sept 11/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + river road + trails*
49 degrees

*43rd ave, north/31st st, east/44th ave, north/lake street/46th ave, south/32nd st, east/river road, south/river road trail, south/winchell trail, north/38th st, west/edmund, north/47th ave, north/35th st, west

Such great weather! Was able to wear shorts and a sweatshirt. Felt a little warm by the end, but mostly fine. Ran through the neighborhood, on lake street, by Minnehaha Academy and the aspen eyes, through the tunnel of trees, past the welcoming oaks. Smelled the stink above the ravine, glanced at the inviting, mysterious trail winding through the small wood near the oak savanna, admired the river, turned down near Folwell and ran back on the Winchell Trail. Encountered 3 runners and got closer than 6ft, but only for a second or two. Tried to start the run by thinking about my writing project, but quickly got distracted or lost in other thoughts or no thoughts. Noticed a few more trees starting to change color.

I am currently deep into my project about going blind, blind spots, mood rings. Thinking about faces and feeling isolated/disconnected today. I’m thinking I’d like to put two visual poems/diagrams about faces. One, a face blurred out. The other, a state fair mannequin with pupils as soulless black balls. I need to think about it some more. It’s hard to do any other poetry/writing when I am thinking so much about this project.

Here’s a wonderful quotation I found on twitter about what poetry does:

Also, discovered someone else’s Snellen Chart poem from 2006!

Sun Yu Pai, Optometrist

sept 7/RUN

3.15 miles
lake nokomis
55 degrees

Scott and I decided to drive over near Lake Nokomis and run (in opposite directions) around the lake. We parked on Nokomis Avenue and ran together on the creek trail, then under 28th ave on the part of the path they just built this year, over by Lake Hiawatha, up the hill to Lake Nokomis Community Center, and then down to Lake Nokomis where we split up. I turned left, he turned right. So wonderful to be running by water and around the lake. This is the first time I’ve run here since last November 14.

Ran by the little beach first. The buoys are still up. Will I try swimming once this season? I’m not sure. Had to run on the grass a lot to avoid people. Noticed how many changes they’ve made: plastic fences up to protect the shoreline, some trees missing. As I ran over the big bridge, I looked down at the water and the wide strip of shimmering light on the surface. Luckily Scott took a picture of it when he ran over the bridge.

Thought briefly about open swim as I ran by the big beach. I checked to see if anyone was swimming this morning. I don’t think so. Saw at least one kayak but no rowing shells or sailboats. I’m sure they’ll be there later today. I miss being by the water. I miss not being slightly terrified all of the time.

blind spots and mood rings

Still thinking about my latest writing project on blind spots and mood rings. I think I’ve finished the text for the mood 1: wonder. I haven’t quite figured out the visuals behind it. How to show the ring? How to show my vision loss? I’ve been researching concrete/visual poetry and found this cool eye poem by Lauren Holden:

further & further & further

I really like how this looks and its effect. And I like the repetition of the words/phrase. Maybe I want to do this too? As part of a ring chapbook? I’m thinking that each of my mood rings would involve 2 poems:

  1. A justified block of text with my blind ring superimposed on the text
  2. A visual poem similar to the one above made up of 2-4 words describing the mood repeated and making the shape/effect of my blind ring.

sept 4/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/lake st, east/47th ave, south/32nd st, east/edmund, south/the hill
66 degrees

Feeling like fall these days. Ran north on 43rd to Lake Street then over to 47th through the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy. Completely packed with cars. In-person school. I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to teach in classroom during this pandemic. Ran down to Edmund. Too crowded, especially on the stretch between 34th and 36th. I had thought about doing the tunnel of trees; it was probably empty. Anything I noticed? Lake Street was empty, even the bridge. More acorns on the sidewalk. No squirrels. No more changing leaves…yet. Right as I started, I heard a chainsaw far off, felling a big tree–at least it sounded big. Lots of bikes heading down the hill near the tunnel of trees. One biker was going very fast, trying to pass the slower bikes in front of me before the path narrowed near the construction. I heard him call out, “On your left” and wondered if he would make it in time. At the very end of my run, right after I stopped, I saw a runner wearing the same race shirt I was (the 2020 1 mile). After he passed, I imagined what he might have done if I had called out, “nice shirt!”

I posted this poem last September (25 Sept 2019), but it’s worth posting again and spending some time with:

To the Light of September/ W. S. MERWIN

When you are already here 
you appear to be only 
a name that tells of you 
whether you are present or not 

and for now it seems as though 
you are still summer 
still the high familiar 
endless summer 
yet with a glint 
of bronze in the chill mornings 
and the late yellow petals 
of the mullein fluttering 
on the stalks that lean 
over their broken 
shadows across the cracked ground 

but they all know 
that you have come 
the seed heads of the sage 
the whispering birds 
with nowhere to hide you 
to keep you for later 

you 
who fly with them 

you who are neither 
before nor after 
you who arrive 
with blue plums 
that have fallen through the night 

perfect in the dew

I will memorize this poem, along with September First Again.

Continue to work on my mood ring poems. The first one is Wonder. Here’s a draft with a quick, crude sketching in of my blind spot/ring. I haven’t figured out how I want it to be yet: white space where the ring is? Dark space? A ring superimposed?

Version 1
Version 2

Do I want to try and rework it so that the center part is another poem? Is that too much? I like the challenge of it, but I don’t want it to be overly clever.

august 31/RUN

3.1 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north/little loop on river road*/47th ave, south/34th ave, west/44th ave, south
60 degrees
humidity: 89%

*little loop on river road = river road at 33rd st up to 32nd st and back

Running Route, 31 Aug

It was raining until about 9 am. Cool and cloudy, then sunny. I had the river road trail to myself running south. Awesome. Glanced down at the river above the 38th st stairs. Too much green to see more than a sliver of blueish silver. Lots of dripping water, hardly any debris on the trail or road. A nice run.

8 Things I Noticed on my Run this Morning

  1. Water dripping off of a tree, shimmering in the sun
  2. The quiet roar of water gushing out of a sewer pipe
  3. Running through dark green on Edmund, above the river road, and then reaching the bright sunlight as I ran down the hill
  4. Several deep puddles on the road near the curb
  5. Running into the wind as I headed north
  6. The open trail, stretching in front of me
  7. The cooler air on my skin
  8. The gentle hum of the crickets in the quiet, empty neighborhood

It’s difficult to run more than a 5k these days. Will this change as the weather gets cooler or is it mostly because of my fear of encountering other people?

face blindness

Working on my latest project–blind spots, going blind, and mood rings. I know I thought about it while I was running–I think I was just above the oak savanna–but I can’t quite remember what I thought. Something about how not all of the mood ring poems have to be about finding my blind spot, others could be about my moods around their effects. Another mood: uncertain, unsettled, uncomfortable.

Since my big decline (and when I got my diagnosis) in 2016, I have been trying to adjust to all the changes. Sometimes successfully: Because reading is harder, I’ve shifted mostly to audio books; when I don’t know what’s happening on a television show, I ask Scott; I don’t pretend to see things that I can’t; I ask others to check if there’s mold on my food; because driving is terrifying, I’ve stopped doing it.

Sometimes unsuccessfully. One of the biggest struggles I’m having with my vision loss is how to interact with others. I can’t see faces clearly. Often I can see some features but I can’t see when someone is looking at me or talking to me and even if I can tell they’re talking to me, there’s a good chance I won’t recognize them. I haven’t figured out how to deal with how unsettling and upsetting this is yet, so I try to avoid it. It’s much easier during this pandemic. What a relief to not have to try and interact with others! How much easier it is to not have to wonder if someone was talking to me or what they said or who they are! I like talking with people and I sometimes miss interesting conversations with new people, but mostly I’m content not talking with others, being left alone.

This morning, I read someone’s account of their face blindness and I could really relate. Face blindness is not my primary diagnosis; it’s just a byproduct of my vision loss and the big blind spot (or, what I’m calling, blind ring) in the center of my vision. There’s a lot I could highlight from this article–dreading encountering other moms that I can’t recognize, not being able to identify my kids, not seeing my husband walk past me in a store, only being able to recognize people by their distinctive quirks. I think I’ll spend some more time rereading this article and others on face blindness that I’ve found in the past.

august 29/RUN

3.05 miles
43rd ave, north/lake st, east/46th ave, south/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road, north/hill
61 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Sunny and cool. Quiet, calm. As I started the run, I could hear the gentle hum of traffic from a far off freeway. Thought about my latest writing project on blind spots; I’m working on a poem about my feelings of wonder over discovering a way to see my blind spot. As I ran, I asked myself, should I try to convey a tone of wonder by asking lots of questions? (Probably not.)

Things I Remember

  • the strong smell of cologne as I ran on Edmund
  • two women running below in the tunnel of trees talking loudly
  • a couple of crows calling out to each other
  • being blinded by the sun as I ran east
  • the tree that usually glows a glorious yellow in late september has already changed colors; today it looks a mix of dull orange/red/brown

on metaphor and mood

Right now I’m in the phase of my writing project where I have ideas that I’m really excited about but that don’t quite work yet. I’m immersed in the project, thinking about it most of the time, but I can’t figure out my way forward. So far, I have decided I’d like to do a series of poems about my mood related to my growing blind spot that somehow incorporate my actual blind spot (the one that I was able to trace by staring at a blank sheet of paper, taped to a wall at eye level, and tracing the dark ring that I saw). Because my spot is not yet a spot but a thickening ring, I’m calling this series, Mood Rings. Now I’m wondering how to write about my moods–a literal description? metaphor? something else? A few days I encountered a writing prompt for mood ring poems:

(from Laura Deutsch Writing the Senses via Market Street Writers)

Pick an emotion—joy, anger, frustration, sadness, etc.—and complete your own poem.

When I feel [name emotion] __________________

It is the color _____________________ – like _____________________

I hear ___________________ – like _____________________________

I taste _______________ – like _________________________________

I smell _____________ – like __________________________________

I see ____________________ – like _____________________________

I feel ___________________ – like ______________________________

I want to ___________________ and ___________________________

But ___________________________.

I’m not sure I like this prompt or want to try it–maybe I will?–but it got me thinking about metaphor and how I might try to express my mood of wonder. Will metaphor enable me to get closer to expressing what I actually feel or further away from the IS/THIS of it? In a blog post for poetry foundation, Sabrina Orah Mark argues that metaphor, which means transport in Greek, reduces distance, bringing us closer to the feeling of what is being expressed. But, this transport only happens when the metaphor is encased within a world that supports it and its meaning. Metaphors fail when they don’t have a world, or that world no longer exists (does this fit with the failure of “doing something at a glacial pace” to work anymore now that glaciers are melting faster?). Does this fit with my own struggles to think about metaphor in my poem about wonder? I’m not sure, but I really liked this post and wanted to mention it here, especially this part:

But what if we can no longer tell if the world we are writing from is inside out or outside in? Up above or down below? The future or the past? What if the rules, like clouds, are becoming a rabbit, no an ambulance, no a dragon, no an unraveling spool of thread. What happens to our imagination when the unimaginable has imagined us up first? Is there an emergency hotline for metaphors?

Regardless of how much sense this discussion is making, it is helping me to come up with some more ideas. Now I’m thinking about ring as metaphor:

RING

  • ring of fire, burning a hole through my retina
  • tree rings, expanding, thickening like my blind spot as time passes and my vision deteriorates
  • boxing rings, brass rings, a ring of truth?

august 28/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees
90% humidity

Keeping this log entry short because I sliced my left hand on glass yesterday afternoon–not enough to need stitches, but almost–and I am trying not to use my left hand so as not to split the just healing wound open again. A nice run. Cooler after the early morning rain. Ran above the river for 10 minutes. The trail wasn’t too crowded.

things I remember

  • A group of runners parallel to me on the grass between the river road and edmund, running almost the same speed, talking very loudly
  • Squirrels shaking acorns from a tree, their teeth clicking, the acorns plinking on the ground
  • Water rushing from the sewer pipe
  • No turkeys
  • Running by some huge logs–I ran by the crew cutting them down a few weeks ago–between Becketwood and 42nd st

Running on edmund, heading north, an idea came to me about my latest blind spot project. When I finished running, I spoke it into my phone:

Idea: Mood Rings

august 27/RUN

2.05 miles
river road trail, south/grass between river road and edmund, south/edmund, north
73 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 70

Another hot day, another short run. I started on the river road trail but it was too crowded to stay. Crossed over to the dirt trail in the grass between the river road and edmund. Rutted and difficult to run on. Didn’t have a chance to see the river, too busy looking out for bikers and walkers.

At some point during the run I thought about the great book I’m reading (one of the few books I’m reading instead of listening to), Bonnie Tsui’s Why We Swim, and her chapter on flow.

Flow: the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

I was thinking, as I ran by Dowling Elementary, how difficult it is to experience flow during runs this spring and summer. It’s partly because there’s too much to worry about–hurricanes, pandemics, the refusal by leaders to do the difficult work of addressing racial injustice and dismantling institutions that create/perpetuate injustice, upcoming elections and the campaign to destroy “liberal cities”–and partly because the trails and sidewalks are too crowded to get lost. I know it still happens to me–running or writing, I can lose track of time–but I wish it could happen more.

Anything else I remember? Tons of acorn shells everywhere. The squirrels are busy. Does that mean we will have a tough winter? Don’t remember hearing cicadas or any birds, not too many cars, no roller skiers or rowers. No leaf blowers or horns honking. I did see an adult biking with a little kid. I love watching little kids biking, especially when they’re very little and very good at biking–so graceful and powerful.

state fair mannequins

In a non-pandemic world, the state fair would have started today. I miss many things about going to the fair. The food, the beer, the mutant vegetables and political crop art (there would have been some really good ones this year), but what I’m missing most today are the state fair mannequins. Every year I love seeing them looking so creepy and strange and almost human. Last year I started work on a project about eye contact and faces and the uncanny valley and state fair mannequins. Some day I will finish it. Here’s one of my favorite mannequins:

august 26/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/the hill
79 degrees
dew point: 66

Very hot today. 77 degrees at 7 in the morning. I decided to do a shorter run. Not too bad. Listened to a running playlist so didn’t notice any other sounds. No chirping birds or backing up beeps or roaring lawn mowers or plink-plonking acorns or zapping cicadas. Ran in a lot of shade, which was nice. Felt strong running up the hill on Edmund. Checked out my form a few times by looking at a shadow running beside me, then ahead. Encountered many more walkers than runners.

Didn’t get close enough to see the river. Forgot to check out the aspen eyes. I did notice how the tree on the corner of Edmund and 32nd, the one that usually glows a glorious yellow in the fall, was almost all goldish-brown. Is it dying? I hope not.

Had another pandemic dream last night–my second, I think, which isn’t too bad considering how long we’ve been in this mess. Same scenario, different setting. In a crowded place (first time it was a Justin Bieber?! concert, this time in a restaurant). Suddenly, I realize I’m around too many people, none of us socially distancing or wearing masks. What am I doing here? Why am I being so reckless? I freak out, then wake up. It’s unusual for me to have such literal dreams–of course, a bunch of other weird shit happened in the midst of this that I can’t remember now too, but the basic anxiety is my actual, literal anxiety. Usually, anxiety dreams are like the one I mentioned a week ago when I was late for a band concert and couldn’t find a black shirt. Or, it’s the last week of the semester and I haven’t shown up to class at all–either as the teacher or the student. Being late for a concert, forgetting to attend class are not things I have to worry about right now–and I’m not. What is it about this pandemic and my fears/worries about it that is making my dreams so boringly literal?

I think (I hope) I’ve discovered my new project. It’s a companion project to the Snellen charts. I’m tracing the blind spot in my central vision and then superimposing it on text about vision to create erasure poems. I’m still not sure how this will all work or how many of them I will do or whether or not I will only do erasures with found text or include my own text. Last night, while experimenting with this, I tried it out. This is not the actual erasure, just an experiment taking text about blind spots from Sight Unseen, staring at it until I can see my blind spot, then tracing that blind spot on top of the text.

Blind Spot Experiment

Not sure how to make this work yet. In the above experiment, I focused my eyes on the center of the page–the W I think–and then traced the blind spot I saw. I could try focusing on different spots. Should I create the blind spot tracing with every new experiment or create a template of my blind spot that I can easily place on different texts? Should the text be blacked out or just not there–an absence in white?

Scott suggested creating two poems out of it, one with the blind spot words removed–so a ring of white, and one with only the blind spot words. This makes me think of the amazing poems of Diana Khoi Nguyen in Of Ghost, especially Triptych.

august 25/RUN

3 miles
over the lake st bridge!
73 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Hot and humid this morning, but who cares? I ran over the lake street bridge and got my first satisfying view of the river in months, maybe since this whole pandemic started. What a view! What a beautiful river. No rowers or motor boats or paddle boats or canoes. Just smooth, shining blue water. I’ve been reluctant to run over the bridge for fear that it would be too crowded, but I didn’t encounter anyone–and even if I did, the path isn’t that narrow and it wouldn’t take me long to pass someone.

I ran east on 36th st, then north on 47th ave, past 7 oaks, through Minnehaha Academy parking lot, over to lake street, across the bridge, down the stairs to under the bridge, up the other side and over the bridge again, across the river road to the trail then over the edmund, and finishing by running down and back up the hill above the tunnel of trees. It’s nice to do a slightly different route. Maybe next time I’ll try crossing the bridge, then running up to Summit and back down again?

Things I Remember

  • Seeing the dock at the Minneapolis Rowing Club on the north side of the lake street bridge, empty
  • Not encountering any people on the bridge but passing by three scooters leaning against the railing
  • A lone roller skier preparing to ski up the hill
  • The bright yellow shirt of a runner exiting the stairs from the bridge
  • Checking to see if there was an eagle perched on the dead tree branch on the bridge (nope)
  • The socially distanced tables with umbrellas at Longfellow Grill, empty (I think?)
  • Passing a guy sitting on a boulder in the grass between edmund and the river road 3 times, first as I crossed over from edmund to the river road heading south, second as I ran down the hill on the river road, and third, as I ran back up the hill

blind spot

At the end of February, while reading Sight Unseen, I discovered how to see my blind spot. Everyone has a blind spot, but mine is in my central vision and it keeps getting bigger every year as more of my cones get scrambled. I stared at the center of a blank white wall for a few minutes and then suddenly a ring, white in the small center, grayish-black on the broader edges appeared. I drew it from memory in my notebook:

Plague Notebook, Vol 2

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to try finding my blind spot again. This time I took a sheet of white paper and taped it on the wall, at eye level. I closed my left eye and stared into it for a minute or two with my right eye until a grayish circle with a white center appeared. I quickly traced it, then colored it in, using blue for the grayish part:

Blind Spot, Right Eye

I wasn’t very precise with this method, but still, I think this gives a good sense of how much of my central vision might be left. I want to keep experimenting with this image–maybe make a concrete poem out of it or something? I haven’t figured it out yet, but this might be a second part to my Snellen Chart poems. I’m also thinking of using the Amsler grid with it and maybe the grid out of words instead of lines?

july 24/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
72 degrees
humidity: 78%/ dew point: 67

Hot again this morning. So crowded on the river road! So many runners going so fast that I wondered if there was some event going on. Listened to a playlist and didn’t think about any poetry or pay attention to much around me except all the runners and bikers I needed to avoid. Ran faster than I wanted on the second mile because a runner who I was passing decided to speed up just as I approached. Finished the run by listening to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry” as I ran up the hill near the Welcoming Oaks. Running back through the neighborhood, the next song that came on Spotify was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Hell nos and Headphones.” Wow.

Finished watching the 1981 “Clash of the Titans” with Scott. I remember seeing it in a theater in North Carolina when it first came out. I was 7. The special effects are very bad, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie this time–loved seeing Maggie Smith as a vengeful Thetis. I started thinking about Medusa and how her gaze turns anyone/thing that looks into her eyes to stone. And then I started thinking about how my gaze does that to people too–because my central vision is almost gone and I have an increasingly bigger blind spot in the middle of my field of vision, when I look at people’s faces or into their eyes they often look like unmoving objects–I can’t see facial gestures–no smiles or frowns or eyebrows raised, and I can’t make eye contact. In a way, they turn to stone. I’d like to explore the Medusa myth some more and see if I can do something with it.

Thinking about vision and eyes a lot this week. Here’s a poem from 1925 I first encountered on twitter, then found online at Poetry Foundation:

Eyes/ Laura Riding Jackson

Imagine two clouds shot together by the sunset,
One river-blue,
One like a white cloth passed through a purple wine,
Dripping and faintly dyed,
Whirling centrifugally away toward the night
And later halved and rounded by the moon;
Rolled like blue butter-balls
In the palms of the moon’s hands
And rimmed elliptically with almost-white moon-stuff,
The moon’s particular godmother gift.
Some nearly impossible vision like this
Is necessary for the mood of my eyes.

Formally announced by my eyebrows,
Sad squires of my eyes,
Preciously fitted into two fine skin purses—
Two rose petals might fashion them—
So firmly, gently guarded,
Yet so free to roll a little
In each socket,
In each pocket,
Attended by the drawn regiments of my lashes,
These my head’s hair’s farthest fallen,
Wayward strayed for the love of my eyes,
With only a runaway’s last inheritance of curl
Lifting the final rite of this ceremony of presentation:
Sight is there soul of charity.
when the feet are tired,
When joy is caught in the full throat,
Sight is the good Samaritan,
Wandering to the last horizon
Or staying at home to laugh in joy’s place.
Though the trouble be none of its won,
When grief comes like a beggar to my eyelids,
Sight throws it pennies,
Sight throws it tears,
Though for the minute it rob itself,
Though for the minute it blind itself.

Exegetes of the tongue—
Love’s best inquirers
And courteous heads of hate,
Yet meanwhile not deposing
The immediate service of seeing
Or the darling self-denial of sleep—
My eyes, my eyes,
Patrons of light and dark!

Busy, ever busy,
If I have no other errands for it,
Yet sight keeps turning the looking-machine,
Always sitting quietly aside—-
The self-appointed and voluntary philosophy of me,
My ironic interpreter of things,
Smiling behind the bodily ruse
Of my amused, amused eyes.
Or, if the eyes fail,
If the optical bodies of sight die,
Sight still lives while I live,
Sight is immortal in me,
Free of the bond of outward vision—-
The inner sense of life,
The living-looking.
Death is the only blindness.

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.