oct 10/RUN

5.1 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees

Ah, this fall weather! What a morning to be outside by the gorge. A little windier than I’d like, but wonderful. My legs felt a little stiff and sore, but I kept going and they got better. In the third mile, I started chanting triple berries. Just the same three again and again: strawberry blueberry raspberry strawberry blueberry raspberry. They helped me stay in a good rhythm.

10 Things

  1. rowers on the river! 6 or 8 in one shell
  2. the river was blue heading east, brown on the return trip west
  3. either wind or water through the trees, making a shimmering sound
  4. still so much green everywhere
  5. 2 different bikes blasting music that I couldn’t quite identify
  6. click clack click clack — a roller skier passing me as we neared the lake street bridge
  7. a minute later, a rollerblader approaching from the north, heading south
  8. flowers in the pipe sticking out of the trestle railing that’s been turned into a vase — a memorial for someone
  9. a man using a DIY walker/runner — bike wheels, yellow frame (I think I’m remembering that right?)
  10. the glitter effect: wind + sun + water = wow
My view facing south from the overlook on the Lake Street bridge. The Mississippi River with trees in the background and an apartment building in the upper right corner. This photo is in color -- blue water, green trees with hints of yellow and orange --but to me it looks black and white, or gray and brown.
My view facing south on the Lake Street bridge

No geese or fat tires or Daddy Long Legs. Also, no headphones. Listened to the wind, radios, conversations, my feet thudding on the ground.

I stopped at my favorite part of the tunnel of trees. Walking up the small hill, I noticed leaves gently falling from the trees, birds chirping, the light coming through the canopy. I decided to stop and take a short video:

at the end of my run, above the floodplain forest

Here’s how I see/hear this video: The view of a canopy of trees. Occasionally, a leaf stirs in the wind. All around this view, leaves were drifting down one at a time. If I put my face right up to the screen — nose touching — I can see that these trees are GREEN!, but with my face a foot away, the scene looks grayish brownish, with only the whisper of green. When recording this video, I mostly heard the birds and not the cars above me on the road. But watching the video I hear mostly the loud rushing of cars and some wind. The birds are very quiet.

The birds, both remembered from when I stood at the spot recording this video and heard in this clip, made me think of a wonderful bird poem I discovered yesterday:

For the Birds/ Zilka Joseph

Sudden dash of light in the corner
of my eye, a soundless flash in hazy swathe
of trees leaps stealthily from the small maple
to the crabapple that has taken this year’s
drought hard. My eyes bore into foliage. Is it
a mynah? Dad, you taught me well how to look
and listen. This is Michigan, and it’s probably
a grackle, but I think of the crow pheasant
(the coucal) I often watched in India, a wily
master of camouflage. I remember the first

time I ever saw one close up. I was seven
or maybe eight, sickly and bookish. While
sitting in the shade of a sprawling gulmohar
that dropped scarlet whorls of flowers
on me, it darted from under the hibiscus. So
graceful its arched tail, so fiery its beady eyes.
I was reading some Enid Blyton novel about
young girls in a boarding school in rainy
England who ate scones and crumpets, and had

fabulous adventures. It was a hot afternoon
as this avian beauty that normally threaded light
woodland and field slipped into my grandaunt
Lily’s garden. She was a famous doctor
at Tata Hospital when few women
stayed single and had careers. She drove
a grey Standard Herald, and her frantic beeping
of the horn sent her gardener’s sons rushing
to throw open the low iron gates when
she came home. Once, she gave me a nest
a weaver bird had abandoned. It adorned
my bedroom for years. She would tell me

about the trips she had taken when she was
young. All over Europe, and yes, to the Isle
of Capri—her favorite. All eyes, I would listen.
Then she would sing “‘Twas on the Isle of Capri …”
or play a Vera Lynn record. Did she have many
lovers? I wanted to wear expensive Dhaka
saris, high heels, smoke cigarettes (as I had seen
her do at dinner parties sometimes), travel—
be like her. Would I ever go anywhere? I who
failed in math and science, hated bullies, hated
school. My head sailed in the clouds. My brain,
they told me, was for the birds. My handwriting
a bird’s nest. My weak fingers would never grasp
a pen properly, my legs never walk normally again.
When would my flesh grow light, my bones
breathe only air so I could fly? When the bird

appeared from nothing, shapes shifted, my book
levitated. The bird floated, not walked. Did it
even have feet? I felt my weight lift. Floating
was as good as flying. It seemed not to see
me, as if it were a peaceful spirit passing
through. Strange girl, they said. A dreamer.
Did I imagine it then? Hearing a creak of leaf
and branch near my deck, the blur I saw earlier
turns to flesh and blood—a gawky crow
who arrows to the roof from the forsythia
and caws shrilly. Curious juvenile, her
glance is full of questions. Friend or
foe? Food or death? I throw my head
back, look up at her. She peers at me
over the edge. I slip indoors for bread, then
leave ripped bits on the railings. Where
is she? She’s hiding somewhere, watching me

watch her. They emerge and melt, these wily beings—
show a wingtip, glitter of eye, flick of tail. Leave me
a feather to dream on, a map to follow. My mother
and I fed them scraps everyday.They jostled each
other on the ledge, fought for crumbs, always
hung around our windows. Then disappeared
into neem, peepul, or the banyan tree as big
as a city. Did they wonder where we’d gone?
Had they heard us weep? Had they pecked at the
shuttered windows and silence? Wild fig seedlings
now grow from cracked brick. A sudden woosh

of wing beats. Listen! The air throbs. Three
trumpeters pass over me to land on the pond.
I wave. This is where I live. And there and
here and there. Crow, sparrow, finch, blue
jay, nuthatch, chickadee, cardinal, mallard,
cormorant, heron, geese, swan. They visit,
feed and fade. Return. They know their own.
I’m for the birds. I’m never alone.

I love how place — both India and Michigan — are so present in this poem. And I love the story she tells, about seeing a bird in India, being a misfit only for the birds, looking up to her grandaunt, and how she tells it. Also, I want to think some more about this line: All eyes, I would listen.