feb 19/RUN

5 miles
john stevens’ house
34 degrees

So bright out by the gorge today. Sharp shadows. Clear path. Black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, construction workers, little kids all chattering. Before I saw the creek, I heard it gushing below me near the falls. Oh — and wild turkeys! A dozen of them pecking the snow just north of locks and dam no. 1.

My favorite part of the run was in minnehaha park near John Stevens’ house, where the serpentine sidewalk — completely cleared and dry — snaked through the grass covered in several inches of untouched snow. O, the sun and the shadows and the curves and the warmer air and the dry paths and the open lungs and humming legs!

an illusion

Glance one: running south on the stretch near 38th street, I noticed something dark and solid up ahead on the trail. A loose dog or wild animal? No.
Glance two: Still staring, the black thing turned into a dark, deep puddle on the road.
Glance three: How could I have mistook this puddle for an animal?
Glance four: Wait — it’s not a puddle, it’s someone’s disembodied legs in dark pants walking on the edge of the path.
Glance five: And their legs are attached to a torso in a light colored (gray? tan? pale blue?) jacket which blended into the sky.
Glance six: Getting closer, I can see a head, some shoes

This illusion is not unusual for me. Mostly, it doesn’t bother me because I am used to it and I have time to figure out what it is I’m seeing. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to look and think and guess, it’s scary and unsettling and dangerous.

Found an interview with Andrew Leland from Joeita Gupta and The Pulse this morning and wanted to remember this helpful definition of blindness:

The Pulse

What is blindness? Blindness isn’t merely an absence of sight. Blindness is a central identity for some, a neutral or marginal characteristic for others. Not all blind people are the same. There are blind vegetarians, athletes, academics, you name it. Some people have been blind from birth, others lose their vision as adults. Blindness can come on suddenly or gradually. Blindness is then more than a physical experience. It has its own culture, language, and politics. Blindness is not the same for any two blind people anymore than sight is experienced the same way by two sighted individuals.

note: This podcast has some other great episodes, including one about birding while blind, which I added to my May is for the Birds page.

How I See

I’m continuing to work on my alt-text/ekphrastic image project. Still trying to figure out the best way into the actual poems. Not quite writer’s block, but a grasping, grappling with, wrangling ideas. Anyway, maybe detouring will help a little. I’d like to gather lines from vision poems that describe how I see. I’ll begin with one of the most well-known blind poets, Jorge Luis Borges:

 In Praise of Darkness / Jorge Luis Borges

Old age (the name that others give it)
can be the time of our greatest bliss.
The animal has died or almost died.
The man and his spirit remain.
I live among vague, luminous shapes
that are not darkness yet.
Buenos Aires,
whose edges disintegrated
into the endless plain, has gone back to being the Recoleta, the Retiro,
the nondescript streets of the Once,
and the rickety old houses
we still call the South.
In my life there were always too many things.
Democritus of Abdera plucked out his eyes in order to think:
Time has been my Democritus.
This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
it flows down a gentle slope,
resembling eternity.
My friends have no faces,
women are what they were so many years ago,
these corners could be other corners,
there are no letters on the pages of books.
All this should frighten me,
but it is a sweetness, a return.
Of the generations of texts on earth
I will have read only a few–
the ones that I keep reading in my memory,
reading and transforming.
From South, East, West, and North
the paths converge that have led me
to my secret center.
Those paths were echoes and footsteps,
women, men, death-throes, resurrections,
days and nights,
dreams and half-wakeful dreams,
every inmost moment of yesterday
and all the yesterdays of the world,
the Dane’s staunch sword and the Persian’s moon,
the acts of the dead,
shared love, and words,
Emerson and snow, so many things.
Now I can forget them. I reach my center,
my algebra and my key,
my mirror.
Soon I will know who I am.

penumbra: shroud, fringe, a shaded region surrounding the dark portion of a sunspot, in an eclipse the partially illuminated space between full shadow and light

Here are a few lines that I think describe how I see:

This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
it flows down a gentle slope,
resembling eternity.
My friends have no faces,
women are what they were so many years ago,
these corners could be other corners

A slow, gentle deterioration. No dramatic or sudden shifts. / When I look at people directly, I usually can’t see their faces. / I either see a smudge or darkness or the face I remember from before, when I could see. / sharp edges or corners are difficult to see and streets once familiar are strange. Traveling to a new street corner, I struggle to read signs, to recognize where I am, everything there but not, everything the same forms: Building, Sign, Door

feb 18/RUN

5.8 miles
down the franklin and back
31 degrees

A little icy, a little windy, a little crowded. Difficult to run together in these conditions, so Scott and I split up. The sun was bright and I saw some wonderful shadows of trees — gnarled and sprawling across the sky. Heard some geese, smelled some bacon.

When we ran together, Scott and I talked about the half frozen river and how it looked like a gray slushy. What flavor is gray slushy, I wondered. Scott suggested, all the flavors then added, I bet that would taste good. I wondered if this “everything” slushy would include blueberry. No, Scott said, blue raspberry. I mentioned how there is no consensus on the origins of the rasp in raspberry, which I had come across while reading a past entry a few days ago.

How I See

As I continue to work on this project, I want to return to ekphrastic poems. In an article for Lithub — Back to School for Everyone: Ekphrastic Poetry with Victoria Chang — Chang offers some helpful thoughts about the form:

how poets engage with visual art:

  • write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork
  • write in the voice of the person or object represented
  • write about their personal experiences
  • fictionalizing a scene within the art
  • write about the work in the context of its socio-political history

In essence, ekphrastic poems are a way to interact with the world and a way to respond to the world. The process of writing ekphrastic poetry also brings into question aspects of viewing, the culture of viewing, and the gaze, always asking the questions of who is looking at what, when, and why?

3 thoughts about Ekphrasis

1: I’m as interested in how someone is looking as who, what, when, or why they are looking.

2: Maybe part of the ekphrasis angle is the idea that sometimes the world looks like a painting to me — pointillism or abstract expressionism or?

3: the contrast between how a photo captures/stills the image in a way that my eyes never can

A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it's all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.
8 nov 2023

original description: A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it’s all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.

5 nouns/ 5 adjectives/ 5 verbs

nouns: river, water, shore, trees, sky, branches, a bend, surface
adjectives: winding, scraggly, soft, fuzzy, drab, dark, light, gray, wide, flat, contrast, wide
verb: stretching, reaching, standing, stilled, separated, cutting through,\

one sentence about the most important thing in image: The sky and the river are the same color; only the disruption of trees enables me to distinguish between them.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: Everything gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees.

a third sentence about the third most important thing: In this soft, wide open view, when everything is stilled, silent, nothing is happening.

The nothing that’s happening in this image is full of meaning. Here nothing = no things are doing anything/ nothing to see; nothing = a void, absence, unknowingness; nothing = a rest for my eyes, no movement, everything still, satisfied, stable.

The idea of no separation, no edges or divisions between forms, reminds me of a wonderful poem that I thought I’d posted already, but hadn’t. I think when I first encountered it a few years ago, it didn’t resonate for me. Now, I want to call out, yes!, with almost every line.

Monet Refuses the Operation/ Lisel Muller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

feb 17/CORE

Too cold for Scott (and me, too — the lack of cold this winter has un-conditioned me to the cold) today. Or maybe it’s more the wind? We will do our weekly run tomorrow. Today, more core. I did the Madfit 30 minute all body workout again. Tried the reverse lunges, and they weren’t as bad for my knees as I thought…until they were, at the end. Now, having finished, my lower back hurts a bit on the left side. Should I be worried?

something future Sara might like to know: Today for the first time in decades a world cup cross-country ski race is happening at Theodore Wirth Park. Until we got about 1/2 foot of snow last week, I wondered how it could happen. But it did snow, and today it happened. Very cool.

How I See

Yesterday in my description of my image I wrote the following:

one sentence about the most important thing in image: This cluttered view of bare trunks and thin branches creates a screen between runner (me) and river and resembles what I sometimes see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view obscured by something in the way, that I can’t move, that keeps the real (focused, clear, open) view just out of reach.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: The image is only of swirling forms — tree, leaf, river — as my eye struggles (and fails) to land on solid lines, instead bouncing from branch to trunk to leafy floor to river to sky to branch again. (This cramped, thickly tangled space overwhelms my eyes and my brain.)

Rereading these sentences, I’m realizing that the first one is a bit misleading. My view is not obscured by a fog or haze, like some veil is covering/concealing the river. My view is obscured because of what I write in sentence 2: images don’t have solid shape, clear and defined lines. They’re constantly moving, buzzing, vibrating.

The idea of cloudy, foggy vision is more associated with cataracts:

from Cataracts/ Linda Pastan

Like frosted glass, 
you blur the hard edges
of the cruel world. 

Like summer fog, you obscure
the worse even an ocean can do.

Frosted glass, a blur, summer fog.

from Ekphrasis as Eye Test/Jane Zwart

But usually the picture dims proportionally, cataracts
stirring gray into haystacks and ground and dust-ruffle
sky. Maybe you will finally understand Monet, his play
in thirty acts, his slow lowering of the lights in Giverny.
At last there is nothing left to squint against.

Wow, the more I return to this poem, the more I love it, and relate to it.

After realizing that fog or smoke or haze or gray mist isn’t what happens to me and my vision, I wrote a few notes:

The something that is in the way is not some cloud or obstruction — no fog or haze — but something that refuses to come into focus — bouncing around from object to object, television static — not fuzz but fizz — everything shaking wobbling lines wavering such small movements it’s difficult to detect, shimmering simmering — what is that effect when you see the heat on the road? look that up* — like most things with my vision, it’s not obvious or direct. I don’t look and see wavy lines, I feel wavy lines, a restless unsettling not fixed an unhinging coming undone vibrations pulsing throbbing crowded cramped moving always, slightly shaken, a constant stirring

*best answers: heat haze or heat shimmer

I like a lot of these lines. Right now, I especially like: not fuzz but fizz. Constant movement is key to my dying vision — I think it’s exhausting me and making me even more restless. Is my brain constantly trying to make sense of these images? or are the moving images just making me feel unsettled most of the time? How does my sense of moving images feel different than people with nystagmus (“An involuntary eye movement which may cause the eye to rapidly move from side to side, up and down, or in a circle, and may slightly blur vision.” — wikipedia). One of my favorite poets, Lorine Niedecker suffered from nystagmus. Interesting — if I’m reading my source correctly, nystagmus is not a vision problem, but a balance one.

Speaking of nystagmus and Niedecker, here’s a source: Nystagmatic Poetics in Lorine Niedecker

feb 11/RUN

5 miles
Veterans’ Home and back
32 degrees

Another weekend run with Scott. Usually we run on Saturdays, but yesterday we were in St. Peter, so we ran today instead. Colder, windier, sunny. Sharp shadows. My favorite shadow: running under the ford bridge, a big shadow crossed over my head. A bird? No, a bike up on the bridge.

We talked about ones and zeroes and the differences between null, zero, and false in coding. I mentioned how when it gets to the brain, seeing is about signals firing and not firing. Then we talked about a recent controversy with Margaret Livingstone’s research on animals, which led us to a discussion about scientific experiments as material practices, the ethical dilemma of using knowledge gained from unethical experiments, and then a mention of Newton’s experiments on himself — shoving something in his eye to learn about color. Some fun discussions!

I forgot to notice the falls or look down the river, I recall seeing someone in yellow running on the Winchell Trail. I smelled the smoke near the house that always smells like smoke. I heard a dog’s collar clanging behind us. Felt the cold wind almost taking my breath away.

before the run

Started rewatching Margaret Livingstone’s lecture about artists and vision. Also found her book, Vision and Art — the “read sample” is helpful here.

Near the beginning of the video, Livingstone emphasizes this idea: “Visual information processing is not image transmission.” She adds: you don’t transmit information up to your brain because there’s nobody up there to look. In her book, she elaborates on this idea, giving it a name: the homunculas fallacy — homunculas means “little man.” The fallacy: some little man is up in your brain “looking” at the image. I love this name and the idea of a little man; I’d like to put it in a poem!

feb 8/RUN

5.3 miles
ford loop
47 degrees

Hooray for feeling strong and happy and unbothered by the wind! A good run, even though it feels strange with no snow. Scott told me it’s 5 degrees warmer here in Minneapolis than it is where we used to live in Upland, California. Wow.

Starting last night and lingering through the morning: rain. Not snow, but rain. Everything was wet and muddy and slippery. At the end of my run I noticed that I had specks of mud on my shirt — how did that happen?

Around mile 3, as I ran straight into the wind, a biker approached from behind. I heard her call out Fast! I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said, there’s a lot of wind! She agreed. Later I encountered the biker on the ford bridge — she was walking her bike while I was still running — There’s goes that fast runner! I waved and smiled. I did a lot of smiling at every person I encountered.

a strange winter sight: roller skiers, one of them wearing shorts!

Talked with Dave, the Daily Walker about how I’m missing the snow. He agreed, but only when it’s windy and there’s lots of snow and no one else out on the trail. Then it’s fun, he said. His version of fun is one reason why I like Dave so much.

Took 2 pictures of my view. Both are just south of the double bridge and the Horace W.S. Cleveland Overlook. Here’s one of them:

My view from above the gorge: bare limbed trees, all trunk and thin branches. A few trunks are thick -- like the one near the center of the image or the one leaning on the left side -- but most are thin, creating a transparent screen between runner (me) and river. The ground, in the bottom third of the picture, is mostly dead, curled-up brown leaves.
My view from above the gorge: bare limbed trees, all trunk and thin branches. A few trunks are thick — like the one near the center of the image or the one leaning on the left side — but most are thin, creating a transparent screen between runner (me) and river. The ground, in the bottom third of the picture, is mostly dead, curled-up brown leaves. Sometimes, this is what I see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view slightly obscured by something in the way — dead cone cells, I think — creating fuzz or static or a slight pulsing or wavering of lines. Also, if this picture were in black and white I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Often I have to ask Scott: is this in color or black and white?

peripheral: how I see

before the run

Before my run, while I was reviewing my Oct 2023 log entries and encountering several of my “how I see” photos, it came to me: this should be the new version of my vision poems. I want to study the ekphrasis form (An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning — def). Then I want to write a series of “how I see” poem/descriptions. These will be about experimenting with the form and exploring ways to describe how I see. I wrote in my notes: not about what I can’t see, but what I can. I’m also interested in experimenting with the idea of alt-text as form — I have a few sources for this. I’ll read some Georgina Kleege and her latest book, More Than Meets the Eye. These poems will be practical — describing the literal way I see — but also poetic — strange, unsettling, more than a report.

I’m thinking that these poems would involve describing what I see in the photo and what I saw when I was taking the photo. Also, they’re as much about HOW I see (the mechanics/process) as WHAT I see. I love this idea; I hope it sticks!

some sources:

during the run

While I ran lots of different thoughts flashed. First I thought about Marie Howe and the idea of observing and not looking away. Describing what you see with details not metaphors. Then I thought about how “looking” works for me, how it’s harder because of what I can and can’t see. How much can any of us (no matter where we are on the spectrum of seeing/blind) actually see? Then I started thinking about Huidobro’s poem, “Natural Forces” and all of the different glances he describes — One glance to shoot down the albatross. What do my different glances see?

right after the run

During my walk back home, I thought more about how I see (and spoke those thoughts into my phone). I was reminded of Robin Wall Kimmerer and her chapter, “Learning to See” in Becoming Moss. It’s about how we can learn to see the small things — like moss — that were invisible to us before.

I also thought about how I’m interested in the process we use to see and how that shapes what we see and how it enhances or detracts from our ability to behold/witness. Yes! This connects back to Ross Gay and beholding, which I discussed on here a few years ago.

I’m interested in how we sense without seeing, or how we see with our other senses (like sound). And I’m interested in thinking about how vision isn’t the primary mode in which we understand and make sense of things. It is only one of many ways, not THE way.


The verbal representation of visual representation.

Basically, an ekphrasis is a literary description of art. Like other kinds of imagery, ekphrasis paints a picture with words. What makes it different from something like pictorialism is that the picture it paints is itself a picture: ekphrasis stages an encounter between representations in two mediums, one visual and one verbal.

What is Ekphrasis?

key feature of an exphrasis poem: it engages with an artistic representation — does this fit for my project? I think so, especially if I make the taking of the photo as part of the description.

Another helpful definition of Ekphrasis from Poets.org:

Ekphrasis is the use of vivid language to describe or respond to a work of visual art.


The purpose of ekphrasis was to describe a thing with such detail that the reader could envision it as if it were present. 

I’m interested in using language to help others experience how/what I see.

jan 23/RUN

4.1 miles
minnhehaha falls
31 degrees / 50+% thin, slippery ice
wintery mix

Stepped outside and felt the sidewalk — at first, it seemed fine, but at the end of the block I realized a lot of it was covered in an invisible sheen of ice. Oh well, too late to turn back. It was never really a problem, although it was pretty slick on the cobblestones at the falls. But I didn’t fall; barely even slipped! Waved a greeting to Santa Claus, heard the kids at the playground, noticed 2 people hiking below under the falls. I watched them step over the rope blocking off the trail.

Stopped at my favorite spot to put in a playlist. Before I started running again on the ice, I took this short footage of the falls:

the falls falling between 2 columns of ice / 23 jan 2024

10 Things Not Seen

  1. the thin layer of ice on the sidewalk and the path
  2. the exact temperature, but I knew it was warm because of how energetic the kids on the playground were
  3. a runner, approaching. I thought I had seen a biker so I was looking for them, meanwhile a runner was approaching me and I had no idea. Saw him a couple seconds before I might have run into him
  4. open water — the river is iced over
  5. the light rail, but I heard its bell as I ran through the park
  6. my shadow — too gloomy and gray
  7. light rain falling — barely felt it either
  8. no fat tires or Daily Walkers or bright blue running tights
  9. the woodpecker knocking on dead wood in the gorge
  10. my breath — too warm today for that!

before the run

I was just about to write that I’ve moved on from windows — my January challenge — to assays and not seing but in midst of thinking it I conjured a new version of windows that I’d like to ruminate on for a moment: a window opening. I like the slight difference that exists between an open window and a window opening. An open window is already open, but a window opening captures the moment when the air first enters and new understandings arrive.

Side note: Suddenly while writing this, I remembered a mention of windows that is almost entirely unrelated to the last paragraph except for it involves windows and not knowing how to open them. I just finished the gothic horror novel. A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else reading this, but near the end some monstrous creatures are attempting to open a window but they don’t know how. If they did, it would be the end for the main character and her companions. I’ve already returned the book (bummer) or I’d post the actual description here of the strong creatures flailing and not understanding the concept of a window — it’s gross and disturbing and compelling and not recommended when you’re eating lunch (which I was).

I’m about to go out for a run. I’ll try to think about opening windows or windows opening.

during the run

I imagined I might have a few moments where something I noticed felt like a window opening. I didn’t. About a mile in, I decided to do triple beat chants with the word: op en ing/ op en ing — then, op en ing/wel com ing/ won der ing. Thought about the openness of opening versus the confinement of closed, or even closing. After chanting opening for a few minutes, I remember lifting out of my hips and leading with my chest — an opening of my body.

after the run

Walking back after I finished my run, I listened to The Woman in the Window. I heard this and it got me thinking:

“And what’s going with the rest of the block?”

I realize I have no idea. The Takedas, the Millers, even the Wassermen–they haven’t so much as pinged my radar this last week. A curtain has fallen on the street; the homes across the road are veiled, vanished; all that exists are my house and the Russells’ house and the park between us.

Not seeing: being so preoccupied/obsessed with something that everything else doesn’t exist.

Then the narrator continued and I thought some more:

I wonder what’s become of Rita’s contractor. I wonder which book Mrs. Gray has selected for her reading group. I used to log their every activity, my neighbors, used to chronicle each entrance and exit. I’ve got whole chapters of their lives stored on my memory card.

Before the run I had been thinking about what it means to not see. I’d also been thinking about what it means for me to see. I might turn both “Not Seeing” and “Seeing” into poems and submit them to Couplet Poetry for their submissions window next month. Anyway, listening to the first bit from The Woman in the Window, I suddenly thought about how an obsession, being preoccupied with something, like whether a neighbor has been murdered, makes one myopic. And then listening to the second bit, I thought about the new way I see by making note of everything, slowly, habitually noticing all the small, seemingly unimportant and peripheral moments. This is how I see now: moment on moment on moment.

Here’s a poem by Jane Hirshfield. It’s in her “assay” form, which I’ve been studying for the past few days. As I understand it, an assay explores, imagines, tries out different meanings of a word or a concept. Is this an assay about “moment” or am I’m misunderstanding the poem?

Assay Only Glimpsable for an Instant/ Jane Hirshfield

Moment. Moment. Moment.

–equal inside you, moment,
the velocitous mountains and cities rising and falling,
songs of children, iridescence even of beetles.

It is not you the locust can strip of all leaf.

Untouchable green at the center,
the wolf too lopes past you and through you as he eats.

Insult to mourn you, you who mourn no one, unable.

Without transformation,
yours the role of the chorus, to whom nothing happens.
The living step forward: choosing to enter, to lose.

I who am made of you only
speak these words against your unmasterable instruction–

A knife cannot cut itself open,
yet you ask me both to be you and know you.

jan 22/RUN

5.8 miles
the flats and back
26 degrees

(added a few hours later): I almost forgot to mention that this entry is my 2000th post. Not every single one of these entries is about a run, but most of them are. Wow. When I started this project to document marathon training in 2017, I had no idea where it might lead! So happy I’m still here writing and running and noticing!

Hooray for warm (but not too warm) mornings and clear paths and flying geese and frozen rivers and runners in electric blue running tights and frozen seeps and weeping springs and brief visits from shadows and squirrels that don’t dart and not slipping on the few spots where there was snow and chirping birds and laughing woodpeckers and clicking blue jay jaws and running down hills then walking back up them and winter playlists and legs and lungs and hearts that work!

A good run. Before the run, I had a brief wave of anxiety — not for any reason. It just came on all of a sudden — feeling strange, tingly, finding it a littler harder to breathe. Peri-menopause and messed-up hormones, I’ve decided. Running helped, partly because moving always helps and partly because I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to run at a 9:30 pace for so long if something was really wrong with me.

I wasn’t sure how far I’d run this morning, but when I got to the bottom of the franklin hill I had an idea: run until you reach a frozen seep. So I did, which made my run a little longer than usual. What a seep! And falling water from a spring. I thought about crossing the road to get closer to the seep, but there’s no curb and the road isn’t that wide and cars drive faster here then they should, so I didn’t. Instead I took some video from the edge of the trail and then I stood still and marveled at the falling and frozen water, and then the height of the bluff.

frozen seep / weeping spring / 22 jan 2024

After the seep, I ran again until I reached the bottom of the franklin hill, then walked up while I recited ideas for a new poem about the idea of not-seeing. One connection to windows: not seeing a window (or glass) and bumping into it. I’ve read several poems that feature birds who run right into the glass and are dazed. Are there any poems about people? I suppose people mostly (always?) run into glass doors not windows. I’ve done it at least once, while I was studying abroad in Japan. The worst thing about running into glass is the grease smudge your face leaves on the glass. It just stays there, staring at you, embarrassing you — not just because it’s evidence that you ran into the glass, but that your face is greasy.

I’m wondering now: what are the most embarrassing things to not see?

Here’s a poem I found from poem-of-the-day that I’d like to remember.

Arequipa/ Ben Okri

Leaves that fall.
Ought to breed
Fire from stone.
The world counts
On our fall.
Our solitude interests
The butterflies
And the lost gold
Of the afternoons.

Ochre and blue walls
And the fading peaks
Of volcanoes
And the sunlight
Plummeting beyond
The hills waken
Leaves to their
Lost trees.

To discover
You still have
A world
To make
At sunset
The stones.

Love the brevity of this poem and the double-meaning of the first line: leaves from that fall and leaves that fall down. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru (south of Lima, slightly inland — 100km from the coast).

jan 12/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 3.5 miles
river road, south/north
9 degrees / feels like -5
wind: 13 mph/ 24 mph gusts

Sometimes running when it’s this cold isn’t that difficult, especially when there’s sun and no wind. Today there was no sun* and plenty of wind and it was hard. Not all of the time, but often.

But who cares when the river looks like it does today?! Half covered in ice, mostly gray and brown, open and vast.

And who wouldn’t want to be out here when the geese are flying overhead, their honks swirling around all of us below, sounding mournful and harsh and wild?

And who isn’t grateful to have an almost empty trail — no thoughts or distractions, only a few other people, and most of them below on the lower path?

*I guess there was some sun, but it was hidden behind the clouds. The only time I noticed it was when I was running north up a hill straight into the wind — I saw the faintest trace of my shadow. Hello friend! If I wasn’t paying attention or if I hadn’t trusted what I saw, I might not have noticed her.

Listened to the cold as I ran south — what does the cold sound like? jagged breaths, sharp sounds suspended, silence. Listened to my Window playlist running back north.

Windows can certainly change lives in all sorts of ways. “Faith goes out through the window when beauty comes in at the door,” quips the English philosopher George Edward Moore. “Well,” says Julie Andrews, not yet breaking into song, but you never know, as she gazes out onto those hills alive with something, “when one door closes, another window opens.” She’s opened us onto the window of film, so how best to set the scene? “An actor entering through the door, you’ve got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you’ve got a situation.” says Billy Wilder.

Pleasure and Pane: songs about windows

This article offered a lot of great suggestions for window songs to add to my playlist, which is now over an hour.

window playlist

  1. Window/Fiona Apple
  2. Window/Genesis
  3. Smokin’ Out the Window/Silk Sonic
  4. Keep Passing the Open Window/Queen
  5. Lookin’ Through the Windows/Jackson 5
  6. I Threw a Brick Through a Window/U2
  7. When I’m Cleaning Windows/George Formby
  8. Skyscraper/Demi Lovato
  9. At My Window Say and Lonely/Billy Bragg & Wilco
  10. My Own Worst Enemy/Lit
  11. Junk/Paul McCartney
  12. In a Glass House/Gentle Giant
  13. Belly Button Window/Jimmy Hendrix
  14. Look Through Any Window/The Hollies
  15. The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)/Missy Elliott
  16. One Way Out/Sonny Boy Williams
  17. Silhouettes/The Rays
  18. The Glass/Foo Fighters
  19. Tip Toe Thru’ the Tulips/Annette Hanshaw
  20. Waving Through a Window/Dear Evan Hanson
  21. Open a New Window/Mame
  22. Open Your Window/Ella Fitzgerald
  23. Fly Through My Window/Pete Seeger

Today I put the playlist on shuffle and heard: 3, 5, 10, 16, 2, 9

an hour later: Not for the first time, I’m starting to read an article about Emily Dickinson’s windows. It’s really good, but dense, so I’ve always put it off. Will I get through it today? Maybe. Anyway, I started reading it, and encountered a map of Amherst with a note: The Dickinson house is circled in red.

an old black and white image (lithograph?) of Amherst, with Emily Dickinson's house circled in red. The only way I'm able to see the circle is if I put the computer screen up to my face and look at it through my peripheral vision.
Amherst, 1886

Can you easily see the red circle? I can’t. The only way I am able to see it is if I put my face up right against the screen and look at it through the side of my eye. Only then do I see a trace of red — the idea of red. Once I see (or feel?) the red, I can see a faint circle and I can tell that it’s red, but it’s not RED! but red?

The other day, Scott, FWA, and I were discussing the scenes in Better Call Saul that are set in the present day and are in black and white. Scott and FWA both agreed that those were harder to watch — they had to pay more careful attention — because they lacked color, which is harder because visual stories often rely heavily on color to communicate ideas/details. I said I didn’t realize that they were in black and white; they didn’t look any different to me than the other scenes, which are in vivid color (at least that’s what they tell me). I realized something: it’s not that I don’t see color, it just doesn’t communicate anything to me, or if it communicates it’s so quiet that I don’t notice what it’s saying.

Back to the image with the red circle. The main point of the image is to enable you to quickly and easily see where the Dickinson home is located in the town. If I hadn’t read the text below it, I never would have known there was a circle, and the main point of the image would be lost on me. This happens a lot. Things that are obvious to most people, aren’t to me. More than that, they don’t exist. Of course it’s very frustrating and difficult, but it’s also fascinating to recognize this, and helpful to understand it.