nov 30/RUN

5 miles
veterans’ home loop
32 degrees

Warmer today. Sunny, bright, clear. The river sparkled and burned. Shadows everywhere. Big columns of ice next to the falls, a thin sheen of ice on the steps and the bridge over the creek. Saw my shadow far below me while I was above on the bridge over to the veterans’ home. Encountered at least half a dozen darting squirrels, one was heading straight towards me but did a sharp turn away at the last minute. Near the end of my run, I saw and heard a vee of geese flying low in the sky — maybe 12 of them? Something about the blue sky and the brilliant light made their wingtips look silver. I didn’t stop running, but I craned my neck as I moved to keep watching them.

10 Sounds

  1. kids at recess, playing on the playground at minnehaha academy: scattered voices laughing, yelling
  2. some sort of chirping bird — not a cardinal, a robin? finch?
  3. the caw caw of a crow, down in the gorge
  4. the gushing falls — steadily falling creek water
  5. rustling in the leaves, 1: a squirrel
  6. rustling in the leaves, 2: a chipmunk or a bird
  7. rustling in the leaves, 3: a person walking below me on the Winchell Trail
  8. honking geese
  9. a chain link fence rattling — someone playing disc golf near Waban
  10. missing sounds: didn’t hear any roller skiers or music from a bike or a car, no bikes whizzing by or horns honking, and no fake train bell at the 50th street station as I ran near the John Stevens house

Stopped at the Folwell bench to admire the view and to check on my watch which had turned off. Bummer — out of charge, so no data from today’s run. Took a picture of the gorge:

A view from above of the Mississippi gorge and river. Just to the right of center in the image a thick brown tree trunk stands -- well, not that thick, but much thicker than the other trunks surrounding it. To me, this trunk looks like a tall person, with a long neck and a head that's just off the edge of the top of the frame. They have one arm (which is actually a bare branch) that extends up and across and then off the top of the frame. This arm is bent which creates the illusion of an elbow, an armpit, and a torso. Below the tree are dead leaves, light brown, and beyond the tree is a blue river and then a brown bank.
a tree with river gorge / 30 nov 2023

nov 28/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin hill turn around
15 degrees / feels like 2

The coldest day of the season. Brrr. Extra layers: 2 black tights, yellow shirt, pink jacket, purple jacket, 2 pairs of gloves — black and pink/white, buff, hat with ear flaps, hood. Difficult to breathe for the first mile. Sunny, lots of shadows. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. He was in his warmest attire, even had a stocking cap. There was ice near the shore of the river and sheets of ice on the surface of the water.

The surface of the mississippi river, up close. Thin slabs of ice, cracked with strips of cold water visible, cover the surface. Near the bottom of the frame, the ice looks dark gray and blue. At the top, it's white with a hint of brown.
Brr. River surface starting to ice over / 28 nov 2023

For the first 4 miles, I listened to my feet striking the ground, cars driving by, the wind. For the last 1.5 miles, I put in Olivia Rodrigo.

before the run

Still working on my haunts poems, adding more to the ones I wrote 2 years ago. Yesterday I spent a lot of time working on the first section, trails, and thinking about paths and feet and my interest in following, connecting, learning new stories. As part of that work, I started rereading Wendell Berry’s excellent essay, “A Native Hill.” This morning, before my run, I’m still reading and thinking about it. While I run, I’d like to think about this passage:

Looking out over the country, one gets a sense of the whole of it: the ridges and hollows, the clustered buildings of the farms, the open fields, the woods, the stock ponds set like coins into the slopes. But this is a surface sense, such as you get from looking down on the roof of a house. The height is a threshold from which to step down into the wooded folds of the land, the interior, under the trees and along the branching streams.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

As I run, I’d like to think about these ideas of threshold and surface, and what it means to be above, always, looping around the gorge, rarely entering it. Is this only surface level? What is at the surface, and is the surface always superficial? What does it mean when the gorge is not a thing to enter, but an absence, an emptiness/void that is still present and shaping the land but is inaccessible?

during the run

Did I think about these things at all? Maybe a little as I looked down at the floodplain forest or the water. At one point, I thought about how I’m not completely inside of this place, but I’m still much more in it than if I were riding in a car.

In a related but different direction of thought, I remembered the lines I had just written this morning:

It begins
here: from
the ground up
feet first,
I want
to go where
have gone.

I thought about this following and how the others include past versions of me, the Saras that have already, day after day, year after year, travelled these same trails.

after the run

Sitting at my desk after my run, looking out at a mysterious pile of dirt left right in front of my sidewalk by workers for some unknown reason, feeling wiped out from the run, I’m not sure what to do with Berry’s passage. Maybe I’ll read some more of the essay?

Beyond the gate the land leans always more steeply towards the branch. I follow it down and then bear left along the crease at the bottom of the slope. I have entered the downflow of the land. The way I am going is the way the water goes. There is something comfortable and fit-feeling in this, something free in this yielding to gravity and taking the shortest way down.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

I love this line: The way I am going is the way the water goes.

Berry talks next about human-made erosion and how he laments the loss of land “before the white people drove their plows into it.”

It is not possible to know what was the shape of the land here in this hollow when it was first cleared. Too much of it is gone, loosened by the plows and washed away by the rain….The thought of what was here once and is gone forever will not leave me as long as I live. It is as though I walk knee-deep in its absence.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

The slopes along the hollow steepen still more, and I go in under the trees. I pass beneath the surface. I am enclosed, and my sense, my interior sense, of the country becomes intricate. There is no longer the possibility of seeing very far. The distances are closed off by the trees and the steepening walls of the hollow. One cannot grow familiar here by sitting and looking as one can up in the open on the ridge. Here the eyes become dependent on the feet. To see the woods from the inside one must look and move and look again. It is inexhaustible in its standpoint. A lifetime will not be enough to experience it all.

“A Native Hill” / Wendell Berry

Love it: Here the eyes become dependent on the feet. I’m finding a place for this line in my poem! Even when I am on the edge of the bluff looking down at the gorge, my vision isn’t very good. Everywhere I run, above or below, I’m dependent on my feet, and not just to get me to new places to see; sometimes I see with my feet.

Berry’s last lines about it being inexhaustible and how a lifetime will not be enough to experience it all brings me to another definition of going beyond the surface: to do more than briefly visit, to stay somewhere (to haunt it), to return to it again and again, each time learning something new, or encountering something slightly altered. This returning to the gorge day after day and giving attention is my way of connecting with it and attempting to experience as much of it as I can.

nov 26/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
30 degrees
50% snow-covered

It snowed last night and left less than an inch on the ground. The trail was half clear, half snow-covered. A bit slick. I think my feet might have slipped some, but never enough to be a problem. Ran south to the falls. Beautiful! Gushing.

Ran without headphones and listened to my collar rubbing against my cap, a few voices rising up from the gorge, falling water.

Running just past the double bridge I smiled when I saw 2 turkeys up ahead on the path. I was wrong — no turkeys, only trees with plastic rings around their trunks, standing next to the path.

I’ve been working on my haunts poems and as I ran I thought about the plaques/ghosts bikes/flowers I just wrote about this morning. 3 instances of people dying in very unlikely circumstances: a boy picked at random and then shot in the back while biking; a runner hit by a driver who lost control when he had a seizure (or some sort of incident) because of 4 huge tumors in his brain he didn’t know were there; and a woman pulled over, fixing her bike, hit in a parking lot. Unsettling. The last one didn’t happen by the river, but in Germany; the woman was from this neighborhood and is remembered her by friends and family. The other two did, and at spots I regularly run by.

Today’s poem-of-the-day on, The Mountain, begins with these fitting lines:

There is snow, now— 
A thing of silent creeping—

There is snow, now— 
A silent creeping . . .

Snow, snow, snow—
A thing of silent creeping 

from The Mountain/ D’Arcy McNickle

I don’t mind the snow — in fact, I like it! — but it does silently creep. From now until March of April, adding inches, covering everything.

nov 25/RUN

4.85 miles
top of franklin to stone arch and back
27 degrees

Another Saturday run with Scott. We drove to the top of the franklin hill and started our run: down the hill, through the flats, up the 35W hill, past the Guthrie, to the Stone Arch bridge, then back. We ran up the whole hill and it felt great to me. So great that I, annoyingly I’m sure, sang “Eye of the Tiger” as we neared the top.

11 Things

  1. ice on the seeps, 1: big columns of ice streaking the limestone
  2. ice on the seeps, 2: so many streaks of ice; some of them stretched to the street and had melted and refroze on the road. A strange sight. It looked like someone had used “fake snow” spray paint to make it look like winter
  3. a few scattered chunks of ice on the river
  4. more bright green leaves still on some trees
  5. a new apartment building that looked like it was made out of limestone, but was probably mostly concrete with a thin veneer of limestone
  6. ducks! in the river, bobbing up, showing their butts
  7. geese! in the river, too far away for me to see, loud honks
  8. roller skiers, pt 1 — a whole crew of a dozen of more, heading south on the trail
  9. roller skiers, pt 2 — bright pink jackets on 2, yellow on another, one in black and white
  10. roller skiers, pt 3 — click clack scrape echoing off of the bridge
  11. a runner sprinting up the hill — when I saw her I sang the Kate Bush song to Scott, Running up that hill

Here is a vision poem that I’d like to remember and return to:

punctum/ Teja Sudhakar

A punctum is the little, unexpected extra in a photo. It is the face or the hand or the expression or the animal that you did not notice as you took the picture. It is simultaneously never the subject and entirely the subject. – Diana Weir

my earliest memory is of learning disappearance / on my father’s lap smudging an eraser across the page / even then i knew what i could lose if not careful / how whiteness operated to disappear you / have you ever been the first to leave a room / have you ever made your place behind the camera / my children might know me only out the corners of their eyes / when birds slam against rainbacked windows they leave their outlines the water continues as if there was not dying all around it /
are you seeing this / i ask someone here are you seeing this / how many buildings have i passed through without a sound / how many years only remember me by my imprint / when we speak

a word we are naming each of its previous utterances / i fear i am only the language i have kept alive / i fear i am only my name being poured down a hallway / are you seeing this / the light we look through took years to get here / to see the disaster you must first see its veil / our pupils not made to hold all this bright / our eyes call their blood to the photograph / to take an image you must first take all the light out of the room / please hold as i steady / please keep your eyes soft / as i click /

nov 23/RUN

4.5 miles
franklin loop
25 degrees

Ran with Scott. Cold, windy but sunny. Lots of wonderful shadows — ours, trees, lamp posts. Running across the lake street bridge at the end, the railing shadows made a cool pattern on the sidewalk. Combined with the breath-taking (at least for Scott) wind, it created a strange, untethered effect. Felt like I was floating or hovering or moving without touching ground. I asked Scott how he experienced it, and he said he was too focused on avoiding all of the groups of people approaching us on the bridge. Also seen on the bridge: a flyer posted on several of the posts that read “Killed by Israel.” I suggested to Scott that it should read, “Killed by the Israeli government.”

Found this poem the other day and it makes me think of how often I mistake one thing for something else as I run around the gorge:

Mistake/ Heather Christle

For years I have seen
dead animals on the highway

and grieved for them
only to realize they are

not dead animals
they are t shirts

or bits of blown tire
and I have found

myself with this
excess of grief

I have made with
no object to let

it spill over and
I have not known

where to put it or
keep it and then today

I thought I know
I can give it to you

I have to think about the ending some more — what does it mean to me? — but for now, what I like about this poem are the opening lines and the idea that other people also think they’re seeing dead animals when they’re actually seeing something else. I often think I’m seeing dead squirrels, when it’s actually a furry hat or a glove. These mistakes don’t make so sad or produce excess grief, just confusion and uncertainty and a little bit of morbid fascination.

I just realized what it means to me — the you is us, her readers. And she’s right, she is giving it to us, not as a burden to bear, but as an experienced shared. I love that about poetry, how you can write or read a poem and feel less alone, (a little) more understood.

nov 22/RUN

5.4 miles
ford loop
31 degrees

Brrr, at least for the first mile. Had to put up my hood and breathe deeply. Ran through the neighborhood on my way to the lake street bridge instead of by the Welcoming Oaks. Such beautiful light this morning, bright warm sun. Saw my shadow several times. She kept wandering down in the ravine or right by the edge. I took a picture of her when I stopped at the Monument, which is a Civil War monument and not a WWI one (which is what Scott thought):

My view from the overlook at the civil war monument. From back to front: sky, lake street bridge, west river bluff, river, bare tree branches, cliff, a shadow of me taking this picture, dirt
view of my shadow/river/bridge / 22 nov 2023

10 Things

  1. water dripping at shadow falls — not quite rushing or gushing, but close
  2. little white caps on the water from the wind
  3. a bird calling out repeatedly, sounding like a car alarm — must have been a cardinal, right?
  4. even less leaves on the trees than last week, although there are still stretches of bright green
  5. one runner passing me slowly, gradually
  6. another running zooming past me up the hill
  7. the satisfying feeling of sandy grit crunching under my feet as I ran on the dirt rail next to the paved path
  8. on the St. Paul side most of the benches have plaques embedded in the concrete, none of them do on the Minneapolis side
  9. spotting a parked car, glowing in the sun on the west side of the river as I ran on the east side
  10. noisy, darting squirrels everywhere

before the run

Today I’m revising and expanding my part of the Haunts poem about the Regulars, the people (both alive and dead) that are regularly at the gorge. I’d like to add something about the “in memory of” plaques along the trail, mostly embedded in the concrete near benches. So I’m giving myself a task: take pictures of more of these plaques to write about in my 3/2 form. Will I do it? Will I be willing to stop and take these pictures? How many of them can I get?

Speaking of plaques, I was curious about how to get one and how much they cost. Here’s the link for Minneapolis: Tributes and Memorials

To get a bench plaque, fill out the interest form on the site. It’s $5000 for a new bench for 10 years, $2500 for a refurbished bench for 10 years. Only 10 years.

Here’s St Paul’s information. Same 10 year deal, although you can add 10 year increments for an additional $1500 at any time. Also: It’s $5000 for a new bench/10 years at St. Paul Parks, except along the Mississippi River Parkway. Those are $10000. That seems like a lot — is it?

during the run

I did it! Starting by the monument, I stopped at every bench and took a picture of the plaque next to it. Lots of stopping, but it was fun! 12 images in total. I didn’t read any of the inscriptions, just stopped, took out my phone, clicked, put my phone back in my pocket, then started running again. I would imagine that some of the people I encountered were wondering what I was doing. I kind of wish one of them would have asked so I could say something like, “I’m working on a poem about the gorge and I’m gathering memorials to include in it.”

after the run

Now, back at my desk, I’m looking through the images. Almost all of them are legible! So far, there’s only one I can’t read and that’s because I made it a 4 second video instead of a photo. Oops. Oh–and it’s always because it’s in a cursive font that’s very hard to read.

It’s moving to read these memorials, many of them about people who died too young. I’m particularly struck by one that says, “Just a kid growing up!” — Tony Basta, 12/1/99

A plaque embedded in concrete. It reads: "Just a kid growing up!" Tony Basta, 12/1/99
Memorial plaque along the Mississippi River Bluff in St. Paul

I had no idea what this meant, so I looked it up. On April 26, 2000, while riding his bike along the Mississippi River (near Randolph) around 10 pm, 17 year old Tony Basta was shot and killed by 3 teenagers who wanted to shoot a random person “just to scare them.” Basta’s parents had the plaque made; the quote is from Tony in his yearbook. Wow. So heartbreaking and haunting — the details in this article (Tony Basta’s Murder 10 Years Ago) about the bystander who heard the shot and thought it was fireworks, his father who owns The Italian Pie Shoppe, the girl who overheard the killers telling the story at a party and reported them, earning a reward that paid for her college, the killer who expresses daily regret.

Will any of this make it into my poem? Possibly? Probably? Who knows? I’m not sure what will come of these accounts, but it feels meaningful to bear witness to the lives of the people on these plaques today.

As I was finishing up my run, my thoughts wandered. I thought about having one of these plaques for when I’m dead and how I’d want poetry on it. Then I thought, why wait until then and why put it on a plaque? What about leaving some poetry around the gorge now? Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to leave some lines from my haunts poem — some parts of my repeating refrain that includes, a girl runs and ghost and gorge? And now I’m thinking that I want to do some sort of unofficial public installation of this poem around the gorge. It could be lines left on the path or tied to a tree, or it could be QR codes with links to the text and a recording of me reading it. YES! I should research how others do public installations for inspiration.

nov 20/RUN

6.2 miles
franklin loop + extra*
40 degrees

*ran the regular franklin loop but when I reached the lake/marshall bridge I kept running up the hill on the east side, all the way to the bench at the bend on the bluff. I took a picture of a plaque, then turned around and ran back to the bridge and then over it.

A plaque near a bench. It reads: In Loving Memory of Jeffrey Peter Hanson. "Oh what I would say to you again" from Losing a Year
a plaque in the ground by a bench

I looked up the sentence/title and it’s a lyric from a song by the person remembered on the plaque, Jeff Hanson. It was on his second of three albums. He was found dead in his St. Paul apartment by his parents in 2009. According to Wikipedia the cause of death was “drug toxicity” — a mixture of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills with alcohol — and they couldn’t determine if it was accidental or self-inflicted. So sad.

One of the reasons I stopped to take a picture of the plaque was because I’m revising my Haunts poem and I gave myself the task of finding more of the plaques and then putting them into a section of the poem that follows “The Regulars.”

Overcast today, a pale gray. Another nice, relaxed run. Another beautiful morning by the gorge. Greeted Dave, the daily walker just a few minutes in. Admired the Welcoming Oaks and the tuning fork tree. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder. Chanted triple berries for a few miles. Felt good and strong and happy to be running a 10k.

10+ Things

  1. the river is higher — the water has spilled over into the floodplain on the spot below 31st
  2. jingle jingle jingle a dog collar making noise below me on the Winchell Trail
  3. clear open views everywhere to the other side — almost all the leaves are gone!
  4. one tree still full of leaves — the leaves were browned but so light they almost looked silver
  5. a few other trees on the east side still holding onto bright green leaves
  6. encountered several U of M students with backpacks walking over to campus
  7. a sign on the bridge — End the Occupation
  8. every street lamp I passed on the bridge had had their copper wire cut — some of them were also missing the door at the bottom that covers the wires, and one lamp had lost its entire top — it was just a stump
  9. the white sands beach was glowing white from across the river
  10. many of the benches I passed had recently been repaired — the three slats for the back had been replaced — I wondered: did the old boards have “in memory of” plaques, and do those not get replaced?
  11. on the bridge, looked up in the sky and stopped: 3 soaring birds, high in the sky — eagles? hawks? geese? I couldn’t tell

nov 18/RUN

4 miles
hidden falls to crosby farms and back
37 degrees

Just like yesterday, another beautiful morning! Sunny, calm, not too cold. Sharp shadows, cloudless blue sky. Today’s route started and ended at the Hidden Falls parking lot, right next to the sunlit river. So wonderful! Ran with Scott and talked about Amy Winehouse, NCAA cross country races, lurking shadows, and why there was a car driving on the no vehicle path — lost golden retriever. As we neared Crosby Falls, we ran over a root that was embedded in the path and looked like a snake. Very cool! Scott took a picture of it:

a cracked sidewalk with a tree root winding through it, looking like a snake
Scott’s picture of a root in the paved path / near Crosby Farms

10 Things

  1. chirping birds, shrieking squirrels
  2. shadows, 1: ours, sharp, beside us then in front of us
  3. shadows, 2: the trees, casting long lines across the paved path
  4. shadows, 3: the trees on the water, making the bright blue water look dark brown
  5. question pondered: what’s the difference between a shadow and a reflection — Scott’s answer: the position of the light
  6. a walker in a bright pink jacket
  7. the sandstone/limestone bluff — high and looming — on one side of us
  8. graffiti spray painted on a barricade in the parking lot, uh oh stinky
  9. smoke from a campfire on other side of a little lake near Crosby Farms
  10. running up a short, step hill on the tips of my toes and remembering when I tried (and failed) to bike up it a few years ago without shifting gears

nov 17/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
36 degrees

Yes! A near perfect morning for a run. Sunny, still, cool but not cold. Deep blue sky, sharp shadows. Relaxed hips, knees, shoulders. A moment to remember and return to when needed. So calm, happy, not anxious. Walking back after I was done, I heard a knock so I stopped and looked up to the top of a tree — a woodpecker! And I could see it! I watched for a few seconds then listened deeper: another chirping bird, leaves rustling underfoot, a leaf blower.

10 Things

  1. good morning Dave!
  2. the floodplain forest is bare and a beautiful, soothing brown
  3. with everything so bare and exposed because of the lack of leaves, I thought about how it all looks bigger (wider, more open) and smaller (no mystery, all out in the open) at the same time
  4. glancing down at white Minneapolis rowing club building, it looked like it was a shimmering mirage in the sun
  5. almost to the trestle — I could see it through the bare trees, stretching across the water. It looked so far away, even though I was almost there
  6. took the recently redone steps just north of the trestle down for a better view of the water — the river was such a deep, dark blue — but a dark blue that was still clearly blue and not black (which is what navy looks like to me)
  7. on those same steps: my shadow ahead of me — hi friend!
  8. another shadow: a runner approaching me from behind. I could hear her slowly gaining on me, then suddenly her shadow appeared, almost lurking behind me for a moment
  9. running on the sandy, gritty dirt just off the edge of the trail
  10. smelling breakfast — can’t remember what type of breakfast, just breakfast — wafting down from longfellow grill

As I was running on the dirt trail just next to the paved path, I had a thought about my haunts poem and the recent ones I’ve added about the trails. So far I have three — the dirt trail on the grassy boulevard, the official paved trail, and Winchell. I think I should add this one, and maybe more. I could sprinkle them throughout the poem, or just add that one in with the others, near the beginning?

I was planning to run a little longer and listen to a playlist for the second half, but a mile into my run I realized that I had forgotten my phone. That has happened maybe once or twice ever, in all of the years I’ve been running. Today, I didn’t care, but still didn’t want to run too long without it, especially since I hadn’t told Scott which way I was running.

nov 16/RUN

5.4 miles
ford loop
63 degrees
wind: 19mph

Another windy day. I had to hold onto my cap several times so it wouldn’t fly off. Running east on the lake street bridge, I put my hood so my cap wouldn’t fall off. Running west over the ford bridge, I took the cap off and held it in my hands. The wind made it difficult, more draining. Is that why my legs feel so sore?

10 Things

  1. ridges and white caps in the blue water, from the wind
  2. kids at the church daycare, at the far end of the fenced-in playground. Running by I could hear their tiny, sweet voices plotting something
  3. more filled benches than usual along the route, including one with a person sitting and a stroller behind it
  4. in the neighborhood: knocks on the roof — not a woodpecker, but roofers … or was it a woodpecker?
  5. running straight into the wind, wondering if would push me up against the railing (not quite)
  6. my shadow down in the ravine near shadow falls — lucky shadow, sheltered from the wind
  7. everywhere hazy — it might have been my vision, but I think it was dust stirred up by the wind. Yuck!
  8. running north, at the end, feeling the wind pushing me, but not in a helpful way
  9. the wind didn’t rush or roar, it just pushed and pulled
  10. a walker, walking in the middle of the path, blasting talk radio

I stopped on the double bridge to take a picture of the ravine and to put in my headphones:

My view from the bridge of some bare-branched trees. Everything mostly brown, with a few streaks of white (or gray?) peeking through. The white is the water, or is it the sky? Difficult to tell. Below the frame of this imagine (just out of the picture), is a branch with green leaves, swaying in the wind. Also out of the frame is a walker with a dog, walking by. I didn't notice them until they passed by and crossed my periphery.
a warm, windy November day / 16 nov 2023

today’s view out my window

It’s snowing leaves. Mostly they are drifting down slowly, one after the other. Sometimes at a distance, occasionally almost on my window screen. My neighbor’s yard is covered with them, a dead leaf carpet. Yesterday, as Scott and I cleared out our leaves we could see that the neighbor’s tree was still full of leaves. I wondered what would happen when the wind came back. Today I found out.

Also, encountered this interesting (and unsettling) article about the effects of climate crisis on Japanese poets who write haikus: Japan’s haiku poets lost for words as climate crisis disrupts seasons