What the Fuck 2020?

2020 in log entries, summarized by month, with no apologies for the swearing in a year that deserves it.

January

So much energy and promise and hope at the beginning of 2020! I revamped by UN || DISCIPLINED site and began thinking about how to connect my past academic life with my current creative writing, running, losing her central vision, job-less self in a project I ambitiously titled, How to Be: a project in the unmaking and remaking of a Self. I ran on a lot of uneven, icy paths, running while listening to the gorge one way, then to a playlist the other way. Spent some time in the basement biking while watching the Netflix docuseries, Cheer!. Ran inside, on the treadmill in my basement, and with Scott at US Bank Stadium downtown.

Wrote about

Knew that COVID-19 existed, but was only mildly worried about it. Should have known we were in for a very bad year; January of 2020 was the grayest, cloudiest, most sunless month in recorded weather history (since 1963).

February

Continued to brainstorm about my “How to Be” project, enjoy Cheer! and The Ring, and breathe in the fresh, cold air above the gorge. Became interested in birds and tried to pay attention to clouds but couldn’t. Listened to the podcast, “Dolly Parton’s America.” Endured arctic hellscape level temperatures–feels like 29 below–and discovered that the reflection of the light above the treadmill in a basement window looks like the moon above Lake Superior. Ran the trestle turn around many times, and a few one way routes to downtown, ending at Stone Arch Bridge. Experimented with dictating my entries into my phone instead of just typing them. Mistook honking geese for some yelling kids. Discovered a new favorite spot: the part of the path, just past the oak savanna, as hills curves down to reveal the river. Endured the annoying ice freezing in the morning, thawing in the afternoon, refreezing at night, and the thawing in the morning, turning into big sloppy puddles on the path for my run. Began reading Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen and found, for the first time, my blind spot in my central vision (which served as the inspiration for my latest writing project, Mood Rings).

Wrote about

Still no mention of COVID-19, even though I know I had heard of it and was mildly anxious about it. An ominous sign: near the end of February, a few dead bodies were found in the river: one near the Franklin Bridge, one about the double bridge at 44th st.

March

At the beginning of the month, spring seemed to be coming early, everything melting and warmer, favorite paths closed in the winter starting to open up. Then in the week of March 10th, pandemic panic hit. Schools and restaurants closed as we “sheltered-in-place” while horrific twitter threads about symptoms and suffering spread. I tried to focus on the joy and delight I experienced running beside the gorge, and forget, if only for an hour, the simmering terror and uncertainty.

My fear was made worse by the cold/allergies I was experiencing. I ran more, believing that as long as I could run, and breathe while I ran, I didn’t have the virus and I would be okay. I ran over 100 miles that month, only missing 2 days. I memorized poems to recite as I ran, starting with Franz Wright’s “Auto-lullaby,” and came up with a reciting while running exercise. I gathered song lyrics that lasted 20 seconds to sing while washing my hands (favorite: Oompa Loompa verse). And I devoted a lot of energy to avoiding people and trying to keep a safe distance of 6+ feet, lamenting how many people still refused to move over and give others room, and concluding: “If they can’t be bothered to move over when it’s recommended to help lessen the spread of a pandemic, I guess there’s no hope that they ever will.”

I also began tracking and posting the number of COVID cases and repeating the phrase, “Let’s dial back the Apocalypse” to Scott whenever he started freaking out. By the end of the month, I hardly ever ran on the trail, choosing less crowded sidewalks and Edmund Boulevard instead. Safer but also farther from the river and my view of the gorge and the other side.

March’s Soundtrack

With all the raining and thawing and melting, dripping water was the soundtrack for the month. On March 23rd, I recorded these delightful sounds:

trickling
bubbling

Wrote about

March 10th: Last time in any store or public building (other than a few rest areas in October). It was a Target and I remember how the cashier mentioning the hoarding of pasta and toilet paper made it all seem scary and real.

April

Settled into the new pandemic reality. Found a new running route to try that extended Edmund Boulevard for another mile. Began ordering groceries online. Even as the city closed a lane of the river road to traffic and made it for walkers/runners only, felt exhausted trying to watch out for people and keep my distance. Endured strange weather: the cold, the snow, sudden warming up. Experienced overwhelming gratitude for the gorge and being able to walk and run beside it every day. Injured my right shoulder from scraping paint for too many hours (now, at the end of 2020, it still aches sometimes). Discovered my new favorite bird, the black-capped chickadee, and recorded their chatter. Continued to memorize and recite poems as I ran, realizing that the Mississippi River Gorge, running, and poetry were saving me.

Soundtrack for April

April 23, 2020/ highest point of Edmund Boulevard
2 Birds Talking

Wrote About

May

After tracking COVID case and death counts in April, decided to stop in May and try to forget about the virus. Struggled with ongoing sinus issues–chronic sinusitis, I think. Tracked and lamented the greening of the gorge, concealing my view of the river and the other side. Enjoyed memorizing and studying Rita Dove’s “Ode to my right knee.” Became obsessed with alphabet poems and alliteration. Collected and memorized a series of poems that featured green, then wrote my own Rita Dove-esque alliteration poem: Ode to Green. The entire river road was closed to traffic and open to runners (and bikers and walkers and roller skiers). Ran and walked by the gorge a lot (averaged 11 miles a day). Began wearing a new pair of Saucony Grid Cohesions. Renamed the grassy stretch near Locks and Dam #1 from the tree graveyard (where the grass often floods and trees go to die) to turkey hollow (because: so many turkeys!). Found out they weren’t cancelling open swim this summer and had to make the gut-wrenching decision not to do it this summer for the safety and sanity of myself and my family. Learned about penstemon and Lotharios and probies and viridescent. Entered a new, challenging phase of the pandemic: people who think it’s over or don’t care anymore and have stopped being careful and started being reckless and shaming and belittling those who are still trying to be careful.

On May 26th, George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police. Protests that were initially peaceful became violent as white supremacists from around the country came to Minneapolis intent on destruction. The business center of my neighborhood, right by the police precinct and about a mile from my house, was looted and set on fire. Scott, RJP, and I watched a live feed from a news helicopter as people burned down entire buildings, including our post office and the Indian restaurant we have gotten takeout from almost every week for years, and seriously damaged others, like our grocery store and library. See: May 27th, 28th and 31st log entries.

Wrote about

June

Returned from Austin, MN. Endured heat and humidity. Ran with Scott and talked about defunding the police. For the first few days of the month, on the recommendation of our neighbors and neighborhood association, checked our bushes each night for explosive devices, potentially left by white supremacists for detonating in the middle of the night. Memorized, recited, reflected on poems about doors and openings and thresholds. Then memorized some poems about birds–goldfinches and crows and turkey vultures and yellow-beaked nightbirds and wild geese. Felt sad about missing open swim season, frustrated by how things were opening up again and people being reckless, unsettled by ongoing sinus problems, worried about terrible presidents and whether or not schools would be opening in the fall. Ran mostly on the road, a few times on the trails. Created some new loop routes. Realized I don’t like running multiple loops. Celebrated my 46th birthday with a 2.5 mile run and discovered that I am one day younger than Derek Jeter.

Wrote about

from Plague Notebook, Volume 3

In January, I started writing in a Field Notes Pitch Black Notebook. Once the pandemic began, I named this notebook my Plague Notebook and when that one was finished, I started a new one, naming it volume 2. As of December, I’m on volume 5. At the end of June I completed the third volume–Plague Notebook, Vol 3: Wave 1. Here’s what I wrote on the last page:

Goodbye June. I’ve memorized poems. Revisited critical race studies. Ran. Endured waves of fear, despair, sadness, rage. Had fun with the alphabet. Walked a lot. Weeded, scratched bug bites. Felt hopeless and hopeful. Cried, laughed. Did the George Michael “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” dance.

July

At the end of the month, instead of writing one poem with an alliterative title, I compiled all my notes, musings, thoughts from July and called it July’s Jottings. Such a good idea! A common theme, for the month and the year:

Life is joy and sorrow in the midst of each other, terror and delight sitting beside each other on a tall bridge.

Ran on the river road most of the time, early in the morning, but still in the heat and humidity with the dew point often above 70. Memorized poems from Marie Howe and about vision and the loving eye vs. arrogant eye. Recited them in my head while I ran, recorded them into my phone when I was done. Avoided people–walkers, runners, bikers–on the crowded road and paths. Rarely saw the river, heard lots of birds. Missed open swim. Watched “Clash of the Titans” from 1981 and re-discovered my love for greek mythology; recognized myself in Medusa (how she turns others into stone; my vision does that too). Joyfully sprinted up the hill near the Welcoming Oaks and the tunnel of trees while listening to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, not Sorry.” Sweat a lot. Was dive-bombed by sparrows in my backyard, irritated by clueless space-joggers in the road. Longed to run the narrow, lower trail, closer to the water. Ended the month thinking about the soul as water.

Wrote about

Hardly any mentions of COVID-19, even as it was continuing to generate a simmering terror within me. Reviewing my July’s Jottings, I know I had a 10+ day sinus infection, which would have made me anxious.

August

Ran some loops on the road at the beginning of the month before they opened the road back up on August 4th. Then ran on Edmond Boulevard, around the Longfellow neighborhood, by Cooper School, through the tunnel of trees, down in the lower trail (once), sometimes struggling to adjust to the road being opened up to cars again. Memorized and recited poems about listening. Was delighted to learn about scum-eating water boatman bugs and zombie cicadas, was horrified to learn that male water boatman have singing penises, and disturbed after reading this line about the eating habits of adult cicadas: “Adults do not eat. After mating, they die.”

Started seeing signs of fall: vees of geese, leaves changing from green to red, falling acorns. Read about a black bear sighting on the east side of the river, near the river road trail that’s part of my ford loop. For the first time ever, heard opera music blasting from a bike’s speakers as it passed me on the trail (and was annoyed). Started work on the second phase of my vision poems: a series of mood poems using my blind spot as form.

Discovered a new mantra from the amazing poet, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, for dealing with all the terribleness right now:

Let the wonder always win

Wrote about

September

Ran mostly on Edmund and through the neighborhood to avoid the crowds on the river road trail, but yearned for my regular routes: the Franklin loop, to the flats and back, anywhere on the rim of the gorge. Ran once around Lake Nokomis and several times around the two elementary schools my kids had attended some years ago. Experimented with stacking loops to add distance, naming the route: the loop that keeps getting larger. Ended the month with some speed–hill sprints on the part of the road closed for construction–and regret–a too crowded run on the lower trail. Ran with Scott at least once and my son, FWA, a few times for his online gym class.

Discovered that one name for a group of ravens is a conspiracy: a conspiracy of ravens. Also discovered one name for falling leaves: an autumn of leaves. Thought about how the fancy, expensive private school on the river road was opening up for in-person classes, wondered how stressful that would be for teachers. Was thankful that Minneapolis Public Schools are online. Wore gloves and tights, saw my breath, and turned the heat on in early September. Too soon! By mid-month, it was 80 again. Too warm!

Admired the shapes my winding, loopy routes made on the map in my activity app. Thought a lot about my mood ring writing project as I ran, researched vision and blind spots after I returned home. Noticed some smoke in the air, making the sun look the color of orange sherbet, coming from the terrible wildfires in the West. Felt grief and terror when I learned that Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. Watched the Tour de France and was both disappointment by Roglich’s loss and excited by Pogačar’s impressive victory.

Wrote about

October

Ran hill repeats for a few weeks until they finished construction and opened the road back up. Also ran down the franklin to the flats and the lower trail once, turkey hollow several times. Needed more layers: running tights, vests, gloves (felt like 10 degrees on October 27th). Ran in some blustery wind, big fluffy snowflakes, and small, sharp pellets that felt like little knives stabbing my face. On October 21st, we got 7.9 inches of snow. The next day, snow-ice-freezing rain mix. Biked in the basement on the bike stand for the first time since last March.

Pondered, after hearing some loud kids on a playground, what the collective noun for that would be–a playground of kids? a yell of kids? an exuberance of children? Took a day trip to Duluth and entered a public building (a rest area) for the first time since March. Worked very hard not to be constantly angry and wishing Trump would just die already from the virus (his behavior while sick broke any compassion or generosity or forgiveness I have–and I have a tremendous amount). Decided to reframe the idea of “October Surprise” (usually referring to some shocking news that can shift the outcome of an election) to be about small moments of amazement and wonder I encountered on my walks or runs.

Admired the gorge, glowing in oranges and reds and yellows, including marigold. What a color! Learned that 30% of dalmatians are deaf because of their spots and that prig is another word for a stuffy, self-righteous bore. Composed triple chants. Wished that I could run non-stop until this pandemic (and Trump) was over; no worry of pain when I run–no fear, no dull ache in my chest, no sinus pain in my eye sockets or jaw.

Tracked Courtney Dauwalter as she ran Big’s Backyard Ultra–repeating a 4 mile loop every hour for as many hours as you can until you can’t move or you are too disoriented or you’re too slow or you’re the last one standing. She ran 68 loops, over 280 miles and won the U.S. version. Smelled a fire and hot chocolate, running past a house on Edmund. Watched another 3-week bike race:  the Vuelta a España.

And, almost more than anything else, worked on my mood ring poems, figuring out the form and steadily plugging letters into my grid.

Soundtrack for October

Sharp icy snow, 22 October

Wrote about

November

Nearing the end of 2020 and almost to my goal of 1000 miles for the year, became more cautious as I felt some pain in my lower pelvis. Dr. Google says it’s probably a mild case of osteitis pubis. The cure? Rest. I’m taking it easier for these last months (and I mostly have) as I run my remaining 100 miles. Near the end of the month, sitting on the floor, not moving, my kneecap slid out of place twice. I popped it back in, but it was sore for a few days (Reviewing my log I discovered that this exact thing had happened last November too).

Endured the awful election night when I went to sleep thinking Trump had won. Cried in relief and joy when the election was finally called for Biden 3 days later. I predict many tears these next few months. Partly relief, partly those terrible trump toxins leaking out of my body. Finally, on November 24th, Biden was able to begin his transition (and Trump came as close as he ever will in conceding on twitter when he acknowledged Biden won).

bird of the month: secretary bird

Ran mostly through the neighborhood, sometimes south on the river road, once with Scott (on Thanksgiving morning) on the franklin loop. Ran less on the weekends to avoid crowds. Ran on the treadmill in the basement more. Wore shorts a few times at the beginning of the month. Avoided snow-laden branches on November 11th, when it snowed 5 inches. Got excited for winter running and colder, fresher air.

Wrote about

December

The month started cold and snow-less, then ended cold and snow-covered–an inch here, an inch there is adding up. Saw a fox, heard a black-capped chickadee, listened to the geese calling to me, announcing my place in the family of things. Ran much less; proud of myself for taking a break at the end of the month. Learned that a gamelan is an Indonesian percussion instrument. Also learned that 1000 miles was just about at the limit of what my body can do in a year (or, at least, this year). Ran through the neighborhood, occasionally on the river road trail, to turkey hollow, around 2 elementary schools, and once on the franklin loop with Scott. Biked in the basement, took Delia the dog on walks, reviewed and re-memorized the poems I memorized this summer. Gathered favorite lines of poetry from the year, finished and posted my Mood Ring poems, wrote summaries for every month. Got some new shoes: berry red! Ended the month early on this log when I reached 1000 miles: on December 24th.

(post log entries): Had a very low-key Christmas with Scott and the kids–who slept in until 3 on Christmas Eve and 1 on Christmas day. Played an epic game of Trivial Pursuit. Decided I needed to be more aggressive in treating my sinus problems, so I’m paying more attention to my diet–another way to get rid of those terrible Trump toxins!

Wrote about

covid-19 cases on december 28

infections

MN: 410,138
US: 19,151,651
WORLD: 80,979,476

Deaths

MN: 5,160
US: 333,326
WORLD: 1,768,048