sept 9/RUN

5.25 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
64 degrees / drizzle

Rain today. On and off. When I started, it wasn’t raining, but in the middle of my run, drizzle. It was hard to tell because I was sweating and wearing a baseball cap. A good run. I was overdressed, with my pink jacket on. When I got to the bottom of the Franklin hill, I took it off and wrapped it around my waist.

Running down the hill I chanted,

Here I go
down the hill
Here I go
down the hill
Here I go
down the hill
Watch me fly!

Listened to all the sounds in the gorge running north, a Bruno Mars Apple Essential playlist on the return trip south.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a stinky sewer smell — not near the ravine, but down in the tunnel of trees
  2. a tower of stacked stones on the ancient boulder
  3. the coxswain instructing the rowers
  4. a rushing sound — either the wind through the leaves or water sprinkling out of the seeps and springs and sewer pipes
  5. so much goldenrod this year! golden yellow flowers everywhere. I wonder if that’s what’s causing Delia the dog’s itchiness?
  6. the leaves are starting to turn, mostly yellow, a few streaks of red
  7. park workers in their orange vests, their truck parked on the path — trimming trees?
  8. such an intense smell of pot as I ran by the lake street bridge porta potty
  9. the smell of cigarette smoke below the franklin st bridge
  10. I think the river was more brown than blue and it was gently moving

In the fall of 2018 (thanks past Sara for writing the date in the front of the book!), I bought Tanis Rideout’s book of poems, Arguments with the Lake. Working on my latest poem, about fighting with the lake, I decided to revisit it. Here’s one of the poems:

Shirley, Midlake/ Tanis Rideout

Hearts are bred to beat one billion times in an elephant
or in a mouse — mathematically simple difference of beats
per minute. Unlucky us with two billion more, slowed
by the hibernetic slumber of escape or blessedly sped by panic,
pain, a six a.m. jog around the block turning, always turning,
clockwise. By love, by sex. By want. So simple to be a fish.

I’m always giving it away. With each stroke, flutter, catch, kick
and the surging need to inhale, inhale, inhale, like I’ve never
taken a breath before.

The lake tries to soothe and slow, creeps cold into core, slips
into the sheltered bays of lungs, the hidden rivers around the heart.
It’s a fair exchange — beats per pleasure. For pain. Each of us is allotted
the strikes of the heart. I’m using mine, arguing with the Lake.

sept 7/RUN

5.9 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
70 degrees / humidity: 95%
8:45 am

Back to warmer, more humid, mornings. Did my new regular routine with this route: run just beyond the bottom of the franklin hill, turn around, walk up the hill, put on a playlist, begin running again, much faster, at the top.

I don’t remember what I thought about as I ran. I started noticing my breathing pattern: 1 2 3 4 breathe. Then near the top of Franklin, I started chanting, 54321/54321/54321/123. And then, I changed the rhythm slightly and came up with words:

Here I go down the hill
Here I go down the hill
Here I go down the hill
Watch me fly.

To remember it, I decided to pull out my phone and recite it mid-flight down the hill:

chant, 7 sept

10 Things I Remember From My Run

  1. Reaching the bottom of the hill, the water was flat and still. No rowers or waves.
  2. I startled a squirrel as I ran by their hiding place in the brush.
  3. A group of women — I didn’t see them, only heard their voices — climbing the stone steps by the trestle.
  4. A unicycle biking up the steep Franklin hill! I noticed them after the turn-off to go above, so they might have only started there, but I like to imagined this biker biked all the way from the bottom on a unicycle. What a feat!
  5. That same unicycle encountering a skateboarder heading down the hill.
  6. A sewer smell, coming up from the ravine.
  7. Sweat dripping off of my face in big drops.
  8. The buzz of cicadas, the hum of the traffic on the I-94 bridge and the river road
  9. Saying Good morning! in my head to the Welcoming Oaks and out loud to an older jogger.
  10. Noticing the goldenrod lining the path as I walked up the hill.

Speaking of goldenrod, as I noticed the golden flowers on the edge of the trail and wondered if they were goldenrod or something else, I remembered Maggie Smith’s poem “Goldenrod” and decided I should memorize it. I also thought about Robin Wall Kimmerer and her chapter on Asters and Goldenrod.

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.

july 15/RUN

2.6 miles
2 trails
80 degrees / dew point: 69
noon

Decided to take a break from swimming this morning; went for a run instead. Trying to think about the topic for next week for my class: breathing, rhythm, and pace. Did some triple berry chants, then some rhythmic breathing chants.

triples:

mystery
magical
serenade
history
remember
remember
remember
forget this
forget that
remember

rhythmic breathing: 3/2

everything’s/open
listen up/closely
everyone’s/looking
Can’t you be/quiet?

I know I did more, but I can’t remember them. I heard a black-capped chickadee doing their 2 note call. I tried to match up my feet and my words to the bird’s 2 syllables. I thought about the idea of trying to match my breathing and foot strikes to the rhythms of the gorge. Then I heard the electric buzz of cicadas, and I imagined the buzz as a shimmering shower of rapid beats. I don’t think it’s easily achievable, but the idea of listening to the gorge and then trying to breathe in time with it, is pretty cool — or trying to sync up breathing and foot strikes and heartbeats.

Here’s a great quote that I found (the quote on twitter, the original source from an interview of poets.org):

There is something very important and vital in poetic expression. The way that language is used to just connect us to parts of our experience, that can’t be captured in the linear, prosaic sense, and the instructional register, the command register. Poetry doesn’t do that. Poetry invites us to question, to discover, to delight, to be odd, to be frightened—all of these wonderful emotions that actually open doors inside us and to the world. 

One more thing: Scott send me a very interesting article about new research on woodpeckers and how they’re able to withstand the force of their constant drumming. A couple years ago, when I was researching woodpeckers and writing poems about their drumming, I mentioned learning (I can’t seem to find the entry right now) about how woodpeckers’s heads offer good shock absorption. According to this article about a recent study, that’s not true. Their heads act like hammers and the reason they’re able to endure so much pecking is because their brains are so small. Fascinating.

july 14/RUNSWIM

run: 3.6 miles
marshall loop
67 degrees
8:40 am

Another beautiful day! After all the biking yesterday, feeling tired today. The run felt good, but now I lack motivation to write or remember my run. Still, I’ll try. This week in my class, we’re shifting gears to talk about rhythm, breathing, and translating wonder into words. I decided I’d try to think in triples as I ran: strawberry/blueberry/raspberry/blackberry. Now I’ll try to summarize my run in triples:

singing birds
serenade
neighborhood
daycare kids
playground yells
lake street bridge
up the hill
one lane closed
passing cars
feeling tired
sweating lots
stop to walk
cross the road
avoid bikes
yellow vest
trimming trees
shadow falls
up the steps
down a hill
music on
Taylor Swift
Paper Rings
lifting knees
quick fast feet
ending strong
check my stones
wipe my face
breathe in deep

That was fun! Writing out, “singing birds,” reminded me of the birds I first heard as I walked out my door and up the block. Their 2 note song (not the black-capped chickadee “feebee”) sounded like they kept telling me to Wake up! Wake up! No rowers on the river, which was a pretty shade of blue. Admired how the trees along the shore cast a gentle shadow on the water.

Last night, or was it very early this morning?, I woke up and went downstairs to get some water. Something bright was behind the curtain. The moon? The moon! So big, so bright, so perfect hanging half way up the sky over my backyard. I went out on the deck and marveled at it for a moment. The moon, never not astonishing! Here’s an acrostic poem (I love acrostic poems!) about the moon.


Moon/ AMY E. SKLANSKY

Marvelous
Opaque
Orb.
Night-light
for the world.

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

Writing this the morning after. Arrived at the beach: so windy! The water was choppy, but not too bad. Tried to think about rhythms and breathing as I swam. I remember thinking about how chanting words can help in many different ways: connect you with your breathing, keep you focused and on pace, open you up and make words strange which could lead to new (and better?) words, and is a way to hold onto/remember ideas that come to you while you’re moving (try to remember the idea through a few words or a phrase). I thought about that for just a few minutes. The rest of the time, I was preoccupied with breathing, staying on course, avoiding other swimmers, and worrying that my calf and feet might be tightening up. Can I remember 10 things?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a silver flash below me — this has to be fish, right?
  2. one dark plane hovering in the air, hanging in the sky for a long time
  3. nearing an orange buoy, it shifted in the wind and the waves. Hard to get around it.
  4. the green buoy was closer than it often is to the big beach, so was the first orange buoy
  5. clouds, no sun
  6. far off to my right: steady, speedy swimmers, approaching the buoy at a sharp angle
  7. a lifeguard kayaking in just before the beginning of open swim, apologizing for the wait (even though it was just 5:30). My response, “no worries,” and I meant it. The lifeguards really have their shit together this year
  8. wiped out after the 3rd loop, I thought I tucked my cap under the strap of my suit. Nope, it must have fallen in the water. Bummer
  9. lots of muck and sand and a few little bits of vegetation under my suit when I got home and took a shower
  10. feeling both so much love for the lake, the lifeguards, and the other swimmers AND also feeling irritated by and competitive with any swimmers near me.

No ducks, or seagulls, or dragonflies, or swans (peddle boats)…not too many people at the beach — are they on vacation this week?

july 6/RUNSWIM

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill
69 degrees
humidity: 79% / dew point: 64
8:30 am

Even though the dew point was high, it was a good run. I tried my new experiment for the franklin hill route (which I first tried on june 22): run 2.5 miles to the bottom of the hill, turn around and walk back up it while paying attention.

recording:

thoughts while walking up the franklin hill

transcript:

july 6, 2022. 8:54 am. Just ran about 2 and a half miles to the bottom of the franklin hill, and now I’m walking up it, and it’s so LOUD. Everything is loud: the rumbling of the rushing cars and trucks above me on the bridge, the cars whooshing by, the bikes, the air is buzzing. It was doing this last night too when I was at the lake swimming. So much energy in the air, made it seem more intense.

The noise of the traffic is almost drowning out all the birdsong. Occasionally it pierces through the heavy curtain of sound.

When I was running earlier, I started chanting in triple berries as a way to get in the mindset [of being open to noticing]. I did strawberry/blueberry/raspberry, then wondering/wondering/wandering, wondering/wandering/mystery, and then, wonder where/wonder why/wonder when/wonder what. I wonder how that would work if I kept chanting it as a way to get into this trance? If I did, wonder what/wonder what/wonder what until I found something that I wondered about.

Heading under the Franklin bridge, I hear some roller skiers behind me. I love the sound of the click [of their poles]. *the sound of roller skiers’ poles hitting the pavement.* click? maybe a click clack? click? yeah. click click. I can’t quite tell. *me, humming*

note: I find it fascinating to listen back to my transcripts — how I don’t finish my thoughts; speak using run-on sentences with and…and…and; and hum without realizing it!

One more thing: As I was running, I remembered something I’d like to add for my class today in terms of wonder as curiosity: I’m calling it, “fill in the blank.” With this activity, you listen for fragments of conversation and try to imagine what the next word would be. I often hear unfinished bits of conversation as I run near others and I wonder what they were talking about or how they finished the sentence that I only heard the first half of. It’s fun, entertaining, a good way to use your imagination, and might lead to a story or a poem.

Here are 2 things I want to archive from twitter: a poem by Wendell Berry and a quote from Mary Ruefle, and one thing I heard from Scott about creativity and dyslexia:

1

To Know the Dark/ Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

2

John Ashbery, in an interview… : “I waste a lot of time. That’s part of the [creative process] ….The problem is, you can’t really use this wasted time. You have to have it wasted. Poetry disequips you for the requirements of life. You can’t use your time.” — Mary Ruefle in Madness, Rack, and Honey

note: I’m a little confused by this notation but I assume it means that Mary Ruefle is quoting John Ashbery in her quote?

3

An article to check out about how people with dyslexia might think more creatively: Dyslexia Helped Evolutionary Survival of Humans, Research suggest. As with most poplular reporting on scientific research, I want to find the original study that inspired this pop article for Newsweek. A few lines caught my eye, including:

Schools, academic institutes and workplaces are not designed to make the most of explorative learning.

But we urgently need to start nurturing this way of thinking to allow humanity to continue to adapt and solve key challenges.

Yes, we need to radically rethink what skills are taught/learned if we’re going to survive the 21st century!

swim: 1 small loop
cedar lake open swim
80 degrees
6:00 pm

Swam across the lake with my 19 year old son! We’ve been practicing and building up his endurance for the last couple of weeks. Today he didn’t seem to have any problem swimming across and back. Hooray! It was fun to swim with him.

addendum: returning to this post a day later — Besides swimming with FWA, one of the best things about swimming at Cedar Lake last night was how clear the water was. It wasn’t absolutely clear, where you could see all the way to bottom 50 feet below, but it was clear enough that I could my legs and hands under the water (they were glowing white) and FWA as he did the breast-stroke. Then, as we left the beach, we both noticed the vegetation below us, growing up from some bottom that stretched endlessly and invisibly beneath us.

june 21/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 2.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
73 degrees
humidity: 87% / dew point: 73!
7:45 am

I ran north on the river road to the top of the hill just past the lake street bridge. Stopped for a minute, then turned around and headed back. Sunny, but with lots of shade. Forgot to look at the river.

73 for the dew point? That’s bad, or “extremely uncomfortable,” according to Runner’s World. Yes, it was. Do I remember anything other than being uncomfortably warm?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. rower’s voices from down below!
  2. 3 stones stacked on the boulder
  3. a man fully covered in black sweatpants and a black jacket, with a white towel around his neck. Aren’t you hot, I thought as I passed him
  4. dark in the tunnel of trees, difficult to see if other people were there
  5. the pedestrian part of the double-bridge between 33rd and 32nd streets is overgrown with vines and bushes and leaves. Makes it harder to see if someone’s coming the other way, and narrower, making it harder to pass. Thankfully, no collisions today
  6. the small stretch of dirt trail that I take as the path nears the lake street bridge is wet — I think there was a brief, strong storm last night, or was that a dream?
  7. a group of 3 fast bikers riding on the road, a cautious car following behind
  8. a darting squirrel
  9. a flash of movement of the leaves beside the trail – was the flash from the sun hitting the leaves just right, or a critter — a bird or chipmunk or squirrel?
  10. later in my run, encountered Mr. black sweatsuit with white towel again. He said a soft, “morning,” and I nodded my head as a reply

Wow. Finding 10 things today took some thinking and remembering and getting past my overriding feelings of heat and discomfort. Such a great exercise in noticing!

Oh — I almost completely forgot: I also chanted in triple berries. Lots of strawberry/blueberry/raspberry and gooseberry/blackberry/red berry to keep my feet striking steadily. Added in a few mystery/history/mystery, which didn’t quite work, and butterscotch/chocolate sauce/caramel, and please don’t stop. Now I wish I had done more of them. I love the triple berry chants.

At the end of my run, as I was walking back, I listened to my first lecture for the class I’m teaching. I’m asking the students to listen to it on their first walk or run outside. I’m doing this partly because I’d like to make outside be the classroom space as much as possible, and partly because I think listening while moving can help you hear/process the words differently than when you’re inside, sitting still. One thought about the lecture: will my voice put them to sleep?

Mostly I don’t use headphones, but I do like to listen to podcasts or music sometimes. It’s strange how ideas or stories I’ve heard while running get imprinted on where I was on the trail. Even now, years later, as I run below the lake street bridge, I often think of the first season of Serial. Running from downtown to the Bohemian Flats, I think about an episode of “On Being” with Eula Biss. Listening to music or podcasts while moving might seem like a distraction from giving attention to a place, and it can be. But it can also be a chance to create a map of a place, connecting ideas that matter to you with locations that you move through regularly. Does that make sense?

Many people have strong opinions about whether or not you should be listening to anything while you’re moving. Although I do move much more without headphones, I like wearing them too. In my first year of doing this running project, I wrote a series of four acrostic poems exploring this no headphones/playlist debate: Playlist/No Headphones, some reflections

note: I’m typing this paragraph an hour later. When I was writing about headphones and listening, I thought there was something else I wanted to say, but it had drifted from my mind. It came back, in the midst of thinking about podcasts.

When I listen to podcasts, I always wear headphones, not broadcasting them to anyone else on the trail. For the most part, I prefer that others listen with headphones too. Yet, even as I write this, I’m reminded of how hearing someone’s irritating TEDtalk inspired a poem, and how I find some delight in hearing a song blasting from a bike speaker, especially if it’s accompanied by the Doppler effect.

Found this Anne Carson poem on twitter this morning:

Could I/ Anne Carson

If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that. To tell how things go for you. Candor is like a skein being produced inside the belly day after day, it has to get itself woven out somewhere. You could whisper down a well. You could write a letter and keep it in a drawer. You could inscribe a curse on a ribbon of lead and bury it in the ground to be unread for thousands of years. The point is not to find a reader, the point is the telling itself. Consider a person standing alone in a room. The house is silent. She is looking down at a piece of paper. Nothing else exists. All her veins go down into this paper. She takes her pen and writes on it some marks no one else will ever see, she bestows on it a kind of surplus, she tops it off with a gesture as private and accurate as her own name.

(added this later in the day):

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
87 degrees
4:30 pm (there) / 6:00 (back)

Biked without any problems. 2 distinctive memories, one of the way to the lake, one on the way back.

to the lake: Coasting down the hill between the double bridge and Locks and Dam No. 1, in the hot sun, I passed someone pushing a canoe on wheels. It looked awkward and like they were struggling. I tried to imagine the scenario where you would be pushing a canoe at this spot.

from the lake: Biking under the echo bridge, I heard 2 flutes playing a duet under the bridge, on the other side. It sounded very nice. I imagined calling out, “that sounds great” or “you’re awesome” but I didn’t.

This is the first time I’ve witnessed a canoe being pushed on the paved path or 2 flutes playing a duet under a bridge.

swim: 2 loops
87 degrees
windy

So much wind again. I’m getting used to it. I stayed on course. There was one point where I oriented myself in relation to another swimmer who was off course, so I got a little too close to the buoy, but otherwise, no problem. Again, I seem to swim straight towards the buoys even when I don’t see them, or think I see them. My googles leaked a little, and when I got out of the water there was a film over my eyes. Everything looked like it was fogged up, even though I wasn’t wearing glasses.

One memorable thing: Rounding the last green buoy, parallel to the big beach, I suddenly hit something hard with my hand. Huh? A green plastic bucket. As I flinched and lifted my head out of the water in surprise, I heard a woman laugh. Was she laughing at me? I doubt it. How did the bucket make it out this far?

I breathed every 5 strokes and had fun punching the water when it was extra choppy. Noticed a few planes and clouds above. An occasional flash below, and nothing else but brown, opaque water. Oh — a menancing sailboat, off to my left side. The first one this year!

addendum, june 22: I remembered 2 more memorable things that I don’t want to forget. One while I was swimming, the other while biking.

swimming: I kept seeing another swimmer out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked back again, they were gone. It was strange, because it happened more than once and felt very real, like they were there, and then they weren’t. Maybe it was the yellow buoy tethered to my waist?

biking: Biking back home on the river road trail, I passed a runner, running smoothly and quickly, snapping their fingers repeatedly. Why where they snapping? Not sure. In all the times I’ve passed a runner while biking (or while running), I don’t think I’ve ever heard them snapping!

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.

nov 7/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
50 degrees
humidity: 81%

Shorts weather. Overcast, everything a brassy yellow with brown and gray. A nice run in my new shoes. Cold update: almost gone. Just a thin layer of crud lining the throat, lungs, in the nose. Slighter harder to breathe when running.

Went to Gustavus Adolphus College for FWA’s first fall band concert yesterday. Very cool. I love that he’s attending the same school Scott and I did. It’s so great to go back and remember where my life began. Before the concert we walked around the arboretum/prairie, to a big sculpture of a bison on a small hill. As we walked the mowed grass trail, we saw a “river of birds” above our heads (love this phrase, river of birds, which is how a friend from band that we saw at the concert described it). Thousands of birds flying above us, their wings flapping like thunder. I think they might be starlings or swallows? An amazing thing to witness — the whole sky filled, looking like static. A few times, right above our heads, the birds would split up, with a mass of them flying left of us, another mass flying right.

At some point during my run, I began counting in 3s and doing triple berry chants: strawberry/blueberry/raspberry — raspberry/blackberry/gooseberry. I added in mystery and later: ri/ver/road ri/ver/gorge run/ning/path thir/ty/eighth (for 38th street steps) tres/tle/bridge. I stuck mostly with the meter: stressed/unstressed/unstressed. I should remember what meter this is, but I always forget: is it iambic or anapest. I started chanting those two: an/a/pest — i/am/bic Sometimes An/a/pest, sometimes an/a/Pest I/am/bic i/am/Bic

Just looked it up:

anapest = unstressed unstressed stressed
iambic = stressed unstressed
dactyl = stressed unstressed unstressed

So, it was dactyls, not iambic or anapest. I KNOW I’ve written about this a few years ago, and I’ve reviewed it many times. Will I ever remember? I think I should print it out and put it under the glass on my desk, so I can look at it all the time.

Anyway, as I was thinking about meter and form, I decided that I’d like to use triples — with dactyls and anapests — as the meter (or form?) for another poem about haunting, with the theme of a faint trail, the trace, the worn dirt as path and evidence of others, the residue/remains as offering (poem, an alleluia on the page, Mary Oliver).

Here’s a poem that fits with this idea of what remains (or refuses to die/leave?, that persists, offers up something unexpected or not quite locatable):

Perennials/ Maggie Smith

Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned
lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt & frame the absence
of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t
wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another
fo chime against, knock around.
Again & again the wind finds its tongue,
but its tongue lives outside
of its rusted mouth. Forget the wind.
Let us instead praise meadow & ruin,
weeds & wildflowers seeding
years later. Let us praise the girl
who lives in what they call
a transitional neighborhood—
another way of saying not dead?
Or risen from it? Before running
full-speed through the sprinkler’s arc,
she tells her mother, who kneels
in the garden: Pretend I’m racing
someone else. Pretend I’m winning.