feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to bike and run in the basement today even though it wasn’t too cold (20 degrees) and the path was clear. Always trying to make sure I’m not running too much. Watched The Ring while I was biking. I think this movie, which is about 17 years old, holds up. Creepy. Extra creepy when you watch it on an iPad with headphones in a dark unfinished basement. Listened to my new (Sara 2020) playlist while I ran: Nur-d, Beck, Prince. Nice combination! At one point, felt like I was in a trance, my feet barely touching the moving floor.

Right now I’m reading Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about macular degeneration and being blind and the over privileging of vision. She has 3 chapters on the phenomenology of blindness, which she describes as “attempts to capture in words the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight.” So helpful! I don’t have the exact same thing that she does (and not as severe…yet), but it is very similar: damaged macula, loss of central vision, still intact peripheral vision. In the chapter, “the mind’s eye,” she writes about the blind spot her damaged macula creates in the center of her visual field. She describes how she can, with effort, see it when she stares at a blank wall.

I decided to try finding my blind spot. I stood about a foot away from a bare white door and stared into the center of it. After a few minutes, a darkish (dark gray?) circle–or was it an oval?–appeared in front of me. In its center was another circle which was white. This inner circle was a little less than a quarter the size of the darker circle. This darker circle is my blind spot; the much smaller inner circle is what is left of my combined (left and right eyes) central vision. Pretty wild.

Found this great PBS video with Kleege.

feb 21/BIKERUN

bike: 12 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.5 miles
treadmill, basement

I’m recording this while I’m on the treadmill at the end of my workout down in the basement. I biked for about 12 minutes and then I ran 2 1/2 miles. It was warmer outside today but I couldn’t run any earlier and by the time I could it was starting to get cold and windy and there were lots of puddles on the ground so I decided to stay inside and do the treadmill in the basement. While I was biking I listened to Here I Am by Air Supply which really made me think of my sister Marji. I imagined singing it with her, like when we were kids or when we got really drunk at a minor league baseball game in Des Moines when I was 20. And it made me think of my best friend from high school, Jenny, and how we memorized the lyrics to Air Supply on the bus on some band trip. Then I got on the treadmill and I started listening to a random playlist and Carolina on my mind by James Taylor came on and it reminded me of living in North Carolina. I’m not sure if this actually happened or not but I have this memory of driving from the UP to North Carolina and listening to this song. I’m sure that didn’t happen but I have a really strong connection with it as a memory. Not much else happened. It was kind of a boring/not creative run but it felt really good to get moving fast.

note: I felt a lot more comfortable–and had a lot less errors/extra words–in my dictation recording today. Was it because I was moving? Maybe I should try to always do these while walking? I’m thinking of switching to the voice memo app because I would like a recording of my voice too. It will be a little more tedious having to transcribe myself but it also might be a good way to spend more time with my words and thoughts.

I’m thinking about poetry exercises and the body. Found a pdf of CAConrad’s (Some)tic poetry exercises. I first heard about CAConrad on a podcast last year: Poetry Ritual

CAConrad’s (SOMA)TIC POETRY EXERCISES

5.) Go to a bookstore. Go to the History Section. Close your eyes and randomly choose a book. Turn to page 108. Read that page and pull one word you like from it. Go to the Romance Section, repeat process. Then go to these other 7 sections and repeat process: Gardening, Religion, Biography, Children’s, Cookbooks, Law, Horror. After you’ve collected these 9 words sit in the store, even if you must sit on the floor, then write a poem which includes these 9 words. This poem must be immediate, and it must be written in the store where the 9 words were found on page 108 of 9 different books. I hope you show me your poem one day. Thank you ahead of time.

feb 14/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Slightly warmer. Only felt like -26, not -29. But the wind was blowing. So blustery! Tomorrow it should be much warmer. In the 20s, I think. Decided to workout in the basement again. Watched almost all of the final episode of Cheer. I can’t believe I made it to the end without the ending being spoiled. I can’t imagine competing under such pressure. I have never enjoyed the intensity of performing when it counts or the high you might get from putting yourself under such pressure and then achieving greatness. Is this a bad thing? Do I fail to push myself enough? Are there other ways to understand how we might push and stretch and challenge ourselves outside of this model of performed greatness? Do these questions make any sense?

I listened to my playlist again as I ran. At one point, I stared at the reflection of a big round lightbulb in a dark window. Last month I mentioned that it looked like the moon on lake superior. Today I noticed something at the top of the reflected globe of light that looked like clouds. Then I thought about how I usually imagine or see clouds at the bottom of the moon, not the top. Is that accurate? Suddenly, I imagined that the moon was upside down, or the world in the window was right side up and the world in the basement, on the treadmill, was upside down. Strange. Even stranger while running in place on a treadmill matching my foot strikes to the beat of the music.

What Kindergarten and Partial Hospitalization Have in Common/ IZZY CASEY

Assigned: seats, affirmations, adults with anorexia nervosa.

Breakfast, supervised.

Crying all day long because small things feel like big things.

Drumming drums in a circle, droning, “don’t be so hard on yourself,” disappearing the ability to desire.

Every body’s invited, every “cloud” has a silver “lining.”

Flushing a chocolate chip cookie down the toilet and taking a huge dump on it, fear of growing.

Growing

Hairs in weird places.

“I’m telling on you.”

“Just let someone know if you go to the bathroom. Don’t go alone.”

Knowing there’s a chance you’ll need to come back and do it all over.

Lunch, supervised.

Mental math, milk monitors, mindfulness of breath.

Nurse Eye Patch haunts your wake.

Ordering onion rings at the Olive Garden Field Trip, since the overseers claim opera cake isn’t in budget.

Perishing into fits over whether you get your second cookie, third, or fourth.

“Quit running, quit shouting ‘where are the fucking cups,’ question your definition of ‘friend.’”

Refusing to get up off the floor and participate in Dance Circle with the other girls and boy.

Singing “Let It Be” with the boy during music hour, then all together.

Taking turns: with the triangle, talking with your mouth full.

Unaccompanied dinner.

Validation that you are one of the biggest losers.

Withholding from weeping in public on the long walk home.

Xeroxed handouts of Dr. Phil’s “On Choosing Forgiveness” equals confetti.

“You’re the child not the parent.”

Zookeeper’s Nightmare.

I love Abecedarians and this is a great one. Powerful in this form. Abecedarians are fun to write. My only problem: the dreaded x. There are only so many x words to use. Maybe I should make a list or find a list. Just searched, “good x words for abecedarian poems” and this was the first entry: What About X? Writing the Abecedarian. Yes!

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 30 min
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Hello Arctic Hellscape! This morning it is 12 below, feels like 29 below. Not quite as cold as the end of January last year (-49), but still cold enough to stay inside. I was tempted momentarily to go to the gorge, just to see if I could tough it out or so I could say that I ran when it was almost 30 below, but I didn’t. Instead I worked out in the basement, watching Cheer while I biked, listening to Nur-D and others on my running playlist while I ran. I have one episode of Cheer left to watch. What am I going to watch while I bike when it is over? Back to race replays?

I did take a brief (15 or 20 minutes) walk at 11 this morning. It didn’t feel that cold. Sunny. Bright. Not too much wind. Then I turned a corner and felt the full force of the arctic chill on my face and got a brain freeze. The kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast. In college in Southern Minnesota in the 90s, out on the tundra, I would usually get one of these cold weather induced brain freezes every winter. Fun. It’s strange to have a familiar sensation (the brain freeze) but out of context (not from eating ice cream). Is there a name for that phenomenon? The other example that I often think about is the few times I’ve been in earthquakes, when it feels like turbulence but you’re not on a plane. It feels familiar even when it isn’t. I tried searching for this. No luck. I tried “a familiar sensation felt strangely” and got a lot of hits for deja vu. For the first time ever, I tweeted at Merriam Webster and asked them: “Is there a word for feeling familiar sensation but out of normal context, like feeling brain freeze but from cold wind, not eating ice cream too fast? You know the feeling but experience it strangely.”

What a nice surprise to randomly find this little poem:

Five Flights Up/ Elizabeth Bishop

Still dark.
The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
The little dog next door barks in his sleep
inquiringly, just once.
Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
once or twice, quavering.
Questions—if that is what they are—
answered directly, simply,
by day itself.

Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
gray light streaking each bare branch,
each single twig, along one side,
making another tree, of glassy veins . . .
The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

The little black dog runs in his yard.
His owner’s voice arises, stern,
“You ought to be ashamed!”
What has he done?
He bounces cheerfully up and down;
he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
He and the bird know everything is answered,
all taken care of,
no need to ask again.
—Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
(A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

The dog barking in its sleep–only once; questions being answered simply by day itself; the enormous, ponderous, meticulous morning; the dog and bird feeling no sense of shame; “yesterday brought to today so lightly!”. Such lovely lines.

feb 8/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to do a workout in the basement today. Partly because of the dusting of snow we got last night, partly because I wanted to watch more Cheer, which I did while I biked. Then, while I ran, I listened to Jad Abumrad’s podcast about Dolly Parton called Dolly Parton’s America. So good. Right now, I’m listening to episode 4–or is it 5? I have loved Dolly Parton ever since she yelled at her boss in 9 to 5, calling him “evil to the core.” I loved that movie when I was kid. I even taught it in the spring of 2007 in my Pop Culture Women course.

A Study in Eventuality/ Cristina Correa

Funny, isn’t it, how hard to describe
a good man? In the shower, I let
the water run hot as my blood filtering
a mirror of loss. The messenger arrived
flustered as feathers falling to the place
where feathers go to find each other. Who
is the man who makes you remark, “I have
been lucky”? How does the faucet instruct
forgiveness? Our voices spiral to meet
with too much space between. My cuticles
shine like chrome under the moment’s remains.
A demand for nakedness pools somewhere
down the drain. For what we’ve been able to
let go, and know it happens to us all.

I was struggling to understand this poem until I read her description, which really helped (find it on the poets.org link). “How does the faucet instruct forgiveness?” What a line!

jan 31/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement

Stayed inside today. Not because it was too cold or too slippery but because I needed to do less running and because I wanted to watch more Cheer while I was working out. Sherbs dislocated her elbow in today’s episode. Ugh, this show. Very compelling. Also, watching it makes my knees and neck and all of my joints hurt. I guess I’m middle aged because all I can think about is how fucked up their bodies are probably going to be when they turn 40. I hope I’m wrong.

Enjoyed listening to “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Misery Business,” and “Can’t Touch This” while I ran. I’m glad to have the treadmill, but it really instrumentalizes the workout, reducing it to getting exercise and burning calories. I missed greeting the gorge and smelling the cold air and admiring the river today.

For the past month, I’ve been thinking about all I’ve learned through keeping this log and wondering how (or if) to put it into more direct conversation with my past academic work on being undisciplined, breaking bad habits, virtue ethics, troublemaking, and moral selfhood. I guess I’m afraid that if I try, I’ll get sucked back into talking/writing/acting like my former academic over-thinking self. I’m also afraid I will spend all of my time and energy trying to contextualize /justify/ theorize what I’m doing here and won’t have any time or space or energy left to continue actually doing the work I want to be doing.

I was thinking about this dilemma a lot before I went to the basement to work out. Did I think about it at all while I was down there? I can’t remember.

MAKING LISTS/Imtiaz Dharker

The best way to put
things in order is
to make a list.
The result of this
efficiency is that everything
is named, and given 
an allotted place.

But I find, when I begin,
there are too many things,
starting from black holes
all the way to safety pins.

And of course the whole
of history is still there.
Just the fact that it has 
already happened doesn’t mean
it has gone elsewhere.
It is sitting hunched
on people’s backs,
wedged in corners
and in cracks,
and has to be accounted for.
The future too.

But I must admit
the bigger issues interest
me less and less.

My list, as I move down in, 
becomes domestic,
a litany of laundry
and of groceries.
These are the things
that preoccupy me.

The woman’s blouse is torn.
It is held together
with a safety pin. 

Thrown away/ Imtiaz Dharker

They come back somethings, by mistake,
the lost, forgotten poems.
On the backs of estimates
for furniture, behind grocery bills,
black scribbles laid over fine print.
The ones on envelopes, of course,
keep turning up,
others fallen off the edge of maps.
Hardest to keep are the ones
written on paper napkins
with the name of the cafe
in one corner, bottom right,
the kind you could use so easily
to blow your nose,
and throw away.

Some go because they don’t
deserve to stay.

Is there a place where all
the lost words go?
Poems crumpled into balls and
tossed in wastepaper-bins,
poems left behind on trains,
poems flown into the wind,

a litter of kisses blown
on to your cheek,
that you have felt
and brushed away?

jan 26/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2 miles
bike: 10 minutes
basement

It’s warm outside, hovering just below freezing, and the air feels great, but the path is an ice rink. Too icy to run outside today. Bummer. Started another episode of Cheer while biking in the basement. Wow, Monica the coach is hard core. She made one of the cheerleaders who had disobeyed her order to not cheer that weekend and then injured his back do practice anyway. It was hard to watch him grimacing and writhing and sobbing from pain. In an interview, Monica talked about how the kids need and want discipline and order in their lives, partly because they’ve never had it. I often think about this balance between the need for discipline, in the form of order and rules, and the negative effects of that disciplining–unquestioned obedience to those rule even when they might lead to permanent damage–like a seriously fucked up back and life long, agonizing pain. How do we navigate that? Can we have discipline without being disciplined? So much to say about what’s happening in this episode with discipline and civilized behavior and manners and looking respectable in the community and unquestionably following the rules of a coach! Maybe someday.

While I ran, I listened to a great audio book, The Changeling. Pretty intense. I am at the part of the novel where the protagonist, Apollo, is on an island of green-robed woman who are trying to kill him. Felt like I was in a trance, running at a steady, easy pace, staring blankly at the reflection of a light bulb in the window, listening to the author, Victor LaValle. Not as invigorating as being outside by the gorge, but still good to be moving.

jan 16/RUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand, basement

run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Didn’t want to run too much today, so decided to go down to the basement. Of course, the -10/ feels like -25 also influenced my decision. But if I hadn’t already run twice yesterday, I might have tried going outside because I’m crazy that way. Finished the first episode of Cheer! that I started last week. From the teacher who was very committed to her right to bear arms, “hell yeah! I’m packing right now!”, to the 2 concussions suffered in one pyramid rehearsal–those sounds of loud smacks on the floor as the girls fell!–to the male cheerleader who was kneed in the face and had to put a tampon up his nose to stop the bleeding, this was an intense 20 minutes. Wow.

TEN YEARS LATER MY HUSBAND WALKS OUT OF THE WOODS/ Emily Pérez

after “Hans My Hedgehog”

In one version you remove your coat
of quills at dusk, drape it by the hearthside.

My father’s bravest men then burst
into our room and net the carapace, fling

it in the waiting blaze, burn the thorns
that stippled you. The hollow spires

in the fire sing like copper smelted,
the slag amassing on the flagstones

cooling to a twisted fist of all that had you
hinged. Unmasked at last you stand

before me, born anew: not a monster, not
a man, but a fledgling flayed. Oh husband,

what soulbrave bargain have you made
that leaves you so tender, and how

am I to salvage you?— just wife, not
witch, not doctor.

Author’s Note

I’ve been obsessed with the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hans My Hedgehog” for years. In addition to featuring a hedgehog who plays bagpipes and rides a rooster, it provides some crazy inroads for thinking about parenting and marriage. As in many fairy tales, a father promises his daughter to the hero, who, in this case is a hedgehog. Later, the hedgehog decides to permanently take on human form for his wife’s sake, which involves shedding his coat of quills and having it burned by his wife’s father’s men. The rebirth chars him. In the years that I tinkered with this story as a source for poems, my husband made a major life change that felt both morally brave and (perhaps) personally foolish. As his partner, I felt compelled to be supportive but also inadequate to the task. This poem gets at my ambivalence.

I loved reading the explanation of this poem and then reading the poem again. Powerful. I also like the idea of taking a favorite fairytale and re-imaging it.

jan 10/ BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

The weather isn’t too cold (at least for me) this morning or too blustery, but I decided to stay inside and do more biking, less running to rest my sore legs. Now as I write this I feel a little regret. Winter runs in the cold are the best. Why didn’t I run outside?

While biking, I watched part of the first episode of the netflix doc series: Cheer. It’s fascinating and freaking me out. They take so many risks with their bodies. I wonder what the long term effects of these risks and the injuries they get are? Will the series address this at some point?

When I was younger, I never thought about my body. But after I had 2 kids, my mom died too young, and I started running and open water swimming, I became more aware of its fragility and developed a need to protect it and be careful with it.

Living in the Body/ Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

I’m mostly okay with my body. Together we’ve done some great things. I guess sometimes I wish my kneecaps would stay in their grooves and not temporarily displace or my central vision wasn’t almost completely destroyed or my legs didn’t get unbearably restless when I wake up in the middle of the night, which happens a lot. But I think I feel less like Joyce Sutphen and her body as (treasured) burden, and more like Linda Hogan in Rapture: “Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.”

jan 5/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2 miles
treadmill, basement
outside: wind advisory, icy paths

The combination of too many days running on uneven paths and a wind advisory meant I ran and biked in the basement today. I’m fine with it. I still don’t like the treadmill for long distances, but it’s okay for a mile or two. Watched a super league triathlon race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. I coolest thing I remember: running, staring straight ahead and just above the blank tv screen, I noticed the reflection of the single lightbulb in the dark window. A small bright circular light. I imagined it was the moon, hovering above Lake Superior, which I remember seeing a few years ago when I was at a resort on the North Shore. Very cool. I was so mesmerized by the image that I almost ran into the front of the treadmill. Who knew the basement could be so beautiful and inspiring?

Yesterday, wandering around the internet, I discovered Steve Healey’s 10 Mississippi–a book of poetry about the Mississippi River. He’s based in Minneapolis, which is really cool. I need to buy this collection from 2010.

2 Mississippi/ Steve Healey

Standing next to the river, I recorded the sound
of the river in an attempt to represent that sound
more accurately than my earlier description of it,
which compared the river sound to someone
saying “shhhh.” I rewound the tape and played it back,
and the recording also sounded like someone saying
“shhhh,” but then I remembered that I was listening
to both the recording of the river and the river itself,
and I could not with absolute certainty distinguish
one from the other. It sounded like the two sounds
synchronized into one “shhhh,” but at times they
seemed to separate, as if telling each other to be quiet,
like accomplices committing a crime. Or they may
have both been telling me to be quiet, despite the fact
that I was producing no sound, or so I thought.
Retreating swiftly and quietly to the privacy
of my own home, a safe distance from the river itself,
I listened again to the recording of the river sound.
This time it sounded like a perfectly preserved memory
of the river, a solitary “shhhh” moving inexorably
toward the Gulf of Mexico, and just as I felt liberated
from the burden of having to remember the river
through my own mental activity, the recording stopped,
precisely at the moment when I had turned off
the tape recorder. Then I remembered that the river
itself was elsewhere, continuing its perfect sound
forever, and that I would never be able to represent
that continuousness accurately. I remembered,
however, that I could take a length of magnetic tape
on which that river was recorded and splice the ends
together to form a loop which I could then play
continuously. The sound could keep going “shhhh”
all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, telling all the cars
and condos to be quiet. It’s worth remembering,
however, that a river is not a person, and that a person
saying “shhhh” eventually needs to stop making
that sound, either to inhale or die. There would be no
other choice, unless of course I recorded myself
saying “shhhh” and played a loop of that recording
continuously, in which case I’d no longer need
to remember myself. I’d be immortal
in the privacy of my own sound.