may 14/WALK

Woke up this morning and decided I should take a day off from running. Went on 2 walks instead and enjoyed being outside on my deck as much as possible while my high school aged son took 2 AP tests–AP Chemistry and AP Physics–back to back in his room. Such a strange time.

I memorized my next green poem on the deck: Instructions for Not Giving Up/ Ada Limón. It was easier to memorize than Larkin’s The Trees. Why? I think formal meter trips me up. Sitting on the deck, repeating the first line over and over–“More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree” “More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree”–I wasn’t thinking at all about the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the big crabapple tree in my backyard. This year, the blossoms are exceptional. It wasn’t until I was out walking through the neighborhood with Scott and Delia the dog, looking at the brightly colored flowers on the trees, that I realized it. I guess I was too focused on remembering the words. I love how memorizing these poems helps me to spend more time with them and to acquire better words for the world around me. I wouldn’t have thought to describe the flowers as fuchsia funnels, but it really fits. Now, as I walk around the neighborhood, all I can see is one fuchsia funnel after another.

a hiding bird + more turkeys!

Maybe I should start calling the tree graveyard turkey meadow instead? Every time I’m there I see wild turkeys. Last night, Scott and I watched one crossing the road, its head awkwardly bobbing back and forth. A few minutes, later we heard a bird calling out loudly, repeatedly. We stopped and stared up at the big tree where we thought it was, but neither of us could spot it. I wish I would have recorded its call. I can’t remember it now. Was it another Northern Cardinal? A goldfinch?

april 25/WALK

walk: 4.75 miles
extended 47th ave loop
65 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 244 (MN)/ 53,070 (US)

Woke up feeling sore all over. I think it’s from the hours I’ve spent trying to scrape the paint off the deck railing. Decided to take a long walk with Scott and Delia the dog instead of running. Amazing spring weather. Bright, warm sun. Hardly any wind. Calm, gentle air. Lots of people walking, biking, and running out by the gorge this morning. Didn’t see any wild turkeys but did see a tiny baby rabbit. I said to Scott, “that’s the only time I think rabbits are cute.” I really don’t like rabbits. Also saw this super cool sculpture in someone’s front yard:

photo by room34

I want a front yard like this! No grass and an awesome sculpture. It’s fun walking by the gorge and then winding through longfellow neighborhood. People are delightfully quirky around here. Anything else? We talked about if the virus will ebb some in the summer and how terrible it must be for some kids now that they are closing down all the playgrounds and skate parks and removing the nets from basketball hoops and tennis courts. How will some kids entertain themselves? So tough.

When we got home, I sat on our warm deck in full sun and felt nostalgic for past springs and summers as a kid, when I would soak in the sun, still able to enjoy feeling hot because it was novel. Then I composed another version of Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today”:

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my knee, beside—
This, my knee, and all the gorge
And all the river wide—
Be sure to count—should I forget
Some one the Sum could tell—
This, and my knee, and every Tree
Bare-branched without its Veil—

I think I like this version better than my last.

After composing this poem and reciting it to my wonderful daughter who was willing to listen, I sat in my chair and heard the birds. I didn’t actually have a choice, they were insistent that I eavesdrop on their conversation. Repeating it over and over and over again. Of course, when I finally decided to record them, they weren’t as chatty. Still, I did manage to record a few lines. 2 syllables each. One bird started low, then went higher. The other responded higher, then went lower. I imagined them to be singing: “Up high/ Down low” What else could they be saying?

2 birds chatting

Subway/Eat fresh
Be nice/Fuck you
Hey there!/What’s up?
Mustard/Ketchup
Doughnut/Ice cream
Mad Men/Ozark
Mustache/Goatee
Pizza/Nachos
Dumb luck/Hard work
Winter/Summer

oct 9/2.5 MILES

52 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

52 degrees! Sunny! Radiant. So many yellow trees, some gold, some paler yellow. A red tree near the lake street bridge. I planned to run with my playlist again but when I started running, it felt wrong to shut out the wind and the crunching leaves and the cars gently driving by. So I took off my headphones. Today’s injury recovery run was walk 3 minutes/run 2 minutes X 6. My knee felt a little sore during the last three runs, but not too bad.

3 versions of the wind I heard today

  • shimmering (or sparkling, not whispering) wind that passes by, or that you pass through, almost like a curtain
  • wind that sounds like the gentle roll of boiling water
  • the wind that picks up the dead leaves on the path and swirls them around, lightly, not vigorously

oct 6/2.3 MILES

71 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Week one of returning to running complete! Today I walked 3.5 minutes/ran 1.5 minutes 6 times. I ran longer and a little faster. And it felt okay. Now, hours later, my knee still feels fine. Very exciting!

The trees just above the gorge are turning from lime green to lemon yellow–or is it more of a banana yellow? Whatever it is, it’s definitely not golden or fiery red or orange. The other day, I started thinking about how much of the poetry I’ve read about fall, which is not that much, talks about red leaves or gold/yellow ones, but rarely orange. Why is that?

For the Orange Leaves that have been Overlooked

I’ve read many lines
about fiery red leaves
and glowing golden ones
but where is the poetry for leaves that are orange?
Is it because of the sound?
Red has a punch
yellow is mellow
and gold is bright, brassy, bold!
But orange just splats on the page,
plops off the tongue.
Maybe we should talk about
leaves of vermillion
or leaves of persimmon
or marmalade leaves
or leaves that glow like a neon crayon?

oct 4/2.15 MILES

48 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Sunny. Crisp. Cool. Great fall weather for running! This morning I ran a little more, walked a little less. 4 minutes of walking, 1 minute of running, six times. Felt okay. I listened to my playlist and didn’t pay attention to much other than the time, making sure I didn’t miss my minute of running or run too much.

Here’s what I remember:

  • Walking under the oak? trees that line the path between the 36th and 35th street parking lots. Their gnarled branches stretching horizontally.
  • Encountering the daily walker and wondering if he recognized me after my 2 month absence.
  • Two runners passing me while I was walking, one right before the lake street bridge, one just above the floodplain forest, on my favorite part of the path, the part where I always check the progress of the leaves. Both had graceful, relaxed gaits.
  • Seeing one of those runners run off the path onto the grass to avoid two path-hogging walkers. Wondering if my last running minute would start soon and then imaging running up behind the walkers, stepping off onto the grass, and displacing my kneecap again.
  • Seeing lots of yellow trees, a few red, a few orange.
  • Not encountering any dogs and very few walkers.

I’m working on a collage of writings about “the body electric” that might include an homage (of sorts) poem to the final part of Walt Whitman’s “I sing the body electric” from Leaves of Grass. Here’s what I have so far:

The Parts and Poems of the Body

I. The Knee

Bones, joints, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles,
fibrous thickenings and fluid-filed capsules and sacs
make locomotion possible.

The femur, patella and tibia move
The fibula bears weight.

The tibiofemoral joint bends
the patellofemoral joint grooves
the rings of Meniscus absorb
the smooth white tissue of the articular cartilage transfers
loads of tremendous force.

The cruciate ligaments cross over each other
the collateral ligaments support
both link femur to tibia
the quadriceps tendon attaches
the quad muscles to the patella.

The quads, that four headed muscle of the femur, with its
vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedium
and rectus femoris bend and straighten.

The hamstrings, those string-like tendons in the hollow of the knee—
the semitendinosus, semimembranosus
and biceps femoris—extend and flex.

The adductor longus and the gracilis keep the runner upright
the beefy stomach of the leg, the gastrocnemius, points and lifts
the popliteus, devoted solely to the knee, rotates and unlocks
the Iliotibial band stabilizes and assists
the synovial fluid lubricates
and the bursae reduce friction.

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say the soul of the runner is the knee!

oct 2/2 MILES

59 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Running again! Well, mostly walking with a little bit of running too. Since I have only run once (and with a brace) in the past 2 months, I’m easing back into it with this plan. Today I walked for 4.5 minutes and ran for .5 minutes 6 times. It felt good to be running again. I was surprised by how fast 30 seconds went by. On Wednesday, I’ll walk 4, run 1 and Friday: walk 3, run 2.

As I read more poetry and experiment with my own poems, I’m thinking about line breaks. I found a useful exercise in which you take the same poem and arrange the line breaks differently depending on 6 Ss: speed, sound, syntax, surprise, sense, and space. I applied it to a poem I wrote about the body a few months back. Here’s the original poem:

The body is a machine.
Not the body as machine
or the body is like a machine
or the body is only a machine.
But, the body is a machine.
An efficient machine,
capturing energy, consuming minerals, converting air into breath.
The body is an intricate machine,
made up of muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
that work together in the complex process of locomotion.
The body is a marvelous machine,
containing strange creatures
with multiple heads and fantastical names.
The body is a beautiful machine,
composed of grace and exuberance and joy.
The body is a powerful machine,
able to endure intense pain and absorb tremendous force.
The body is a delicate and temperamental machine;
it can shut down from overuse, lack of use or repeated abuse.

And, here’s a version where I took the best parts of each “s” attempt:

The body is a machine.
Not as
is like
is only
but is

An efficient machine,
capturing energy,
consuming minerals,
converting air into breath.

An intricate machine,
containing muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
and organs and arteries and veins
and fluids and systems that work together
in the complex process
of locomotion.

A marvelous machine,
made up of strange creatures
with multiple heads
and melodious names.

A beautiful machine,
composed of grace
and exuberance
and joy.

A powerful machine,
able to endure
intense pain and
absorb
tremendous force.

And a delicate and temperamental machine
that can shut down from
overuse,
lack of use
repeated abuse.

july 28/8.45 MILES

69 degrees
79% humidity
dew point: 60
the almost downtown turn around

This run felt hard and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. But I did, with the help of several walks. I’m surprised at how little it bothers me that I’m walking so much during these runs. Or that I’m going so slow. Have I given up or just become wiser and more measured in my approach? Or some thing else that I can’t quite figure out? Whatever it is, I’m continuing to train and survive and have moments that I deeply enjoy. I would like to work on pushing through some of the more difficult moments.

For the first half of the run, I listened to an old On Being episode with Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver. Here are a few lines that I particularly liked:

What is the meaning of life?

“have no answers but have some suggestions.” I was expecting her to end her line with: “have lots of questions.” I like that she didn’t and I like the idea that we can make suggestions instead of assertions or claims. These suggestions offer insight without definite answers. I’d like to do a writing experiment organized around the idea of having suggestions instead of answers.

writing while walking

They discuss how Oliver writes on her many walks through the woods.  A notebook is mentioned. I’d like to know, in more detail, her process of walking and writing. A few months ago, I read about Jamie Quattro and how, if she got an idea while she was running for a story, she would stop and find a stick and then scratch some notes on her arm (or in her hand?). I’ve tried composing lines while running by speaking them into my voice memo app. But, how does Oliver do it? Maybe she writes about it somewhere?

listening convivially

Krista Tippet references Mary Oliver’s suggestion to “listen convivially” while walking. Where does Oliver say this? In a poem? Prose? An interview?

convivially: good company, joyful/agreeable attitude, greeting others/the world with delight

For me, listening in such an important part of the process of running and paying attention. I like the idea of being convivial as we listen. What are the subtle (and maybe not so subtle) differences between being convivial and generous or open?

attention without feeling is only a report

“You need empathy with it rather than just reporting. Reporting is for field guides. And they’re great. They’re helpful. But that’s what they are. But they’re not thought provokers. And they don’t go anywhere. And I say somewhere that attention is the beginning of devotion, which I do believe.” Attention/Devotion/Rumination/Engagement/Feeling the Force of Ideas and Experiences and Moments.

mystery is in that combination of discipline and the convivial listening

I’m really interested in how being disciplined and undisciplined combine to generate creativity and a more meaningful life. Limits, in the form of structure–Oliver discusses how one of her most famous poems, “Wild Geese,” began as a writing exercise in using end-stopped lines–and freedom, in the form of experimenting, taking risks, imagining new ways of writing, being, doing.

Such wonderful ideas! I can’t wait to read more.

Here are 2 of her poems that I found and want to spend more time with: Spring and What is it?


And here’s my attempt at playing around with Oliver’s idea of suggestions, not answers.

a suggestion on suggestions

I’ve never been good with answers,
giving them, that is.
I can handle accepting them,
as long as they aren’t final
or firm
or boring,
lacking imagination and a wonder
that is necessary for joyful living.
I used to believe that this was a problem,
my refusal to give answers.
It certainly is for some people.
But, no longer for me.
Answers are overrated and too easy.
Even sometimes lazy.
I always want questions.
And now, having heard Mary Oliver utter it in an interview,
suggestions.
Possibilities to explore, entertain, use in our experiments.
Proposals that might fit the facts and feelings.
Things to consider
and ruminate over as I wander through the woods
or run on the path that stretches ahead of me for miles.

And, a poem inspired by Oliver’s exercise in combining end-stopped lines with enjambment and by Gros (Philosophy of Walking) and his use of Nietzsche and the question from The Gay Science about the value of a book or dance or musical composition: “Can they walk?”

How Does Your Writing Move?

With ideas that end when the line or the path does.
And ideas that wander, traveling over
the edge, maybe down
into the gorge, where mystery lives,
behind the green veil that covers the trees from mid-May to early October.

In forms that hold tight with elbows at a 90 degree angle.
And forms that sprawl
all over the place. Messy moments
transformed into words that spill across
the page, leaking energy (and black ink).

Using syntax that remains steady and even.
And syntax that starts. Stops. And starts again,
moving slowly through ideas and experiences and feelings and images.
Then, rapidly.
Like jagged breathing during a tempo run.

july 26/4 MILES

72 degrees
90% humidity
dew point: 69

Did I go for a run or a steam bath, just now, outside in humidity so wet that it dripped off the trees? The dew point was high too, but it didn’t feel thick, only moist. Felt pretty good on my run. My knee didn’t hurt and I could handle the humidity and the dripping sweat. Briefly walked twice to make sure that I didn’t run too fast and that I was recovering and not racing.

Yesterday, I started work on something about Monday’s long run:

Almost

Almost three hours.
Almost one hundred and eighty minutes.
Almost one fourth of my waking hours.
Almost sixteen miles.
Almost two thirds of a marathon.
Almost the age I got my driver’s license.
Almost too much.
Almost too long.
Almost too tired.
But not quite.

july 21/8.2 MILES

72 degrees
86% humidity
dew point: 70

I had originally been planning to run my 16 miles this morning, but when I got outside and felt how thick and heavy the air was, I knew it wasn’t happening. So I did my 8 miles instead, with several walks. At about 5 miles, I had to stop and create a make shift band-aid for the blisters on two of my toes. I ripped up the paper towel I had and wrapped it around the toes. It worked pretty well. Note to self: always put band-aids in my pack!

july 12/4 MILES

86 degrees
dew point: 64
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha creek path/lake nokomis

Hot! Difficult! Some success, some failure. Gravel on the road, getting kicked up by commuting cars. Pebbles and dust flying at me. A hot wind, blowing in my face, which is already bright red. The sun beating down. My pulse heating up. No running playlist to distract me. And no memory of the running chants that I created to keep me going. What am I thinking about, other than: when am I done? why am I running in this heat? will I make it to Lake Nokomis for open swim? I stop and walk several times. But then I’m at the lake and it’s cooler, with a breeze coming off of the water, and I’m almost done and I’m trying to get past two other runners that are running just a little bit slower than me so I speed up for the last half mile. It feels good.

open swim
1 loop: 1200 yards

I’m only swimming one loop since I already ran 4 miles in the heat. I am worried that I might cramp up if I swim more than that. The water is warm, which feels nice, even though cooler water would be nice for cooling me down. The water is choppy, but not too choppy. Gentle, not rough. Only a few big waves are crashing into my face when I breathe on the wrong side. I spot the big orange buoys the whole time. I’m not running into anyone, although a vine ran into me, a few yards back. I’m not being routed by any other swimmers, well, just one at the little beach, but it was only a minor routing and I got back on track pretty quickly. I feel relaxed. Strong. Happy to be out in the water.