dec 31/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes

Sometime last night, my left leg/knee started to hurt, then it snowed and left slippery sidewalks, so today I decided to be cautious and bike. Watched a replay of the Kona Ironman from 2017 while I biked. At one point, they interviewed 6 (or 5?) time Ironman winner Natasha Badmann. I remember her! She had an amazing perspective on one of the toughest parts of the course: the energy lab. She saw it as giving her energy, not taking it away — the energy of inspiration from the powerful waves off in the distance. Wow, to be that present when you’re 6 or 7 hours into a tough race is impressive. As I biked, I thought about athletes and the different ways they try to overcome the strong desire to stop, give up. I find Badmann’s approach to be a helpful lesson in letting go — not trying to control your thoughts or getting rid of your pain, but releasing them and shifting to another way of being — a way in which you’re not centered, but witnessing something beside yourself. Does that make sense?

Before biking, I had a good morning filled with ideas: 1. creating a series of short poems in which I use my favorite lines from other poets by fitting them into my running/rhythmic breathing form: 3/2 and 2. using my 3/2 form and writing poems that are one sentence long.

I also watched an amazing talk by Ed Hirsch on poetry, the poem, and the reader:

I wish there was a transcript. If there is, I can’t find it, so here are some of my highlights:

Poetry exists to inspire the reader not to inspire the writer, that the purpose of poetry is in the relationship between a poet, a poem, and a reader. And it’s in that connection between them.

Talking about his teacher at Grinnell told him:

You have the gifts to be a poet, but what you’re writing is not poetry. It’s not even close to poetry. What you’re writing down are your thoughts and your feelings but you’re not trying to craft anything, you’re not trying to make anything. You’re not writing in relationship to any other poetry. You’re not reading poetry and so you’re not really a poet right now. You are a person who writes poetry. You have to read poetry and connect your poems to what you’re reading.

He discusses reading Gerard Manley Hopkins and feeling a profound connection. It spoke deeply to him and he wanted to know/study how Hopkins could achieve this.

Holy shit, this thing’s a sonnet? You mean, he’s not just writing out his poems the way I write out mine? He’s actually making it rhyme and everything? That seems generous to me. I want to do that. I’m going to try and make something for someone in the future so that they can feel about my poem the way I feel about Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem.

Then he talks about how Hopkins’ poem was so distanced from him by time, location, experience, yet it spoke to him more than anything else he had heard. He realized that poetry can communicate more deeply than social conversation.

Celan: a poem is a message in a bottle, not guaranteed to reach anyone; a poem is sent out to some future person

Poets are people who, not so much want to express themselves, but feel so encountered by other poems that they want to respond in kind. That’s why Emily Dickinson calls the poets she reads, “her kinsmen of the shelf.”

The reader plays an important role in the understanding of poetry. The message in the bottle only finds its life when it’s activated in you. When you become the secret addresse.

There are a few poems you read and you go, I feel almost like I’ve written the poem to which I’m actually only responding to.

poetry: the gift of privacy and participation: It gives you interiority and it also gives you connection.

Poetry as stored magic that can’t be paraphrased

Poetry exists in the relationship between the poet who wrote it, the poem which encapsulates the experience, and the reader who reads it.

His discussion here reminds me of an interview I read and posted at some point in the last few years:

We are not diminished but enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish, or to let others vanish, without leaving a verbal record. We need poetry to help us transform the oceanic depths of feeling into art. Poetry rises out of one solitude to meet another in recognition and connection. It companions us.

And, yes, poetry is connected to contemporary life, but it’s also always connected to other poetry. We need an archive of eloquence and response.

Interview with Edward Hirsch

dec 30/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd, north/32nd, east/river road trail, south/42nd, west/edmund, north
29 degrees

My first run since last Sunday, partly due to travel, partly feeling sore. A great winter run. Cold, with layers, but not too cold. And no ice or snow or bad trail conditions. Before we went out for our run, Scott put together his marathon plan for this year — we’ve decided to try again. My goal: to make it to the start line next October, healthy. Should I come up with some sort of a plan? If I did, I imagine it would combine running, walking, and poetry.

As we ran, we talked about how the river road stops being red at certain points where the county or city or state (I can’t remember what Scott said) takes over. In those spots the road is black asphalt. Then I mentioned that we had had a very similar conversation 2 or 3 years ago. Then we talked about time looping and repeating yourself and when it’s ritual, when it’s being stuck in a rut.

10 Things

  1. open, brown river (no ice or snow)
  2. a scratching noise — not roller skier poles but the drum beat on a rap song that 2 white women were blasting as they ran by — wow
  3. one or two patches of ice on the sidewalk by edmund
  4. a runner in a bright orange sweatshirt or jacket, glowing in the gloom
  5. a light grayish-blue sky, everything darker — not feeling like day or night, but some in-between time
  6. a few flurries
  7. pothole 1: what started as a small hole has gotten bigger and deeper every year. 2 years ago they tried to patch it, but it didn’t work. The orange spray paint they used to outline a few years before that has faded, near the oak savanna
  8. pothole 2: at the spot where the bike and walking paths separate, less a pothole, more a deep gash 3 or 4 feet long. Every year they circle it with white spray paint — the shape of paint resembles a tube sock
  9. passing a woman who swung her arm out awkwardly like Dave — wasn’t sure for a minute — could it be Dave? no
  10. looking down at the floodplain forest, pointing out the clear view of the forest floor to Scott. He said if he looked he might faint: vertigo

Winter Song/ Wilfred Owen

The browns, the olives, and the yellows died,
And were swept up to heaven; where they glowed
Each dawn and set of sun till Christmastide,
And when the land lay pale for them, pale-snowed,
Fell back, and down the snow-drifts flamed and flowed.

From off your face, into the winds of winter,
The sun-brown and the summer-gold are blowing;
But they shall gleam with spiritual glinter,
When paler beauty on your brows falls snowing,
And through those snows my looks shall be soft-going.

I like the focus on winter colors in this poem and the idea of snow as flamed and flowing and shift from sun-brown and summer-gold into spiritual glinter and how his looks are soft-going. I might need to use that expression for how I see: soft-going.

dec 29/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes

Warm enough to run outside, but we just got back from our trip and I fell and jarred my neck two night ago and I’m very sore, so I’m taking at least one more day off from running and biking in the basement instead.

Of course there’s more to the story, and because I’m pretty sure future Sara wants to remember, I’ll add a few more details: I fell because I fainted. I fainted because of low blood pressure. I had low blood pressure because of a reaction to ingesting a small dose of an edible — pineapple express. Some reasons I might have had a reaction: pineapple express is a sativa (stimulant) strain and I didn’t need to be stimulated; we had just completed the Hot Ones challenge and I was feeling very ill; I hadn’t eaten much all day and had been standing for hours; I had drank 2 beers; I was seeing family member I hadn’t seen in years and confronting loss; Scott had taken the other half of the gummy and his highly stimulated reaction was too much for me; I should have sat down, but I was walking around because pacing helps me to feel better.

Here’s what happened: Right after we finished the last hot sauce for Hot Ones — which was spicy, but didn’t bother me nearly as much as my stomach — I started feeling strange and off and like I might throw up. I started walking around the apartment, which is what I often do when I feel sick. I felt a heaviness in my body, like a wave of something dropping down from my head and settling in my feet. The last thing I remember is hearing voices talking (probably everyone in the other room) and then a loud smack. Suddenly Scott was calling my name and I was on the floor opening my eyes. Everyone was standing in front of me, staring. I saw FWA first and was struck by how much he and everyone else looked like a still from a film, posed for a dramatic moment. My hand and wrist hurt; so did my butt. I felt overwhelmed and angry that they were all staring at me. Scott’s perspective: He heard a loud smack. When he got to me I was passed out on the floor, twitching. He thought I has having a seizure. He shook me gently a few times before I woke up. Scott walked me to a bed and after some convincing I sat down. He left and I could hear his agitated voice in the next room (he was feeling the effects of the gummy too). He yelled-whispered, I’m really worried about her; I don’t think she’s okay. I responded by yelling from the bed, He’s tripping! Don’t listen to him. I’m fine. And, mostly I was.

“He’s tripping,” might become the new line that RJP and FWA will affectionately (and mockingly) utter for the next year. Last year it was “the fries make it worse!” when Scott tried eating a fry to help temper the heat from that year’s hot sauce challenge.

what I think happened when I fell: Either I instinctively braced my fall, or my hands were already up by my head because when I feel especially sick/anxious/bad, I gather my hair and tug at the roots. This saved me from really knocking my head hard on the floor. I still hit my head, but it was after I fell. I think I might have mild whiplash, judging by the soreness of my neck. This is the first time I have ever fainted in my life — at least that I can remember. Strange and fascinating and unsettling.

Anyway, that is why my neck has jarred and why I’m taking another day off from running.

While I biked I watched (not for the first or even second time), a replay of the women’s triathlon at the Rio Olympics. Go Gwen! I felt strange a few times and thought about what would happen if I fainted while on the bike. But I was fine and kept going and will work hard to not add fainting and falling to my list of anxieties.

Here’s a book I discovered this morning that I’d like to read: Personal Best: Makers on Their Poems that Matter Most

dec 24/RUN

3.1 miles
edmund, south/river road trail, north/32nd, east/44th, south
52 degrees

52 degrees! Shorts and one bright yellow long-sleeved shirt! Wow. Scott and I couldn’t pass up the chance to run in shorts in December, so we went out for a 5k. It really doesn’t feel like Christmas.

We talked about the terrible meal we had last night when we went out dinner (Scott’s fish was completely raw) and the double half marathon (a 1/2 in minneapolis one day, in eue claire the next) that Twin Cities in Motion is advertising for April and the time I was running up the hill and a barefoot kid raced me for a few seconds.

Other things I remember: the river was blue and open, the sidewalk on 32nd was in bad shape, the floodplain forest didn’t have any ice, there were a few stones stacked on the big boulder, the colors — rusty green — on the wet boulder near the bench.

Here’s poem I encountered this morning. I love the brevity and the title and the magical moment of hope that it captures.


& the caramel sticks to my hands & my hands stick to my cheeks & everyone marvels at my choux pastry magic & no one asks what I am going to do with my sad, sorry life

dec 23/RUN

4.3 miles
franklin loop
43 degrees / 95% humidity

Another Saturday run with Scott. We talked about visiting my dad and seeps and the distance from Minneapolis to Seattle versus Seattle to Alaska and Alert, the northernmost town of 2000 people in Northern Canada and different National Park designations. The sky was a heavy white. At the beginning of the run, it was misty and damp. Looking out at the river from the bridge, everything looked soft and fuzzy and barely formed. We encountered a roller skier, lots of walkers, a few runners. Heard some water gushing out of the rock or sewer pipes.

2 happy people with hats on the franklin bridge with the misty and foggy water of the mississippi river in the background
during the run / 23 dec 2023

dec 22/RUN

5.15 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
38 degrees / 93% humidity

Misty with drizzle this morning before the run, misty and damp during it. Everything fuzzy and dreamy, muffled by the wet air. Wonderful weather for a run (rereading this bit an hour later, I realize that it might sound sarcastic. It’s not. I love running in the rain and the mist. There was no wind and it wasn’t too cold.) I felt strong and relaxed and glad to be outside moving.

2 Regulars to greet: Daddy Long Legs and Dave, the Daily Walker. Actually, it might have been 3. I’m not positive but I think I exchanged waves with the women I talked to one day who tried to fix me up with another runner — I called her Mrs. Fixer-Upper, or something like that. Anyway, I exchanged good mornings with DDL for the first time. And then Dave wished me a Merry Christmas — you too! Merry Christmas!

Listened to the dripping and the hum of far off traffic as I ran north. Put in an old playlist for the last mile.

a ridiculous performance

Haven’t made note of one of these for some time — just checked and the last time was last December (14th) and I wrote almost the exact same first sentence! Before getting to the performance, here’s something I wrote on 23 june 2020 explaining my use of the phrase:

This idea of a “rather ridiculous performance” is a line from Mary Oliver’s “Invitation”: “I beg of you/do not walk by/without pausing/to attend to/this rather ridiculous performance.” Maybe I’ll try to make a list of the rather ridiculous performances I encounter/witness?

Today’s ridiculous performance was a guy running up the franklin hill backwards. He was part shuffling part skipping part running up it with a hood on. As I ran down, I could see him ahead of me, but I assumed he was running down the hill. I almost ran into him before I realized he didn’t know I was there. Wow — that would feel strange, I think, shuffling backwards up a hill, unable to see anything you were approaching. I’ve heard of people running backwards for training or coming back from an injury. Was that what this person was doing?

10 Things

  1. a thin mist/fog hovering in the air
  2. new graffiti all over one of the franklin bridge support posts
  3. a walker and their dog crossing the river road then taking the steps down to the muddy Winchell Trail
  4. no chain at the top of the old stone steps, blocking the way down to the river — I bet it’s slippery today!
  5. ice on the edges of the river, below, near longfellow flats
  6. no stones stacked on the boulder
  7. all of the benches were empty
  8. halfway down the hill, I noticed some stairs on the other side of the road I’ve never noticed before. Were they leading to the franklin terrace dog park?
  9. June’s white ghost bike was hanging from the trestle
  10. bright car headlights cutting through the foggy mist


Before the run, I was reading about seeps and springs. Decided to think about them and why I might want to be one as I was running. In particular I was interested in how being a seep is different than becoming a boulder, which I’ve already written about. I recorded my thoughts after running up the franklin hill.

As I ran down the hill, I thought about how gravity pulls water down. A line: no need to navigate. Spilling over, onto, into. Always exceeding. Relentless. Opening up, making room, creating space. Never encased, contained, fully controlled. Slow, steady, drip drip drip. Saturates, permeates, soaks.

The author of article from 1997 I was reading — Along the Great Wall: Mapping the Springs of the Twin Cities — didn’t think too highly of seeps: little, inconsequential, too abundant for mapping. He focused on springs. I like the small, quiet, unassuming nature of seeps. More to think about and push at with that idea.

From a few poems I found after searching for seeps — things that seep: blood, sun, gas, chill, a seeping back in sleep to glorious childhood memories of baseball, water, light, an hour….and this, which made me stop my search so I could post this poem:

Louisiana Line/ Betty Adcock

The wooden scent of wagons,
the sweat of animals—these places
keep everything—breath of the cotton gin,
black damp floors of the icehouse.

Shadows the color of a mirror’s back
break across faces. The luck
is always bad. This light is brittle,
old pale hair kept in a letter.
The wheeze of porch swings and lopped gates
seeps from new mortar.

Wind from an axe that struck wood
a hundred years ago
lifts the thin flags of the town.

I like this idea of the past seeping from/into the present — like the wheezy echo of an old porch swing seeping from a new building.

dec 20/RUN

5.25 miles
ford loop
34 degrees

Yes! Loved my run today — the light! the shadows! It started when I saw some strange patches of white on the sidewalk — what were they? Suddenly I realized: light, coming through the cracks in a fence and landing on the dark, shadowed sidewalk. Very cool.

10 Things: 4 Lights and 6 Shadows

  1. the light coming through the fence
  2. the shadowed sidewalk it landed on
  3. my shadow down in the ravine, running beside the water leading to shadow falls
  4. on the lake street bridge: the sun on the river — sparkling, stretching down river towards the ford bridge
  5. on the ford bridge: the sun illuminating a buoy below me
  6. the shadows of trees on the river
  7. the pointed shadows of the lamps — fuzzy
  8. my shadow running in front of me –sharp
  9. standing on the grass between edmund and the river road, looking across to the east bank, noticing a very white house shining in the sun
  10. the pattern of the railing shadows on the lake street bridge — criss-crossed, sprawled

I felt strong and happy and steady. For the first few miles, I chanted strawberry/raspberry/blueberry over and over. Occasionally I mixed in mystery or history or intellect. At one point, I chanted: a question/is asked and mystery/is solved

I noticed the empty benches, the darting squirrels. Smelled some burnt toast and weed (wow! must have been from a passing car). Heard some voices in the ravine. Didn’t see any Regulars or hear the bells at St. Thomas. Don’t remember birds or bikes. No roller skiers. No overheard conversations.

added over a day later: I forgot that I took some pictures when I stopped briefly on the ford bridge to put in my headphones:

My view from the ford bridge, looking north and down at the Mississippi river. On the right (almost) half of the image is the brownish-greenish shore. On the left, the blue river with dark shadows from the bridge covering it's surface. The shadows are of the columns and are both thick and thin. If I squint hard I can almost see my shadow at the top taking the picture. Is it there, is it just in my imagination?
ford bridge shadows / 20 dec 2023

For the first four miles I listened to kids playing at the church playground, cars driving by, my feet striking the ground. Then I put in Merrily We Roll Along for the last mile.

Letter to Walt Whitman,
Who Painted Butterflies/ Kelli Agodon Russell

In 1942, Whitman’s handmade cardboard butterfly disappeared from the Library of Congress.
It was found in a New York attic in 1995.

Perhaps, you made them as a child—
cardboard butterflies lining your shelves,
hiding in the pockets of the wool pants
you wore only to church.
Maybe you would wake early
to cut cardboard into small waves
forming wings, and antennae appearing
like exclamation points.
Words fluttered from your pen,
cardboard wings dipped in red paint,
holding patterns of words,
the quiet swirl of wind.
Maybe there are thousands
of your butterflies still lingering in attics,
your secret world of paper insects
still hanging by threads.

I wanted to post this poem because I like how it’s set up, with the brief description, then the wondering/imagining about it. A fun exercise to try: when I find an interesting fact (here I’m thinking about the monarch butterflies that avoid a mountain in lake superior that’s been gone for more than a century), write a poem that speculates/imagines/creates a story around it.

dec 19/RUN

4 miles
curved railing (north) and back*
30 degrees / feels like 22

Wow, what a beautiful morning for a run. Sunny and clear and cold, but not too cold. So many shadows to admire! My favorite was the first one I noticed — from a slender tree, so thin it looked more like a pencil line. I started noticing the trees by how thick their shadows were. Then, when I reached the river, I moved onto the shadows of fence posts. The split rail fence above the ravine made such crooked shadows — no straight lines where rails were leaning or bent. The street lamps shadows almost looked menacing — so sharp, stretched across the path. My shadow was sharp too — clear and confident. Saw squirrel shadows but no bird shadows.

10 Things (other than shadows)

  1. below in the ravine, the water was frozen
  2. a strange howling call from below at longfellow flats — an animal? or a person pretending to be an animal? I looked, but couldn’t see anyone
  3. in the sun the darting squirrels looked silver or white
  4. a stutter step when I squirrel jumped out at me, then turned back
  5. as I ran south, some white thing out of the corner of my eye kept calling out, notice me! So I did: it was an arch of the lake street bridge
  6. walking below on the winchell trail, I encountered (not for the first time) the trunk of a tree in the middle of the trail — wide and tall — 12 feet? jagged at the top
  7. the knock of a woodpecker somewhere below, closer to the river — not sharp, but soft faint, almost an echo
  8. good morning Dave! / morning Sara!
  9. looking down at the floodplain forest, I could see many fallen trees and branches
  10. nearing the bottom of the hill that rises up and out of the tunnel of trees, I saw the bright, burning light of the river far ahead — I knew it was the river, but imagined it might be sky

I listened to strange howls as I ran north, then put it in Merrily We Roll Along as I ran south to home.

Before turning around, I hiked down to the curved fence above the ravine on the Winchell trail and took a few pictures. Then I stood there, looked down at the river, and felt delighted and satisfied, so glad to have gone out for a run this morning and then stopped to take in this view.

A view of the mississippi river. The top third of the image is just BLUE!--a beautiful blue sky. Below the blue is mostly the light brown of the east bank, then the whiteish-tan of the sandy shore. On the edge between the blue sky and brown branches in the left corner is the tower at Prospect Park--the Witch's Hat, which is called that because it looks like a witch's hat. After the brown of the shoreline, more BLUE!--the river. And, in front of all this, closest to the camera, are a few bare branches. When I look at this picture, I mostly see and think, BLUE! then sandy white then witch's hat.
on the west bank, near franklin ave, mississippi river / 19 dec 2023

I discovered a prose poem this morning that reminds me of my February Feels Like Project. I think it could be inspiration for me as I clean up my draft and try to get it published:

Sunrise, All Day Long/ Kathleen McGookey

Today is wind that smells like mint blowing in from the lake. Today is a paper crane, just folded. Today is a bleached sheet pulled from the linen closet, trailing the delicate scent of green soap. Today is a small brown snail’s pearly trail across the ivy. An eggshell cracked open by raccoon or turtle or fox. Today is a sharpened pencil, a sealed love letter, the antique locket in my mother’s jewelry box. A rectangular pink eraser, straight out of the package. That one black and white bird perched on the sailboat’s mast, preening its glossy tuxedo and singing a boisterous, throaty song.

dec 18/RUN

4.65 miles
minnehaha falls and back
18 degrees / feels like 4
wind: 15 mph

Colder today. Bundled up: purple jacket, green long-sleeved shirt, 2 pairs of black running tights; 2 pairs of black gloves; black hat with ear flaps; gray buff. Sunny. Sharp shadows. At the beginning of the run I had the buff pulled over my mouth to warm my breath. Then, within a mile, I was hot.

Running south I listened to kids at the playground — are the Minnehaha Academy kids still in school this week? — and the voice in my head singing “Old Friends” from the new version of Merrily We Roll Along. Can’t get that song out of my head! On the way back, after stopping at my favorite spot, I put in the soundtrack and listened to Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez sing it, and some of the other songs from the musical. I’d love to see this one on Broadway — just checked and it’s there through July 7th. Would it even be possible to get tickets?

10 Things

  1. cold wind in my face, from most directions
  2. hot sun on my face, once or twice
  3. the river burning such a bright white — no ice on it today
  4. a dry, clear, cold path
  5. the view just past the oak savanna, as the hills part and open to the river — wow! so clear and calm and beautiful
  6. the falls were louder this morning
  7. a kid, an adult, and a dog — walking around the falls
  8. the creek water was filled with bits of ice, foam, and orange leaves
  9. the asphalt on the shared path that travels under the ford bridge is in bad shape — it’s crumbling and has several deep, long holes
  10. there’s a path that cuts down from the 44th street parking lot, bypassing the overlook and the steps. For most of the year it’s hidden by leaves or snow, today I could see it clearly. I almost turned and took it — why didn’t I?

When I stopped at my favorite spot, I also took some video of the falls:

minnehaha falls / 18 dec / less ice, more falling water

dec 16/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop (cretin)
39 degrees / 90% humidity

The saturday morning tradition: running with Scott. Damp and overcast. Everything quiet and strange. Scott’s bright red jacket looked even brighter and RED! In the distance, a soft mist hovered on the river’s surface. The sidewalk was wet and slick, with some puddles to leap over. We talked about snowboarding and half-pipes and how Ailing Gu is a full-time student (at Stanford), a full-time model, and full-time athlete. Wow.

Entering the bridge, I heard some geese flying by, then a bald eagle soaring low in the sky. At the end of our run we encountered a grumpy goose. Scott warned that they might be ready for a rumble. Not quite, but almost. The goose honked and flapped its wings, then flew up and over a fence to join the rest of the geese.

A gross thing I remember: running over some squishy, slippery mud. Didn’t see it, but felt it — told Scott it felt like stepping in poopy diarrhea. Yuck!

I loved the weather and the quiet, almost reverent, feeling of being out in the world on a gloomy, empty Saturday (late) morning.

Discovered a beautiful poem, and helpful discussion of it by Wendy Pratt:

Good-Night/ Seamus Heaney

A latch lifting, an edged den of light
Opens across the yard.
Out of the low door
They stoop in the honeyed corridor,
Then walk straight through the wall of the dark.

A puddle, cobble-stones, jambs and doorstep
Are set steady in a block of brightness.
Till she strides in again beyond her shadows
And cancels everything behind her.