nov 17/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.15 miles
treadmill, basement

It wasn’t too cold or too icy but I decided to take a break from an outdoor run this morning. Took a slightly longer walk with Delia instead. It was sunny and calm with wonderfully cold air. I loved breathing in it as I walked Delia around several blocks. Ah, winter air!

I biked and briefly ran in the afternoon. Listened to a “You’re Wrong About” podcast on the electoral college as I biked, Taylor Swift as I ran. I was inspired to listen to Taylor Swift after encountering a great twitter thread on rhetorical devices in Swift’s lyrics. Very cool and useful. Might have to try out some of these devices.

I liked exercising in the afternoon. It helps me feel less sleepy. Maybe I should try it some more?

nov 14/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.4 miles

It wasn’t too cold, but it’s Saturday, which is more crowded, and it’s icy, which is more difficult when it’s crowded, so I decided to work out in the basement. Couldn’t find anything to watch while I biked so I started listening to a “You’re Wrong About” podcast episode. I need to find something like “Cheer” or “Selling Sunset” to watch. As I ran I listened to music. Tried to start with Schoolhouse Rock but I determined that multiplication rock is not that motivating when you’re running on a treadmill in the basement. Switched to my playlist and ran faster to “Eye of the Tiger” and “Black Wizard Wave.” Don’t remember thinking about much or noticing anything. I got lost in the steady striking of my feet. That’s cool.

This afternoon we (all five of us) took a drive. Near the end we drove on east river road, beside the path that I take for the ford loop. So beautiful with an amazing view! It makes me want to run this loop soon. I’m thinking I might stop at several of the overlooks. Maybe Monday?

Saw this poem on twitter. Oh, Marie Howe, I love you!

The Copper Beech/ MARIE HOWE

Immense, entirely itself, 
it wore that yard like a dress, 

with limbs low enough for me to enter it 
and climb the crooked ladder to where 

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone. 

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell 
darkening the sidewalk. 

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches, 
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy, 

watching it happen without it happening to me.

nov 8/RUN

3 miles
around the neighborhood
58 degrees

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

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

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

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

The Gate/ MARIE HOWE

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

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

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

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

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

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

nov 3/RUN

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

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

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

Playlist for a Better Tomorrow

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

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

The Crazy Woman by Gwendolyn Brooks

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

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

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

oct 26/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

The first time biking since last April. Left my bike on the stand all summer, didn’t bike outside at all, partly because of the pandemic, partly because of my vision. My tires were totally flat. Started watching Enola Holmes. Not sure yet if I like it.

run: 1.75 miles
treadmill, basement

It wasn’t too cold or icy or windy outside but I felt like staying inside so I ran downstairs. Listened to a time capsule playlist on Spotify: She Don’t Use Jelly; Sabotage; Kiss; Freedom. If I would have kept going I could have also heard Cake’s I will Survive and Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart. Oh well. Next time. I don’t remember thinking about much as I ran. My mind was shut off. I enjoyed the repetition and the movement and the absence of everything else.

For some reason, I’m feeling tired and unmotivated today. Maybe it’s because I’ve finished five mood ring poems and I’m not sure if I want to write anymore. I’m very happy with them. Sometime soon I’d like to write about the process of creating them.

oct 25/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
28 degrees
snow flurries

Another colder day with some snow flurries. Ran by turkey hollow. Forgot to check for turkeys. Distracted by a dog with its owner on the far sidewalk. I do remember wondering (again) where the turkeys go in the snow. Are they up in the trees? Listened to a playlist as I ran. Started on the trail right above the river but when I encountered some people, crossed over to the grass between the river road and edmund. Cold, hard, packed dirt with some snow in the ruts. Not too difficult to run on. Yesterday’s snow was wet and steady, today’s was intermittent flurries swirling in the wind and in my face as I ran north. Noticed at least one bike but no fat tires or roller skiers. No groups of runners. No peloton on the road. Anything else? Noticed that I had a clearer view of the Oak Savanna. I wonder if one of my favorite winter views is clear? It’s the spot where the hill in the Savanna slopes down and suddenly the river appears.

Surfaces I Ran On

  • clear sidewalk
  • cold, hard road–I could hear my feet loudly striking the pavement
  • yellow leaves slightly slick with snow
  • green leaves, thick and soft
  • rutted, hard dirt
  • brittle grass

Watching the Vuelta a España with Scott. Today Primož Roglič crapped out on the final climb and lost the red jersey. Bummer. So strange to be watching a bike race while it’s snowing. It looked very wet and cold for the cyclists as they climbed the mountains.

Here’s a poem I discovered this morning. So lovely with such quiet grace.

Beginning/ JAMES WRIGHT

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.   
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
Now.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

oct 17/RUN

3 miles
2 school loop
40 degrees

A little warmer. Sunnier. Too bright for me to see much. Had a few close encounters with people and while trying to avoid them ran out in front of a car. I didn’t hear any brakes squealing or drivers yelling so it must not have been too close. Need to be more careful next time. I don’t like running on the weekends as much anymore. Too crowded. Still, had some nice moments being outside, glancing over at the bare trees above the gorge. Running over leaves, feeling (but not hearing because I was listening to a playlist) them crunch.

This past summer I bought Richard Siken’s War of the Foxes which has one of my favorite poems in it, “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.” Here’s another wonderful poem from that collection. Like Lovesong, it has the line about “the hammer as a hammer.” And, like Lovesong, there is much about it I don’t understand.

Logic/Richard Siken

A clock is a machine. A gear is a tool. There is rarely
any joy in a frictionless place, so find your inner viscosity.
The mind says viscosity is resistance to flow. The body
puts glue on a twig and catches a bird. Glue is a tool,
unless you are a bird. If you are a bird, then glue is
an inconvenience. A tool does work. A bird flies away
from danger and lands where it can. All thinking is
comparison. A bear is a weapon, a bear claw is a pastry.
A bear trap, if you are a bear, is an inconvenience.
Logic is boring because it works. Being unreasonable is
exciting. Machines have knobs you can turn if you
want to. A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail.
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke
up tired of being the hammer. There’s a dream in the
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever.
I taped a sword to my hand when I was younger. This
is an argument about goals.

Started work on a new mood ring poem. This one is about the mood of acceptance. Here’s what I have so far:

Instead of getting angry or searching for experimental cures or finding second opinions I’m listening harder. Memorizing the path. Mentally mapping the potholes the dips the cracks where it twists to the right too close to the road where it narrows on the left. I’m searching for better words to describe what is happening. I’m switching to the pithiness of poetry with sparser pages. More room to ruminate. Less effort on the eyes. Slowing down.  Breathing and accepting not knowing instantly. Letting go of what I won’t ever see on my favorite tv show. Avoiding commericals and memes. I’m finding more light brighter lightbulbs. Asking for help. Not pretending to see things that I don’t. Relying on imagination. Learning to love softer, fuzzier forms. Learning to accept constant uncertanty. Learning how to be when I cannot see. 

I’m thinking that the seemingly positive aspects of acceptance will be in the main poem and then in the scotoma/blind spot part of the poem, I’ll focus on my doubts about accepting as giving up or giving in.

oct 16/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
36 degrees

Sitting in my office in the front room this morning, working on my mood ring poems, I looked out the window and thought I saw a flurry. Not possible. Must have been a small leaf. About 10 minutes later I looked out the window again. Snowing. Big fluffy flurried flakes. I don’t mind. Went out for a run about 20 minutes later. Wonderfully uncrowded. If it clears the paths and keeps more people inside, bring on the bad weather! I can handle the wind and snow and ice and cold much better than having to constantly weave around to avoid people. And I want to run above the river, to admire the gorge and the other side–the St. Paul side.

Today the gorge was beautiful. I need a better word than beautiful. Too generic and frequently used. What do I mean by beautiful? Alluring? Calming? Handsome, dazzling, delightful, fine, resplendent? The word beautiful is not the problem. The problem is my lack of specificity. Why was it beautiful? I think it was beautiful today because there was a clear, open view with pleasing, recognizable, calming forms: tall, almost leafless brown trunks with a few slashes of red or yellow; blue-gray water winding like a serpent towards the falls; a mass of fuzzy treetops, greenish-orangish-reddish-yellow, across the way on the other bank. Looking up definitions of beautiful in the online OED, there was frequent mentioning of perfection. I didn’t find the gorge or the forms I saw to be perfect. Maybe they were splendid or gorgeous instead?

While looking up synonyms for beautiful I found pulchritudinous (beautiful, attractive) which seems to me to be a rather ugly word for describing something beautiful. Is there a term for a word that sounds the opposite of what it’s intending to convey? The opposite of onomatopoeia? Somebody asked this exact question on reddit 3 years ago and received one somewhat helpful, somewhat overly jargon-y response which you can read for yourself if you’d like.

I want to continue to push myself to express why the open view of the gorge moves (pleases, satisfies, amazes, delights) me so much. Maybe this expression won’t come in specific words but in images and feelings? A project for late fall and early winter?

Speaking of words, I’ve been meaning to post this from the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs’ “Lexicon for a Pandemic”:

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week

Today’s October Surprise

Like most of the October Surprise’s, this one happened yesterday afternoon. Scott, RJP and I took Delia the dog to Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. Wow! So much open space and views of waving water and wide wooded trails and grassy knolls with picnic shelters and steep wooden stairs winding down to leaf-covered trails closer to the water. What a delightful surprise to find this space perfect for solitude and breathing and being! There’s one image that I will try to return to when I need to calm down and feel more hopeful: Walking down the steep wooden stairs, each step offering a leafless view of the blue lake stretching wide. Behind: a hidden field with only a few trees and benches and a small picnic shelter and some still green grass for company. Above: blue sky. Below: a leaf-covered trail, lined with trees, some still bearing yellowing leaves.

Scott took many pictures, but not any of my favorite spot.

But RJP did! This is the view from halfway down the stairs.

oct 15/RUN

3 miles
1.5 loops on closed river road + neighborhood
38 degrees

Brrr. Colder today. I overdressed in (almost) full winter gear: tights under shorts + long sleeved shirt + orange sweat shirt + vest + bright pink headband + black gloves + orange and pink buff. Ran the closed section of the river road while I still can. Was planning to do another loop, but some trucks were parked at the bottom of the hill–they must be doing more work. I wonder when they will be done and when the road will open again? Sunny, bright, difficult to see. A few trees remain with colorful leaves. My favorites are the orange ones. There are 2 of them on the grass between Edmund and the river road. The river was sparkling. Lots of ripples for sunlight to dance on in this wind. Listened to a playlist and tried to ignore my runny nose. I can’t wait for this round of sinus troubles to be over. I’m tired of feeling stuffed up and having a slight tightness? soreness? in my chest. I’m grateful that when I’m running I don’t feel any congestion or tightness. O, if only it were possible to run non-stop until this pandemic was over! Of course I could never do this. 30-40 minutes a day is all I can manage.

Today’s October Surprise

There was so much wind yesterday and last night (almost 30 mph), that I was convinced that every leaf would be off of every tree by the gorge today, but when Scott and I took Delia on a walk there this morning, we saw a few trees that managed to stay dressed. Orange leaves are my favorite.

oct 1/RUN

3.35 miles
the hill, 4 times
48 degrees

Getting colder. Woke up this morning and turned on the heat, wore running tights under my shorts when I left the house. Did a slower first mile as a warm-up then decided to do the hill, the one where the road is closed and that is above the tunnel of trees, beside the Welcoming Oaks, four times. When I tried this last week, I attempted to sprint up the hill. This time, I just ran continuously, hoping to go a little faster with each hill. I didn’t closely check my watch, so I’m not sure if I did, but I enjoyed the run a lot more, and I didn’t have to stop. I think I’ll try this again next week, but do 5 loops instead of 4. During my warm-up mile, I listened to traffic rushing by a few blocks farther north on Lake Street. As I ran the hills, I listened to a playlist titled, “Sara 2020.” I saw the river, shining blueish-white, through the trees a few times. Beautiful. The second time I ran down the hill, I noticed a runner on the sidewalk over on Edmund. We seemed to be going the same pace. I tried to avoid looking at them instead of speeding up or slowing down. It worked. Saw a women ahead of me walking 2 dogs, talking on her phone or talking to her dogs? Not sure. A few people were wearing bright yellow shirts which glowed in the not quite overcast, not quite sunny light. Did I think about anything? I can’t remember.

MOOD: MISANTHROPIC

Continuing to work on my mood rings. Today I’m thinking about how irritating/frustrating some walkers or bikers or runners are on the trail–refusing to move over, getting in the way, speeding by too quickly. While this has always upset me, it is more dangerous now with my deteriorating vision. People’s carelessness can make it much scarier for me to run or bike. This behavior saddens me, then pisses me off, then causes me to see others as the enemy. I think I’m justified in my frustration, but I’m also bothered by own reactions. For this poem, I want to start by finding as many accounts of my irritation as I can in my running log entries. I’ll either use those as starting off point, to edit and shape, or I’ll combine them somehow into a poem–a cento? an erasure?

Here’s an account (from April 20, 2020) that doesn’t quite fit, because it’s not about me and my encounter with annoying bikers, but that I’d like to work in somehow:

read the FUCKING signs!

Yesterday, Scott, Delia the dog, our daughter, and I took a 4 mile walk around the neighborhood. Walking in the grass between the boulevard and the parkway, we witnessed a runner running in the road (on the part designated for pedestrians), getting increasingly upset as bikers (who are not supposed to bike on this part of the road) whizzed by her. When the first one passed her, she yelled “this is not the bike lane!” and then muttered to herself in anger. When the next one passed, she shrieked frantically “read the FUCKING signs!” (the city has signs posted all over the road/path identifying who should be in what lane). I could understand her anger–in other situations, I’ve been her, maybe not screaming “fuck!” but feeling that upset–but I could also see how difficult it was for the bikers, trying to find room to move when it was so crowded and when walkers were also ignoring the signs and taking over the bike paths. I’m not sure how to make this situation with crowded paths any easier, so I try to avoid it by running early, before it gets crowded.

In honor of the first day of October, I want to post part of one of my favorite October poems by May Swenson:

from October/ May Swenson

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed. Will
something move?—some vision
come to outline? Yes, there—
deep in—a dark bird hangs
in the thicket, stretches a wing.
Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.” His shoulder-patch
that should be red looks gray.
This old redwing has decided to
stay, this year, not join the
strenuous migration. Better here,
in the familiar, to fade.

sept 22/RUN

3.25 miles
hill “sprints”*
67 degrees

* Warmed up by running north on 43rd ave, east on 32nd, south on Edmund. Jogged down the hill beside the Welcoming Oaks, then much faster, sometimes sprinting, up the hill 4 times.

Decided to try hill sprints for the first time today. I’ll call it a success because I set out to do 4, and I did 4. But it was difficult and I only ran hard all the way to the turn around on 2 out of the 4. I’m sure I’ll get better if I keep doing these. Listened to a playlist as I ran. Didn’t think about anything but getting to the top of the hill and then trying to slow my heart rate as I ran back down.

I ran through the neighborhood as a warm-up. So many beautiful leaves! Several bright red trees. One or two orange ones. A cluster of yellow. I could smell the dry mustiness of decay. Saw lots of acorns on the ground. Too many squirrels looked like they might dart out in front of me.

mood: curiosity

(I wrote this bit when I woke up this morning. It’s a very rough draft, but gives me some things to work with,\.) Before I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy, I never thought much about my vision. I never imagined that I would lose it. Even though I had been having problems for years seeing things—seeing the cursor on a computer or a ball being thrown at me or a bird in the sky—I never connected those problems with bad vision. I thought it was something else, maybe a weird quirk in my brain? Is this the wonder of the brain, its ability to work with limited resources, concealing how damaged our vision is?

I was never curious about my vision or how it worked. The only thing I remember from learning about how we see was the image of the inverted tree, entering the eye upright, then shrinking and flipping around at the back of the eye. I knew the terms retina (I think), pupil, iris, but I didn’t know the retina was a thin layer of cells lining the back of your eye or that at its center was the macula and in a pit at its center was the fovea where some of the most important photoreceptor cells reside, waiting to convert light into nerve signals that travel through the optic nerve to the visual cortex. I don’t ever remember hearing about rods or cones until my eye doctor explained that my cones were scrambling. I didn’t think about blind spots or try to find mine or wonder too often about how much of what I saw was real or illusion. If I ever thought about the limits of my perception, it was in the abstract, after studying the empiricists in my Modern Philosophy course in college. And a blind spot was something you had in relation to your biased and limited world view.  

I suppose I should have been curious about these things, I should have wanted a basic understanding of vision, but it wasn’t until my brain was unable to hide the effects of my diminishing cones and I learned I was losing my central vision that I payed attention. Part of this is because I take my body for granted when it’s working. Why question or scrutinize it when its doing its job? Part of this is because I don’t want to know how it works because once I know, I might think too much about how easily it might not work. And part of this is because I struggle to remember or understand anything with scientific jargon. 

But now, I’m curious. And I’m finding joy in learning about ganglion cells and the optic chiasm and the fovea and how many cone cells are in it and why they’re called cone cells and how the brain handles a lack of visual data (recalling past images, making stuff up) and how optical illusions work and the different types of scotomas and how to use eccentric vision (EV) to compensate for a loss of central vision and when the blind spot was first written about (1668) and two different Charles’s: King Charles II who loved to execute people with his blind spot and Charles Bonnet who first described the trippy visual hallucinations some people experience as they’re losing their vision.

sept 19/RUN

3 miles
Hiawatha and Howe loop*
52 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, south/42nd st, west/loop around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north/loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north

Ran the Hiawatha and Howe loop again. I have done this route for the past 3 weekends. A new routine? Running south on Edmund, I could tell it’s fall. Many of the trees on the rim of the bluff are changing colors–mostly yellows. Felt relaxed as I listened to George Michael songs on spotify: Careless Whisper, Faith, Freedom, Father Figure, Everything She Wants. Lots of people out walking, running, biking. I don’t remember seeing any roller skiers or turkeys or big groups of runners. Finished my run in time to watch the last hour of the second to last stage of the Tour de France. Pogačar–wow! This year’s tour has been a lot of fun to watch–so much drama and such cruel stages. The end of today’s time trial was a category 1 climb.

Last night, scrolling through instagram, I found out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I gasped, felt a moment of terror, and then decided not to freak Scott out by telling him. This morning, I am choosing not to give into despair or to imagine worst case scenarios with facist dictatorships, but to believe in the possibilities of people rising up, resisting, and enacting radically transformation. Here’s a great quotation that one of my former students posted on facebook:

Restorative justice activist Mariame Kaba put it thus: “I always tell people, for me, hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism.” And she has famously said hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment to the future that must manifest as action. That discipline matters most when it is hardest. And when the stakes are highest. This is such a moment, with much to lose, and much to win.

sept 12/RUN

2.25 miles
edmund, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/edmund, south/37th st, west/around Howe School/44th ave, north
59 degrees
humidity: 93%

Running Route, 12 Sept

I love the picture this route makes.

A slighter shorter run this morning with headphones on. Didn’t think about much, just enjoyed listening to music and getting lost in the sounds and motion. So humid it felt like it was still drizzling. Was it? Not sure. Didn’t encounter that many people. Hardly any bikers or runners. No roller skiers. As I listened to Lizzo, I decided that I should make a playlist for my hill sprint workout. A fun, fast song for each sprint.

Les Étiquettes Jaunes/ Frank O’Hara

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!
As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me.  I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf! don’t be neurotic
like the small chameleon.

sept 1/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, south/edmund, north/the hill
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Started on the trail but it was too crowded. Had a moment when there were 2 runners and 2 bikers approaching me at the same time. I had to fit through the small sliver in-between them. Ugh. I’m tired of having to focus so much attention on avoiding people. It would be nice if I could figure out the best time to run when no one else was. Does that exist? Oh well, it’s still not too bad and I am happy to get out for a run almost every day. I have a streak of almost a month straight going–my last day off was August 8th. I might try to keep going until I reach a month. I think I’m able to do it because I’m not running too much–only about 4-5K a day (2.5-3.1 miles).

I listened to a playlist so I don’t remember much of the run. Anything? Can’t remember if I could see the river. Don’t think I saw any roller skiers. Was it sunny or cloudy? I can’t remember that either. I know it was cool-ish and that I had to run into the wind for a bit. That’s all.

September First Again/Phillis Levin

Blighted light at the tip
Of a branch, why so early
Do you turn?—leaf
Dipped in vermillion,
Close to the end, you point
To a sidewalk wet
Once with names
Signed in cement to seal,
For all time, a vow
Uttered by two
Standing under the crown
Of a tree you cleave to still,
For now: solitary witness
Standing alone, limbs
Crisscrossing in shadows
Beginning to scrawl
Lines to a world hell-
Bent (with or without intent)
On obscuring
Whatever they meant.
Blighted light
At the topmost bough,
Little flag hailing
Another day, do not go
So early to ruin, green,
Do not turn so soon.

Found this wonderful poem on my instagram feed this morning. Unlike the poet, I am not lamenting the turning of the leaves. Begone gluttonous green! I’m ready for my views of the river and the other side again. I’m thinking that I should memorize another series of poems to recite while running about changing leaves, early fall, and the end of green?

august 26/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/the hill
79 degrees
dew point: 66

Very hot today. 77 degrees at 7 in the morning. I decided to do a shorter run. Not too bad. Listened to a running playlist so didn’t notice any other sounds. No chirping birds or backing up beeps or roaring lawn mowers or plink-plonking acorns or zapping cicadas. Ran in a lot of shade, which was nice. Felt strong running up the hill on Edmund. Checked out my form a few times by looking at a shadow running beside me, then ahead. Encountered many more walkers than runners.

Didn’t get close enough to see the river. Forgot to check out the aspen eyes. I did notice how the tree on the corner of Edmund and 32nd, the one that usually glows a glorious yellow in the fall, was almost all goldish-brown. Is it dying? I hope not.

Had another pandemic dream last night–my second, I think, which isn’t too bad considering how long we’ve been in this mess. Same scenario, different setting. In a crowded place (first time it was a Justin Bieber?! concert, this time in a restaurant). Suddenly, I realize I’m around too many people, none of us socially distancing or wearing masks. What am I doing here? Why am I being so reckless? I freak out, then wake up. It’s unusual for me to have such literal dreams–of course, a bunch of other weird shit happened in the midst of this that I can’t remember now too, but the basic anxiety is my actual, literal anxiety. Usually, anxiety dreams are like the one I mentioned a week ago when I was late for a band concert and couldn’t find a black shirt. Or, it’s the last week of the semester and I haven’t shown up to class at all–either as the teacher or the student. Being late for a concert, forgetting to attend class are not things I have to worry about right now–and I’m not. What is it about this pandemic and my fears/worries about it that is making my dreams so boringly literal?

I think (I hope) I’ve discovered my new project. It’s a companion project to the Snellen charts. I’m tracing the blind spot in my central vision and then superimposing it on text about vision to create erasure poems. I’m still not sure how this will all work or how many of them I will do or whether or not I will only do erasures with found text or include my own text. Last night, while experimenting with this, I tried it out. This is not the actual erasure, just an experiment taking text about blind spots from Sight Unseen, staring at it until I can see my blind spot, then tracing that blind spot on top of the text.

Blind Spot Experiment

Not sure how to make this work yet. In the above experiment, I focused my eyes on the center of the page–the W I think–and then traced the blind spot I saw. I could try focusing on different spots. Should I create the blind spot tracing with every new experiment or create a template of my blind spot that I can easily place on different texts? Should the text be blacked out or just not there–an absence in white?

Scott suggested creating two poems out of it, one with the blind spot words removed–so a ring of white, and one with only the blind spot words. This makes me think of the amazing poems of Diana Khoi Nguyen in Of Ghost, especially Triptych.

august 22/RUN

3 miles
running wherever there’s an uncluttered path*
69 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 66

*Ran towards the river, was almost hit by 2 bikes (one was their fault, the other mine). The path was so crowded that I couldn’t avoid people so I crossed over to the grassy stretch between edmund and the river road. Too crowded. Ran on Edmund. Too crowded. Finally turned right on 42nd and ran through the neighborhood, west on 42nd st, north on 43rd ave, around Howe school, east on 37th st, north on 45th ave, west on 35th st.

Hot and too crowded. Oh well, still good to get out there. Woke up this morning from an anxiety dream: I needed to perform in a concert in a town an hour away. I couldn’t find a black shirt. Most of the dream consisted of me frantically searching through all my clothes, which had been carefully folded by my dead mom until I threw them all around the room. No black shirt. A messy mountain of clothes.

Listened to a playlist as I ran. It helped a little. Could still hear the crickets buzzing. It’s LOUD bug season. When I reached Howe, someone was racing a remote control car on the street. I’m glad I was running on the sidewalk! I never saw who was doing it. I imagined a young boy, but it could have been a man or a young girl, I guess.

Listening to Teenage Kicks on the Current radio station this morning as I write this entry. I like this line from Prince’s “Pop Life”: everybody needs a thrill/we all got a space to fill.

Found this bit of wisdom on twitter from Dana Levin the other day. I love the poetry people on twitter.

Hot tip: It’s great to mull the context that gives birth to a poem, but if you start revising based on this context rather than on the gifts (often unexpected) of the material—language, image, tone, etc—your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations.

In this same thread, a John Ashbery passage from his poem flow chart is mentioned:

So one can lose a good idea
by not writing it down, yet by losing it one can have it: it nourishes other asides
it knows nothing of

This makes me think of same great advice Danez Smith gave in a poetry workshop I attended. They talked about the original idea for a poem as the bay leaf that seasons the poem but that you take out before serving.

I’m also thinking about something Mary Oliver said in her interview with Krista Tippet for On Being. Just as Dana Levin ends with “your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations,” Oliver suggests that without empathy/feeling your poem is only reporting, a field guide. Too much context/explanation distracts (or detracts?) from feeling and experiencing the poem.

august 12/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/hill loop
71 degrees

Just updated to the latest version of WordPress (5.5) and they have changed the interface again. Initial reaction: why do we need this change? I’ll give it some time.

Writing this, an hour after my run, the sky is dark, foreboding. Looked at the radar on the weather app and bright yellow and orange and red are approaching. A heavy storm. Hopefully not too heavy.

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog first, then went for a shorter run. Listened to a playlist and don’t remember much. Noticed the house on 43rd that used to have the best Halloween decorations–a light/sound show with Toccata and Fugue, a coffin opening up to reveal a skeleton, a graveyard with bloody heads–until the cool people moved away. The new owners have a large cross hanging on their front door and have lined their path with cutesy flowers. Yes, I guess I am bitter.

The run was nice. Noticed lots of cars at Minnehaha Academy–looked it up, student are returning to campus on August 27th. Wow. Also looked up tuition for high schoolers: $23, 980 a year! Forgot to notice the Aspen eyes. Ran on the sidewalk past the trees that, in less than two months will be glowing yellow, and my favorite trio of some of the biggest cottonwood trees I’ve ever seen. Ran past the house that seemed abandoned for almost a year until suddenly it wasn’t and now they’ve been doing minor renovations all spring and summer. Switched over to other side of Edmund and ran right above where they’re working on the sewers. When I reached 36th I turned left onto the river road and ran down the hill until I reached the bottom. Turned around and ran back up it. Saw some bikers, runners, walker. Any roller skier? Don’t think so.

Before I run I noticed the quiet buzz of bugs. The buzz didn’t sound electric. Was it crickets? Speaking of electric buzz, I found another useful site about cicadas with this harsh and haunting description:

Nymph FoodRoot juices of pine and oak
Adult Food Adults do not eat. After mating they die.

When You Walk Over the Earth/ Katie Farris 

When you walk over
the earth, it asserts
itself: “Here. Here.

Here,” it says to your
feet. You must reckon
with the earth, though it enters

you less. The sky always
has its hand in you,
as if you were a puppet,

through your ears down
your throat into your
lungs—and with the tips

of its fingers there, it caresses
every capillary, every blood cell,
until they blush.

After initially posting this entry, I sat at my desk and listened to the gentle rain falling and decided I needed to add something more here. “A Short Story of Falling” by Alice Oswald is a favorite poem of mine–I should memorize it. A few years ago, I turned it into an homage poem about crunching snow.

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

And here is a recording of the rain, just outside my window in the front room:

Falling Water, August 12


august 3/RUN

3.5 miles
2 loops (36th to 42nd)
62 degrees

Since they’re opening the road back up to cars any day now, I thought I would do 2 loops. Back when they closed the road in early May, I had visions of running loops all summer. I even created a loops page. But it didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t like running loops, or at least multiple loops at once. Halfway through the first loop, I start thinking about how I’m going to have to run another loop and then I think, “How am I going to do another loop?” and I usually stop early. I am often willing to stop something early when I don’t think it’s working. Sometimes this is a good thing–why torture yourself doing something you hate just because you said you’d do it? Sometimes it’s a bad thing–why is it so easy for me to stop when I don’t like it? Mostly I’m fine with my tendency to stop–probably because I usually find something to like about what I have to do so I get the things done I need to and because my willingness to stop early doesn’t reflect a lack of passion or commitment. I’m very committed to my writing and running and family and thinking/living/acting with critical awareness and care.

So–back to the point of this digression–I accept that I don’t like running loops and I don’t run them. But today, I thought I’d try something different. I ran one loop with no headphones, then one loop with a playlist.

loop one

The first loop was about a minute slower. I focused on birds (heard a black capped chickadee) and trees (especially the trees on the boulevard that lean in towards the river road offering more shade, listening in to check how heavily I was breathing) and the big boulders in the grass. I tried to stay relaxed and avoid thinking about how I was still just on the first loop and that I was planning to do another one. I checked out my shadow a few times. She was on my right side, slightly behind me. I decided the best shade was between 38th and 36th.

loop two

Before starting the second loop, I stopped to find a playlist–an older one titled, “august run.” First song: “Misery Business” by Paramore. I remember listening to this my first year of running, nine years ago. To match my foot strikes to the beat, I picked up my cadence. Didn’t think about anything or notice where I was as I ran. What a wonderful thing to get lost in the effort of moving! Lifting my knees, focusing more on driving my left leg. Swinging my arms evenly. Also listened to “Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Concords and laughed at the lyrics, “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and thought about how much I loved this song when I was kid.

I like this idea of running one loop listening to the gorge and one loop listening to music. It might be fun to try doing one loop reciting one poem and then another loop reciting a different poem. I think I’ve tried something like this already–have I (no, but after looking through old entries, I discovered I had proposed this very idea of may 22nd). I’m glad I found this entry because in it I posted a poem I’d like to memorize: Push the button, hear the sound I think I’d like to do a series of 4 or 5 poems on listening.

Listen, the long list

I’ll have to narrow this list down to 4.

july 24/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
72 degrees
humidity: 78%/ dew point: 67

Hot again this morning. So crowded on the river road! So many runners going so fast that I wondered if there was some event going on. Listened to a playlist and didn’t think about any poetry or pay attention to much around me except all the runners and bikers I needed to avoid. Ran faster than I wanted on the second mile because a runner who I was passing decided to speed up just as I approached. Finished the run by listening to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry” as I ran up the hill near the Welcoming Oaks. Running back through the neighborhood, the next song that came on Spotify was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Hell nos and Headphones.” Wow.

Finished watching the 1981 “Clash of the Titans” with Scott. I remember seeing it in a theater in North Carolina when it first came out. I was 7. The special effects are very bad, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie this time–loved seeing Maggie Smith as a vengeful Thetis. I started thinking about Medusa and how her gaze turns anyone/thing that looks into her eyes to stone. And then I started thinking about how my gaze does that to people too–because my central vision is almost gone and I have an increasingly bigger blind spot in the middle of my field of vision, when I look at people’s faces or into their eyes they often look like unmoving objects–I can’t see facial gestures–no smiles or frowns or eyebrows raised, and I can’t make eye contact. In a way, they turn to stone. I’d like to explore the Medusa myth some more and see if I can do something with it.

Thinking about vision and eyes a lot this week. Here’s a poem from 1925 I first encountered on twitter, then found online at Poetry Foundation:

Eyes/ Laura Riding Jackson

Imagine two clouds shot together by the sunset,
One river-blue,
One like a white cloth passed through a purple wine,
Dripping and faintly dyed,
Whirling centrifugally away toward the night
And later halved and rounded by the moon;
Rolled like blue butter-balls
In the palms of the moon’s hands
And rimmed elliptically with almost-white moon-stuff,
The moon’s particular godmother gift.
Some nearly impossible vision like this
Is necessary for the mood of my eyes.

Formally announced by my eyebrows,
Sad squires of my eyes,
Preciously fitted into two fine skin purses—
Two rose petals might fashion them—
So firmly, gently guarded,
Yet so free to roll a little
In each socket,
In each pocket,
Attended by the drawn regiments of my lashes,
These my head’s hair’s farthest fallen,
Wayward strayed for the love of my eyes,
With only a runaway’s last inheritance of curl
Lifting the final rite of this ceremony of presentation:
Sight is there soul of charity.
when the feet are tired,
When joy is caught in the full throat,
Sight is the good Samaritan,
Wandering to the last horizon
Or staying at home to laugh in joy’s place.
Though the trouble be none of its won,
When grief comes like a beggar to my eyelids,
Sight throws it pennies,
Sight throws it tears,
Though for the minute it rob itself,
Though for the minute it blind itself.

Exegetes of the tongue—
Love’s best inquirers
And courteous heads of hate,
Yet meanwhile not deposing
The immediate service of seeing
Or the darling self-denial of sleep—
My eyes, my eyes,
Patrons of light and dark!

Busy, ever busy,
If I have no other errands for it,
Yet sight keeps turning the looking-machine,
Always sitting quietly aside—-
The self-appointed and voluntary philosophy of me,
My ironic interpreter of things,
Smiling behind the bodily ruse
Of my amused, amused eyes.
Or, if the eyes fail,
If the optical bodies of sight die,
Sight still lives while I live,
Sight is immortal in me,
Free of the bond of outward vision—-
The inner sense of life,
The living-looking.
Death is the only blindness.

july 17/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
75 degrees
humidity: 77%

Warmer this morning. Sunny. Decided to listen to a playlist this morning–Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”. A relaxed first mile, a much faster second mile mostly because I was behind a roller skier at the start of the second mile that was going about the same pace that I was. I imagined staying in her COVID slipstream for the rest of the run–no thanks! So I sped up a lot to pass her and then kept the pace so she wouldn’t pass me again. First mile: 9:26; Second mile: 8:11.

Because I was listening to music, I didn’t recite the poem I memorized yesterday afternoon, Marie Howe’s “The Gate.” I’ve decided to memorize 5 different poems by her:

  • The Meadow from The Good Thief (1988)
  • The Gate from What the Living Do (1999)
  • What the Living Do from What the Living Do (1999)
  • Magdalene: Seven Devils from Magdalene: Poems (2017)
  • Singularity (2019)

The Gate/ Marie Howe

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

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

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

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

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

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

This, he’d say, sort of looking around.

The first line of this poem, about the space her brother’s body made as the gate she would step through to finally enter this world, was confusing to me at first but it has something to do with grief and how his death helped her to remember and value living — but I think there’s more to it than that. I love the way she describes that he’s dead, “done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet, rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold and running water.” And I love the use of “This” here — the this, encompassing everything and not one thing in particular.

Spending a little more time googling Howe and thinking about her work, I found a very helpful essay from 2008 on oprah.com: Not to Look Away. In it, she talks about her friend Jason who’s funeral she was attending and the gate:

I’m looking for the gate, Jason used to say when he was in pain. I can’t find the gate, but I’m looking. What was this gate my friend Jason was looking for? Maybe he wanted to find the door in the room of suffering, so that he might walk through it into another story. 

and here’s how she describes what story can do:

Is this what a story can do? Emerge from the most painful event and transform it into something else, too? So sad. So funny. Both. And life is there, for a moment, almost adequately represented. 

the story as window?

The days and nights of my life walk by, arm in arm with time, and the gate to the new story stands just outside the circle of my attention. Sometimes I lie here, Jason said, and walk through the old house of my childhood, through all the rooms, and look out all the windows. 

This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.

To be present, not to look away, and to transform suffering into something else also–still suffering but more too. Wow, this makes me think so much about Ross Gay and his idea of joy and suffering in the Book of Delights (I checked it out of the library a year ago, and just ordered my own copy arriving today)!

july 13/RUN

3 miles
44th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/38th st, west/river road, north
70 degrees
humidity: 77%/ dew point: 63

Another beautiful morning! Not much wind, not too hot, some shade. Ran past the aspen eyes and towards downtown, up the hill from under the lake street bridge, then turned around. I think I saw the river, or the idea of the river hiding behind the green. Recited “The Meadow” a few times during the first two miles of my run, then stopped to put on some music and sprinted up a hill while blasting Demi Levato’s “Sorry, not Sorry” — a great song to run to. I got it in my head yesterday after I responded to Scott about something jokingly rude I had just said with, “sorry, not sorry.”

At some point, as I was reciting it, I thought about the line, “The horses, sway-backed and self important, cannot design how the small white pony mysteriously escapes the fence everyday.” I wondered, isn’t small, as in “small white pony” redundant? Aren’t ponies always small? Would it flow as well without the extra syllable of small? Now, sitting here at my desk in the front room, listening to a young child right outside vacillate between cute, calling out “I Love You!” to his mom, and annoying, babbling in a high-pitched voice, I am also struck by Howe’s use of white. Nothing else in the poem has a color–no green meadow or dappled gray horses or golden hay or anything. Why is the pony singled out–given a color and a redundant size? With its mysterious escape, is it a ghost? Still thinking about this line: I like how she uses “design” in this sentence. And I love the self important, clueless horses and the next line’s follow-up: “This is a miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp.”

I’m trying to make sense of the meaning of this whole poem (admittedly, I feel like I’m often dense when it comes to understanding poetry) and I’m wondering if these three lines are the most important:

  1. As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them…
  2. My love, this might be all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you forget what you are.
  3. Bedeviled, human, your plight, when waking is to chose from the words that even now sleep on your tongue and to know that among them, tangled and terribly new, is the sentence that could change your life.

In our dreams, we can forget what we are (the meadow forgets how to make wildflowers, the horses are weary of hay, the wasps are tiny prop planes, the knock of a woodpecker becomes a phone ringing). But, we always wake up (the meadow thinks suddenly, “water, root, blossom,” the horses lie down in daisies and clover, we/humans suffer–moaning, and know we will die). The task as human is to find the right (?) words to give meaning to/transform what we are? Does that work? And how does this line fit in: “I want to add my cry to those who would speak for the sound alone”?

Discovered another delightful abecedarian!

Abecedarian For the Future/ Ada Limón

All the old gray gods have fallen
back to their static realms of myth
cleared from the benches, thrones,
dragged kicking to their strongest tombs,
each one grizzled by their swift exile
frayed, bedraggled, forced to kneel,
give up their guns, armor, swords,
hand over their passports, global security
identification, and be stripped bare.
Justice has relegated them to history,
kept nothing but the long rancorous
list of crimes (slaughterers all)
molded them into dull cement statues
not to worship. but as a warning most
ominous. Here stood Greed and his brother
Pride, note their glazed inhuman eyes,
question their puny stature now, how
rodent-like, how utterly overthrow-able.
Still, remember how long they ruled?
Tyrannical and blustering, claiming
universal power, until the kinder masses
voted the callous thin-lipped lizards out?
What a day that was! The end of hatred,
xenophobia, patriarchal authority–but
yes, we waited too long, first we had to
zero out, give up on becoming gods at all.

july 1/RUN

2.4 miles
river road, south/north
77 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 72

Hot today. No sun. Oppressively green. Decided to do a short run with headphones. Listened to Lorde and Beck and can’t remember who else. Saw some runners, walkers, bikers. No river views. No bird songs. No Daily Walker or the tall octogenarian in his running shorts, walking the trail. As I ran down the hill above the tunnel of trees glanced down–a thick blanket of dark green. It would probably be fine to run in that tunnel, even if I encountered someone; it seems like the real risk is being inside with other people. Still, I’m not planning to run it anytime soon.

Finished my third plague notebook–a black medium sized Field Notes notebook. These notebooks are a mix between my own notes/thoughts + quotations from books I’m reading + poems I’m liking. A commonplace book or M Foucault’s huponemata. I’d like to scan the notebooks and put them online but that seems pretty tedious and challenging for me, with my questionable vision.

Found this interesting one word image poem the other day by Aram Saroyan:

Very cool, although difficult for me to see, with my weak central vision. Makes me think of my Snellen Chart poems. I would still like to try and publish my chapbook–when I cannot see straight, I will see sideways.

Saroyan also did this poem, which I encountered on twitter about a year or two ago:

The eye word poem is also a play on a palindrome.

Palindromes

  • eye
  • eve
  • madam
  • tot
  • poop
  • refer
  • racecar
  • level
  • kayak
  • never odd or even
  • Madam, I’m Adam
  • Do geese see god?
  • Sara’s or Saras

In looking up palindromes (I was having trouble figuring out my own), I discovered this delightful variation: semordnilap. A word that spells another word backwards.

  • stressed (desserts)
  • dog (god)

june 26/RUN

2.2 miles
river road, south/river road, north
73 degrees
humidity: 75%/ dew point: 65

Hot and muggy this morning. No sun, just clouds and a few rain drops. Decided to do a shorter run. Listened to a playlist with lots of Lizzo songs. Felt strong and fast and happy to be outside. At the end of the run, I passed through the welcoming oaks, turning around at the old oak tree that stands at the top of the hill, above the tunnel of trees. Stopped at the overlook and was able to almost see a few slashes of river. The green was thick and opaque and unrelenting.

Today I was planning to memorize the next bird poem on my list, Mockingbird by Randall Jarrell. But I realized that we don’t have any mocking birds near the gorge so I’m switching it out for a poem about a bird that is common, and one of my favorites: the goose. And I’m picking one of my favorite poems about the goose–another one by Mary Oliver that I memorized a few years ago but can’t quite remember: Wild Geese. Love this poem!

Wild Geese/mary oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
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
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

june 18/RUN

2.5 miles
river road path, south/north
74 degrees

One more day of hotter weather. Decided to run with my headphones in, listening to an old playlist. Was able to run right by the river for a few minutes. So much green, barely any view through to the river. Felt strong. Read somewhere that the river road will open back up in about a month because they will have used up all they money they had budgeted for it (apparently the money was for renting road closed signs?). Bummer. Better enjoy it while I can.

Because I’m feeling the stress of COVID-19 and how many people don’t seem to be taking it seriously and how Trump is pushing for schools to reopen too soon in the fall, I need a delightful poem so here’s an abecedarian from one of my favorite poets:

HUMMINGBIRD ABECEDARIAN/ Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Arriving with throats like nipped roses, like a tiny
bloom fastened to each neck, nothing else
cuts the air quite like this thrum to make the small
dog at my feet whine and yelp. So we wait—no
excitement pinned to the sky so needled and our days open
full of rain for weeks. Nothing yet from the ground speaks
green except weeds. But soon you see a familiar shadow
hovering where the glass feeders you brought
inside used to hang because the ice might shatter the pollen
junk and leaf bits collected after this windiest, wildest of winters.
Kin across the ocean surely felt this little jump of blood, this
little heartbeat, perhaps brushed across my grandmother’s
mostly grey braid snaked down her brown
neck and back across the Indian and the widest part of the Pacific 
ocean, across the Mississippi, and back underneath my
patio. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been silent in my lungs,
quiet as a salamander. Those times I wanted to decipher the mutter
rolled off a stranger’s full and beautiful lips. I only knew they
spoke in Malayalam—my father’s language—and how
terrific it’d sound if I could make my own slow mouth
ululate like that in utter sorrow or joy. I’m certain I’d be 
voracious with each light and peppered syllable 
winged back to me in the form of this sort of faith, a gift like
xenia offered to me. And now I must give it back to this tiny bird, its
yield far greener and greater than I could ever repay—a light like
zirconia—hoping for something so simple and sweet to sip.

aspen eyes

Every day, in the late afternoon around 5, Scott and I take Delia the dog on a long walk between Edmund Boulevard and the River Road. This week, while stopped near the upper campus of Minnehaha Academy–the one that was recently rebuilt after the old building exploded a few years ago, Scott noticed all the eyes on an aspen tree and took a picture of it:

I remember remarking, “oh, I bet there’s a name for that. I’ll have to look it up.” I finally did just now. The most popular answer? Aspen eyes. According to several sites I found, these eyes are formed through self-grooming, when aspens shed their smallest branches. I wanted to see if one of my favorite nature writers had a name for it. Of course, Rob Macfarlane posted it as a words of the day on twitter. He calls it, “The Watchful Tree.”

june 14/RUN

2 miles
river road, south/river road, north
61 degrees
wind: 15 mph, gusts up to 28 mph

Sunny, cooler, windy. Ran straight into the wind heading south. Thought I’d have it at my back on heading north, but it had already changed direction. Wind used to bother me a lot. Now, I don’t mind as much. Listened to a playlist as I ran–heard “Black Wizard Wave” by Nur-D. Love that song, especially the line, “I’m so high. Levio levio levio sa.” Thought about the terrible anti-trans hate JK Rowling has been spreading lately and then thought about Nur-D and all the positivity they bring to the world and decided to stay with the joy and still hear “levio levio levio sa” with delight.

Was able to almost see the river through the trees–more like the promise of the river instead of the actual river. The faintest hit of blue peeking through a thick weave of green. Heard some bikers and runners. It felt fast but not effortless.

june 11/RUN

3 miles
2.5 mile loop + extra
65 degrees

About once or twice every month during this pandemic, I’ve had a day where I feel really unsettled and uncomfortable. A little fatigued, tightness in my throat, harder to breathe–not in my lungs but in my nose and throat. That is happening today, so I decided to listen to a playlist during my run and try and forget about it. Success. Felt much better during and right after my run.

What a beautiful morning, although I wish it wasn’t so windy. Sun, some clouds, a few glimpses of my shadow, some shade. No river views. Lots of green. Encountered bikers, walkers, runners, and a troop (6 or so) roller skiers on the road. Didn’t see the Daily Walker or any cottonwood floating through the sky. No sparkling water. I don’t remember what I thought about while I ran–anything? Don’t trip in that pothole, maybe?

Here’s another poem that mentions a door: “What if we wake one shimmering morning to/Hear the fierce hammering/Of his firm knuckles/Hard on the door?” Door as entrance to willful ignorance/exit leading to truth

truth/ GWENDOLYN BROOKS

And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.

Woke up this morning thinking in alliteration: Some Saras sit, some Saras stand, some Saras stretch their limbs in the sand. Why? Not sure. Spent a few minutes in delight, writing out some more lines. This exercise is distracting me, making me feel better.

Alice asks Agatha about Aunt Anne’s asthma.
Bob better buy butter.
Claudia cuts cuticles carefully.
Derek doesn’t do dishes.
Even Evelyn eagerly eats eggplant.
For fourteen fortnights Fred farted ferociously (or Fred fretted fervently?).
Generous Gretel gives giant gifts.
How high Harold’s hats hang!
Isabel ignores idiots.
Joking Jackie jests.
Kissing Kate kills.
Lecherous Lonnie’s lascivious laughter lingers loudly.
Millie mutters malevolent mantras.
No nonsense Nancy needs normal neighbors.
Oliver organizes outrageous outings.
Please plant Patty’s precious petunias promptly!
Quit questioning quarantines Quint!
Rosie recognizes rude Ricks readily.
Susan soothes sad, sobbing Sandra.
Terrible Todd taunts timid toddlers.
Ursula’s urges unsettle us.
Veronica Vaughn’s vests vanished.
Walt Whitman wanders west.
Xavier xeroxes xylophones.
Yolanda’s yurt yellowed yesterday.
Zach’s zesty zebra? Zero zen.

may 28/RUN

2.5 miles
1.5 miles loop + extra
68 degrees
humidity: 45%

Last night was heartbreaking and scary. Peaceful protests, escalated by the police, turned violent. Building looted, burned. I live about a mile and a half away and could hear the sirens and smell the smoke all night. Will it happen again tonight? Such justified anger and rage over decades of racist policies and practices.

Wasn’t sure if I would run this morning but decided it might help me feel slightly less panicked and upset. Listened to my playlist and ran a few stretches much faster than usual. Running helped. Didn’t think about the poem I recently memorized–Threshold/Maggie Smith. Didn’t hear any birds or see any roller skiers. I did see the river briefly through the trees.

A few hours after I was done, sitting on the couch, almost drifting off for a nap, I thought about the lines in Smith’s poem: “Imagine yourself passing from and into. Passing through doorway after doorway after doorway.” The first few times I read these lines I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of passing through more than one doorway/threshold. But I’m warming to it. I kept thinking about the different doorways I pass through–and what I exit (from) and enter (into)–as I make my way to the river. The door to my house, the end of my block, the boulevard and parkway before the trails, the warming up of my body, the loosening of my mind. Not sure if that makes sense, but I’d like to think about it some more.

As I’m writing this, I’m also thinking about Smith’s desire not to be on both sides of the door at once, but to pass through doorway after doorway after doorway, to keep moving, which is the name of her new book.

This poem. Wow.

What Kind of Times Are These/ ADRIENNE RICH

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

I knew I recognized this poem. I encountered it a few months ago in this poem: November 30, 2016. And I watched Adrienne Rich read it here.

may 22/RUN

3 miles
2.5 mile loop + extra
61 degrees

Green gloom with white sky today. Please come back Sun. I like that it’s warmer outside, but I wish it wasn’t so cloudy. I want to see my shadow and the light green glow by the gorge. Decided, for the first time in a long time–a month, at least?–I ran with headphones. It helped a little to listen to AC/DC, Lizzo, Beck, Prince. For a few minutes, I felt like I was flying. Didn’t think about the poem I’m reciting this week. Did I think about anything–other than, how fast am I running, or why does this seem so hard, or I am a badass running up this hill?

Yesterday afternoon I decided to test how well I could still recite all the poems I’ve memorized. Not too bad. The hardest one was the last few lines of Lovesong for the Square Root of Negative One by Richard Siken. Maybe when I’m running loops this summer I could recite different poems on different loops? A fun challenge, maybe?

Wow, this poem! I want to spend more time with it, learning all the lines about listening. So good.

Push the button, hear the sound/ HELEN MORT

Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song.
Can you hear the call of the mynah bird?
Can you hear the flamingos in the water?
Can you hear your small heart next to mine
and the house breathing as it holds us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones
of our neighbor’s eucalyptus breaking?
It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground,
giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit
on the lawns, the murderous water boatmen
skimming the green pond. Can you hear
the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you
make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are
sounds your book lacks names for. Can you
hear the sleepless girls in Attercliffe?
Can you hear the aspirin of the sun dissolving?
Listen to the casual racists in the family pub.
Listen to the house Shiraz I drink as if
it’s something’s blood. Listen to my fear,
blooming in the vase of my chest,
and listen to how I water it. Can you hear
your grandfather’s lost childhood? Can you hear
the suburban library shutting? The door closing?
The books still breathing? O can you hear
the budget tightening? It’s almost dark.
Listen to the noisy penguins on the ice.
Listen to my late-night online purchases.
Orange lipstick. High-waisted bikini briefs.
Types of plant that will never die. Listen
to your half-sister hissing to her friends at 2 a.m.
You hang up. No, you hang up. Listen
to the panic in their emojis. Can you hear
your father lighting his first cigarette?
Can you hear the foxes mating all the way
to oblivion? Their sounds are inhuman,
too human, scaling the high fences,
pressing our windowpanes. Listen
to the utter indifference of the stars.
The night is full of holes and we
grate our bodies against them.
Can you hear that, Alfie? Can you hear me
holding you, closer than my life?
Listen to “The Trout” by Schubert.
Listen to the blackbird’s chirpy song.
Listen to this waltz by Paganini.
Listen to the stage as we walk clean
off the front of it, into the audience,
the pit, the silent orchestra.

I love how she trades off between lines with the question, Can you hear, and the command, Listen. I love the line, “there are sounds your book lacks names for” and roses rioting and indifferent stars, the thirsty ground, the panic in their emojis.