dec 1/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

Back to the pool. Hooray! Swam a lot of loops — 99 laps — while breathing every 3, then 4, 5, then 6. Worked on breathing on my weaker side (left) when breathing every 4. Decided not to count, just swam until Scott entered the pool area and stood at the top of my lane. Not very crowded today. A guy in swim trunks to my right, swimming a lot of side stroke. It was fun to watch the wide sweep of his hands as he moved through the water on his side. Empty to my left, then Miss Luna arrived. Almost positive it was Miss Luna — the regular swimmer who swims with fins and paddles and does butterfly, and wears a pale green suit, with pale blue too, that makes me think vaguely of a luna moth. She wasn’t in pale green with blue today, but a similar suit. Same strong stroke, same fins.

They must have added chlorine since my last swim. Much clearer, sharper too. The blue of the tiles on the bottom that make the lines dividing the sides of the lane were a vivid blue instead of almost looking navy or black. Speaking of color, kept seeing yellow and orange when I lifted my head.

Felt strong and happy and buoyant, riding the surface, smoothly powering through the water. At some point, I started thinking about my color poems. I’ve written one about yellow, another about color in general. Before swimming, I started one about gray. Almost everything is gray or seems gray or leads to gray. Other colors are only pops, flashes, suggestions. I thought about making the poem mostly variations on the phrase, a gray day, or singing a song of gray, or gray area, or grayed out. Then I thought about having the poem visually mimic how I often see color. It’s frequently a flat or hazy gray until suddenly, to the side, a slash or pop of color appears, like orange or red. So, most of the words are gray, gray day, gray dreams, sing a song of gray, then off to the side, “orange” appears. Could this work? I’ll give it a try!

december challenge

I’m not sure what my challenge for this month will be. I’m in the thick of working on these color poems and prepping for my finding wonder in the winter writing class in late January (so excited to teach this one!). Should it be about orange? Or the poet that just wrote a collection partly about her degenerative eye disease — Julia B. Levine — titled, Ordinary Psalms? Or joy, inspired by recently purchasing Ross Gay’s Inciting Joy and my desire to explore what gray joy could be? I’ll give it another day, but I’m leaning towards Gay and joy. In the meantime, here’s one of Levine’s psalms from Ordinary Psalms:

Psalm with Near Blindness/ Julia B. Levine

i. 
The world mostly gone, I make it what I want: 
from the balcony, the morning a silver robe of mist.

I make a reckless blessing of it—the flaming, 
flowering spurge of the world, the wind 

the birds stir up as they flock and sing. 
Edges yes, the green lift and fall of live oaks,

something metal wheeling past, 
and yet for every detail alive and embodied— 

the horses with their tails switching back and forth, 
daylilies parting their lobes to heat— 

I cannot stop asking, Sparrow or wren? Oak
or elm? Because it matters 

if the gray fox curled in sleep 
is a patch of dark along the fence line,

or if the bush hung with fish kites 
is actually a wisteria in flower. Though 

even before my retinas bled and scarred 
and bled again, I wanted everything 

different, better. And then this afternoon, 
out walking the meadow together,

my husband bent to pick a bleeding heart.
Held it close as I needed 

to see its delicate lanterns, 
the shaken light. 

ii. 
Deer, he says, our car stopped in traffic. 
And since I can’t see them, I ask, Where?

Between the oaks, he answers,
and since I can’t see the between,
                                                                I ask, In the dappling?                        
He takes my hand and points 
to the darkest stutter in the branches 
                                                                and I see a shadow 

in the sight line of his hand, his arm, 
his blue shirt with its clean scent of laundry, 

my hand shading my eyes from glare. 
There! he says, and I can see 
                                                              the dark flash of them 
                                                              leaping over a fence (or is it reeds?), 

                                                              one a buck with his bony crown, 
                                                         and one a doe, and one smaller, a fawn,

but by then it seems they’ve disappeared 
and so I ask, Gone?
and he nods. 

We’re moving again,

                                                               and so I let the inner become outer 

                                                               become pasture and Douglas firs 
                                                               with large herds of deer, elk, even bison, 

                                                               and just beyond view, a mountain lion 

auburn red, like the one we saw years before, 
hidden behind a grove of live oaks, 

                                                                                        listening.

Oh, I am so excited to find this poem and the brilliant work of this poet! I can relate to so many of her words! The silver mist of the morning, the edges mostly gone, the emphasis on movement, her husband helping her to see, the inner becoming outer. Some differences too (probably partly because I imagine my vision isn’t quite as bad as hers): I don’t think the world is gone, more shifted, italicized, transformed. And I don’t need to know exactly what type of tree I’m seeing. I’d like to be able to tell the difference between a deer or a bush — sometimes I can’t — but the fine details matter less.

My thoughts on this last bit, about seeing exactly what’s there, are partly inspired by Levine’s response in an interview about the psalm. She says:

As I worked on it, this poem felt to me like a meditation on one particular dilemma of near blindness: that is, in the absence of a clear visual image, how the mind fills in, and what relationship this kind of seeing” has to spiritual notions of “vision” as opposed to a medical/anatomical definition of “sight.”

To explain further, there are some absences of visual perception that I actually like: I don’t see how dirty my house is, or whether or not my clothes are covered in blonde dog hair, and my friends and family all look very beautiful to me since I cannot see their wrinkles or whatever else might be considered “flaws.”

But I have loved the natural world since I was a small child and it is my inability to see it accurately that pains me. So, in the poem, I am interested in both how tounderstand what I do “see” as a amalgam of my own mind and memory, plus the relational construction that primarily my husband lends to me, and finally, what I can actually perceive. The result of this perceptual construction can sometimes feel like an important “truth” as opposed to visual fact.

I have loved the natural world since I was a small child and it is my inability to see it accurately that pains me.

Interview with Julia B. Levine

I love the natural world, but I’ve never needed to see it accurately in the ways that Levine seems to be invoking. I’m not interested in critiquing her perspective, but in positioning mine in relation to it. Also, I’d like to understand more of what she means by accurate. The more I (attempt to) study how vision and sight work, the more I’m fascinated by how much guesswork it involves for everyone, even “normally” sighted people. The brain filters, guesses, fills in. What does it mean to see nature accurately? Also, what about other senses? Can they enable us to access parts of nature that our limited/biased vision can’t? Losing some sight and the ability to easily, and more quickly, with much more detail, sucks, and I struggle with it. But I’m also interested in ways of knowing/understanding/recognizing/becoming familiar with beyond central vision and fine detail. I ave a different project than Levine, but I deeply appreciate her words.

nov 29/WALKBIKERUNSHOVEL

a walk with Delia
longfellow neighborhood
27 degrees / snow
100% snow-covered

Took Delia the dog for a walk around 2 blocks. She needed the exercise, I wanted the fresh air and to see the conditions of the sidewalk. Too much snow. If I hadn’t tweaked by foot on uneven snow a few weeks ago, I’d be more willing to risk it and go for a run by the gorge, but not today. Everything white and gray. Walking north the snow felt like sharp shards. I breathed deeply. Oh, that cold air! Brittle, abrasive, cleaning me out. Taking these breaths in the cold air, walking in the soft silence, or almost silence, are some of my favorite things to do.

…a few hours and 6+ inches of snow later

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand basement
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Lots of unshoveled/unplowed snow and uneven ground outside. Watched a running race while I biked, listened to a “Taylor Swift fitness” playlist while I ran. In between, I listened to 2 versions of another colorblind plate poem. This one is about the various strange ways I see color and how those shift depending on some things I can predict, some I can’t. I’m calling it, “Shifty.”

shovel: 32 minutes
deck, front sidewalk

The snow has stopped. I’m not the greatest at guessing, but I’d say there’s at least 6 inches. Okay, I had to do some digging (excuse the pun), but I found a snow total for St. Thomas, which is about a mile from my house. 7.5 inches. Yikes. That snow was no joke to shovel. Almost too much. Listened to Mexican Gothic and got to the part, almost 8 hours in, where the big secret of the evil house is revealed. Surprising and interesting and gross too — I won’t spoil it for anyone who might be reading this and hasn’t read the book.

Today’s song of gray

I can’t quite remember what it was now, but something made me think of gray air and breath. Searched for “gray breath” on Poetry Foundation and found this poem. This past summer, I watched a lecture from Aimee Nezhukumatathil in which she began with this poem:

First Grade/ Ron Koertge

Until then, every forest
had wolves in it, we thought
it would be fun to wear snowshoes
all the time, and we could talk to water.

So who is this woman with the gray
breath calling out names and pointing
to the little desks we will occupy
for the rest of our lives?

Earlier today, I had another poem I was thinking of posting as today’s song of gray — granite. I’ve decided to post it too because of the wolf and snow connection:

nunatak/ Jane Lovell

a stone ridge exposed by wind,
a lip of stone curled at the glaucous wind,
its harrying across blown snow;
a skyline ridge, blade-and-socket spine
of something fossilised, claws sunk
in the hidden world below;
a ridge of stone, a pebbled egg
abandoned in its cleft, the embryo
a shock of livid skin in frozen oils;
a granite ridge, its icebound edge
orbited by tracks of lupine shadow
swerving out across the void.

nov 27/RUN

3.4 miles
trestle turn around
32 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Sunny and calm and not too cold. Clear trails, no big groups of runners. No fat tires or roller skiers either. Exchanged greetings with Mr. Morning! Remembered to look at the river. It was open and blue. At one spot, it shimmered. I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989, then Reputation instead of the gorge.

Before my run, I fit the draft I did of my yellow poem into the colorblind plate form. I think it works pretty well.

yellow, plate 2

I haven’t come up with the single word hidden in the colorblind plate yet.

I’m nearing the end of my month of singing a song of gray. Here’s a gray poem about tombstones and spirits by Edgar Allen Poe:

Spirits of the Dead/ Edgar Allen Poe

I

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone—
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

   II 

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.

   III 

The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

   IV 

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drop from the grass.

   V 

The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Speaking of gray and Poe, I encountered this line from his short story Eleonora:

They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. 

Eleonora/ Edgar Allen Poe

nov 26/RUN

5.6 miles
fairview loop
42 degrees

A little warmer today so I wore the late fall, early winter layers: black tights, black sorts, long-sleeved green shirt, orange sweatshirt, black and white polka dot baseball cap. Sunny, quiet. Almost all of the trail and sidewalks were completely clear. Only a few spots of ice on the Marshall hill just before reaching Cretin. Managed to get greens at all of the stoplights climbing the marshall hill– no quick breaks for me. Had to stop at the two on Summit.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. heard the bells at St. Thomas at both 10 and 10:15
  2. was dazzled by the light burning bright off the river
  3. felt the wind pushing me from the side as I crossed the bridge
  4. the strong smell of bacon or ham as I neared longfellow grill
  5. a few stretches of ice on marshall, some patches of wet sidewalk that looked like ice but was only a trick of the light
  6. a bus stopped, a few passengers getting out
  7. statues at the end of the walk of fancy houses on Summit: pineapples, lions
  8. a kid’s voice somewhere below in the ravine leading to shadow falls
  9. a runner stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the river as it shimmered with a wide swath of bright light
  10. a woman and a dog carefully making their way under the chain closing off the old stone steps

Climbing the short hill that starts at the Monument and ends at an entrance to Shadow Falls, I suddenly had a thought about yellow that made me stop and pull out my phone to record it:

Thinking about colors and yellow and then I was thinking about how sometimes it used to be this warning, this shout, like watch out, be careful and now it’s become more of a whisper or a soft cry or more hushed and it’s increasingly getting that way so colors are more muted and muffled… [the other voices in the recording are 2 bikers and 2 then 2 runners].

yellow/ 26 nov 2022

Not sure what happened with the recording here, but I remember saying more about how distant yellow seems now. I never see it as bright, but faded, from the past, or through the gauzy veil of my damaged cones. Sometimes only the association with objects. I might not see that something is yellow but I know that it is because I know safety vests or crosswalk signs or the middle light on a stoplight are yellow. Orange works differently for me. It’s not faded, but it often only appears as a blip or flash or slash or flare in my peripheral vision. Again, yellow offers a soft, constant glow. I was also thinking about Van Gogh and his idea that every color is ultimately a variation of gray.

excerpt from Yellow Lullaby/ Leontia Flynn

A spill of sunlight and a yellow dress.
A yolk.
A yellow flower.                                                
A candle flame.
A moth-light, moon-like,
in the nursery’s darkness . . .

nov 22/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
27 degrees

Warmer this morning. Hardly any ice or snow on the path. My foot is only slightly sore at the end, but otherwise okay. Sunny and bright. A blue sky. As I reached the river at the beginning of my run I heard then saw a lone goose. Thought about color, especially yellow and gray. Listened to my breathing. Focused on taking deep breaths in through my nose, out through my mouth. Was good morninged by Mr. Morning! He called out from across the trail, Good morning! and I called back.

10 Colors I Noticed

  1. the yellow dotted lines on the bike trail
  2. the orange spray paint around the cracks that need to be replaced
  3. a pale blue sky
  4. a dark blue trash can
  5. the dark gray pavement that seemed to have a hint of blue
  6. the silver river — or was it white gold? through the trees, the river burned a bright white
  7. beige or sepia-toned ice on the river
  8. the grayish-dark brown of the bare trees
  9. the slab of white snow decorating one side of the ancient boulder
  10. the dark greenish-gray of a fir tree

In other color news: an essay I wrote 5 years ago popped into my head while I was running — “My Purple Toe” — and I thought about how the toe in it is not purple but lavender gray

Update on my foot: Scott and I had to go pick FWA up from Gustavus, so I’m writing the rest of this later in the day. A few hours in the car, not moving much, my foot felt stiff and sore again. I walked around a bit and it felt okay. I asked Scott if that’s what happens with his foot and he said yes. Does this mean I have plantar fasciitis? I hope not!

Today’s gray theme: more on the color gray

[Here on this edge I have had many diminutive visions.]/ Diane Seuss

Here on this edge I have had many diminutive visions. That all at its essence is dove-gray.
Wipe the lipstick off the mouth of anything and there you will find dove-gray. With my
thumb I have smudged away the sky’s blue and the water’s blue and found, when I kicked it
with my shoe, even the sand at its essence is pelican-gray. I am remembering Eden.
How everything swaggered with color. How the hollyhocks finished each other’s sentences.
How I missed predatory animals and worrying about being eaten. How I missed being eaten.
How the ocean and the continent are essentially love on a terrible mission to meet up with itself.
How even with the surface roiling, the depths are calmly nursing away at love. That look the late
nurser gets in its eyes as it sucks: a habitual, complacent peace. How to mother that peace, to wean
it, is a terrible career. And to smudge beauty is to discover ugliness. And to smudge ugliness is to be
knocked back by splendor. How every apple is the poison apple. How rosy the skin. How sweet
the flesh. How to suck the apple’s poison is the one true meal, the invocation and the Last
Supper. How stillness nests at the base of wind’s spine. How even gravestones buckle and swell
with the tides. And coffins are little wayward ships making their way toward love’s other shore.

nov 21/SWIM

1.5 miles (2700 yards / 108 laps)
ywca pool

Very glad to be able to swim this morning. My foot, which has been sore the past few days, feels much better today. Swimming instead of running will help even more. I swam my usual continuous 200s. Decided not to count the laps and just keep swimming until Scott came to the pool and stopped at the end of my lane. A few workouts ago, I asked him to stop at the end of my lane instead of going straight over to the hot tub to wait for me to be finished. I explained that it’s hard for me to recognize him — I might not be able to do it. Now I don’t have to worry. It’s not hard for me to see a person with bright orange shorts at the end of my lane. Just another strategy for dealing with not being able to see that well.

10 Things I Noticed While Swimming

  1. a few more things on the ground, at least one stringy thing floating in the matter — I was in a different lane, so that might it explain why there were more things. It could also be that it’s time for them to clean the pool again
  2. no chlorine stings
  3. crowded — most lanes had 2 people
  4. the woman sharing the lane with me was a great swimmer. I liked watching her freestyle as I approached her, and the way she shot off the wall
  5. 2 Regulars — Mr. Speedo, the older white man who is lanky and probably has been swimming for 1/2 a century, and who wears a dark speedo and the oldish white woman in the pale blue and green suit who sometimes wears fins or booties on her feet, mitts on her hands. Today, after about 30 minutes in the water, she started swimming butterfly. It might be a stretch, but I think I’ll call her Miss Luna after the luna moth which is pale green — this luna moth is not a butterfly, but people often mistake it for one
  6. predominant color I noticed again: orange. I think a lot of the orange I see are the small sandwich board signs that are orange and read, caution wet floor, or someting like that
  7. looking straight ahead through the cloudy water, I could just barely see my lane partner approaching. She was in a solid dark suit and was streamlined, making me think of a small shark — surprisingly, this didn’t make me nervous
  8. at one point, Miss Luna and the shark were swimming at the same speed, on either side of me. It was fun speeding through the two of them — like what, a rocket?
  9. one distinctive noise — the squeak of my nose because my nose plug was not on properly
  10. 2 older women in the locker room discussing the big snow storm in upstate New York. 2 things in particular I remember: first, that the football had to be moved somewhere else and two, about how after a big storm there are always tons of pictures on social media of people who are stuck and can’t open their front doors

Today’s gray theme: gray variations

The Nomenclature of Color/ Richard Jones

Absinthe green: Laura’s eyes.
Bishop’s purple: Evening skies.
Cornflower blue: Dreams of the wise.
Dragon’s-blood red: My mother’s dark sighs.
Elephant’s breath: Imagination.
Forget-me-not blue: The dust of cremation.
Guinea green: Ruination.
Hessian brown: The dust of creation.
Iron gray: The paradox of clouds.
Jade green: The bride’s necklace.
Kingfisher blue: Justice and grace.
Lavender gray: A widow’s shroud.
Medici blue: The heart that is jealous.
Nile blue: The color of water.
Onionskin pink: A poem for my daughter.
Pearl gray: The wedding gift.
Quaker drab: The virtue of thrift.
Raw sienna: Dirt we sift.
Seafoam green: The rowboat adrift.
Tyrian rose: Love’s ardor.
Ultramarine blue: Heaven’s color.
Venetian pink: Hell below.
Wedgewood blue: The little we know.
Xanthine orange: The taste of life.
Yvette violet: The lips of my wife.
Zinc orange, zinc blue, zinc white: The colors of houses in paradise.

Iron gray
Lavender gray
Pearl gray

Doing a google search about gray, I found this article with 6 Popular Gray Paint Colors: Agreeable Gray, West Coast Ghost, Seize the Gray, Balboa Mist, Comfort White, and White Metal.

from “ode to gray”

Gray in the wild opens and spills. Put two grays together and you’ll see the color each one hides within, the “endless variations” noted by Van Gogh. I think of the handful of river pebbles I once snuck into my pockets on a day trip to a waterfall: they were dusty gray when I got home, but underwater, each concealed a secret separate life as green or red or blue. So many things that seem gray on the surface have a treasure to unlock—myself, I hope, included.

from To Theo van Gogh (a letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his son)

As regards black in nature, we are of course in complete agreement, as I understand it. Absolute black doesn’t in fact occur.2 Like white, however, it’s present in almost every colour and forms the endless variety of greys — distinct in tone and strength.3 So that in nature one in fact sees nothing but these tones or strengths. 

The 3 fundamental colours are red, yellow, blue. Composite: orange, green, purple.

From these are obtained the endless variations of grey by adding black and some white — red-grey, yellow-grey, blue-grey, green-grey, orange-grey, violet-grey. 

It’s impossible to say how many different green-greys there are for example — the variation is infinite.

But the whole chemistry of colours is no more complicated than those simple few fundamentals. And a good understanding of them is worth more than 70 different shades of paint — given that more than 70 tones and strengths can be made with the 3 primary colours and white and black.4 The colourist is he who on seeing a colour in nature is able to analyze it coolly and say, for example, that green-grey is yellow with black and almost no blue, &c. In short, knowing how to make up the greys of nature on the palette.  

nov 20/RUN

5.6 miles
franklin loop
19 degrees / feels like 9
5% ice and snow covered

Because it was sunny and because there wasn’t much wind and because I had the right number of layers on, today’s run was great. Not too cold. Maybe it helped that I did a 5 minute warm up on the bike in the basement? Very happy to be out there, beside the gorge, breathing in the cold air, and greeting Mr. Morning! and Dave, the Daily Walker.

The arch of left foot hurts a bit. I think I overdid it with the old shoes, the yak trax and the ice clumps on Thursday. I should not run tomorrow. Bummer.

Layers: 2 pairs of black running tights; pale green long sleeved shirt; pink jacket with hood; gray buff; black fleece lined baseball cap; 2 pairs of gloves — pink with white stripes on top, black underneath

Took the pink and white gloves off about 1 1/2 miles in. Pulled down the buff 5 minutes in, pulled off the pink hood at 1 mile. Unzipped and re-zipped my jackets throughout. At the end of the run I wasn’t cold, just soaked with sweat, my pony-tail dripping.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river, 1: running on franklin bridge the river was a clear blueish gray, no ice yet
  2. snow was covering the north face of an ancient boulder on the east side of the river
  3. random goose honks throughout the run, usually a lone goose flying low
  4. the sky was a pale blue, the gorge was giving off a blue-gray hue
  5. the only other colors: brown, white, a runner’s orange jacket, another runner’s pink one
  6. the river, 2: standing above the lake street bridge at my favorite spot on the east side I admired the open river, stretching wide, looking calm
  7. the river, 3: off in the distance the water glowed, burning a silver fire — not white, or any color, just shimmering light
  8. the river, 4: from the lake street bridge the river was studded with ice
  9. a voice on a hill on Edmund: a kid going sledding
  10. ending the run and crossing over to the boulevard the snow crunched in an unusual way. It sounded almost like the crinkle in a dog toy, or like I had some brittle paper stuck on my shoe

I made a recording of the crinkling snow:

crinkling snow / 20 november 2022

Scrolling through twitter, this piece — a prose poem? an essay fragment? — by Mary Ruefle from My Private Property. I might have to buy this book; I’ve posted at least one other essay/poem from it on here already:

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Gray sadness is the sadness of paper clips and rubber bands, of rain and squirrels and chewing gum, ointments and unguents and movie theaters. Gray sadness is the most common of all sadnesses, it is the sadness of sand in the desert and sand on the beach, the sadness of keys in a pocket, cans on a shelf, hair in a comb, dry-cleaning, and raisins. Gray sadness is beautiful, but not to be confused with the beauty of blue sadness, which is irreplaceable. Sad to say, gray sadness is replaceable, it can be replaced daily, it is the sadness of a melting snowman in a snowstorm.

The everydayness of gray sadness, its mundane, real, nothing special-ness, reminds me of a bit from the lyric essay I posted last week, Ode to Gray. Especially this bit:

Look at enough black-and-white photography and color comes to feel like an intrusion. Eggleston’s photos seem too vital to be real, as though depicting an alternate reality. Each image is delirious with hue, spectacular, delicious, but a little bit too much. The eye craves rest—and mystery, the kind of truth that can be searched only in subtlety. Dorothy may tumble, tornadic, into Technicolor, but still she always wishes to go home.

In addition to exploring gray this month, I’m also thinking about color in general, and colors that have been significant for me in this running log, like green. Here is a great green poem I found a few days ago. I haven’t thought of the coming of green as fire and flame before, but it works.

The Enkindled Spring/ D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

nov 18/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2 miles
treadmill, basement
outside: 19 degrees / feels like 6

Stayed inside this morning because of the cold, the wind, the too bright white, and the icy paths. It’s very early in the winter season, and I doubt they’ve treated the trails. Watched a few races while I biked, listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran. The thing I remember most about the run: trying to stop myself from looking at the time to see how long I’ve been running, how much I’ve got left. Also: stared at the reflection of the light in the back window, noticed again how it looks like an upside moon casting light on water above it.

Before deciding on watching some track races, I started “Servant” on Appletv. The opening credits had way too little contrast; I could barely tell there was text on the screen. Then the title appeared in red. I couldn’t read it all. Looking at it paused, when it wasn’t moving and I had more time to stare, I could mostly see it. Red letters on a black background are hard for me to see. I might try watching this show some other time, but it might be too dark. So many of the thriller or mystery or dramatic shows available now are dark or darker or dim, which makes it almost impossible for me to see what’s happening.

color project

I’m continuing to work on my color/colorblind project. I was telling Scott about my writing process the other day and how some poems insist on being written. I’ve tried to drop this color thing, especially with the colorblind plates several times, but it keeps coming back up again and again. I’ll be working on something else, and whatever that something is will end up at color and how I do or don’t see it. It’s wild.

I heard some birdsong just now from behind my shaded window. Sounding like spring. I looked — a bird is doing something near the foundation, just below me. Gathering twigs?

Back to my color project. Yesterday Scott helped me to figure out the template for the second plate that serves as the form for a longer poem that’s related to the color word hidden in Ishihara loops from the first plate. I put some text in it, using part of a free-write I did the other day. The text is rough, with some typos, but it still helps me to get a sense of how this will work. Very cool!

Each of these poems has 772 characters, including spacing and punctuation. Today I want to start gathering bits — descriptions, lines from other poets’ poems, stories, associations with colors, mishaps, etc. — to include in these poems. One early idea: separate poems about colors that are significant to me: orange, yellow, green, brown, and gray.

note: I returned to this entry to fix some typos I missed and I was struck by how off and excessive my commas are. What is that all about? I seem to hear commas and pauses all the time. Am I trying to slow down the words? Force some hesitation?

nov 17/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin hill turn around
26 degrees / feels like 20
light snow / wind: 15 mph gusts
100% snow-covered

Winter! Woke up to another dusting — maybe an inch? — on the ground. Wore my old yak trax, the ones I got 3 or 4 years ago that are worn down, but still work. Mostly I’m glad I did, but several times snow clumped up in the grooves. Was it because of the yak trax, the high water content of the snow, or something else?

My Favorite Things

  1. the feel of snow under my feet — more interesting than boring asphalt
  2. the creaks and crunches of that snow
  3. greeting Mr. Morning! and Dave, the Daily Walker
  4. 3 geese flying west — I heard their harsh honks first, echoing across the gorge, then they appeared, flying low near the trestle
  5. open water, brownish-gray
  6. in the second half of the run, the snow stopped and the sun was trying to pierce through the thick clouds. Everything looked slightly blue — the snow, the sky, the trees
  7. the graceful runner who passed me, their feet bouncing up and down, up and down
  8. in the first half, when it was much darker, the headlights cutting through the dim
  9. running up the Franklin hill — I felt strong and free, untethered
  10. ending at the ancient boulderS after (almost) sprinting up the hill — my winter running tradition

Ishihara colorblind plates as form

Still thinking about my next series of vision poems. A plan seems to be forming. Here’s what I wrote:

A series of colorblind (Ishihara) plates describing how I see and don’t see color and what that means for how I move through the world. 

The actual series of plates for the test are 38. I think that might be too many. Each poem will consist of 2 plates: the “actual” plate (designed by Scott) with the circles and the hidden message. In the original, it’s numbers. In mine, it’s a word that can stand alone as a poem, but also (might) connect with the other plate words and is the unifying theme for a prose poem that is on the second plate. This second-plate poem will (most likely, but maybe not?) take the form of the circle of the plate. Tentatively, I’m imagining it as a prose poem, but it might be its own thing, a series of words, descriptions related to seeing and not seeing color. 

The plates will be divided into different topics related to color: 

a story about why this test matters to me
what everything looks like, how it feels
struggles/quirks/strange
a focus on gray — contrast — light and dark, not in color

Scott found something on github that enables you to easily (or easily for Scott) design your own plates. Here’s a sample of what he did. He put the word red in it. I’ll take his word for it because I can’t see the letters at all.

Scott’s Ishihara plate, “Red”

today’s gray theme: duck duck gray duck

Still thinking about gray this month. Today, inspired by the wonderful geese I heard while running, I’m thinking of the passionate way Minnesotans defend their name for the childhood game, Duck Duck Gray Duck over what the rest of the country calls it, Duck Duck Goose. I am not one of those passionate Minnesotans because I grew up on the east coast in North Carolina and Virginia. We played Duck Duck Goose. I’m fine with calling it Duck Duck Gray Duck, but I don’t really care. Scott does. No matter how often we’ve discussed it, he gets fired up every time the topic is mentioned. It is fascinating to me that Minnesota is the only state that uses gray duck and not goose, especially thinking about how many kids who grew up in Minnesota probably have a moment when they realize that not everyone else calls it that.

Because I’m that person, I had to wonder, are gray ducks rare? Yes, especially in Sweden. According to my quick googling, the most common color for ducks in Sweden is blue.

I already have 2 wonderful poems about wild geese — Wild Geese/Mary Oliver and Something Told the Wild Geese/Rachel Field — but I can always use another!

The Geese/ Jane Mead

slicing this frozen sky know
where they are going—
and want to get there.

Their call, both strange
and familiar, calls
to the strange and familiar

heart, and the landscape
becomes the landscape
of being, which becomes

the bright silos and snowy
fields over which the nuanced
and muscular geese

are calling—while time
and the heart take measure.

nov 16/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

Another swim this week! Hooray for strong, sore shoulders and buoyancy. Googles and nose plugs and flip flops with a cartoon image of bloody, frankenstein-y toes (an awesome gift from my sister Marji from a few years ago). I’m not sure how far I swam. I stopped counting laps at a mile, wanting to be surprised by my watch when Scott would appear at the end of my lane and I’d end my workout. Looked at my watch. Oops. No workout on. I forgot to push the extra green button for lap distance. Oh well. Judging by my calories and time, I must have swum a little farther than Monday, but I’ll keep it at 1.5 miles.

10 Things I Noticed While Swimming in the Pool

  1. the slight burn of chlorine in my nose
  2. a few more bits of something on the bottom of the pool — was it more, or was it just because I was swimming in a different lane? were these bits moving, or was that a trick of the light or my eyes?
  3. the older woman to my right, swimming breaststroke — slow, steady, graceful frog kicks
  4. the older woman to my left, swimming sidestroke — more grace and the calm, slow sweep of arms through the water
  5. this sidestroking woman was wearing a wonderful bathing suit — all black in the back, in the front: black at the bottom with red or pink or orange horizontal panels up above
  6. “racing” a guy 2 lanes over, swimming freestyle at about the same speed as me, until he stopped and I kept going
  7. a regular — the older, trim woman in the pale blue and green suit whose stroke is strong and fast, and who sometimes wears fins or booties
  8. the feeling of orange everywhere up above, blue below
  9. my foot (the right one?) feeling a little strange near the end, not quite numb but like it might cramp up (it didn’t)
  10. arriving, a crowded pool, everyone sharing lanes. A few minutes later, it began to empty. By the time I was done, only 2 people left

Thought about Ishihara’s colorblind plates as form. I feel drawn to this form because taking this test, and failing it, was my first evidence that something was wrong with my vision. But, this form is difficult to recreate or embody. I decided, as I looped, that I should do a little more research on how the form was created and how it works. Maybe that will help me to figure out what I want to do with it, or whether I want to use it all.

Here’s a place to start: Eye Magazine / Feature / Ishihara

And this video: The Science Behind the Ishihara Test

I can’t remember which poetry craft book I read this poem in, but I like how Soto uses color here — as flashes, sparks, flares against the “gray of December”:

Oranges/ Gary Soto

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted –
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.
Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.