april 12/BIKERUN

Another young black man killed by the police today in a twin cities suburb. Apparently, the cop meant to reach for their taser, but pulled their gun instead and then shot Daunte Wright. Fucked up. This is not simply an unfortunate, “heart breaking” accident. This is not a matter of bad apples or a few incompetent or overly anxious cops. This is a fucked up system that doesn’t value human life, that almost always prioritizes certain (white) lives over others, and that is murdering black people. Abolish the police.

bike: 35 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement
outside: rain, wind

Biked in the basement because of the wind and rain. Watched another episode of Emily Dickinson. This one focused on ED’s conflicted feelings about having her poem published and whether or not she wants fame and to be known and seen by others. It features the poem, Split the Lark:

Split the Lark/ Emily Dickinson

Split the Lark – and You’ll find the Music –
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled –
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear, when Lutes be old –

Loose the Flood – you shall find it patent –
Gush after Gush, reserved for you –
Scarlet Experiment! Skeptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?

It was helpful to read the words after watching the show; I didn’t get the meaning of them when I heard them sung by Sue:

Wow. That is some intense, violent imagery. “Gush after gush” and “Scarlet experiment.” It makes me think of the article I read about ED and “I’m Nobody! Who are You?” earlier this month, when the author writes about doing Emily Dickinson Madlibs and asking students to fill in the blank for “Grief is a ___”.

Students go ahead and put in the blanks what is expected: Grief is a pain, Grief is a bitch. The ones who want to take imaginative leaps deliver up: Grief is a thunderstorm, Grief is a tidal wave. But I can pretty much guarantee that no matter how many budding poets you have in a class, nobody who hasn’t already read Dickinson’s poem would ever write the phrase the way she wrote it.

The answer: “Grief is a mouse”
This poem about splitting the lark also seems very original and imaginative and very ED.

A turkey interruption!

Just as I was writing the above paragraph, I looked out the window and saw…a big turkey walking in my front yard. Nice. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that. That’s definitely the delight of the day. When I first saw it, I yelled out to STA, “Come here, quick. There’s a turkey in the front yard” and he posted about it on instagram.

After I biked, I ran on the treadmill for about 14 minutes. Our treadmill works, but strangely, these days. The speed is off, always too fast. Listened to my playlist.

Right after I got up this morning, I wrote about Mary Oliver and her collection, Evidence:

Yellow from Evidence/ Mary Oliver

There is the heaven we enter
through institutional grace
and there are the yellow finches bathing and singing
in the lowly puddle.

I’d like to put this one beside Emily Dickinson’s Some Keep the Sabbath going to Church (236):

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

In my March 26th log entry, I wrote a bit about yellow and how I’ve grown to like the color. It’s funny that I like yellow now because I can’t see it very well, especially on the page and especially when it’s used to highlight text. Sometimes I use my yellow colored pencil in my Plague Notebook, like today, for the title to MO’s poem.

from the Plague Notebooks, Volume 7

When viewed straight on, through my central vision, the yellow disappears. When seen from the side or with my eyes lowered, looking down, the yellow is bright–of course, viewed this way, through my peripheral vision, the words are a blur. Isn’t it strange how that works? Other colors aren’t as bad, like green or blue (although in other situations, those colors disappear too). But, how does this work? I know the retina has 3 types of cone cells: blue/short (B/S), green/medium (G/M), red/long (R/L) and that we have a lot more red (64%) than green (32%) or blue (2%). And that “the color yellow is perceived when the L cones are stimulated slightly more than the M cones (cone cells/wikipedia). But what does that mean about my vision and cone cell loss? How many red versus green versus blue do I have left? Is there a way to test that? And, is it worth testing? I might ask my eye doctor when I’m fully vaccinated and finally have a check-up in the next few months.

I’m looking through MO’s collection, Evidence today, which I was able to immediately check-out from my libby app (very awesome). Something I’ve noticed: the structure/form (I’ve forgotten the difference between these two) is often, first a very detailed and lush description of something or someone (an animal, stone, tree, flower, etc), then a question or a moment of wonder about it/them, then a revelation.

Like, in Swans from Evidence: A long and beautiful description of swans flying overhead and hurrying on to “wherever it is/that swans go.” A moments of curiosity/praise/wonder and a question: “How could I help but wish/that one of them might drop/a white feather/that I should have/soemthing in my hand/to tell me/that they were real?” Finally, a revelation (or a reminder of something always already known but forgotten): “What we love, shapely and pure,/is not to be held,/but to be believed in.” Love that last line. It’s a nice little prayer and seems to work without the details and the moment of praise, but I wonder what happens to its power when it loses those details? Does it become just a easily spreadable soundbite? I’m not sure, and I guess my doubt about this practice of picking out favorite lines, won’t stop me from doing it now:

from Thinking of Swirler

In a week he would be dead,
arrowed down by a young man I like,
though with some difficulty.

I was planning to pick one part of this poem, but I love the whole thing and I think I might need to memorize some or all of it:

Then Bluebird Sang

Bluebird
slipped a little tremble
out of the triangle
of his mouth
and it hung in the air
until it reached my ear
like a froth or a frill
that Schumann
might have written in a dream.
Dear morning
you come
with so many angels of mercy
so wondrously disguised
in feathers, in leaves,
in the tongues of stones,
in the restless waters,
in the creep and the click
and the rustle
that greet me wherever I go
with their joyful cry: I’m still here, alive!

I could also see part of this poem serving as a writing prompt, or an opportunity to create your own moment of wonder/prayer: “Dear morning/you come/with so many angels of mercy/that greet me wherever I go/with their joyful cry: I’m still here, alive!” Prompt: what greets you in the morning? Make a list, then pick one and describe it as much detail as you can. Moment of Wonder: When you’re outside, running beside the gorge, create a chant or greeting to offer back to the welcoming oaks or the floodplain forest or the old stone steps or whatever else you want, letting them know you’re still here too, alive.

Okay, just one more for today:

The Poet Always Carries a Notebook

What is he scribbling on the page?
Is there snow in it, or fire?
Is it the beginning of a poem?
Is it a love note?

This poem makes me think about MO’s discussions of carrying a notebook around with her while she’s walking in the woods, which also makes me think about the different methods writers/thinkers use to remember words when they’re outside, away from their desk: Jonathan Edwards would pin notes to his clothes we traveled on horseback, the writer Jaime Quatro would scratch them into her arm with a stick when, out on a run, she had nothing else to use, I speak a note in my voice memo app or, turn the thought/idea into a chant and repeat it until I return from my run.

april 10/RUN

2.65 miles
2 schools loop (cooper and howe)
46 degrees

Windy this afternoon! Everything green, budding. Spring-like. Ran around Cooper School then down to Edmund. Up to 47th and over to Howe. A soccer team was practicing on the field. Didn’t stare to see if they were wearing masks. I wonder how youth sports is doing these days in Minnesota; the uptick in cases with the UK variant started in some suburban youth sports games. Anything else I remember from the run? Encountered some walkers. Did I see any other runners? I can’t remember. Ran by a neighbor’s fruit trees or vines on 32nd–I can’t remember what they are, I just remember that last year they had a sign encouraging you to take all the fruit you’d like. Apples? Anyway, the trees/vines right by their fence were blooming pale pink flowers. Beautiful.

I didn’t run yesterday because we drove up to Duluth and got our first doses of the Pfizer vaccine–well, me, FWA, and STA got our first doses, RJP is a year too young. Such a bummer for her. Anyway, I still haven’t processed it all, how remarkable and amazing and relieving it is to be getting this vaccine and to be fully vaccinated before Mother’s Day! Wow.

Even though I didn’t run, I still read some Mary Oliver. I’m finding it difficult to stick with just one poem. I like reading several and letting the repetition of her words about attention wash over me and soak in slowly. Yesterday and today, I read through her collection, Swan, and noticed, among other things, that she did a lot of: 1. inviting the reader (you) to be curious, to enter the field, to notice things, 2. admonishing the reader for not noticing and calling it a life, and 3. commanding the reader to notice things, to leave the desk and enter the world. I have started making a list and adding lines from her poems to each of these categories. So far, my list includes the poems in Swan and a few others that I found in her compilation, Devotions.

Invitation

  • Inside the river there is an unfinishable story/and you are somewhere in it/and it will never end until all ends (What Can I Say/Swan)
  • How many kinds of love/might there be in the world,/and how many formations might they make/and who am I ever/to imagine I could know/such a marvelous business? (On the Beaach/Swan)
  • Did you see it, drifting, all night in the black river?/Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air?/And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?/And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?/And have you changed your life? (Swan/Swan)
  • With what words can I convince you of the/casualness with which the white swans fly? Do you give a thought now and again to the/essential sparrow, the necessary toad? Have you ever seen a squirrel swim? Is it not incredible, than in the acorn something/has hidden an entire tree? (More Evidence/Swan)
  • Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/of other lives? (Have you ever tried to enter/ West Wind)

Admonishment

  • It is a negligence of the mind/not to notice how at dusk/heron comes to the pond (How Heron Comes/Swan)
  • We are all good people/except for when we are not (Four Sonnets/Swan)
  • Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
  • Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
  • For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,/caution and prudence?/Fall in! Fall in! (Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/West Wind)

Command

  • If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,/don’t hesitate. Give in to it. (Don’t Hesitate/Swan)
  • Sing, if you can sing, and if not still be/musical inside yourself (More Evidence/Swan)
  • Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then/keep going (At the River Clarion/Evidence)
  • Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk! (Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/ West Wind)

In addition to categorizing her lines, here are a few other things I noticed/liked/want to remember:

1

She likes the word “meanwhile,” which I first encountered and enjoyed in her wonderful poem, “Wild Geese”: “Meanwhile, the world goes on./ Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain…/Meanwhile, the wild geese…” I like this idea of meanwhile as another word for beside/s, and to mean: there are other things beside you happening in the world AND you are not alone in your suffering/sorrow/joy AND life/the world contains more than we can imagine or reconcile, all happening at the same time. I like thinking about meanwhile as a way to connect different stories/lives/creatures without collapsing them into each other as one story or way of living/being–if that makes sense?

2

Okay, I confess to wanting to make a literature of praise.

4 Sonnets/ Swan

I like this idea of a literature of praise. In Long Life she talks about her words as little alleluias on the page. Can we think of this as spiritual, as about admiring and finding joy in things, without linking it to God or organized religion? Yes, I think.

3

I want to step out into some/fresh morning and look around and hear myself/crying out: “The house of money is falling! The house of money is falling! The weeds are rising! The weeds are rising!”

Evidence/ Evidence

That sounds like fun and something I can’t imagine myself ever having the nerve to do. But I think it quite a lot when I’m out near the gorge and witness the sumac vines wrapping themselves around the fenceposts.

One more thing: Here’s a Mary Oliver poem that I’ve been rereading a lot over the past few days:

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO ENTER THE LONG BLACK BRANCHES/ Mary Oliver

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one’s foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,

to the song falling out of the mockingbird’s pink mouth,

to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,
and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or two of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?

Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what’s coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn’t ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

april 3/RUN

2.15 miles
2 school loop: Cooper and Howe
60! degrees

Spring! 60 degrees and sunny just before noon. No snow or ice, all melted. Shorts and one long-sleeved shirt (bright yellow). Nice. Did a short run today because it’s Saturday and I’ve already run 3 days in a row. Listened to my playlist–“Leave the Door Open,” “I Feel for You,” “Levitate,” and “I Forgot that You Existed.” As I listened to the last one, I imagine that the You in the song was all of my worries–about pandemics and sinus infections and headaches and kids getting together with their friends and white supremacy and racial injustice and climate crisis and and and…. It worked (I guess until I listed them here). Ran on the sidewalk through the neighborhood, nowhere near the river. I figured it was too crowded.

I have “officially” decided that April is a month for Mary (Mary Oliver). I will read her poems, some interviews, her memoir Upstream, and whatever else I might find and be moved to read/hear/watch. Today’s poem: April

April/ Mary Oliver

I wanted to speak at length about
The happiness of my body and the
Delight of my mind for it was
April, a night, a full moon and-

But something in myself for maybe
From somewhere other said: not too
Many words, please, in the muddy shallows the

Frogs are singing.

Many thoughts about this poem. I love the idea of putting aside words, or not needing words, to experience joy and delight. This makes me think of MO’s poem, The Real Prayers are Not the Words, But the Attention that Comes First. I’m also thinking of a passage I read in MO’s Upstream about the humility of the leaf-world:

Understand from the first this certainty. Butterflies don’t write books, neither do lilies or violets. Which doesn’t mean they don’t know, in their own way, what they are. That they don’t know they are alive–that they don’t feel, that action upon which all consciousness sits, lightly or heavily. Humility is the prize of the leaf-world. Vainglory is the bane of us, the humans.

Upstream/ Mary Oliver

Wanting to express joy and delight in words is not always motivated by hubris, and not using words doesn’t always signal its lack. Often I search for better words to connect (with others, with ideas) and I appreciate suspending words because too many words hurts the weakening cone cells in my eyes. But, I do find that often the people who won’t shut up (with their voices or their long-winded writing) could use some humility; they should listen to the frogs more.

Speaking of frogs, I’m reminded of ED’s strange poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are You?” In it, there’s a frog: “How public — like a Frog!/To tell one’s name — the livelong June — /To an admiring Bog!” ED’s frog seems very different, very public, very Somebody. But, is that right? I looked up “Emily Dickinson frog” and found an amazing article: The Poems (We Think) We Know: Emily Dickinson. I am so delighted to have uncovered this essay–to learn more about this poem, about frogs, about ED, about poetry and its purposes. This article makes me want to read Mary Oliver beside Emily Dickinson–and I think I will all this month. What interesting conversations they might have had!

Anyway, back to frogs. According to the author of the ED article, Alexandria Socarides, frogs were a favorite for 19th century writers, including Poe, Twain, and Thoreau. Here’s how Socarides links Thoreau and Dickinson:

If Dickinson was listening to frog-sound with the same attention as Thoreau, which I think she was, then what is it that she learned from them? What do these old, lazy creatures have to say? Part of the point of the second stanza of “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” is, as with Thoreau’s passage above, that frogs say the same thing over and over again, that there is no sense to be made of their guttural noises, that there is no meaning in the same name said on a loop. But what lurks in both acts of listening is the awareness that there is a kind of beauty to nonsense sounds, a beauty that only the bog itself (and maybe the poet in the bog) can recognize. 

The Poems (We Think) We Know: Emily Dickinson

Returning to Oliver, I’m thinking about one purpose of the frog in her poem. When I searched “Mary Oliver frog” I found a helpful essay, Mary Oliver’s Nature and this poem by MO: What We Want

In a poem
people want
something fancy

but even more

they want
something inexplicable
made plain,
easy to swallow

The frog’s singing as plain but inexplicable, and easy to listen to? I like the idea of something inexplicable made plain, but I’m not sure about the “easy to swallow” part. My inclination is to not like it because I don’t like things to be easy to swallow, and I don’t think poetry is about giving us “easy to swallow” things. But, there’s something deeper about faith, belief, a refusal to be skeptical, and a turn to a different understanding of mystery/ineffability that doesn’t demand confusion and discomfort and utter disorientation that I appreciate about MO’s poem. I want to think about this idea more, and push myself to take it seriously. Is this understanding of what to do with the inexplicable–MO seems to want to make it plain and accessible, while ED seems to want it to unravel you (she writes about poetry as that which makes the top of your head come off–a fundamental difference between the two poets? I’d like to explore it more.

note: just after posting this entry, I looked up MO’s poem “What We Want” and found the rest of it, which I think is helpful for pushing at the ideas more:

not unlike a suddenly
harmonic passage

in an otherwise
difficult and sometimes dissonant
symphony—

even if it is only
for the moment
of hearing it.

MO is interested in that moment, albeit fleeting, of clarity that open you up, or opens to you, inviting you in. Much more I’d like to say about this, but I’ll leave it that for now. I have a whole month to explore it!

One more frog mention: I’m not sure it’s possible to post about poetry and frogs without including Basho’s most famous haiku:

Old pond — frogs jumped in — sound of water.
Translated by Lafcadio Hearn

Mastuo Basho’s Frog Haiku (30 translations)

april 2/RUN

3.2 miles
neighborhood + Howe loop
42 degrees
wind: 15 mph with gusts 33 mph

The wind has returned, trying to slow me down for half of the run, speed me up for the other half. It didn’t bother me too much and, because of it, I got to hear lots of cool wind chimes. Ran on the sidewalk, the street, the trail, the grass. Past 2 elementary schools, one high school, a daycare at a church. Above the river, beside the boulevard, through the tunnel of trees. Saw the Daily Walker just leaving the trail, heading home. Thought about calling out, but decided that might be a little strange since I was behind him and not that close. I remember starting to think about my Emily Dickinson exercise for March. Did I come up with any ideas? I don’t think so. If I did, only the wind knows, I guess. Noticed the shadow of a bird moving very fast. Heard the “feebee” call of the black-capped chickadee. Don’t remember hearing any geese or pileated woodpeckers or cardinals or warblers or mourning doves. When I reached Howe school, I turned on a playlist for the last few minutes.

Gross runner moment: Watched as a drop of sweat below my nose suddenly flew off my face and far off into the air when the wind picked up. Even though I don’t have covid, I’m very glad no one was around. Gross and scary, witnessing how far sweat can fly.

It’s April 2nd, and I’m thinking about how to build off of my March with Emily Dickinson. Maybe focus on circumference? Not sure. After encountering this discussion of ED’s use of bees, and then randomly finding a bee poem by Mary Oliver, I’m thinking about bees. Yes, I like the idea of focusing on bees, flies, and beetles. I can think of many poems from ED, this one from Mary Oliver, at least one from Maggie Smith, and one about flies, When I come home they rush to me, the flies by Aracelis Girmay.

Dickinson used the bee, a favorite symbol of Isaac Watts’s, as a defiant counter-emblem to his hymns. Her bees are irresponsible (138, 1343), enjoy la dolce vita (1627), and are pictured as seducers, traitors, buccaneers (81, 128, 134, 206, etc.).

Here’s the Mary Oliver bee poem I found:

hum/ mary oliver

What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They’re small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness? The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
that life is a blessing. I have found them-haven’t you?—
stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings
a little tattered-so much flying about, to the hive,
then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,
should the task be to be a scout-sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t
admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I
haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,
and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and
read books, I have to
take them off and bend close to study and
understand what is happening. It’s not hard, it’s in fact
as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,
it’s love almost too fierce to endure, the bee
nuzzling like that into the blouse
of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course
the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over
all of us.

I love the line: “the bees have gone simple, sipping.”

Mary Oliver has been criticized for being too simple or R/romantic, not poetic enough, too accessible. And, in the years before her death, she was often not taken seriously. I love Mary Oliver and when I read this poem I don’t think of it as an “easy” romantic poem just about how great bees are. This poem is the declaration of someone who has done and is still doing the very difficult work of learning how to notice and love the world–every bit of it, no matter how small or how broken (here I’m thinking of her line in “Invitation”–“believe us, they say,/ it is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in this broken world”). She writes:

I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t
admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I
haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to.

That’s impressive and something I aspire to. For several years now, I’ve been working to find delight in these small moments, to recognize them as enough, more than enough, to make life fulfilling, to ensure flourishing. I’m getting closer, but I’m not there yet. There are things I don’t admire and, too often lately, I’ve thought about them more than the things I do admire. Maybe I should spend a month with Mary Oliver instead of with insects? Or maybe I should save the insects for a month that’s filled with them–May or June? Yes, I have decided. April is for Mary (Oliver)! I think yesterday’s poetry sighting was the nudge I needed:

Seen in the neighborhood on a house that likes to put poetry on their front windows.

march 23/RUN

3.2 miles
edmund loop, heading north
45 degrees

Both of my knees were feeling strange yesterday, not quite like the kneecap was slipping out but unstable and sore, so I didn’t run. I biked and watched another episode of Dickinson instead. Today, even though it was drizzling when I started, I ran. I started in the neighborhood but when I reached Edmund, about a mile in, I decided to cross over to the river. I was able to run on my favorite part, through the tunnel of trees, just above the floodplain forest. Wow! It was all a rich brown: bare branches and bare earth, hardly any sky, no river. In a few months, this same spot will be nothing but green. Both ways, it’s disorienting: now, with the brown, it almost feels like you’re buried in the earth; later, in the green, like you’re underwater in a green sea. I think I heard some birds, mostly cardinals. What I remember hearing most was the light rain hitting the brim of my baseball cap. For the last mile, I listened to my playlist.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – (236)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

I appreciate ED’s connection between the sacred and nature here. My first chapbook was all about the sacred rituals of being upright and outside by the Mississippi River Gorge. (I’m not alone; many runners refer to their long runs on Sundays as the “church of the long run”). My exploration of this theme was as a non-church going ex-religion major with a master’s in theological ethics who finds tremendous value in the sacred, but not in organized religion and church services.

Right now, I just finished listening to a section in the ED biography, Lives as Loaded Guns, about the religious revival in Amherst in the mid 1800s and the pressure ED experienced to publicly declare her faith in Christ and become a full member of her church. She refused, even as all of her family and friends professed their faith. According to the author, Lyndall Gordon, ED’s friends, including Jane Humphrey (who plays a prominent, if slightly different, role in the show Dickinson), are enlisted as spies to “report back” on what ED was thinking and doing and to try to persuade her to change her mind. I thought of this religious revival in the town and what an impact it had on Amherst as I watched an episode of Dickinson today and noticed that there were a surprisingly large number of ministers at the party/salon everyone (or, anyone who is anyone) was attending at Sue and Austin’s house. Several of these clergy were the dates/suitors of the popular girls. I’m fascinated and delighted by how the show brings in details like this without explicitly addressing them.

ED’s faith and her expressions/practices of and struggles with it are more complicated than this charming poem might suggest. I think I should read one of the classic biographies on ED, Roger Lundin’s Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief.

Speaking of ED’s complicated relationship to religion and God and the church, I’ve been thinking about her poetic form and how she often used hymn form. Here’s some information from Common Questions on Emily Dickinson:

What kind of meter did Dickinson write in, and why did she use it?

  • Common Meter or Hymn Meter
  1. Definition: A closed poetic quatrain, rhyming A B A B, in which iambic tetrameter alternate with iambic trimeter. Common meter is distinguished from ballad meter by its rhyme scheme: the rhyme scheme of ballad meter is X A X A.
  2. Derivation: This meter derives from English hymnology and uses predominantly iambic or trochaic feet (sometimes dactylic).
  3. Types
  • Common meter: alternately 8 and 6 syllables to the line: 8/6/8/6
  • Long meter: 8 syllables to the line 8/8/8/8 (this tends to get monotonous)
  • Short meter: two lines of 6 syllables, followed by one of 8, then one of 6: 6/6/8/6
  • Sevens and sixes: 7/6/7/6
  • Common particular meter: 8/8/6/8/8/6
  • Short particular meter: 6/6/8/6/6/8

Source: Isaac Watts’s Christian Psalmody, or, The Psalms. Watts always names the meter, and introductions set forth what effects may be achieved by each type.

Dickinson’s Use of Hymns

  1. According to Martha England, her hymns differed from Watts’s in these ways:
  • greater use of enjambment
  • greater metrical freedom
  • use of more images with no scriptural source
  1. Dickinson used the bee, a favorite symbol of Watts’s, as a defiant counter-emblem to his hymns. Her bees are irresponsible (138, 1343), enjoy la dolce vita (1627), and are pictured as seducers, traitors, buccaneers (81, 128, 134, 206, etc.).
  2. Every poem composed before 1861 is fashioned in one of the hymn meters above.
  • Largest proportion in common meter.
  • Second largest proportion in common particular meter.

Note: If I’m counting and reciting correctly, this poem doesn’t fit the hymn form. Is that because it’s from 1861 and not before? I always need help hearing the meter in poetry. Here’s another source I might want to check out: Listening to Dickinson

bobolinks and surplices

Bobolinks are small songbirds with large, somewhat flat heads, short necks, and short tails. They are related to blackbirds and orioles, and they have a similar shaped, sharply pointed bill.

All About Birds

They are present in Minnesota but have been in serious decline for some time now. Why? Loss of habitat, pesticides on food supply suppressing appetite and causing them to not eat enough, and too many people and buildings to run into. After listening to the call and the song, I’m not sure if I heard one before. I’d probably remember because they kind of sound like R2D2. They like hanging out in grasslands, meadows, and prairies, and traveling in big flocks.

A surplice is “a loose white linen vestment varying from hip-length to calf-length, worn over a cassock by clergy, acolytes, and choristers at Christian church services.” As a Lutheran pastor, did my dad wear this? Not quite, I think. Maybe I’m just confused by how he would always wear a stole too? I’ve seen lots of these surplices on the British murder mystery shows I watch.

Here’s another, non-ED poem that I discovered yesterday. I love Maggie Smith and I love this poem, especially how she plays with and challenges the importance of naming and classifying things.

Goldenrod/ Maggie Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a moment of sound

So many birds! Spring is here!

march 22, 2021

march 19/RUN

3.3 miles
edmund loop, starting north
42 degrees

Feeling more and more like spring. All the snow is gone, the sun is warm, the birds are singing even louder and longer. What I remember most about my run are the black-capped chickadees and their “fee-bee” song. Running on Edmund, between 32nd and 34th, I heard at least 2 of them calling out, not in a call and response, with one singing 2 ascending notes, the other 2 descending ones, but with both of them ascending, calling out to some other bird that wasn’t responding. Sometimes they were in sync, but sometimes they weren’t–a strange cacophony of fees and bees. About a mile later, I heard another chickadee calling out. No response.

When I reached 42nd st, I turned on my spotify playlist–“Ain’t Nobody,” “I feel for you,” and “Leave the Door Open”–and ran on the grass. It was tricky avoiding holes and not sinking into the soft, mushy grass. I love Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s “Leave the Door Open”–how it sounds, their voices, the playful lyrics, the message of consent and hope, the invitation to be open. Wonderful.

Oh–I can’t believe I almost forgot–the river! Just past the top of the hill on Edmund between 33rd and 34th, you can glimpse the river through the trees. Today it was on fire, glowing with a bright white light. Wow. Definitely dazzling. Seeing this bright light, I thought about the Emily Dickinson poem I’m studying and that I memorized before running: “We grow accustomed to the Dark.” The poem is about how we adjust to the dark when “light is put away,” both literally and metaphorically. For many, I’m sure, this poem suggests that the loss of light and the coming of the darkness is always unwelcome and tragic. But not necessarily for ED, and not for me. I had to stop at the top of the hill and record a thought into my phone: “sometimes the problem with light is not its loss, but its abundance.” Too much light is too dazzling, making it too difficult to see or understand what you’re seeing. I have difficulty when there’s a lack of light, but often just as much when there’s too much light. So, sometimes a lack of light is welcome, wanted, offering some rest for tired and overwhelmed eyes.

We grow accustomed to the Dark

After spending so much time yesterday reading other people’s words about ED’s “We grow accustomed to the dark,” I decided I wanted to spend some time today with her words. I started by memorizing the poem. Memorizing a poem always helps me to listen better to the words. Now (I started this section before I ran and am continuing it after I’m done), I’m typing up each stanza (from memory) and typing up my thoughts, most of which don’t offer insight but a way for me to work through my efforts to understand her words. I’m noticing how this effort sometimes involves forcing myself to move past what I think the words should mean or how they should sound and listen to what she is actually writing and doing with her words.

We grow accustomed to the Dark –
When light is put away –
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp –
To witness her Goodbye.

I like the word accustomed. From the OED:

  • Verb: “To make (a person or thing) familiar with or used to something; to familiarize, habituate.”
    Adjective: “In the habit of doing something; used to something.”

Yes! This reminds me of one of my preferred understandings of knowing–to become acquainted with. Not to Know or even to fully understand, but to adjust to, get used to. I like the connecting of this with habit and habitual practice.

I also like how she describes this: “When Light is put away.” Who is putting the light away? I don’t think she means God here. I like thinking about something/someone putting it away–a much different feel than if she had written: “when light has gone away.”

added later: Could she mean that she, ED, puts the light away? The Prowling Bee thinks so. Analyzing the stanza about the larger Darkness, she writes:

 That unknown mental and spiritual domain is a “larger – Darkness.” That is where our great poets and philosophical explorers venture while the rest of us pursue our hobbies or just relax. Dickinson spends time in this darkness and most of her most evocative, ambiguous, and challenging poetry comes from there.

the Prowling Bee

I keep wanting to make the final line, “To witness our Goodbye” instead of her goodbye, but I finally get that the Lamp is witnessing her goodbye to us, as we leave.

I love the idea of the Lamp/Light witnessing the Goodbye. A great image. And interesting to think about how in the second line the light is leaving us, but in the 4th line, we are leaving the light. Is that intended as an echo of the final stanza of the poem–either the darkness alters or something in the sight adjusts itself to midnight? Who is acting and who is acted upon? Yes (returning to this analysis later, after publishing this post), the idea of both the light leaving us and us leaving the light fits with my mention of the prowling bee and the idea of ED choosing to leave light and enter the darkness in order to explore deeper, more troubling, difficult and unknown ideas and themes.

A Moment – We uncertain step
For newness of the night –
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark –
And meet to Road – erect –

The idea of a moment is great–a moment of panic and uncertainty before we’re able to see. As my central vision declines, I have a lot more of these moments: when I enter an unfamiliar building (or sometimes even a familiar one) and not much makes sense. I can’t read the signs or tell where to go. Or when I’m looking at an object but I can’t tell what it is–is it a dead squirrel or a clump of leaves or furry mittens? Most of the time, my brain eventually adjusts and I can see what I’m trying to look at and continue on with more certainty. I’m trying to work on not fearing that uncertain step, letting the moment just be a moment that I will move past, knowing that I will adjust or figure it out (or ask someone for help). And it’s working. I am getting better.

I find “We uncertain step” to be awkward, but I like how its awkwardness seems to effectively create uncertainty and discomfort in the reader–at least this reader, me.

Love the alliteration of newness of night and her descriptions of adjusting as fitting our Vision to the Dark and becoming more certain as meeting the road erect.

As I work through this poem, I’m realizing something (or, being reminded of something I know, but keep forgetting or straying from): It is very interesting to learn about ED’s life and the historical context of her work, and it’s helpful to see patterns and themes across the poems. Yet, what matters most to me are the actual poems and how effectively her words describe vision loss and resonate with my own experiences of it. Her words are opening a door, offering a way into understanding (and expressing that understanding) how vision loss and living with less vision feels.

And so of larger – Darkness –
Those Evenings of the Brain –
When not a Moon disclose a sign –
Or Star – come out – within –

I like how she shifts to a metaphorical understanding of Darkness and then describes it as “those Evenings of the Brain.” I’m imagining she could mean depression (possibly hers, some suggest there’s evidence she was mildly bipolar or her mother’s) or hopelessness or sadness or turmoil or illness or uncertain/lack of understanding. She might even mean those times when she could not write, which fits well with the next lines about no signs being disclosed or stars coming out. And returning to the comments I’m just adding, this also means those darker, deeper, uncomfortable, troubling ideas/thoughts/themes that writers are willing to explore.

one more thing to add: I’m thinking about how most of my academic work and a big part of my current ethical project involves bewilderment and trouble and uncertainty and the value of dwelling in these uncomfortable spaces for us and learning how to be/to flourish. Because I’ve spent so much time thinking about these things, maybe it’s helped me to navigate my vision loss more effectively?

When I was reciting this poem from memory, I kept forgetting disclose. All I could think of was “display.” I knew it was wrong, but I just couldn’t remember disclose. Is it because “not a Moon disclose a sign” sounds awkward–“not a Moon disclosed a sign” sounds better to my ear, even if that changes the tense. Anyway, disclose is a much stronger, more precise, verb than display, so I’m hoping I can remember it now.

The bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –

I like grope even as I don’t. It fits well with the idea of struggling to find meaning in the dark, but it also conjures up creepy guys and their grabby hands.

Sometimes, when I’m running, I hit a tree. Not directly in my forehead, but with my elbow or hip. I like the funny image of people literally running into trees, especially hitting them directly in the Forehead, and I also like the metaphorical meaning of being stunned as they struggle to make sense of/adjust to (overcome?) the darkness.

I don’t like poems that try too hard to rhyme (which this doesn’t), and I like when lines rhyme or echo (which this does). Tree and see work well; it’s pleasing to the ear and helps keep the large idea/image of adjusting to darkness moving forward.

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.

It often feels, when you can finally make out shapes in a dark room, that the darkness has changed, become less dim, but it’s really your vision adjusting, with the help of your rod photoreceptor cells, your pupils widening to take in more light, and your brain, to that darkness.

Love this ending line about life stepping almost straight, especially the almost part.

Whew. I’m ready for a break now. What a joy to spend so much time with ED’s words! Yesterday, I felt frustrated, reading so much about the poem (when it was written, what it was in response to, how it fit into a larger understanding of ED as a poet) without actually reading the poem or thinking about the meaning of the poem.

a moment of sound

Sat on the deck with my daughter and Delia the dog, soaking in the warm sun. Very quiet. I can hear my daughter briefly sniffing like a dog and some kid at the end of the street calling out and a crow. Of course, after I turned off the recording, a cardinal started trilling–at least 10 times–repeatedly.

march 19, 2021

march 17/RUN

3.4 miles
43rd ave, north/31st st, east/edmund, south/42nd st, east/river road trail, north
34 degrees

Woke up to several inches of snow on Tuesday. Decided to skip the running and shovel and bike instead. Woke up again this morning to another dusting but noticed the sidewalks and roads were bare so I went for a run. What a run! Not too cold, but not too warm. Not much wind. Not too bright. No one else out. Did I see any other runners or walkers? Only one or two. I wasn’t planning to run on the river road trail but I remembered that a few days ago I had wondered what the river would look like after the snow, and when I saw that no one was on the trail, I decided to check it out. When I reached the river, I stopped to record my moment of sound. I stood closer to the river and admired the grayish-blue water with the white banks.

march 17, 2021

Listen to those birds! I also like the sound of the cars as they rush by–you can hear the water on the wheels, everything damp, slick.

Before heading north for the last mile, I put in a Spotify playlist and listened to 2 songs I recently added, both by Chaka Khan: “Ain’t Nobody” and “I Feel for You” Yes! So much fun to run right above the river with no one else there to avoid, just me and Chaka Khan and Melle Mel (he raps at the beginning and end of the song–I had to look that up.) Discovered that he was part of Grandmaster Flash and had rapped on “White Lines” the year before. Very cool.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time with Emily Dickinson. First, I finished an episode of Dickinson–in this one, Emily has writer’s block and is trying to decide whether or not publishing her poems is a good idea. Then, I read my ED poem for the day: My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun. After finding a podcast discussing it, and then reading a few articles about it, I decided this poem, considered to be the most complicated and richly layered of her poems, deserved 2 days. Well, it deserves much more than 2 days, but that’s what I’m giving it for this month with Emily Dickinson. Here are my thoughts from yesterday and today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This poem has taken me down a rabbit hole of fascinating things about Emily Dickinson. The poem itself provides a lot to wonder about but I barely made it that far. I imagine I’ll want to reread this poem many times. My rabbit hole concerns ED’s process of gathering and preserving her poems and the importance of this poem for poet/scholar/historian Susan Howe. Here’s a few things I’ve discovered.

This poem is in a fascicle.

“Fascicle” is the name that Emily Dickinson’s early editor, Mabel Loomis Todd, gave to the homemade manuscript books into which Dickinson copied hundreds of poems, probably beginning in the late 1850s and continuing through the late 1860s. Dickinson constructed the fascicles by writing poems onto sheets of standard stationery already folded in two to create two leaves (four pages). She then stacked several such sheets on top of each other, stabbed two holes in the left margin through the stack, and threaded string through the holes and tied the sheets together. Occasionally she varied this basic pattern by binding half-sheets (cut along the fold) into the stack of folded sheets. “Set” is a term first used by editor R.W. Franklin to describe groups of unbound sheets of similar paper and size that were never bound by the poet. There are 40 fascicles, and 15 sets.

Dickinson herself did not number or label the fascicles. They were taken apart by the first editors of Dickinson’s poetry, and so have had to be reconstructed by various scholars. Within this site, we use the order established by R.W. Franklin, The Poems of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1998). Not all Dickinson scholars agree with his reconstruction.

About Emily Dickinson Archive

It’s in fascicle 34. According to Susan Howe (in this speech that I was just listening to on the upenn site), there’s some discussion/debate over how ED gathered her poems into the fascicles. Were they chronological? Grouped by theme? And, if by theme, how closely connected were they? Howe seems to think that the connection is a loose one.

Howe makes this poem a primary focus of her book, My Emily Dickinson

I checked this book out from the library 3 or 4 years ago and tried to read it but it was too difficult for me then. I hadn’t read much of Dickinson’s poetry and had not yet studied poetry. Would it make more sense now? Here’s an excerpt I found online.

a new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation

Emily Dickinson took the scraps from the separate “higher” female education many bright women of her time were increasingly resenting, combined them with voracious and “unladylike” outside reading, and used the combination. She built a new poetic form from her fractured sense of being eternally on inteIlectual borders, where confident masculine voices buzzed an alluring and inaccessible discourse, backward through history into aboriginal anagogy. Pulling pieces of geometry, geology, alchemy, philosophy, politics, biography, biology, mythology, and philology from alien territory, a “sheltered” woman audaciously invented a new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation. HESITATE from the Latin, meaning to stick. Stammer. To hold back in doubt, have difficulty speaking. “He may pause but he must not hesitate”-Ruskin. Hesitation circled back and surrounded everyone in that confident age of aggressive industrial expansion and brutal Empire building. Hesitation and Separation. The Civil War had split American in two. He might pause, She hesitated. Sexual, racial, and geographical separation are at the heart of Definition.

My Emily Dickinson

I really like this idea of hesitation and humility and aboriginal anagogy as a sharp contrast to progress, aggression, confidence/hubris, and time as always moving forwards (teleology). I tried to find a source that could explain exactly what Howe means by aboriginal anagogy but I couldn’t. I discovered that anagogy means mystical or a deeper religious sense and so, when I connect it to aboriginal, I’m thinking that she means that ED imbues pre-Industrial times (pre Progress!, where progress means trains and machines and cities and Empires and factories and plantations and the enslavement of groups of people and the increased mechanization of time and bodies and meaning and, importantly, grammar) with the sacred. Is that right? Is it clear what I’m saying? I think I need to buy Howe’s book and attempt a close reading. Yes, it’s available as an ebook!

More to read: see Adrienne Rich’s wonderful essay Vesuvius at Home.

The Loaded Gun is not a gun but ED’s dog Carlo?!

In On ED’s 754/764, Susan Stewart discusses how difficult this poem (known in the Thomas Johnson edition of Dickin- son’s work as number 754, and in the Ralph Franklin edition as number 764) is for critics/readers to understand. She suggests that none of the readings are ever complete or fully hang together. Then she adds her own unusual interpretation: the loaded gun is a dog, ED’s dog, Carlo.

What kind of being waits in corners to be carried away to a field where, released, his/her/its power is enacted? One answer is: a domesticated hunting dog.

Now Dickinson had a dog, Carlo, named after the pointer owned by the character St. John Rivers in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Dickinson’s Carlo was also a hunting dog—an enormous Newfoundland hound.

Of course, Stewart’s argument is more involved than simply, it’s about her dog. You can read the article for a deeper discussion. I’m fascinated with this suggestion–Carlo was her walking buddy, he was a hunter, he had a yellow eye, he slept at the foot of her bed and protected her. Rereading the poem, it’s hard not to imagine a dog now.

I’ll leave my exploration of the poem at that, for now. I enjoyed wading into some deeper waters with ED scholarship, and I learned a lot that I didn’t know. I am not interested in going too deep, though. I could (and used to regularly as an academic) get lost in tracking down more articles, more interpretations, analyzing every word and it’s symbolic, political, historical significance. That is too much of a distraction, a derailment. Too connected to my discipline days. I like learning a little and letting that enhance my wonder. Having said that, I am planning to buy My Emily Dickinson and dig into Howe’s dense analysis of ED’s new grammar. The goal: to not seek answers, but more connections and questions and evidence of how poetry moves and bewilders and astonishes me.

As an aside: For some time, I have been very interested in the US in the mid to late 1800s, pre and post Civil War. No serious study, mostly through fiction, some through my investigation of my great grandparent coming to the UP from Finland in the 1880s. I like having the chance to read/learn more about this time.

yesterday’s moment of sound

Walking with Delia yesterday afternoon was wonderful. Everything melting and dripping, so many birds singing. In the middle of this recording, the bird I was trying to identifying a week or so ago called out–the one that I thought sounded like the loon call they play at twins’ games. What is this bird? Maybe if I play it for Scott, he can identify it.

march 16, 2021

march 14/RUN

2 miles
neighborhood
47 degrees

A quick run through the neighborhood on a windy afternoon. Ran around Cooper school and noticed the mounds of snow and wondered when they would melt away. Earlier in the week there was a chance we might get a few inches of snow tomorrow, but now it looks less likely. Good. I’m ready for spring this year and I’ve been enjoying the bare sidewalks and open grass. Listened to a playlist while I ran. First up was a song I’ve been randomly singing during this COVID year, not sure why: Freak-a-Zoid. Very nice. And long. It lasted for 3/4 of a mile at least. Anything else? Lots of people out, most of them walking dogs, a few kids biking.

a moment of sound

So windy! The neighbor’s scare rods are really spinning. I wonder how irritating they will be this summer?

march 14, 2021

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

This is another one of ED’s most known poems. Some people think it’s an accurate description of a migraine, others a mental breakdown. A few people in the comments over at the prowling bee, suggested it was a transcendent, religious experience, another wondered if it had anything to do with the epilepsy that she might have had. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem pleasant but torturous. Rereading the comments, I’m fascinated by their discussion of the bell as a tool or practice within Buddhism to stop thinking and meditate on the sound of the bell. This focus enables one to pass through the planks/levels of reason and the rational Self. And, I love the lines about all the heavens as a Bell with being but an Ear. Very cool.

march 13/RUN

3 miles
Hiawatha and Howe loops
44 degrees

A wonderful morning. Sunny and mostly calm. Not too crowded. Started on the river road trail but as I encountered more people, I moved over to Edmund. I heard the black-capped chickadees singing their feebee song. Don’t remember much else. When I reached Hiawatha, I put in my headphones and listened to a spotify playlist. Experienced a slight runner’s high as I picked up the pace, the kind that makes me feel my smile all the way down to my toes. Sprinted the last block. I bet I looked strange.

Yesterday, I listened to a great podcast with the poet Paige Lewis. So much good stuff. I especially liked this:

And that’s what I kind of care about putting into poems. I want to learn things and I want to learn little snippets of facts and then I want to be able to share those facts with people. Or, if I see something, I want someone around so I can be like look at that thing that’s happening right now. It’s still happening, you have to look. Look what that fish is doing. Look what that flower is doing. I just want to be pointing. Like I just want to be, look at this thing. Look at this thing. Look at this thing. Which is why I’m really bad at writing essays because I’m just like look at what this guy is doing. And then look at this. And they’re like, why does it matter? I’m like, I don’t know, but look at it.

Just like look at these beautiful tiny things and what we can take from them is maybe sometimes just enjoyment and I don’t know that I have anything more intelligent to say about that thing and what it’s doing and what it reflects about anything about us as humans. But like just look at it.

Paige Lewis in Paige Lewis Vs. Tiny Things

I agree with Lewis that the enjoyment of noticing and sharing these beautiful tiny things is enough, but I also think that this practice, when repeated and turned into a habit, has an additional importance: it encourages us to care about and care for the world, to be invested in its continued flourishing and also our own. I was thinking about this earlier today as I worked on my “How to Be” project and gathered ideas for the knowledge section. What is knowing facts for? More than demonstrating how smart we are, knowing facts can connect us and astonish us and encourage us to care about more than ourselves and our individual survival.

random thought I remember: At some point during the run, I noticed the shadow of a bird on the sidewalk in front of me. I love seeing these shadows and knowing a bird is flying overhead without looking up to see it. This shadow is too vague and fuzzy to indicate what kind of bird it is; it’s just a bird. It reminded me of how sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk, which has a glass top (a top I recycled from an old IKEA coffee table), I see the reflection of a bird flying outside the window. It’s a quick flash of motion that I could miss if I wasn’t paying attention and if my peripheral vision had become heightened because of my central vision loss. Such a cool thing to see.

Have you got a Brook in your little heart/Emily Dickinson

Have you got a Brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so—

And nobody knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there,
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there—

Why – look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go—

And later, in August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life,
Some burning noon go dry!

The Prowling Bee doesn’t like this poem with it’s “lazy” rhymes (flipping the sentence order to create the rhyme, ex: “so still it flows”) and the idea of such a “little” brook, as opposed to some more robust form of water like a river. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think I like the quiet brook that doesn’t announce itself to the world, it’s just there doing it’s thing–helping the flowers and the birds and the shadows. What if it were a stream instead? Decided to google it. Favorite answer was by a naturalist, responding to the question, what’s the difference between a stream, a creek, and a river?:

So, we enter into the somewhat nebulus topic of stream classification.

Consulting a few sources, the common term for all downhill flowing ribbons of water is stream.  They’re all streams. Streams are classified, not by width, depth or length, but by a system known as stream ordering.  The common terms are quite subjective depending on region and local history.

First order streams: the smallest streams that have no tributaries. We could call these brooks or rivulets.  Little streams that you can hop across and not get wet. (GPD example: Pebble Brook in The West Woods)

Second order streams: result from the merging of two first order streams. Often designated as creeks, these small streams require a bridge, stepping stones or wading to cross. (GPD examples: Big Creek, Swine Creek, Silver Creek)

Third order streams: larger streams formed from the merger of two second order streams or creeks if you will. Streams that would have to be bridged, waded or even swam across. Referred to as branches in the headwater regions of watersheds. (Geauga examples:  East Branch and Aurora Branches of the Chagrin River, East and West Branches of the Cuyahoga River)

Fourth order: streams formed by the merging of two third order streams. These streams would qualify as rivers, requiring big bridges, boats or swimming to cross.

Geauga Park District in Ohio, also see River, Streams, and Creeks

I find brooks interesting as a first order stream because they have no connection to other sources of water, no tributaries. They also don’t cause much of a fuss–you don’t need a bridge for them and you should be able to hop across them without getting wet. How do these first order streams come to be? Where does the water come from?

Another interesting thing about brooks: as a verb, the word means to use, tolerate, find agreeable. I don’t like the word tolerate or this understanding of a body of water disconnected from everything else, so I guess I don’t want to have a little brook in my heart. It doesn’t sound as a pretty, but I think I’d prefer a creek–but not a crick!

a moment of sound

After my run, I sat on the deck and enjoyed the sun and the quiet. Here’s how that sounded:

march 13, 2021

march 10/RUN

2.8 miles
river road trail, south/Winchell trail, south/edmund, north
44 degrees
drizzle

Decided to go out for a quick run before the rain started. I made it out the door when it was dry but by mile 2 it was raining. Starting in the rain can be miserable, but if you’re already running, it’s difficult to feel the rain. Because of the weather, I was able to run on the trail without encountering too many people. Oh, the river, looking beautifully pale blue in the gloom. When I reached 42nd st, I took the trail down to a spot right above the ravine and recorded the water rushing down the rocks as my moment of sound.

march 10, 2021

Very cool. Instead of heading back up to the road, I decided to keep running on the Winchell trail. At this point, close to the southern start of the trail, it’s steep and uneven and right on the edge. What an unanticipated delight to be this much closer to the river–nothing but air and the bluff between us. (Sitting here, writing this entry in the front room, I just heard a long, loud boom–thunder!)

Anything else I remember from the run? I noticed a lot of headlights, bright and cutting through the gray sky. Another runner also cutting through the gloom, wearing a bright yellow shirt. Saw some people walking their dogs–one guy called out a greeting to me. I think he said “Go Twins!” because I was wearing a Twins baseball cap, but I’m not sure. Heard a young kid and an adult below me in the oak savanna. Noticed all the snow collected on the trail at the foot of the mesa. Heard some kids on the playground at the lower campus of Minnehaha Academy. For the last mile of my run, I put in my headphones and listened to a playlist.

It was great to be out by the gorge in-between rain showers, hearing the rushing water and how it sometimes drips, sometimes gushes down the bluff to the river. I spent the morning working on my “How to Sink” poem and thinking about water and what it does as it travels through the soil and layers of sediment, powered by gravity. Writing this, I suddenly thought about gravity and weight and how it forces water through cracks and then I thought about the homonym for weight, wait, and patience, and how my preferred form of sinking is a slow, gradual sliding down that takes a long time. And also how the weight of gravity forces water down through the layers, but so does the persistence of time. Cool–I’d like to add that in somehow. Here’s a new draft of my poem. Still not there, but getting closer, I hope.

Try to recall when your son young
and upset turns to jelly
and oozes off
the sofa
in

surrender he’s not giving in
but giving up control a
puddle of parts
pooled at your
feet

learn to retreat like this let your
bones dissolve legs liquefy
gravity win
seep deep be-
neath

layers of loam sandstone limestone
shale drop lower and lower
and lower
fall

between cracks fit through fissures carve
out a door take it so far
in that out is
another
idea.*

Begin with 20 seconds from
a song that is not happy
birthday sing while
you scour
the

surface of your dread scrub off each
layer watch as they drip down
the drain on their
way to the
gorge.

*idea is one extra syllable, which is irritating to me, but so far, I can’t figure out a way around it.

Maybe I could add the weight/wait bit in after the line about falling? Also, I like having the washing your hands at the end of the poem, as the start of this need to sink/retreat/shelter inside (because of the pandemic), but I think I might need a little more transition to it. Is it too jarring, coming right after the bit about out being another idea?

Today’s Emily Dickinson poem:

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe’s law —

I really like this poem–it fits well with all of my thinking today about erosion and water dripping down. Gradual decay, a slow repeated slipping. I love the rhyme of a cuticle of Dust with an elemental Rust. A Borer in the Axis is strange to me. A mechanical (metal?) axis combined with a worm that bores into wood? I like bore as a verb–it might fit in my poem.

march 2/RUN

3.15 miles
edmund loop, hearing north
39 degrees/ 26 mph gusts

Started the morning off with a COVID test and several firsts: first time in a public building (other than a rest area) since early March of 2020; first time spitting into a cup to fill it up to a black line; first time having a COVID test. It is highly unlikely that any of us have it, but because RJP had a slight fever and it was worrying her a lot, we decided to drive out to the airport to the testing site. It wasn’t difficult (well, maybe not for normal sighted people; I panicked a little when I couldn’t see signs or read the questions on my phone fast enough) and it felt safe. We might be back there in a month, if FWA decides he wants to go to in-person school for the end of his senior year.

It’s warmer and I wanted to run outside anyway, but I didn’t have a choice. The treadmill isn’t working. Scott thinks it might be the motor. Bummer. Very windy out there today, which made it hard. I also ran much faster than I do on the treadmill. Most of my run was spent feeling tired and wondering when I would be running with the wind at my back–not sure that ever happened. Heard at least one woodpecker. Dodged a bunch of puddles. Encountered runners and walkers. Didn’t see the river or any fat tires. Didn’t hear any geese or kids playing on the school playground. Didn’t smell any smoke. Felt overheated. Even so, I was happy to be out there and happy to be done with the test and happy to have RJP feeling better.

For the first 2 miles, I listened to the neighborhood, for the last mile, a playlist.

March is a month for Emily Dickinson

As I started typing this entry, I had a sudden thought: why not spend time with a different Emily Dickinson poem every day this month? Technically it’s the second so I’m starting this a day late, but I did spend some time with a Dickinson poem yesterday:

Dear March – Come in – (1320) / Emily Dickinson

Dear March – Come in –
How glad I am –
I hoped for you before –
Put down your Hat –
You must have walked –
How out of Breath you are –
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well –
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell –

I got your Letter, and the Birds –
The Maples never knew that you were coming –
I declare – how Red their Faces grew –
But March, forgive me –
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –
There was no Purple suitable –
You took it all with you –

Who knocks? That April –
Lock the Door –
I will not be pursued –
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied –
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame –

I posted this poem a few years ago. I like imagining March as a friend coming to call after having been gone a long time. I also like the second verse and the rhyming of knew, grew, hue, you and then the return of the rhyme in the next verse with pursued.

Today’s poem:

If recollecting were forgetting,/ Emily Dickinson

If recollecting were forgetting,
Then I remember not.
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near I had forgot.
And if to miss, were merry,
And to mourn, were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered this, Today! 

I’m not sure I would have thought of this, but someone in the comments on the site where this was posted mentioned that the flowers that were gathered in the last line of the poem must be forget-me-nots. I picked this poem because I’ve been thinking about the slipperiness between forgetting and remembering and how, as you get older, you do a lot of both. I wonder: is this poem just a clever way of expressing that it’s opposite day?

a moment of sound

march 2, 2021

Hard to hear over the rushing wind and the low drone of the city, but birds are singing and, near the end, wind chimes chiming.

march 1/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 5K
basement
outside: 16 degrees

Woke up to another inch of snow and cold. Almost bundled up and ran outside but decided to stay inside again. More sinus draining and a daughter who has a slight fever–it’s almost impossible that she has COVID because she hasn’t been anywhere with anyone, but it still makes me (and her) worry. It’s a bad day, I guess. Also: it’s my mom’s birthday on Friday; she would have been 79 if she hadn’t died in 2009. I bet I’m feeling a wave of grief from that. And, near the end of my run, the treadmill stopped working. It was still on, beep beep beeping, but the belt wouldn’t move. What a day, and it’s only 1. Strangely, I feel better having typed all these complaints. I might also be feeling better because my son is re-playing a video game he has played since he was 4 (Metroid) and he’s at the part with my all-time favorite music: Magmoor Caverns. I can hear it through his door. He started re-reading his favorite book series from when he was a kid this weekend and today he’s playing his favorite video game. At the end of this month, he’s turning 18! He must be feeling nostalgic.

As I biked, I watched the next episode of Dickinson (season 2, ep 3). She decides to have a seance so she can ask the spirits what her true destiny is: as a famous author or an anonymous recluse. Of course, she invites all of her frenemies. I stopped it early, so I’ll have to wait until my next workout to learn if she got an answer. What a strange yet delightful show. As I ran, I listened to a spotify playlist: Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles, Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift. Spent at least half of the run trying to shift my attention away from worries about possibly sick daughters. Finally, it worked.

Here’s something good that happened today: I got 4 more field notes notebooks in the mail. More plague notebooks to fill! I’m almost done with my 6th one. I started it on Jan 1st. I’ve taken lots of notes this year so far. I’m hoping the plague will mostly be gone before I finish the 10th one.

Saw this on twitter:

A poem is a house made of breath.

Michael Bazzett

a moment of sound

Good morning birds!

march 1, 2021

feb 28/BIKERUN

bike: 12 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement
outside: 31 degrees

It snowed about 1.5 inches this morning. Wet, sloppy, slightly slick snow. Pretty snow. Right after it stopped, I went outside and shoveled. So wet and heavy, but easy to shovel. And, after I was finished, the sun came out. Now, in the afternoon, much of the snow has melted. In past years, I might have run outside, but it’s harder to avoid people when much of the sidewalk and roads are covered in puddles. Unexpectedly, I haven’t minded running and biking inside. I don’t remember that much about my bike or my run. Oh, I remembered this: listening to the VS. podcast and their interview with Aracelis Girmay. One of the hosts, Danez Smith, asked Girmay about her focus on a fly in a poem she read:

Danez Smith: Can I ask what brings your attention to the fly? There is such a sense of like everywhere and everything having this safety and this love in your work. I love these poems because it feels like everything in the world gets its piece of love in these poems. I guess, how do you nurture that in yourself to see the fly in that way, right? And how … what is it, I guess, in your work that sort of stops your attention on something as small as a fly, I guess? How have you honed your looking to be that small and welcoming?

I love this question and the idea of learning how to see small things like flies and how they (Smith) ask about it: “How have you honed your looking to be that small and welcoming?” Yes, the idea of generous, loving looking. I also like the idea of stopping your attention, instead of paying attention or focusing attention. It makes me think about how we are all already in a constant state of attention. The key is to stop, to settle, to pick one, small thing to notice.

a moment of sound

feb 28, 2021

I forgot to record my moment of sound while I was shoveling, so I did it later, in the early evening at 6:19, 20 minutes after the sun had set. Very quiet. I hear a dog in the distance and the quiet hum of the city. I think I just barely hear the scratch scratch scratch of my neighbor’s scare rods spinning in the slight breeze.

feb 27/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill
outside: 43 degrees

What a beautiful, feels-like-spring day! Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk by the river and around the neighborhood this morning in the bright sun. It felt much warmer than 40 degrees. Lots of runners and walkers and bikers on the river road trail, enjoying the warmth. Heard lots of birds, including the cardinal’s “pew pew pew” song. Some woodpeckers, crows, a few black-capped chickadees, and many others that I can’t identify by song. Maybe there were a charm of finches? (I found a great site for group names for birds) At some point during the walk, we heard some honking geese! Returning for the spring?

When we got back I decided to sit on the back deck, in the bright sun. I am looking forward to late spring and summer when I can do this every day. Sitting there quietly, listening to all of the birds, and not thinking about much of anything, a bright red cardinal flew just past me and landed in a tree at the edge of our deck. Usually I can’t see cardinals, but I noticed this one first as it moved across my peripheral, which helped my brain see it when it landed in my central vision. Very cool–and very strange how the brain helps me to see things.

Because it was getting late, and it was very wet and crowded outside today, I decided to bike and run in the basement. Watched a race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Didn’t think about much–what did I think about? I can’t remember, which isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes I like forgetting. This morning I memorized a Sara Teasdale poem that I have been intending to memorize for many months: Let It Be Forgotten. I’m hoping to use it as a spell or a charm or a mantra to chant when I want to stop thinking about something:

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire, that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten, for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten,
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.

a moment of sound

Wow, the water rushing through the drain, and off the eaves, sounds very loud in this recording. You can barely hear the many birds, I recorded this moment while sitting on my deck is the glorious sun.

feb 27, 2021

feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.3 miles
basement
outside: 40 degrees (wind: 30 mph gusts)

Warmish but windy. I think I’ll stay inside. Trying to unclench my jaw this morning; too much stress over the abrupt total re-opening of the high school with very little plan or convincing argument for how this is safe and good for most of the teachers and students. It took about 20 minutes on the bike to relax. Watching a Dickinson episode helped. In this one, “Fame is a fickle food,” Emily is not a recluse, like she was in the last episode. (And, her vision is completely fine now. No more discussion of that traumatic event, I guess). She wants to win (and does) the baking contest at the county fair and has no problem leaving her room to attend the crowded fair, or to walk through town with a newspaper editor the next day. I especially enjoyed the goofy moments when Emily and her siblings got excited about going to the county fair.

After I finished biking, I started listening to another podcast with Ross Gay about his work. This one is with Parker Palmer (I recall reading one of his books for my pedagogy class) and Carrie Newcomer. I chose it because I thought they might talk more about Gay’s work in relation to religion/spirituality, something which was completely absent in other interviews I heard with him. So far, they haven’t, but I’m enjoying their discussion about the importance of practice. Gay mentions how he partly wrote The Book of Delights because he deeply needed practice in studying delight, and attending to what he loved. Yes! This made me think (and not for the first or second time) about how much of what I’ve been doing is practicing/developing practices around attending to what I love (and need). A few minutes later Parker Palmer mentioned how important being able to experience delight is for resisting those things (systems, structures, leaders) that strip away our delight in order to weaken/demoralize/depress us. This made me think of Aimee Nezhukumatathil and her suggestion, “Always let the wonder win,” which has become a constant goal for me–to strive for remembering and noticing the wonder, even in the midst of anxiety and anger and sadness and uncertainty over all of the terrible shit happening in the U.S.

My morning routine lately has been to get up, feed the dog, make some coffee, check Facebook, and then poets.org for the poem of the day. Today’s poem was especially wonderful.

Skin Tight/ Ishmael Reed – 1938-

The internal organs were growling
According to them
They did all of the work while
Skin got all of the attention
He’s an organ just like us
They groused
Even the heart, which, a
Century ago, was the Queen
Of metaphors, but now
Was reduced to the greetings
Cards section of CVS,
Chimed in

They decided to call skin
On the carpet.
Skin arrived from Cannes
Where he’d been the subject
Of much fuss as actresses
Fed him luxurious skin
Food prepared by Max Factor
Estée Lauder, L’Oreal,
And Chanel
They
Caressed him daily
Sometimes for hours before
They made the red carpet
Shine

He was petted
And preened

Others
Pleaded with him
To erase wrinkles to
Make them look younger
To tighten their chins

Skin tried to appease the
Critics, greeting them with
His familiar “give me some skin”
But his gesture went unheeded

Brain did all the talking
Brain said, “Here’s the skinny
Why do you get
All of the press
Your color
Your texture discussed
Endlessly
Nicole Kidman never

Did an ad about us

Cole Porter never
Wrote a song about us
Nor were we mentioned
In a Thornton Wilder novel
You’ve given us no
Skin in the game”

“What about the nasty
Things they say about
Me,” skin replied
“What about skin deep
For superficiality
Or
Skin trade
To denote something
Unsavory

How would you
Like acne rashes
Eczema

Boils
Pellagra
Leprosy
And
Conditions
That astonish
Even dermatologists

I wear my blemishes
In public while you guys
Hide yours”

“Without me and heart
You’d be nothing,” the brain said
“That’s not true,” protested
The liver, “without me he’d
Be nothing”
“No,” the kidney said
“It’s me who keeps the
Body functioning”
The bladder and
The kidney began
To quarrel with
Gallbladder
The lung twins spoke
Up
“Without us
He couldn’t breathe”
Even the esophagus
And the thyroid
And the pancreas
Joined the outbreak
“What about us?”

The eyes said
“Without eyes you
Can’t see”

Their squabble distracted
Them
When they looked
Up from their dust up
Skin’s
Helicopter was up
He was scheduled to
Address a convention of
Plastic surgeons at
The Beverly Hills
Hotel
Escaping by the skin
Of his teeth
His opponents gave
Chase
But above the roar
Of the chopper
They heard him say
“Don’t worry fellas
I got you covered”

a moment of sound: dripping and blowing

feb 26, 2021

feb 25/RUN

5K
edmund loop, starting north
31 degrees
5% super-slick ice-patches

A great morning for a run! Sunny and not too windy. So many birds–I couldn’t see them; just heard them clicking and chirping and calling. The sidewalks and roads were almost completely clear except for a few patches of super slick ice. The ice is always slickest when the temperature is right on the edge of freezing and the ice has almost melted. I ran over at least one puddle that was water underneath with a thin layer of crispy ice on top. A few years ago, I recall describing this type of ice as creme brûlée. Very fun to step on, as long as you’re going fast enough to not get your foot wet in the water below, which I was.

A little over a mile into the run, I stopped at the river to record a moment of sound. It’s mostly cars driving by and some wind, but I can hear some birds and a person’s footsteps as they walk north on the trail. Oh–and the loud hum of the city, which almost sounds like static.

feb 25, 2021

Running on Edmund, I looked over at the river near 42nd and noticed a bright reflection on the other side, over in St. Paul. Was it a rooftop? A car? Someone holding up a mirror? Not sure, but it was mesmerizing. Heard some kids playing at Dowling Elementary. Elementary schools are in-person full time now. They’re planning to open up the high schools full time after spring break, in April. One kid, the freshman, wants to stay online; the other, a senior, wants to go back. I don’t see how it’s going to work. The high school is old and has very few windows. It’s crowded, with narrow halls. How can this be safe? They won’t be doing hybrid learning, but full, 5 days a week. Ugh.

When I reached 42nd, I stopped to put in my headphones and listen to a playlist as I ran north on edmund. Smelled the fire at the same spot on Edmund that I always do, the one which always makes me wonder whether it’s coming from the gorge below, or someone’s fireplace. A few weeks ago I decided that the smoke was coming from the gorge, but today I changed my mind. I think it’s coming from a house. Encountered a few runners and walkers, no bikers or cross-country skiers or sledders.

feb 24/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run: 1.45 miles
basement
outside: 38 degrees

Very wet and sloppy outside. Went for a walk with Delia and my daughter and decided I’d rather run inside today. Finished the Dickinson episode I started yesterday, the one that briefly mentions her vision and features the poem, “Before I got my eye put out.” I recognize that it’s my own bias, but I wish there would have been more about her vision and how the loss of it affected her poetry. From what I’ve read–in a few articles and the book, These Fevered Days by Martha Ackmann, her vision loss was deeply disturbing, but in the show, she doesn’t care that much. I can’t remember the exact line, but when her father tells her not to write poetry because it will be bad for her eyes, her response is “I don’t need to see to write; I just need my soul!” I think this is the first episode of the second season and things are getting darker. War is coming and Emily is becoming much more of a recluse.

After I biked, I ran with a playlist. Didn’t think about much, but had fun running a little faster to Foo Fighter’s “Pretender.”

a moment of sound: melting!

feb 24, 2021

feb 23/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside: 38 degrees

Warm enough outside, but wet, and I ran outside Sunday and Monday. And I needed to take a break and bike some today. Watched the next episode of Dickinson, which featured one of my favorite poems:

Before I got my eye put out–
I liked as well to see
As other creatures, that have eyes–
And know no other way–

And it deals with her temporary vision loss when she was in her mid 30s in 1863 and 1864. I wonder how they’ll end this episode? I’ll find out next time. In this season, she’s becoming much more of a recluse, barely leaving her room.

After the bike, I ran and listened to my playlist. I don’t remember what I thought about, except: 1. how many songs do I need to listen to before I check the time?, 2. raising my head, working on my posture, 3. lifting my right hip, 4. is all this running good for me, or will it give me arthritis and weaken me so much when I’m almost 80 that I sometimes struggle to move (which is what is happening to my dad right now)?, 4. who is that walking upstairs, making such loud thumping noises? That’s all I remember–oh, and looking at the lightbulb, reflected in the far window, which is dark because it’s under the deck, and no longer thinking it looked like a moon with clouds above Lake Superior (which is what I thought it looked like last February).

Between biking and running, I managed to not go upstairs to pee. One step closer to breaking that habit (or at least making sure it doesn’t fully form). It’s pretty mundane, but since my work is on ethics and ways of breaking and re-making habits (undisciplining), I’m always interested in our daily practices and how they become solidified into necessary and automatic actions. Often, we don’t notice them forming until it becomes very difficult to change them.

Yesterday, I listened to some amazing podcasts. First, I finished up the Ross Gay interview on Between the Covers. After I finish writing this entry, I’m planning to transcribe parts of it because they haven’t posted the transcript yet. Then, I listened to another interview with Ross Gay on Franny Choi’s and Danez Smith’s amazing podcast, VS. And, finally, I listened to their interview with Ada Limón.

I really appreciate what Limón says about what poetry does for us–and who it does it for:

I do feel like there’s a lot of “the arts will save us.” You know, there’s a part of me that really believes that, right? I mean, I believe that poetry can heal us and help us. But, I mean, if I’m very honest, I think they can only do that for the poet. (LAUGHS) And then they may, if we’re lucky, help someone else or move someone else or inspire someone else or get them out of a rut. But I think it begins with like, I write my own poems to save myself. You know, then if, in, you know, some series, lucky series of events, a poem becomes larger than me and reaches someone else, that’s, that’s beautiful. But I don’t always know that that’s gonna happen, right? I have to start by how is this poem recommitting me to the world?

VS Podcast Interview

Yes! How is this poem recommitting me to the world? And, I write to save myself.

a moment of sound

Today’s sound is water. Dripping water, whooshing water. Water slowly, almost, but not quite, silently absorbing into the ground.

feb 23, 2021

feb 22/RUN

3.2 miles
edmund, heading south/river road trail, heading north
34 degrees
sidewalks: 80% snow-covered/ roads: 10%

Today it feels like spring! It’s too bright, but I’ll take the warm sun. Lots of birds and puddles. Was able to run on the river road trail on the way back north. Encountered 3 or 4 groups of people, but we all kept as much distance as we could. Saw the river. No cracks in the surface yet. Noticed someone walking below on the Winchell Trail. The roads were full of big puddles wile the sidewalks were almost all covered in uneven mushy snow. I wonder how sore my legs will be later today? Smelled some smoke in the same spot I always smell it–on Edmund. Heard a woodpecker. I don’t remember thinking about anything, except, occasionally: this is not easy, running over this uneven snow. Anything else? No fat tires or cross country skiers or black capped chickadees or daily walkers or packs of runners or music blasting from someone’s radio or laughing kids on the playground or overheard conversations. No chainsaws or trucks backing up or honking geese. Oh–I did encounter a group of 4 walkers taking over the whole road, but I didn’t care, because I was on the sidewalk. For most of the run, I listened to the neighborhood. For the last 1/2 mile, a playlist.

a moment of sound

feb 22, 2021

Standing in the backyard right after shoveling the deck and the sidewalks in back and front. Birds, car horns, a steady drip of melting snow.

feb 21/RUN

2.65 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/1 loop around Howe
27 degrees
50% sloppy snow-covered

Even though I was concerned that there might be too many people outside, I decided to go for a run. The first mile wasn’t too bad but when I got to Edmund there were more people. Distracted, I forgot to look for the river when I reached the top of the Edmund hill. Noticed a family sledding and several dogs with their humans. When I reached 37th, I stopped to record my moment of sound.

a moment of sound

Listen to those birds! Sounds like spring to me. So glad I went outside.

feb 21, 2021

After that, I turned on a playlist and tried not to slip on the mushy, uneven snow. Yuck! Then I ran around Howe school. Student (3rd-5th graders) are returning tomorrow.

The other day, I found this print, which would be really cool to get for under the glass on my desk, but I’m not sure I want to spend $30 on it.

Found this poem in a wonderful twitter thread about “how to” poems:

Instructions for Opening a Door/ Adriana Cloud

To open a door, you must want to leave.
A here, a there. You must want.
Stuff pink hyacinths in the dictionary
between “lie” and “lightning,”
the wet stem of spring curling the pages
until it is not a flower
but just the word for it. We all die
but the hope is to die of living.
Slam it hard enough
to make the sidewalk hum
the way your blood hummed
the first time you walked into the sea.
A door is just a question you have to ask
even when you are scared of the answer.
In San Sebastián they pour the txakoli
from high up until it foams in the glass.
Sea, grapes, the word for longing.
Use both hands and don’t look back.

Love the lines: “To open a door, you must want to leave./ A here, a there, You must want.” and “A door is just a question you have to ask/ even when you are scared of the answer.”

feb 20/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside: 19 degrees

Watched another episode of Dickinson while I biked. Then listened to a playlist while I ran. Decided today I would start to break my habit of having to pee between biking and running. I did it! I went straight from the bike to the treadmill. It was difficult for the first few minutes, then it was fine. Will I be able to not do it again? How many times do you have to not do something to break a habit? I’ll find out. While I was running I had the treadmill display covered. I decided that I would check the time after the 5th song. I waited until the 8th song. 29 minutes. I was surprised, thinking a lot less time had passed. It’s nice to learn how to get lost in time in the basement, and to not need the gorge to do it.

Before working out, I finished my incurable poem (well, I completed a polished draft at least). I’m pleased with it. I think it completes my mood ring collection. 3 sets of 3 moods: 1. Delighted, Curious, Awed; 2. Doubtful, Lonely, Bewildered; 3. Relentless, Resilient, Incurable.

Mood: Incurable

Here’s the text for the three poems:

Poem 1 (entire grid):

No cure. A stubborn sentence that brings relief not despair. No expensive tests. No inconclusive results. No experimental treatments. No jammed waiting rooms. No needles pickling my eyes. No need for tears. No need for grief. No need for answers. Nothing to fix to make safe to store away for winter. Someday there will be a way to repopulate the vacant city of my macula. But not now. Now is for living and breathing and being outside above the gorge. For adapting and exploring and creating different forms of seeing. For wandering among the sprawling oak trees feeling the biting breeze admiring the view to the other side.

Poem 2 (inner circle, central vision that’s left)

safe
winter
will be
late

Poem 3 (blind ring)

Acceptance is not weakness but strength. Strength is not a hardening but a softening. Diminished vision is not a death sentence but a door into other worlds. Put back that sugar and salt. Pack away those preservatives. I do not need to be cured. 

I am very pleased with this poem. It was such a helpful way to work though my feelings about having an incurable eye disease–my acceptance of it and my frustration with others who can’t accept it or the idea that losing vision is not a tragedy.

After working out, Scott and I took Delia the dog on a walk. Today it is bright and beautiful and much warmer. At the end of the walk, I recorded a moment of sound in the backyard.

a moment of sound

Quiet. I can hear a few birds, the wind moving through the alley, some dripping. And a scratching sound that is Delia digging in the snow for crabapple trees the robins left behind.

feb 20, 2021

feb 17/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 2.25 miles
outside: 9 degrees/ feels like -1

Started the next episode of Dickinson. It’s about death, the eclipse and Emily’s growing affection for her father’s law clerk who is definitely going to die (looked up ED on wikipedia and yep, he dies of tuberculosis). I know a bit of her biography, but I hadn’t remember this guy. According to wikipedia he was a mentor but not likely a love interest. Oh and almost forgot to mention: in the last episode Louisa May Alcott comes over for Christmas dinner; she’s visiting another family and they bring her along to the dinner. The show depicts her as a badass hustler whose primary motivation for writing seems to be money and independence. And, she’s a runner! When she finds out Emily’s a writer, she invites her out for a run before dinner. I wondered if this were true, so I googled it. Yes, Alcott was a runner! Nice. Lousia and Emily ran through the fields holding up their skirts.

About 15 minutes into the episode, I got an alert that I needed to log back into my account to keep watching. Decided to stop and move onto running. Before I ran, I listened to myself reciting my latest poem. Another mood ring: incurable. Then, as I ran, I listened to a little more of Wintering and a playlist.

My mood ring poem, Incurable, is about how my eye disease does not have a cure and how I’m okay with that and it’s a response to my frustration with the well-meaning suggestions by others to go to more doctors and keep searching for a cure. My frustration is mostly irritation and annoyance: Both doctors I have talked to and all of the research I have done clearly states that there is currently no cure for cone dystrophy. Subjecting myself to more tests is exhausting and expensive without decent insurance. And, even if there were a cure it would be experimental and prohibitively expensive. Knowing myself and what I need (and what I can afford), this is not a good idea. Yet, when people refuse to believe me when I say there isn’t a cure and encourage me to keep looking, it plants the smallest seed of doubt–am I giving up? Not trying hard enough? I am not and I didn’t ask for advice. Instead of getting angry, I am writing this poem. Here’s my current draft of the main poem:

No cure. That firm sentence brings relief not despair. No terrible trips to countless doctors. No invasive treatments. No experimental implants. No big needles injected into eye balls. No difficult discussions about how much “good” vision is worth. No energy squandered. Everything devoted to adapting experimenting exploring new forms of delight. Someday there may be a way to repopulate the vacant city of my macula. But not now. Acceptance is not weakness but strength. Strength is not a hardening but a softening. And diminished vision is not a death sentence but a door into other worlds. Put back that sugar and salt. Pack away the preservatives. I do not need to be cured.

A few days ago, after the latest encounter with well-intention nudges from people who love me very much, I decided to free-write about my mood. I wrote down: “No cure. Cured, curing. Cured like bacon.” Yes! I started thinking about the different meanings of cure–to heal + preserve meat, fruit, vegetables + embalming/preserving the body. The word incurable came to me. Then I started thinking of fitting phrases, like “incurable optimist” and “incurable romantic.” And definitions: stubborn, irredeemable, incorrigible. And a passage I read in Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about sighted people’s fear of blindess/vision loss:

The belief that human experience, both physical and mental, is essentially visual, and that any other type of experience is necessarily second rate, leads to the conclusion that not to see is not to experience, not to live, not to be. At best, the sighted imagine blindness as a state between life and death, an existence encased in darkness, an invisible coffin (30).

Incurable is my current mood. While I ran, I came up with an additional line (I do not need to be cured) that really helps the poem. This delighted me and made me happy to be able to write and to run and to use these activities to work through difficult moods.

a moment of sound

Went out into the backyard for my moment of sound. It’s snowing light fluffy flakes. Our crabapple tree is loaded with apples and birds–at least a dozen, at one point. I guess they’re too busy eating to sing. Silently, they feast on the fruit. Looked it up and I’m pretty sure they are robins. Also read that cedar waxwings and cardinals like to feast on crabapples in the winter. Notable sounds: crunching snow, a barking dog, a clanging fence, softly falling snow.

feb 17, 2021

feb 11/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside temp: -3 degrees/ feels like -11

Thought about running outside but decided that this extra cold air is probably not good for my sinus problems. Plus, I wanted to watch more Dickinson and listen to my latest playlist while I ran. Watched the 5th episode of Dickinson. Discovered that an episode is only 30 minutes–for some reason, I thought they were longer–so I stayed on the bike to finish it. The episode was about white propertied males’ control over others’ (everyone else who is not a white propertied male) bodies. 3 examples: 1. the Dickinson’s black servant Henry is afraid to go into town for fear of being mistaken for a slave and then kidnapped; 2. orphaned Sue (Emily’s bff) is being sexually abused by her boss–the father she nannies for in Boston (it never shows it, but it strongly indicates the abuse); and 3. instead of asking Emily, Emily’s admirer George negotiates with Emily’s father for her hand in marriage. These different types of control are not equated. At the end of the episode, Emily apologize to Henry for how he was being treated, saying, “I’m sorry Henry. Life shouldn’t be like this.” Henry responds: “What should it be like? You’re sitting here, eating cakes and reading Shakespeare, trying to say this isn’t what life should be like. But your life is easy Emily Dickinson. You’ll always have your father to keep you safe.” The episode ends with Emily composing one of her poems in her bedroom with a voice-over of her reading it and the words, in her distinctive cursive, flashing across the screen:

I am afraid to own a body/ Emily Dickinson

I am afraid to own a Body —
I am afraid to own a Soul —
Profound — precarious Property —
Possession, not optional —

Double Estate — entailed at pleasure
Upon an unsuspecting Heir —
Duke in a moment of Deathlessness
And God, for a Frontier.

I liked the complications and messiness of the episode even as I was irritated by Emily’s repeated displays of her naive privilege (which was finally addressed at the end with Henry’s words to her).

After biking, I ran to a playlist, which was great. After hearing it this morning on The Current’s coffee break, I added “Teenage Dirtbag” to my list. Really fun to run to! Midway through my run, I started thinking about my syllabi project. I decided that I’d like to add in Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Erotic” with a unit on wonder and joy. Then I thought about using Simone Weil with a discussion of attention. I thought about some other related things that I can’t remember now–I should have pulled out my phone to make a note, but it seemed like too much of a hassle. Bummer.

a moment of sound

feb 11, 2021/ -2 and feels like -14

Noisy pants, crunching snow, plodding steps, at least one faint bird call, and wind chimes! Scott was miserably cold but I was totally fine as we walked Delia around the block in the late afternoon. I love the cold! My mask warmed my face. The only exposed part of me were my eyeballs and eyelashes. I noticed some of the falling flakes (it’s snowing a little) freezing on my lashes.

feb 1/RUN

5k
edmund loop, starting north*
26 degrees
5% snow and ice covered

* I’ve been calling this route different things, but I’ll try to stick with this one: edmund loop. Heading north is: 43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/turn around at 42nd st/edmund, north. For the past few runs, I did the reverse; I’ll call that edmund loop, starting south

Only a few patches of ice on the sidewalks and roads. Not too cold, not too windy. A great morning for a run. Turning right onto 32nd st, I heard some wonderful wind chimes. I thought about stopping to record the sound, but I didn’t want to stop running and I thought the people who lived in the wind chime house might find it strange to see me holding my phone up and recording something right outside their house. My concern about what other people think too often seems to deter me from recording–whether it be a moment of sound or myself reciting a poem from memory. I’m working on getting over that.

Noticed several cars turning into Minnehaha Academy as I ran by it. Open for business, I guess. Next week, Minneapolis elementary school kids (preK-2nd) will be going back full time. 2 weeks after that: 3rd-5th. As I understand it, the teachers’ union is strongly opposed to this; the order comes from the governor (which is being pressured by the asshole Republicans in charge) and it completely upends the careful 5 phase plan Minneapolis Public Schools put in place this year. Many of the teachers have yet to receive a first dose of the vaccine. Ugh! How difficult for the teachers, especially now with new, more contagious variants! I thought more about elementary schools going back as I ran by Dowling Elementary on Edmund. How crowded will this road be next week? Also: how will they work out bussing for all of these kids?

At 42nd st, I crossed over to the river, trudged through some snow, and recorded a moment of sound. It’s a new month and I’m thinking about variations on the basic assignment of recording a moment outside. Should I only record moments during my outside runs for February? Maybe. I also thought about this: record a moment in the same spot every day. I’m not sure yet. Anyway, here’s the moment:

feb 1, 2021

I can hear my feet breaking through the crusty snow; cars rushing by on the river road; some wind; a cluster of dead leaves on a tree, rustling. It was windy at this spot, but I managed to shield the phone speaker with my hand for most of it.

The river was all whiteish gray and frozen. Cold. Desolate. Beautiful. I’m glad I stopped to look at it.

Running back on edmund, I put in my headphones and listened to an old playlist. I ran faster, which felt good. Nearing a t-intersection, I noticed a walker rapidly approaching, about to cross. I wondered if they would stop for me and I was irritated when it looked like they wouldn’t. I sped up. Right as I ran past them, but too late to say anything, I realized it was the Daily Walker! Bummer. I didn’t see that it was him. I’m still not totally sure it was him; I can’t recognize people’s faces, but I’m pretty sure I saw the tell-tale swing of his arm. I have a feeling that after so many years of encountering him, he might realize that I have vision problems and won’t think I was being rude.

Poetry twitter did not disappoint this morning! So many great sources and ideas and poems! Here’s one by Heather Christle that I especially like. Writing this, I was thinking about her last name, Christle, which my computer likes to auto-correct to Christie, and wondering if it’s pronounced like gristle. Right after that unfortunate thought, I looked at her twitter profile and saw this: “pronounced ‘Crystal'”. Much better. Anyway, I really like her writing.

Perfect Song/ Heather Christle

I remember walking through the morning
after a night of heavy snow and drink
with headphones on and they played
me the most perfect song: no one
was awake and I was hungover
young as clean as a piano
I thought and at any moment
someone might fall in love with me I was
that woven into the electric
cold bright air and for weeks
after I went through the album
in search of the song but could not
find it and later much later I saw
that what I had taken to be the song
was in fact the joyous concordance of
a moment that would not come again

favorite line today: I was/ that woven into the electric/ cold bright air

jan 21/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 2.1 miles
basement

I guess I’m turning into a wimp this winter because the sidewalks looked uneven and icy and the wind was howling, so I decided to stay inside and work out in the basement. Actually, I think it has less to do with being a wimp, and more to do with it being harder to run in the road and the sidewalks than on the river road trail and harder to avoid people and harder to stay motivated to run outside when I can’t see the river or the gorge. That’s okay. I don’t mind running inside a bit more this month–hopefully just this month.

Watched some races while I biked, and listened to an audiobook, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, for the first half of my run. For the second half, I listened to a playlist and recorded video of my running. With my right knee prone to subluxations and my left hip and lower back often sore, it’s helpful to study my form. I think I need to do a better job of setting up the camera–either that or I really hunch over with my shoulders. Maybe I should try checking my form from the side too? It’s fascinating to me how, over almost my 10 years of running, I’m slowly learning how to accept and take care of my aging body. Oftentimes it sucks to have to worry about all of these aches and pains, but it is also very helpful and satisfying to learn how to work with my body instead of being afraid of its failures.

a moment of sound

I recorded today’s moment of sound on my driveway, back near the alley, in a spot sheltered from the wind. It was very windy. The loud whooshing sounds are not traffic but the wind rushing through the trees. If you listen carefully, you can hear wind chimes (my favorite) and water dripping off of the eaves on my garage (not my favorite). At one point, there’s a pop or a creak or a crack–some siding or wood fence contracting.

Jan 21, 2021

THINGS TO DO/ James Schuyler

Balance checkbook.
Rid lawn of onion grass.
“this patented device”
“this herbicide”
“Sir, We find none of these
killers truly satisfactory.  Hand weed
for onion grass.”  Give
old clothes away, “such as you
yourself would willingly wear.”
Impasse.  Walk three miles
a day beginning tomorrow.
Alphabetize.
Purchase nose-hair shears.
Answer letters.
Elicit others.
Write Maxine.
Move to Maine.
Give up NoCal.
See more movies.
Practice long-distance dialing.
Ditto gymnastics:
The Beast with Two Backs
And, The Fan.
Complain to laundry
any laundry.  Ask for borrowed books back.
Return
junk mail to sender
marked, Return to Sender.
Condole.  Congratulate.
” . . . this sudden shock . . . “
” . . . this swift surprise . . . “
Send. Keep.  Give.  Destroy.
Brush rub polish burn
mend scratch foil evert
emulate surpass.  Remember
“to write three-act play”
and lead “a full and active life.”

-from Collected Poems

I love lists. Making them, reading them, turning them into poetry. I think I’d like to write another series of lists.

jan 20/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

Finally, it’s over! Already, Biden and Harris are working to undo some of the damage. What an awful, exhausting, traumatic 4 years. Yet, some good too, in spite of it all: a renewed faith in democracy, the chance for an actual reckoning with slavery and racism, and, most personally, a rediscovery of poetry and a new direction for my work on a feminist ethics of care. I started this running log in January of 2017, right as Trump was becoming president. There were many reasons I started writing here, but the urgent need to find a new way to be in the Trump era was surely one of them. In ways that I can’t yet articulate, this blog and my project of paying attention and of finding the small moments of delight–always letting the wonder win, as Aimee Nezhukumatathil says–was a form of resistance, a refusal to lose my faith in the world and my hope for the future. I must admit, it got much harder to resist these last few months, but the habits I built up from my miles and my words (and the beautiful words of many others), have helped me to persist and I know they will help me as I work hard to rid myself of all of the Trump-era toxins I’ve had to absorb. Does this sound too dramatic? Maybe, but today feels like a day for being dramatic!

I didn’t think about any of these things as I biked or ran. I just enjoyed moving and feeling free, even if it was in my dark unfinished basement.

Hooray for new administrations! Hooray for hope and possibility and room to breathe and grieve and imagine better worlds! Hooray for a renewed desire to do the work! And hooray for this beautiful poem by Amanda Gorman:

The Hill We Climb/ Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

a moment of sound

After the inauguration, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. It wasn’t too cold, but it was windy and blustery and slippery–and difficult to get a moment of sound. In this recording, you can hear the wind and Delia’s collar clanging and our feet walking over the crusty ice and snow.

jan 20, 2021

jan 17/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

Another day of icy sidewalks, so more working out in the basement. Will I be able to run outside tomorrow? I think so. If nothing else, I can do loops around Howe Elementary. When Scott and I took Delia the dog out for a walk this morning, I noticed that it was mostly clear there. It’s not as exciting as other routes, but still outside. Didn’t think about much while I was biking or running. Tried out a few spotify playlists, but didn’t really like any of them. Someday, I’ll put together my own playlist. Even though it wasn’t that exciting, it still felt good to move.

After I finished my run, I stood out on the deck and recorded my moment of sound. Very still and gray. The bare tree branches looked delightfully fuzzy and soft, almost like a smudge of gray. There’s at least one dog barking in the distance–one block over. Too bad the trio of spazzy dogs on that same block didn’t join in. What a cacophony of yelps and yips and ruffs they make! Sometimes I like walking Delia right by their house just to get them going.

jan 17, 2021

jan 15/BIKE/RUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement

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

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

a dust of snow, jan 15

a moment of sound

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

jan 14, 2021

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

jan 15, 2021

jan 10/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 2.1 miles
basement

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

Snow-flakes/ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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

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

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

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

Snow-flakes, Jan 10

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

a moment of sound, jan 10, 2021