may 3/RUN

2.85 miles
2 trails
56! degrees

In honor of an entry I posted a few years ago on this day in which I gathered triple phrases, I’m giving a summary in triples today:

Sunny day
crowded trail
noisy kids
singing birds
got my shoes
stuck in mud
almost fell
dangerous
overdressed
dripping sweat
apple watch
stopped again
my legs hurt
difficult
not much green
lots of brown
and some blue
sewer pipe
drip drip drip
muddy path
slip slip slip

This morning, I began listening to David Naimon’s interview with Jorie Graham for Tinhouse. Wow! So many amazing ideas. In it, she’s talking about her latest collection, Runaway. I checked it out of the library and look forward to reading it. Here’s the first poem in it read by Graham. I love how she reads and how much her reading helps me to slow down and sit with the words.

All/ Jorie Graham

After the rain stops you can hear the rained-on.
You hear oscillation, outflowing, slips.
The tipping-down of the branches, the down, the
exact weight of those drops that fell 

over the days and nights, their strength, accumulation,
shafting down through the resistant skins,
nothing perfect but then also the exact remain
of sun, the sum 

of the last not-yet-absorbed, not-yet-evaporated
days. After the rain stops you hear the
washed world, the as-if inquisitive garden, the as-if-perfect beginning again
of the buds forced open, forced open – you 

cannot not unfurl
endlessly, entirely, till it is the yes of blossom, that end
not end – what does that sound sound like
deep in its own time where it roots us out 

completed, till it is done. But it is not done.
Here is still strengthening. Even if only where light
shifts to accord the strange complexity which is beauty.
Each tip in the light end-outreaching as if anxious 

but not. The rain stopped. The perfect is not beauty.
Is not a finished thing. Is a making
of itself into more of itself, oozing and pressed
full force out of the not-having-been 

into this momentary being – cold, more
sharp, till the beam passes as the rain passed,
tipping into the sound of ending which does not end,
and giving us that sound. We hear it. 

We hear it, hands
useless, eyes heavy with knowing we do not
understand it, we hear it, deep in its own
consuming, compelling, a dry delight, a just-going-on sound not 

desire, neither lifeless nor deathless, the elixir of
change, without form, we hear you in our world, you not of
our world, though we can peer at (though not into)
flies, gnats, robin, twitter of what dark consolation – 

though it could be light, this insistence this morning
unmonitored by praise, amazement, nothing to touch
where the blinding white thins as the flash moves off
what had been just the wide-flung yellow poppy, 

the fine day-opened eye of hair at its core,
complex, wrinkling and just, as then the blazing ends, sloughed off as if a
god-garment the head and body
of the ancient flower had put on for a while – 

we have to consider the while it seems
to say or I seem to say or
something else seems to we are not
nothing.

Graham’s poem inspired me to create a writing/noticing experiment for my list:

Follow along as Jorie Graham reads her poem, All. Then one day after it has rained, go to the gorge with her lines: “After the rain stops you can hear the rained-on” and “After the rain stops you hear the washed world”. Listen. Can you hear the rained-on? What does the washed world sound like? Make a list of your answers.


march 10/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge and back
17 degrees / feels like 7

What a gift this winter-almost-spring run is this morning! A reminder of why I love winter runner with its cold, crisp air and quiet calm. It was a little difficult to breathe, with my nose closing up on me (hooray for sinuses), and it didn’t always feel effortless. Still, I was happy to be outside with the world — the birds (pileated woodpeckers, geese, cardinals), the Regulars (Dave, the Daily Walker and Daddy Long Legs), and the river, sometimes brown, sometimes blue.

Before I went out for my run, I read a lot of different poems and essays about poetry and breath. Decided I would think about rhythmic breathing, running rhythms, and chants. I started by counting my foot strikes, them matching it up with my breathing of In 2 3/ Out 2 or Out 2/ In 2 3: 123/45, 123/45 then 54/321, 54/321. A few miles later, I thought about a verse from Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘Tis so much joy! Tis so much joy!” that I imagine to be a prayer or a spell or reminder-as-chant. I started repeating it in my head:

Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!

With this prayer/chant, I matched the words up to my foot strikes in several different ways, none of which were 123/45 or 54/321.

Equal stress on each syllable/word, and the altering of the poem slightly:

Life Is But Life
Death Is But Death
Bliss Is But Bliss
Breath Is But Breath

Then in ballad form (I think?), with alternating lines of: stressed un un stressed / 3 stressed but silent beats (or not silent, but voiced by my feet, striking the ground):

Life is but Life
x x x
Death is but Death
x x x
Bliss is but Bliss
x x x
Breath is but Breath
x x x

Then in 6, with 2 feet of stressed, unstressed, unstressed (a dactyl):

Life is but Life is but
Life is but Life is but
Death is but Death is but
Death is but Death is but
Bliss is but Bliss is but
Bliss is but Bliss is but
Breath is but Breath is but
Breath is but Breath is but

Then in 4 again, one spoken beat, three silent:

Life xxx
Life xxx
Life xxx
Life xxx

Or, like “The Safety Dance”:

Life life life life
Death death death death
Bliss bliss bliss bliss
Breath breath breath breath

These were so much fun to do, and helpful in keeping me going as I grew tired. When I chanted them, my pace was about 8:40 and my heart rate was in the upper 170s (pretty standard for me). At one point, I pulled out my phone and recorded myself mid-run. Later, when I stopped running and was walking back, I recorded myself again.

Dickinson chant during run
Dickinson chant after run

It’s interesting to check back with the poem now and see that I had added words to make the rhythm more steady and even. Seeing how Dickinson wrote it, I want to try these chants on another run with the right words. How will I fit “And Death, but Death!” with my feet? Is this part of Dickinson’s disruption of rhythm?

I like the repetition of these chants and how, if you repeat them enough, they lose their meaning, or change meaning, or change the space you’re running through, or change you. It reminds me of some lines from a poem I recently wrote about running by the gorge and rhythmic breathing. It’s in 3/2, In 2 3/Out 2:

I

settle in-
to a

rhythm: 3
then 2.

First counting
foot strikes,

then chanting
small prayers.

I beat out
meaning

until what’s
left are

syllables,
then sounds,

then something
new, or

old, returned.

Wow, this is so much fun for me, thinking through how my running, and breath, and poetry, and body, and the words work (and sometimes don’t work) together. Very cool.

And, here’s a poem that doesn’t fit neatly with my running rhythm/chants, but fits with the idea of getting outside to move by the river:

How to Begin/ Catherine Abbey Hodges

Wipe the crumbs off the counter.
Find the foxtail in the ear of the old cat.
Work it free. Step into your ribcage.

Feel the draft of your heart’s doors
as they open and close. Hidden latches
cool in your hand.

Hear your marrow keep silence,
your blood sing. Finch-talk
in the bush outside the window.

You’re a small feather, winged seed, wisp
of cotton. Thread yourself
through a hole in the button on the sill.

You’re a strand of dark thread
stitching a word to a river. Then another.

march 8/RUN

5 miles
Veterans’ Home Loop
34 degrees

A bright beautiful morning for a run. Ran south to Minnehaha regional park, past John Steven’s House, over to the Veteran’s Home, through Wabun, then back north on the river road trail.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river was open, the water brown, the banks glowed with white snow
  2. there were big puddles on the sidewalk, but the trail was almost completely clear
  3. one huge puddle covered almost the entire trail between 42nd and 44th
  4. bird sounds heard: the song and drumming of a pileated woodpecker; a cardinal’s trill; the fee bee song from a black-capped chickadee; a goose’s honk
  5. kids were playing at minnehaha academy; I could hear their laughter. Also heard the teacher’s whistle for the end of recess
  6. some of the sidewalks around minnehaha regional park were covered in sharp, crusty snow that had frozen again overnight
  7. at Wabun Park, I had to stop and walk in the snow because the trail was covered in a thick, slick sheet of barely frozen ice. A fat tire slowed way down to bike over it. I liked the crunching sound of the fat tires as they crushed the ice
  8. a traffic jam at the 3 way stop near the entrance to wabun: 4 cars went by before I could cross
  9. just north of the 44th street parking lot, something orange near the WPA stone steps down to the Winchell Trail caught my eye as I ran by. A jacket? Graffiti on the stones? Not sure, but I think it was the sign on a chain stretched across the railings to block the entrance. I couldn’t see anything clearer, partly because of my vision and partly because I was in motion. It was almost as if my brain called out to me, “Orange!”, and that was it
  10. a wide open, brilliant view over to the other side

vision check

At least twice in the past week, when I’ve been running south on the river road trail, this has happened: I see a runner approaching from a distance. As I get closer, I check to see where they are, but they’ve disappeared. I can’t see them at all. I look again and they’re back. I must be losing more cone cells.

an experiment

It didn’t last for a long, but I tried chanting in triple berries (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry), then counted my rhythms: 123/45 and 12/345. I tried matching a few words to the rhythms, but now I can’t remember the words. I tried experimenting with these 123/45s and 12/345s a few years ago. I’d like to try again.

Found this wonderful poem on Two Sylvia’s Press in the chapbook, Shade of Blue Trees:

FIG TREE AT BIG SUR/ Kelly Cressio-Moeller

Each day leaning
into morning,
five-fingered leaves
wave in unison,
beckon jays
for branch-play.
 
The youngest leaves
arch green faces upward,
devour sun off the Pacific.
The golden elders
bow closer to earth–
the perfect shape
for water to run
 
as rain, as fog
down to the root line.
When afternoon rays
light them just right,
 
they become a ring
of open palms
giving the last
of what they have.

feb 19/RUN

4.2 miles
trestle turn around plus extra
5° feels like 4 below
50% snow and ice covered

A only slightly edited transcript of my notes about the run, dictated into my notes app on my phone.

A lot of slippery spots. Very sunny this morning. It felt really cold. About a mile in greeted Dave the daily walker. Almost yelled out to him, “it’s cold today!” He is hard-core–no coat again but some gloves. Running right before I got to the trestle I heard a beep beep beep beep beep beep beep sound. I wondered if it was the train and then after I crossed under the trestle and was still heading towards downtown, I heard the rumbling of a train. It lasted a long time. I thought about turning around and running back so I could see the train but I decided against it because I wanted to keep going north. I listened to the rumble and I couldn’t quite tell if it was coming from Saint Paul over to Minneapolis or from Minneapolis over to Saint Paul. I experimented with chanting in threes when I turned around and headed south again. Uppercut/ bowling ball/ sweaty brow Then I started chanting in triple berries: raspberry/ blueberry/ red berry/ green berry pink berry/ orange berry/ blueberry/ raspberry/ gooseberry/ mulberry I chanted them over and over again to try and keep a steady rhythm. I saw a couple other runners, a few walkers. I thought I heard some kids yelling in the gorge but then I realized it was geese honking.

thoughts about dictating running notes

  • Not sure if I like the notes app for this. It was a bit awkward and I think (at least I hope) it added in some random words.
  • I write much better than I speak.
  • I need to stop feeling so self conscious doing this. I also need to be more deliberate and thoughtful in what I say.
  • I still have to add in periods and capitals, which is irritating.
  • This is a good exercise for me. I need to get used to doing something that someday might be necessary.

The Blink Reflex/ Rick Barot

I have this notion that if you live long enough,
there are three or four great stories that you will have in your life.

A story of a journey or a transformation.
A story of love, which will likely mean the loss of love, a story

of loss. And a story of spiritual illumination,
which, for many, will probably be the moment of death itself,

the story untellable, its beginning and middle
and end collapsing with its teller into a disappearing conclusion.

I have believed long enough in my notion
to know that it is a romantic notion, that it erodes each time

I realize that the shard and not the whole
comprises a life, the image and not the narrative. Otherwise,

there’s no reason why all I remember of the airplane
I took as a child from one country to another

is the moist towelette packet we were given with our meal,
the wonder and absurdity of it. Or that, in love,

high in a tree in the dark, and high, he and I sat in the rain-damp
branches and ate 7-Eleven donuts. Or this, this piece

of a story that isn’t even mine, that isn’t even a story
but a glance of an experience, of the friend who held the stray

dog after it was struck by a car. Not knowing whether the dog
was dead, my friend called a friend

who worked for a vet. Poke the dog in the eye, this friend said.
Because if the animal no longer has a blink reflex,

it probably means the animal is dead. Decades after
college, when you could do such a thing, I typed his name

into a search engine to find out what became of the 18-year-old
boy from the tree. Like dozens of old keys

in a drawer, so many of the wrong people with the right name.
The child dead from leukemia, with a school gym

named for him. The wrestler who had a perfectly square jaw,
like a cartoon police detective in a fedora.

When I arrived at a page that was certainly
about him, I no longer knew the face, but I recognized the life

that he had had. He had transferred to
another college, gone to film school, and become a producer

of TV documentaries. A film about fishermen, the harsh fishing
season in Alaska. A film about Abraham Lincoln

and a film about the last days of Adolf Hitler.
A film about the Sherpas who go up and down the Himalayas.

What a beautiful poem. I love the title and the way the stories/fragments are woven together and the sweet, soft rhyme of “and high, he and I” and the playing with the romantic notion that we each only have 3 or 4 great stories.

feb 16/RUN

3.35 miles
river road, south/north
19 degrees/feels like 11
15% ice-covered

Ahhhhhh!! Winter running! Not too cold but cold enough to be able to breathe in fresh, cold, crisp air. A mostly clear path. Not too much wind. Not too many people. Everything quiet, still. Saw at least three people walking their dogs down on the Winchell trail. Encountered a fat tire biking alongside a runner. A few pairs of walkers. One or two other runners. Don’t remember hearing any birds cawing or chirping or honking. Not much traffic noise. Thought I heard some sloshing or dripping water at one point. Marveled at my new favorite view just past the oak savanna. One problem: I don’t remember there being so many bare trunks here between me and the river. Am I remembering the wrong spot? I love how the flat hill at the savanna–we call it the mesa–curves down to reveal the river.

triple berry chants

Did some triplet chants again: all berries. Without thinking, briefly chanted blueberry/ blackberry/ red berry. Then wondered why a raspberry is called a raspberry and not a red berry and why blueberries are called blueberries and not something else. Found a buzzfeed article that was a little helpful: The Delicious Origins of Summer Fruit Names

Here’s what is written about raspberries:

Like the strawberry, the raspberry isn’t a true berry in the biological sense of the word. And also like the word strawberry, we don’t know what its rasp- is about.

The word raspberry is found relatively late in English, attested in the early 1600s. An earlier form, raspis-berry, might give clues to its origins. In Middle English, raspise was a sweet, pink wine, possibly from the Anglo-Latin vinum raspeys. But this raspeys remains unexplained. Suggestions include the French rasper, “to scrape,” referring to the fruit’s rough appearance, and an Old Walloon word for “thicket.”

The listicle also mentions gooseberries and mulberries. And further down, it happens to mention the tree, sycamore. Another satisfying triplet. Maybe I’ll chant: gooseberry/raspberry/mulberry and then some trees: sycamore/cottonwood/? Need to think more about a third triplet tree.

to float, to haunt

At some point, thought about the article I read earlier this morning about the biomechanics of the run and the “double float” phase, which is when both feet are off of the ground. I usually think of this as flying but is also cool to think of it as a floating. What else floats: clouds, hot air balloons, ghosts, bodies in water, buoys, bubbles. I like the idea of being a ghost, floating and haunting the trail that I’ve traveled so many times in the last five years. Haunt is such a wonderfully rich word: to frequent, visit often; to continually seek the company of; to trouble; to reappear continually in; to visit or inhabit as a ghost; to stay around or persist, to linger; a place habitually frequented

feb 11/RUN

5 miles
stone arch bridge, one way
25 degrees
50% snow-covered

After noticing how pretty it looked in the (bohemian) flats yesterday afternoon, decided to run north on the river road to stone arch bridge today. Scott had a meeting downtown, so he could drive me home. One way runs are great. Yesterday afternoon the path looked clear and dry but it must have snowed a little last night because a lot of it was covered in soft, slippery, energy sapping snow. And, there was a blustery wind too. Still a great run. Still very glad to have done it.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker as I ran up from under the lake street bridge. Admired the curved wall and fence on the Winchell Trail between the trestle and franklin bridge. Noticed the river flowing quickly. Not looking slush slow today. Reaching the bottom of the hill, running past Annie Young Meadow, I heard water gushing through the limestone cliff, close to where a mudslide had closed the road for almost 2 years. At the top of the hill near the turn off to Wilson Library at the U, the sun came out and so did my shadow. Hello friend! Then I noticed the river was no longer brown but blue. Not steel blue but blustery blue. Beautiful. Attempted to run up the steep hill with the I-35 bridge. Made it about halfway, then walked a few minutes. Ran again all the way to the stone arch bridge and watched the roaring, choppy, churning water of St. Anthony Falls.

Had some thoughts about my How to Be project and the ways running fits into it but cannot remember them now. Right before heading outside for the run, I thought about the importance of surrender. Paying attention by letting go. Not trying to control but to breathe.

Speaking of breathing, I just remembered something about my run. To regulate my pace and breathing, I chanted. Strawberry/ Blueberry/ Raspberry. Over and over again. One foot strike for every syllable. As I ran down the franklin hill I decided that blackberry fit better than strawberry and chanted that: Raspberry/ Blueberry/ Blackberry. I chanted this mostly in my head. A few times, I mouthed it and at least once, I whispered it. Very helpful in keeping me steady and in a dream-like state. Considered switching in other 3 syllable words but never did.

Triplet Words/Rhythms/Dactyl Meter

  • Beautiful
  • Terrible
  • Wonderful
  • Mystery
  • Decadent
  • Diffident
  • Dental Care
  • Vision Quest
  • Telephone
  • Underwear
  • Prototype
  • Punching bag
  • Summer time
  • Radical
  • Reticent
  • Waterfall
  • Avalanche
  • Certainly
  • Understood
  • Icy cold
  • Ignorant
  • Buttercream
  • Factual

Interesting note found in my research about dactyls: “Strawberry (as the word is pronounced in East Tennessee—elsewhere it’s two longs and a short).” So East Tennesseans say it the British way, I think. Speaking of East Tennessee, I was just listening to an episode of Dolly Parton’s America and learned that East Tennessee was originally a part of the Union during the Civil War. Maybe I knew that at one point, but I had forgotten.

may 23/RUN

5.1 miles
67 degrees/81% humidity
the franklin loop

3 miles in, I decided to stop and walk on the franklin bridge. I’m glad I did. Looking out over the Mississippi, I saw one of the biggest birds I’ve ever seen. To me and my questionable vision, it looked almost like a mini-plane floating way up in the sky. Wow, what a wing span! Could it have been a broad-winged hawk or an eagle or a kestrel or a falcon? No idea, but it was cool to see. Tried rhythmic breathing while chanting in my head:

raspberry/coulis
strawberry/custard
mundane is/monday
terrible/tuesday
wonderful/wednesday
terrific/thursday
fabulous/friday
saturday/so so

Not sure how it works for me, but I’ll try it again next time I run. Didn’t see the Daily Walker but was able to greet a few other runners. Didn’t see many bikes or roller-skiers or dogs. Smelled some lilac bushes. Heard the hum of traffic and the shuffle shuffle scratch scratch of my feet on the gritty path. I finished at my favorite part of the path and before the mosquitoes found me, I enjoyed stopping and peering down into the gorge. And I realized: I’ve been writing about the gorge in the summer as having a thick, green veil that blocks your view. That’s not quite right. The trees are thick and you can’t see the river, that’s true, but they don’t totally block your view of what’s down below. Part of what makes it feel so mysterious is how the trees are spaced out, offering quick flashes of more than green. When I look closely, I can see the steep slope and the trunks of the trees reaching above and below me. Even as I can’t see the floor of the floodplain forest, I feel it and how high above it I am. I’d like to spend more time studying this spot and figuring out how to better describe it.

bonus: here’s a great list of the birds found near the Mississippi River Gorge. What’s a mergenser or a tern? I need to find out.

may 19/RUN

2 miles
59 degrees/79% humidity
mississippi river road path, north/brackett park

Overcast. Thick, heavy air. Buggy. Relentlessly green. Cool but clammy. Went on a quick run with Scott. Kept it nice and easy and talked most of the way about the book I’m reading on rhythmic breathing. Earlier today, while I was waiting for Scott to wake up, I did a writing experiment with rhythmic breathing:

For slow, easy runs breathe in for 3, out for 2. 

In 2 3.
Out 2.
Blueberry
crumble
Raspberry
tartlet
Vanilla
custard
Strawberry
ice cream
Beautiful
dreamer
Primary
colors
Mystery
novel
Forbidden
forest
Untimely
death
Let it be
over
Long lost love
refound
Terrible
headache.

For fast runs, breathe in 2, out 1.

Refried
beans
Oven
fries
release
doubt
embrace
me
Sara
smile
Sunshine
bright
Flowers
bloom
Tempers
flare
Striking
feet
Flailing
arms
Yelling
font
Famous
fig
Noisy
bar
Smoky
room
Salty
beer
Bathroom
line
Early
heat
Maple
tree
Thunder
thighs
Coming
storm
Nervous
dog
Gangly
knee
Giving
up
Staring
out.

So much fun!

dec 1/7 MILES

37 degrees
franklin hill turnaround + extra

7 miles on a beautiful morning. Next week it’s supposed to get much colder but not today.  Great weather for running! As I neared the big Franklin hill I decided to mix up my running rhythm and create a chant in 6/8 time with triplets instead of 4/4 time with straight quarter notes. It was hard to quickly compose sentences with this rhythm so I went for 3 syllable words. After trying out:

mystery beautiful mystical marvelous wonderful magical

I settled on a 4 bars of 6/8 with the words:

raspberry
strawberry
blueberry
chocolate

Occasionally I added in a fifth bar/word: delicious

This chant worked well for keeping me focused and steady. It especially helped me run up the Hill.

Towards the end of the run I encountered by favorite person on the path: the Daily Walker. I always see him, all year round. He’s very dedicated with his walking.