nov 14/SWIM

about 1.5 miles (2550 yards)
ywca pool

Woke up to flurries, then a steady snow. 2-4 inches possible. I would have run in it, but I had already run 5.6 mile yesterday and planned to go to the y to swim this morning. How wonderful it was to be in the water! Made me feel good, so much better than before! After my swim, Scott and I soaked in the hot tub. We both agreed, it’s nice returning to routines that we used to do 4 or 5 years ago. I also like being around happy, older woman in the locker room. I’m not usually talking to them, but I like hearing their chatter post-workout. Joyful, relaxed, pleased to have moved their bodies. I want to be one of those old women one day. I want it even more knowing that it’s not guaranteed. My mom didn’t make it. Scott’s mom didn’t make it, either.

Did my usual swim, broken up by 200s — breathe ever 3/4/5/6. Didn’t have my nose plug on quite right and with the first few flip turns, my nose and then my head burned. Ouch. The water was cloudier today than it had been last week. Saw at least one thing floating in the water, a few marks or spots or bits of something on the bottom. Shared a lane with an older woman for the first few minutes. She did sidestroke and breaststroke and backstroke. A guy in the next lane (was it the same guy as last week?) was running to the edge of the deeper end, then swimming freestyle or breaststroke. At one point, he sped along underwater, parallel to the bottom, kicking furiously.

Colors I Noticed:

  1. the red swim trunks of the guy swimming in the next lane
  2. lots of orange — an orange sign on the pool deck, my orange bay, some other orange things
  3. a swimmer in a pale blue and green suit
  4. deep blue tiles on the bottom of the pool
  5. someone in a black suit, walking along the pool deck

I tried to think about a form for my vision poems that I’d like to use, but I’m not sure how: the Ishihara colorblind plates. The ones that are a circle with colored dots and a number embedded in the center in a different color. Maybe a year before I was diagnosed, I looked at one of these and couldn’t see the number. It was my first clearcut indication that something was strange about my vision. I remember crying — not from sadness, but relief. I wasn’t making it up. There was something wrong with me! Of course, at that moment, I had no idea that what was wrong with me was that all my cone cells were dying. Anyway, I tried to think about the plate as form as I swam, but I keep getting distracted. I want to use this form, but I don’t know how or even if I could do it with my limited design skills. I’ll keep thinking about it and maybe I’ll figure it out.

Before I swam, early this morning, I thought about color and not being able to see it, or being able to see it sometimes, and usually strangely. I found a documentary by Oliver Sacks: Island of the Colorblind

Do I mind that my colors are strange or wrong or not always there? Not too much. Often, I don’t realize I’m not seeing color.

Here’s part of a gray poem I found last week. The entire thing is amazing, and better read on Poetry Foundation site with all the proper spacing. I’m posting a excerpt from it because I like the way color appears in it. Is it almost like slashes and flashes?

from Grayed In/ Martha Collins


Cloud on cloud, gray
on gray, snow fallen

on snow, tree on tree
on unleafed tree—

only a river silvered
with thin ice and a slash
of gold in the late gray sky.


Grayed snow slush trudge but

snow falling coating filling

in for absence Present!

child with stringed mittens

here to take her place

to take over on

snow showing up air


White sky, whiter sun brushing
trees with tints of red, then

in the distance streaking
mauve gold, filling in
between the now filagreed

trees, silhouettes against
the now red burning sky.

nov 13/RUN

5.6 miles
fairview loop
26 degrees

Yes! Love this weather: cold, but not too cold, hardly any wind, no snow or ice on the paths yet. Cold enough to keep the crowds away and for me to keep my gloves on for the whole run. Calm enough for the river to be a mirror reflecting an upside world — the arches of lake st bridge smiling instead of frowning.

Layers: black running tights (the thicker ones), green base shirt, pink jacket with hood, pink head/ear band, black and white polka dot twins cap (used to my daughter’s because, yes, my head is small enough to fit into a girl’s cap), black gloves

Heard a strange bird call in the gorge, which made me think “whip-poor-will,” but it’s most likely not that bird because they’re nocturnal and they’re listed as rare in my birds of the mississippi river guide.

Just as I neared the river road on the east side I heard a honking goose and the bells of St. Thomas.

Saw a few, and by a few I mean less than 10 total, snow flurries in the air.

This route is only 5.6 miles and takes only a little over 50 minutes, but it felt like I ran through a lot of places: cooper neighborhood, on lake street, over the lake street bridge, up marshall in st. paul, beside St. Thomas, on Summit, above the river on the east and west sides, past grand old houses, big brick apartment buildings, corner stores, salons, ice cream parlors, gas stations, cafes, a university, a WWI monument, falls hidden in ravines.

Today’s gray theme is: gray as (the absence of?) color

Thinking about color: Yesterday afternoon, in the chapel at Gustavus, which was not dim but not bright either, I started to notice that looking one direction, toward the far window on the other side, the only color I could see was an occasional red square embedded in the walls (I double-checked with Scott; there were also a bunch of blue squares too). The hymnals 15-20 feet away, which I know are red, looked dark but colorless. Staring out at the crowd of people, everyone looked like they were dressed in dark or light — not quite black or white, just dark clothes or light clothes. No variation, no purples or blues or oranges or anything but dark and light. It was strange, partly because it didn’t feel strange. It wasn’t like I thought, where is all the color? It felt more like when I wake up in the dark and, after my eyes adjust, I see the room and it looks like the room, but just darker, dimmer and without color. And, usually I don’t think there’s no color — sometimes I might even think I see color because I know my robe is purple or the pillow is yellow, or I don’t see yellow, but I recognize the pillow on the couch as that yellow pillow because I already know it’s yellow. Hope this description makes sense to anyone reading this, including future Sara.

Anyway, because my theme for today is gray as color (or colorless) and because I was still thinking about my experience in the chapel last night, I gave particular attention to noticing colors today. I wondered if I would struggle to see colors because it was a gray, darker day. I don’t think so. Would I be able to tell? Here’s the colors I noticed:

10 Colors I Noticed

  1. green grass, green stoplight
  2. red stop sign, red stop lights
  3. yellow stop light, yellow leaves
  4. rusty brownish red stain on the lake st bridge
  5. blueish water
  6. pinkish, purplish jacket on a walker
  7. orange traffic cone
  8. brown dirt
  9. white patches of snow in the corners of the sidewalk
  10. my black running tights

A few grays that come up a lot in poetry: gun metal gray, pewter

added a few hours later: Thinking about color more and how I see it or don’t see it. This afternoon I was wondering about how others describe their inability to see color in the dark/low light, like when you wake up in the middle of the night, look around, and nothing has color. It’s all dark or light or gray. Using the search, “seeing color in the dark,” I came across this article: Why We See Swirling Color When Our Eyes Are Closed. Among other interesting things, it mentions intrinsic gray or eigengrau:

The color black is often referred to as the absence of light, but when it comes to the human visual system, eigengrau is the color perceived in the absence of light. Eigengrau is a German term that roughly translates to ‘intrinsic gray’ or ‘own gray.’ When deprived of light — as in when our eyes are closed, or when we are in darkness with our eyes open — we are unable to perceive true blackness, and rather, perceive eigengrau. This is because light provides the contrast necessary to perceive darker-ness. For instance, the black ink of text might appear darker than eigengrau because the whiteness of the page provides the contrast the eyes need to understand black.

Here’s a little more info from another article:

Scientists believe that Eigengrau is the dark grey colour that human eyes see in perfect darkness and this is said to be the result of visual signals from optic nerves.

German philosopher and physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner is believed to have investigated and popularized the term Eigengrau. He is also known for his key role in the genesis of the measurement of human perception.

Eigengrau is the Dark Gray Colour That Most People See in the Absence of Light

The term eigengrau is not used that often now. Instead, it’s referred to as visual noise or the static in your retina. In the article, eigengrau was also called “brain gray.”

october 31/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees

Whew! On the last day of the month I reached my goal. To stay on track for 1000 miles by the end of the year, I needed to run 840 miles by the end of October. I’m at 840.1. Now I have 2 months to run the remaining 160 miles. Five out of the six years of this log, my goal has been 1000 miles. I have achieved it once: year 4, 2020. Some sort of calf/hip/knee injury has forced me to cut back on my mileage the other years. I’ve never been off by that much.

Year 1 = 950 miles, couldn’t run almost all of August and September
Year 2 = 928.85 miles, IT band in November
Year 3 = 900.65 miles, can’t remember why it didn’t happen this year
Year 4 = 1003 miles
Year 5 = 850 miles, focused on a big swimming goal instead (100 miles during 10 week open swim season)

I think 1000 miles is about all that my body can take in a year. I know that bodies are built differently, and that some people have an easier time running lots of miles each week, but I am still amazed at other regular (non-pro) runners who can run 30 or 40 or more miles every week. 20 miles is an average of almost 3 miles every day of the year!

A perfect morning for a run! I thought it might feel colder so I wore one too many layers. I ran north on the river road, through the tunnel of trees, under the lake street bridge, above white sands beach. Then over the franklin bridge and south on the east river road until reaching lake street again. No rowers or roller skiers or fat tires. No geese, but at least one black capped chickadee doing the fee bee call. Never a response. Thought about the endless echo of this unanswered call.

My kneecap: mostly very good. At least one or two shifts, and a few grumbles, but that’s it.

10+ Things I Remember

  1. there was a slight haze in the air, everything dreamy and soft. I think the sun was burning off some early morning fog?
  2. a runner approaching me during the start of my run was listening to music without headphones. At first I thought it was some strange chant, but later, as I continued to hear it across the ravine, it sounded vaguely like some pop song I’ve heard before
  3. running over the franklin bridge, I marveled at the river. A shimmering arrow of light was pointing downstream on its surface. Other than the light, the river was empty. No rowers
  4. running back over the lake street bridge I could see the sun shining off some parked cars on the west river road, no longer hidden from view by leaves
  5. the Welcoming Oaks are bare
  6. all the construction is done over on the east side of the river near franklin
  7. the steady beat of approaching feet from behind, then passing me. I called out good morning and he replied, morning.
  8. encountering 2 walkers. The woman called out good morning! It always seems to be the women who add the good to their morning greetings
  9. on the edge of the gorge, near the meeker island dog park, I could hear a rushing sound. Was it wind in the trees or water dropping out of the sewer or from an underground creek? I decided it was water
  10. the green city sign near the franklin bridge that directs drivers up the hill to franklin avenue was spray painted with white words. I think it might have said Boo?
  11. My shadow joined me today, running just ahead as we headed north. No faint trace, but a dark and defined form

Throughout the run, I chanted triple berries. Lots of strawberry/blackberry/blueberry or strawberry/raspberry/blueberry. Also some, chocolate or chocolate sauce/ice cream cone/whipping cream. Once, cream that’s whipped, which made me think of Devo’s “Whip it.” Wondered about working on a poem/series of poems using this triple rhythm. Also wondered about the difference between chanting these 3, versus chanting 3 then 2. How often do I actually chant 3/2 when I’m running or do I chant more in triples?

Here’s something I’ve been intending to mention for a few days, but keep forgetting: Last week, Scott and I were watching a Halloween episode of Murder, She Wrote. In it, a jerky/mysterious guy living in an old mansion at the edge of town, usually only going outside at night, and wearing sunglasses when he does have to be out in the sun, is accused of being a vampire, then killed with a stake through his heart. I asked Scott how many people with photophobia (light sensitivity) were accused of being vampires. A lot, he thought. At the end of the episode, Jessica revealed that this guy was not a vampire, but had photophobia! I had been thinking of photophobia after encountering the site of a young woman with cone dystrophy. One of the main symptoms for her: photophobia and being completely blinded in the daylight. I do not have this problem. I can look directly at the light without any problems. A few years ago, it bothered me a little, but not anymore. Anyway, I mention this story because I would never have considered the connection between photophobia and being accused of being a vampire if I hadn’t started researching vision after my vision diagnosis. I didn’t even know what photophobia was before my diagnosis. I remembered during my run that I wanted to mention photophobia in my log — while I was running across a bridge — which made me think about how losing my central vision has opened doors into new worlds and helped me to wonder in new ways. This is not to say that my vision loss is a good thing, or some bullshit like it’s part of a larger plan, but it’s also not all a totally bad thing either.

One more thing I just remembered: Most of my triple chants were berries or desserts, but every so often I chanted other things too: history, mystery, intellect then I am girl/I am ghost/I am gorge.

Here’s a poem I discovered today that makes me want to write more about the relationship between the eye and the brain:

A Woman’s Glass Eye/ Richard Weaver (page 66 in journal)

troubled her one day, suddenly filtering light
into colors, depth, and shape. She was
unprepared for such visions from an eye
absent since birth, and interchangeable.
Still, it was, exciting. Enticing even.
She wondered if peripherality was next.
And then is was, with a literal flash.
So astonished was Brain that it considered
hibernation. Or a sleep-induced protective coma.
But Brain too was intrigued. Enchanted.
Beguiled. Hungry for a more powerful
field in which to shape and reshape the world. A
nd so the co-conspiracy began between Eye
and Brain. Never to end. Even in dark dream.
Or total eclipse. Dark become light. Ever after.

oct 25/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
43 degrees

Gray sky, golden trees. Past peak, I think. A clear view to the other side. Damp. It rained yesterday, just enough to get the falls dripping again. The creek was dry, but as I neared the bridge above the ledge, I heard some water falling. At first I thought it was wind in the trees, but then I heard a slow drip drip drip. As I ran above it, I glanced down. Yuck! An unnaturally green pool of stagnant water at the base of the falls.

I had planned to do one of my regular routines: run south to the falls, stop at the overlook near the “song of hiawatha” poem, put in a playlist, run back north with music. Halfway there, I remember that I had misplaced my headphones somewhere. I had found another pair, but not one with the dongle for plugging into my iPhone. I hate how Apple keeps changing their phones so you need new accessories. I don’t want airpods. I want my cheap lime green headphones with a long cord.

Had the memorial service for Scott’s mom yesterday. It definitely has not hit yet that she’s gone. Still in shock, I guess. Last month I felt tender, now just numb. A strange fall.

10 Things I Remember

  1. the very loud vehicle I mentioned a few entries ago is still on edmund. I have decided it is a cement mixture. Today I was over on the river road trail; it was still so loud!
  2. the pavement is wet with a few streaks of mud and lots of yellow leaves
  3. kids yelling joyfully on the playground at dowling elementary
  4. a runner coming fast down the hill from the ford bridge ran past me, quickly gaining ground, eventually disappearing around the bend
  5. the whiny whirr of the park vehicle’s wheels. I can’t remember now what I first thought the sound was — someone/something crying?
  6. a man in yellow jacket, exiting his car, waiting for me to pass before crossing the sidewalk
  7. Mr Morning! mornied me. For the first time, I said hello instead of good morning. Not sure why
  8. some bikers crossing in front of me near the minnehaha park playground
  9. a bright orange sign warning that the road would be closed this saturday for an event: it’s the 1/2 marathon for the halloween race. Scott and I are running the 10k
  10. no turkeys or geese or woodpeckers

Playing around with forms for a new set of vision poems about adjusting, becoming accustomed to my new vision. Today I thought about taking my favorite lines from a few poems — mostly E Dickinson’s vision poems — and embedding them in my own poems, or using the lines as the title for my poem? Still thinking about it. Right now, I’m thinking of a poem about my daughter’s hands as she tells me a story that I’m tentatively titling, The Motion of the Dipping Birds (from ED’s “Before I Got my Eye put out”).

oct 21/RUN

3.35 miles
under the ford bridge and back
57 degrees!

What a morning! Sunny, low wind, only a little sliding in my knee. Noticed the river, but barely. Only a sliver of sparkle through the trees. Ran south and stopped just past the ford bridge. Took out my phone and recorded a note about a possible form for my latest set of vision poems. Listening back to the recording, I’m not sure if it makes sense. Poem 1: block text, bare/basic description of scene/situation; Poem 2: an erasure of that text that reveals more of how I adjust, navigate the situation — maybe by noticing a few key elements?; Poem 3: a haiku/tanka/cinquain that turns my adjustment into something more than almost: a new way of seeing/being? Not sure this makes sense. It’s almost there.

As I recorded, I stood at the edge of the trail, looking down on the marsh-y meadow between the small woods around the bridge and the road leading up to Wabun Park. 2 squirrels darted into the brush, making a racket from dry leaves and tall grass. At the end of summer, I remember running by this meadow and admiring the buzz and growl of the frogs and crickets and whatever else was living in it. Today, it’s pretty quiet. What’s living in there now? Raccoons? Turkeys? A fox?

After recording, I put in Lizzo’s Special, mainly to hear her sing, Hi, mother fucker, did you miss me? I’ve been home since 2020. I’ve been twerkin’ and making smoothies. It’s called healing… Then I started running. Switched to Beyoncé a couple of songs in.

9 Things I Noticed, 1 I Didn’t

  1. the smell of smoke near the one house that always smells like smoke in the winter — on Edmund, close to Dowling
  2. SO LOUD! passing by 2 trucks, about 50 feet from each other, running some sort of machine that was way too loud. I didn’t see, but I hope that the workers nearby were wearing headphones or ear plugs. Wow. I don’t think it was a cement mixer, but I’m not what else it could be — lots of rumbles and roars. Very unsettling
  3. freshly redone sidewalk squares, bright white, sticking out against the old, gray squares
  4. running on the dirt trail between edmund and the river road: a mix of roots and dead leaves and dry dirt
  5. a woman, a kid, a wagon — I think it was red? — heading down to the Winchell Trail at 44th
  6. passing a walker on the “gauntlet” — the dirt/grass patch between the lower campus of Minnehaha Academy and Becketwood that narrows near the road
  7. another loud noise: a rumbling motorcycle overhead, traveling across the ford bridge
  8. a man in a bright yellow shirt, sitting on a bench near a rock above the river
  9. a group of four walkers, one of them wearing a white shirt and black pants, not taking up the entire path
  10. what I didn’t notice: I don’t remember running down the small hill to the part of the trail that dips below the road then climbs back out. As I ran over it again, on my way back, I wondered, what was I doing when I was running on this before? how come I can’t remember anything about it? A moment lost. Love it when that happens

oct 20/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
61 degrees!

Ran with Scott in the late afternoon. Wore shorts and my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt that I’ve been looking for this whole month. Finally found it. Excellent. A nice, relaxed run. Well, mostly relaxed. I was worried about my knees throughout the run because they were complaining a little, but they weren’t sliding so no worries. The thing I remember most about the run is the river. Running across the lake street bridge, heading east, the water was blue and dark and calm, with only very small ripples. Running back, heading west, it looked much rougher, brighter, and the sun was spread across half of it. What a contrast! Same river, different angle, much different view.

Threshold Gods/ Jenny George

I saw a bat in a dream and then later that week
I saw a real bat, crawling on its elbows
across the porch like a goblin.
It was early evening. I want to ask about death.
But first I want to ask about flying.

The swimmers talk quietly, standing waist-deep in the dark lake.
It’s time to come in but they keep talking quietly.
Above them, early bats driving low over the water.
From here the voices are undifferentiated.
The dark is full of purring moths,

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Summer is ending. The orchard is carved with the names of girls.
Wind fingers the leaves softly, like torn clothes.
Remember, desire was the first creature
that few from the crevice
back when the earth and the sky were pinned together
like two rocks.

Now, I open the screen door and there it is-
a leather change purse
moving across the floorboards.

But in the dream you were large and you opened
the translucent hide of your body
and you folded me
in your long arms. And held me for a while.
As a bat might hold a small, dying bat. As

Found this poem on twitter the other day. I don’t totally understand it, but that’s okay. I might get there after a few more readings of it. I picked it for the threshold, the bats, the swimmers in the lake, and these lines, which fit with my current vision project on adjusting and growing accustomed to new ways of seeing/not seeing:

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Adjustments. Shifts and echoes. Always moving — veering and diving. All of this fits so well with my thoughts on seeing and peripheral vision right now!

oct 19/RUN

3.75 miles
trestle turn around + extra
35 degrees

Hooray! I ran again today. I think my kneecap is doing better. It didn’t slide around, and my knee isn’t swollen after my run. It felt strange a few times, and I was apprehensive walking back, but I think it’s okay. I need to remember to take it easy for the next week, and not run too much.

It was a beautiful day for a run. Brisk, sunny, not too much wind. A clear trail, a clear view to the other side. Less leaves, more river. I ran north until I reached 2 miles, then I briefly stopped to put in my headphones and listen to Lizzo’s latest album, Special.

I didn’t notice that much; I was too busy thinking about my knee and wondering if it would start sliding again.

image of the day

A tall bike! Running near the trestle, I noticed that the bike approaching me from the north was extra tall. Because of my vision and because I was looking into the sun, I couldn’t see much detail. All I remember is: an extra tall bike, a male biker. Cool. I looked it up and wikipedia says that these bikes used to be called lamplighters because workers would ride them to reach the gas lamps on city streets. It also says that some people still refer to them as lamplighters. Is that true? I hope so.

I did a little more research — I googled “tall bikes Minneapolis” — and found this cool book (and cool writer/artist): Butterflies and Tall Bikes by Jamie Schumacher:

oin artist and author Jamie Schumacher on a tour of one of Minneapolis’s most unique neighborhoods: The West Bank.

In her second book, Butterflies and Tall Bikes, Schumacher combines personal narrative, compelling interviews, and neighborhood history in vignette-style chapters that paint a picture of the West Bank Business Association and West Bank/Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Detailed, mandala-like illustrations by artist Corina Sagun are interwoven throughout the text, and the book features a cover and map by Minneapolis artist Kevin Cannon. Interviews highlight the stories of West Bank characters and Cedar-Riverside residents, past and present, as they reflect on the community’s changing landscape. 

Lamplighter makes me think of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark,” which I decided earlier today would be the focus of new series of vision poems. Lamplighter reminded me of this poem because of the 3rd and 4th lines: As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp/ to witness her Good Bye –. My poems will orbit around the idea of a moment after we enter a new phase/location/situation, and before we adjust to it.

ED’s moment:

We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When Light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye —

A Moment — We Uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road — erect —

My moment focuses on the uncertainty caused by my vision — how that uncertainty lasts much longer because of my lack of cone cells, how my brain compensates and adjusts to a lack of visual data, how it feels to (unlike full-sighted people) not have everything immediately make sense or be clear, various tips and tricks I used to grow accustomed, etc. There’s a lot I could do with this: visual illusions, accounts of my mishaps and failures, descriptions of what I see/don’t see, and more.

The last stanza of the poem serves as a big inspiration too:

Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.

Last year, I spent time thinking about the almost, the approximate. I want to return to that and push more at what it means to dwell longer than I’d like in that almost, not quite, nearly there, only just, space. I’d also like to think more about how vision works, or doesn’t work, or works strangely, for everyone to different degrees. How what we see is not purely objective or accurate, where our eye is a camera faithfully rendering the real. Here’s an article I found yesterday that might help with that: The painter who revealed how our eyes really see the world

Oh, this is exciting! I hope this idea sticks and leads somewhere. I hope I find a form that fits and can hold all of these ideas!

oct 4/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
60 degrees

Another colorful fall morning. Noisy, too. So much construction on our block and around the neighborhood. beep beep beep beep brrrrrr brrrrrr. Ran south on the river road and encountered lots of bikes. Noticed how the river was burning a bright white. Got lost in some thoughts about a new form for my vision poems. Forgot to notice the bridge above the ravine in the stretch between 44th and 42nd on the winchell trail. Stopped near the top of the hill at 42nd to speak some ideas into my phone. Ran some more, then stopped again. Do I have some good ideas that can become something? I hope so. I’m interested in experimenting with the peripheral as where I see and the center as a flat landscape/background. Maybe have a flat, lifeless description of the landscape with flashes of more meaningful words sprinkled along the peripheral? I like the idea of making the center a flat, lifeless landscape/background because that’s what my brain does; it fills in a background, like wallpaper. It’s mostly what’s there, but my view doesn’t include any objects that my few cones or my peripheral rods didn’t register. Listening to my notes, I also mention being inspired by the vision tests at the DMV, which have both a mini snellen chart and flashes you have to notice. For years before I was diagnosed, I would have this seemingly irrational fear of the vision test at the DMV. I always wondered why. Now I know. Not sure how to translate these tests into a poetic form.

10 Things I Noticed*

*while not really paying attention to my surroundings

  1. a peleton of younger bikers on the road
  2. a string of older bikers on the trail
  3. a biker swinging wide to mount their bike just as I ran by
  4. a dog barking at me as I swung wide to avoid them and their owner
  5. bright yellow vests
  6. a tree leaning over the dirt trail, which used to be asphalt, just past the 38th street steps
  7. two voices behind me, getting closer when I stopped to speak into my phone
  8. a woman with a dog passing by me X 2
  9. dripping water at the 42nd street sewer pipe
  10. Santa Claus running fast!

I noticed more than I thought. I haven’t Santa Claus (the Regular runner who has a bushy white beard like Santa Claus) in a while.

Here’s a poem I discovered yesterday while previewing May Swenson’s Nature (which I ordered!). It fits with my theme for September, and how I’m feeling these days: tender.

Living Tenderly/ May Swenson

My body a rounded stone
with a pattern of smooth seams.
My head a short snake,
retractive, projective.
My legs out out of their sleeves
or shrink within,
and so does my chin.
My eyelids are quick clamps.

My back is my roof.
I am always at home.
I travel where my house walks.
It is a smooth stone.
It floats within the lake,
or rests in the dust.
My flesh lives tenderly
inside its bone.

august 17/RUNSWIM

run: 5 miles
franklin loop
70 degrees
9:00 am

Such a nice morning for a run! Sunny, with lots of shade. No stiff wind, only a welcoming breeze. Heard the rowers on the river. Yesterday, as Scott and I were driving on the river road, we encountered a truck with a trailer filled with 4 (or more?) big, 8-person rowing boats — they’re called octuple sculls. So long. Wow!

Can I remember 10 things from my run? I’ll try…

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a revving chainsaw in the gorge, near the floodplain forest
  2. a coxswain’s distorted voice, counting off drills
  3. someone cutting across the trail, then disappearing through a hole in the treeline
  4. cracked open acorns underfoot
  5. 4 or 5 stones stacked on the cairn
  6. a slash of orange spray paint marking a tree’s trunk — will it be cut down soon?
  7. crossing the franklin bridge, a sign: roadwork ahead (RJP’s perpetual joke: Road work ahead? I sure hope so!). Then, a few trucks parked on the side of the road
  8. the ravine smelling like a porta potty or a poorly venitilated outhouse
  9. my toe — the one next to the big toe on my left foot. Ouch! After my swim on Monday, I thought I had completely washed the sand from between my toes before I went out for a run. Nope. A few miles in, I got a blister. That blister popped and become a raw sore that ached today, even through the bandaid
  10. no geese, no music, no roller skiers

Last night, Scott and I started watching the second season of Only Murders in the Building. So good! In the second episode, a character played by Shirley MacLaine describes her vision:

I have a bill of sale here somewhere that I… when I first bought it from the artist, and…

Oh God. Here! You find it! ( grunts )

I’ve got macular degeneration. I…

Nothing but a big bubble in my middle vision, and…

But I have very accurate peripheral vision, so you just…

Scott and I agreed that we had never heard vision/macular degeneration described in that way before on television. Very cool, and accurate. Such a great thing to include as a way to educate people on different ways of seeing.

I found a wonderful craft essay this morning by Amorak Huey: The Prose Poem & the Startling Image. I hope to write more about it soon. For now, here’s a prose poem he includes in his discussion of finding images that startle:

poem about water/ sam sax

i get it. your body is blah blah blah percent water. oceans levitate, clouds urinate on the ground that grows our food. this is considered a miracle – this is a problem of language. i could go on for days with facts about the ocean and it will always sound like i’m talking about love. i could say: no man has ever seen its deepest trenches, we know less about its floor than the stars, if you could go deep enough all your softest organs will be forced out of your mouth. you can be swallowed alive and no one will hear a sound. last summer three boys drowned in the sound and no one remembers their names, they came up white and soft as plastic grocery bags. i guess you could call that love. you’d be wrong.

Now I’ve started reading more of sam sax’s work. Water is a big theme in their collection, Bury it. And, how about this wonderful image in their poem, Prayer for the Mutilated World?

after phone lines do nothing
but cut the sky into sheet music
& our phones are just expensive
bricks of metal & glass

Or how water works in this poem:

swim: 1 small loop = .5 loop
cedar lake open swim
76 degrees
6:00 pm

Went to open swim with FWA. Just as we arrived, it started to rain. Then it rained harder. We almost turned back, but we didn’t. By the time we made it to the water, the rain had stopped and the sun was peeking through the clouds. The water wasn’t as clear as it has been, but still much clearer than Lake Nokomis. When we reached the far beach, we stopped for a few minutes. FWA picked up some rocks (with his feet, underwater), and started knocking them together. They made a sharp satisfying clicking noise that we could hear above water. I wonder if other swimmer could hear it below, and from how far away? Did it bother the fish?

march 3/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
19 degrees / feels like 10
5% ice-covered

Sunnier today. Remembered to notice the sky. High above me, a clear, soft blue; nearer, mostly wispy clouds. Not much wind, not too cold. The river continues to open, ripped seams everywhere. I felt good as I ran. Tried chanting in triples (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry), but it didn’t last long. Devoted some attention to feeling my feet strike the ground, my legs lift off.

Before my run, I felt weighed down. Is it because my mom’s 80th birthday would have been this Saturday if she hadn’t died in 2009? Or because winter doesn’t want to leave? Or Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine? Or the University of Wyoming voting to end funding for the Gender and Women’s Studies Department? The climate crisis deniers? Whatever it was (and will continue to be), it lifted as I ran.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. lots of crows
  2. on the way back from the falls, after I put my headphones in, a cardinal’s trill fit very nicely with Cee Lo Green’s singing in “Crazy”
  3. a few walkers done below on the Winchell Trail
  4. primary noise: cars’ whooshing wheels on the river road
  5. a crew was out, in front of Minnehaha Academy, sawing down some tree limbs. The chainsaw started as an irritating whine, then a bzzzz
  6. laughing and yelling kids out on the school playground
  7. the snow on the hill in the oak savanna is melting fast — I saw some bare patches
  8. the falls: still frozen, all the trails and the stairs are covered in crusty, icy snow
  9. conversation overhead: something like, “and that’s what your dad was doing…”
  10. all the puddles from yesterday were solid and slick ice today

Right now, I’m trying to put together a course proposal for a summer class on moving and being outside and noticing wonder. It’s fun and frustrating and very exciting. Just north of the 44th street parking lot, I began thinking about whether I should use the word habit or ritual. I like ritual, but writing rituals seem to have a specific meaning. When I think of rituals, I often think of things done to prepare you for writing/creating — sitting in this chair, drinking this tea, listening to this music, wearing this shawl, etc. While being outside and moving can do that, it does more too. The act of regularly being outside and moving not only prepares you to be more creative, but can be the repeated practice of being creative. Does that make any sense? When I have time, I think I’ll do some more thinking through the differences between habit and ritual, especially how it is understood within poetry.

Found this poem in the march issue of Poetry:

Peripheral/ Hannah Emmerson

Yes I prefer the peripheral
because it limits the vision.

It does focus my attention.
Direct looking just is too

much killing of the moment.
Looking oblique littles

the moment into many
helpful moments.

Moment moment moment
moment keep in the moment.

My first reaction to this poem is resistance: I don’t agree with the idea that the peripheral limits vision. It alters it, changes how we see, but doesn’t limit it. Instead, it expands and softens. Is this reaction fair? I’ll sit with it for awhile, then return to this poem. When I finally begin work on my peripheral project, I’ll add it to my list of resources.