’t quite feel like it — almost, with crunchy, earthy-smelling leaves, but too warm. Scott and I walked to the river together then split up — I went north for the franklin loop, he went south for the ford loop. We met in St. Paul at the Marshall bridge and walked the rest of the way.
10 Things I Noticed
The leaves are thinning and more of the river is visible everywhere including the spot above the floodplain forest
2 rowers on the river
A class of kids and their teachers, biking on the trail, all wearing bright yellow vests
The guy that Scott and I used to see at the Y, walking around the track in the winter–this time he was walking near the trestle on the east side of the river
A guy pushing a stroller, walking a dog, taking up most of the path. When he noticed me approaching he moved over and muttered to himself, or to his kid, “I’m taking over the whole path”
Walking over the marshall ave/lake st bridge, looking down at the water: blue with a faint texture of ripples from the wind
The east side of the river has more color than the west side
The steps just past the trestle glowing with orange, red, and yellow leaves
The trail down to the Meeker Dam Dog Park glowing too, looking like THE fall scene, what I might describe to RJP as “so fall” in the same way I say certain trees are “so tree”
The trees at my favorite spot just up from the marshall bridge giving off an intense golden light
1 Thing I Didn’t Notice
Right after I met up with Scott, he called out “bald eagle!” I couldn’t see it before it flew away
I’m not sure what my theme will be for October — or, if I’ll have one. For now, here’s an October poem I want to memorize:
O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all. The crows above the forest call; Tomorrow they may form and go. O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow. Make the day seem to us less brief. Hearts not averse to being beguiled, Beguile us in the way you know. Release one leaf at break of day; At noon release another leaf; One from our trees, one far away. Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst. Slow, slow! For the grapes’ sake, if they were all, Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, Whose clustered fruit must else be lost— For the grapes’ sake along the wall.