jan 31/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
43 degrees

Feels like spring today. Sun, warm air, less layers. Today: black tights, black shorts, long-sleeved green shirt, orange sweatshirt, hat, buff, headband.

No gloves. No winter jacket. No snow on the path. Lots of birds and darting squirrels and shimmering water.

I felt sore from the 30 minute workout I did yesterday, but not too sore. Maybe I’ll try it a few more times.

Thought about how strange it was to be running in January with no snow and such warm air. It’s not just that it’s warm today — we’ve had warm days in past Januarys, but that it’s been warm like this for 4 or 5 days and will continue to be this warm for the next week. And, there’s no snow. Bad for the trees; they’re starting to bud. RJP came home the other day from school and told me how one of her friends was very scared about the warm weather — we’re all going to be dead by the time we’re 30, he said. How terrible to be coming of age in this time, when statements like this are felt so intensely by so many people.

Yesterday, while rereading my July entries from 2023, I was reminded of Christina Sharpe’s amazing book, Ordinary Notes. I read it while quarantining for COVID. I posted a note from it on July 4th:

a screen shot of Christina Sharpe's Note 46

I was particularly struck by her discussion of the shift from guilt to grief because Scott and I just watched (on Monday night) a beautiful story on PBS about Rita Davern and her efforts to reckon with her family’s buying of Pike Island, a sacred space for the Dakota people known as Bdote which was illegally “purchased” by Zebulon Pike in 1805. I’m not sure if Rita utters that exact phrase, but the idea of moving from guilt to grief was a big focus. After reading Sharpe’s note again, I decided to find and watch the documentary she mentions, Traces of the Trade. Found it online from my local library — public libraries for the win! — and watched it yesterday afternoon. It was amazing. One thing I kept thinking as I watched it was Marie Howe’s entreaty: don’t look away. Guilt gives us distance and prevents us from witnessing/beholding. Grief enables us to feel — not just the pain of others, but our own pain — the pain of silence, complicity, denial of connection, fear, helplessness.

I’m not a big fan of guily; it’s not helpful as a foundation for ethics or politics. As I thought this, I suddenly remembered a feminist ethicist I read/liked, back in the day: Elizabeth Spelman. She wrote a chapter titled “Good Grief” and it was about ways of grappling with racism. She was critical of guilt as a response — what did she like instead? I’m sure I have the article somewhere. Oh well.

Speaking of rereading old entries, I’ve been encountering the idea of the peripheral a lot lately. It’s giving me the itch to work seriously on some peripheral poems. Maybe this could be the February challenge? Maybe this poem could get me started?

In Praise of Being Peripheral/ Jane Hirshfield

Without philosophy,

a gray squireel
very busy.

Light as a soul
from a painting by Bosch,
its greens
and vermilions stripped off it.

He climbs a tree
that is equally ahistoric.

His heart works harder.

This last line about his heart working harder reminds me of something else I’m reading: The Plenitude of Distraction. In it, Marina Can Zuylen argues for the value of distraction. In a bit I read last night she praises how the slowness that distraction demands — wandering through the peripheral and away from one’s central task. Maybe I should read this too — I’ll try; it has a lot of words for my weak eyes.

jan 30/CORE

30 minute
all body workout
outside: 41 degrees

Inspired by the YouTuber, Erin Azer (Miss Space Cadet), I tried a 30 minute all body workout today. Now I am sore. Already, only 30 minutes later. Was it a mistake? Future Sara will let me know.

jan 29

7.3 miles
lake nokomis and back
40 degrees

Sun! Sun! Finally some sun! After days of gloom, sun and warmer air. Birds. Snow all gone. Greenish grass. It feels like spring. An unpopular opinion, but as much as I like this weather, I want some snow. Big fluffy flakes to run through. The silence only a blanket of snow can create. Crisp, cold air. I’m sure we’ll get some in February.

Ran to the lake for a specific reason: I wanted to see if Painted Turtle, the restaurant, has made any progress on building a structure so they can serve beer this summer. Nope — at least, now that I could see.

The lake still has a thick layer of ice, but the surface is wet and blue. Such a beautiful, intense blue. I don’t think I saw anyone out in the middle on the ice — did I just forgot to look? Or is too wet or too thin?

10 Things

  1. Ran over the recently redone duck bridge, noticed it squeaking
  2. a sparkling river
  3. a truck making a racket as it went over a bump — the noisiest part were its rattling chains
  4. no ice on the creek, no water in the swampy area in my favorite part of the path
  5. what I thought was a teacher’s shrill whistle at the playground was a bird, calling repeatedly
  6. still working on nokomis avenue, had to cross over to the sidewalk
  7. lots of mud near the lake — again, no snow
  8. walking by my favorite bench at the big beach, imagining myself sitting there this summer and my suit, waiting for open swim to begin
  9. no poem on the window at the house that used to put up a poem on their front window
  10. many friendly, kind people on the sidewalk moving over for me to pass

Earlier this morning, reading the Longfellow Messenger, I found an article about Edmund Avenue — the one I’ve mentioned many times here. The Edmund is after Edmund Walton who was the first developer to do a racial covenant on the properties he was selling. He did this in 1910. Some people want to change the name. I’m with them. Racial covenants are terrible; we had one on our house that we didn’t realize was there and just filed paperwork to get it removed a few weeks ago. And, it’s not in the past; our neighborhood, and all of Minneapolis, is still shaped by who could and couldn’t buy a home here. The article mentioned a site: Reclaiming Edmund

Found this poem last week:

an excerpt from Poem/ Shin Yu Pai

for Wolfgang Laib

a life
of collecting pollen
from hazelnut bushes
a life of gathering word-grains
to find all you have wanted
all you have waited to say

we cannot climb
hills we cannot touch
perhaps we are only here
to say house, bridge, or gate

a passage
to somewhere else

House, bridge, or gate. Love this idea. I want to add it to my thoughts on windows and doors.

jan 27/RUN

4.15 miles
franklin loop
34 degrees / humidity: 82%

Another run with Scott. As we ran north we talked about jazz band and soloing and COVID and how some people are still isolating and how it’s never going away but we’re learning to be out in the world again. Then I talked about muddy trails and no snow and Scott imagined possibilities for his new projects, including an arrangement of Porkpie Hat.

10 Things

  1. slippery mud — almost fell!
  2. crossing the franklin bridge, the water looked like dark glass
  3. the shore was glowing white
  4. the edges of the water were gray and icy and looked cold
  5. crossing the lake street bridge, the water was dark gray with small waves
  6. also on the lake street bridge: a sandbar that stretched out from the bridge footing
  7. most of the lamps on the bridge were lit, only a few had been stripped of their wires
  8. no eagle on the dead tree limb near the bridge
  9. the sky was gray and gloomy, the tree line was a soft, pleasing brown
  10. spotted: a small white strip of something on the trail. Was it a ruler? I couldn’t quite tell

jan 26/RUN

2.1 miles
river road, north/dorman/loons coffee
37 degrees / humidity: 90%

Ran with Scott up the river road and over to a coffee place. The air was so thick with moisture, which made it harder to breathe. Otherwise a good run. We talked about The Muppet Movie, which we watched last night, and how it didn’t dumb down (or try to purify) the characters or their relationships. Then I rambled on for a few minutes about what a rich, messy character Miss Piggy was and how there was such a variety of representations of love within the movie.

10+ Things

  1. encountered and greeted a woman in a bright red jacket, almost the same color as Scott’s
  2. passed a woman in a blue jacket — she’s a Regular that I should name. I see her often. The thing I remember most is that she’s always wearing a long skirt or dress. In the winter, she also wears a ski jacket and tights, in the summer just the dress. I’m not sure what to call her — all dressed up?
  3. near the tunnel of trees the river is still white
  4. everyone else the river is open — a deep dark gray
  5. heard some cardinals, at least one black-capped chickadee
  6. the ghost bike — June’s bike — at the trestle was wreathed in dried flowers
  7. the ravine, between the 35th and 36th street parking lots had an open view and was only half covered in snow
  8. 4 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  9. bright orange striped barrel blocking the way down the old stone steps
  10. a lone black glove, looking forlorn on the biking path
  11. a SUV honking unnecessarily and repeatedly at a pedestrian near Minnehaha Academy

Here’s a poem I don’t want to forget by Jane Hirshfield:

To Opinion: An Assay/ Jane Hirshfield

Many capacities have been thought to define the human— yet finches and wasps use tools; speech comes into this world in many forms. Perhaps it is you, Opinion.

Though I cannot know for certain,
I doubt the singing dolphins have opinions.

This thought of course, is you.

A mosquito’s estimation of her meal, however subtle,
is not an opinion. That’s my opinion, too.

To think about you is to step into
your arms? a thicket? pitfall?

When you come rising strongly in me, I feel myself grow separate
and more lonely.
Even when others share you, this is so.

Darwin said no fact or description that fails to support an argument can serve.

Myoe wrote: Bright, bright, bright, bright, the moon.

Last night there were whole minutes when you released me.
Ocean ocean ocean was the sound the sand made of the moonlit waves
breaking on it.

I felt no argument with any part of my life.

Not even with you, Opinion, who drifted in salt waters with the bullwhip kelp
and phosphorescent plankton,
nibbling my legs and ribcage to remind me where Others end and I begin.

Good joke, I agreed with you, companion Opinion.

jan 25/RUN

5.1 miles
bottom of franklin hill
37 degrees / humidity: 91%

Fog. Mist. And is that a very light drizzle or just the over-saturated air? Felt cold in the beginning — that damp, gets-in-your-bones cold — but warmed up by the end of the first mile. Waved at Mr. Morning!, said Hi! to Dave, the Daily Walker. Smiled at many other people I encountered. The fog made everything seem muffled, relaxed.

10 Things, Water

  1. beyond the flood plain forest, the river, glowing a silvery white, iced over
  2. small puddles on the path
  3. my forehead was damp for most of the run — not sweat, but drizzle or the damp
  4. in the flats, the river, almost completely open, only a few chunks of bright white ice floating on the surface
  5. the slick sound of water in car and bike wheels
  6. stepped in some squishy mud where snow had melted on the dirt trail
  7. some people down in longfellow flats, right by the river, laughing
  8. hardly any snow anywhere, almost all melted
  9. low visibility, enveloped in fog
  10. my pink headband at the end of the run: soaked with sweat

Before I ran, I started thinking about a hybrid chapbook idea: combining some of my water poems with the moments in my log where they started. I want to call it Waterlogged. Initially I thought I would just use poems about swimming in Lake Nokomis, but as I ran, I thought about all the different water-related things I’ve written, about the fog (yes, this idea was inspired by today’s weather), the crunching snow, the gorge and erosion, sweat/humidity/dew point. Maybe even a 10 Things list about water?

Running north, I listened to the water and my feet crunching on the sandy debris on the trail. Running south, I listened to Dear Evan Hansen.

jan 23/RUN

4.1 miles
minnhehaha falls
31 degrees / 50+% thin, slippery ice
wintery mix

Stepped outside and felt the sidewalk — at first, it seemed fine, but at the end of the block I realized a lot of it was covered in an invisible sheen of ice. Oh well, too late to turn back. It was never really a problem, although it was pretty slick on the cobblestones at the falls. But I didn’t fall; barely even slipped! Waved a greeting to Santa Claus, heard the kids at the playground, noticed 2 people hiking below under the falls. I watched them step over the rope blocking off the trail.

Stopped at my favorite spot to put in a playlist. Before I started running again on the ice, I took this short footage of the falls:

the falls falling between 2 columns of ice / 23 jan 2024

10 Things Not Seen

  1. the thin layer of ice on the sidewalk and the path
  2. the exact temperature, but I knew it was warm because of how energetic the kids on the playground were
  3. a runner, approaching. I thought I had seen a biker so I was looking for them, meanwhile a runner was approaching me and I had no idea. Saw him a couple seconds before I might have run into him
  4. open water — the river is iced over
  5. the light rail, but I heard its bell as I ran through the park
  6. my shadow — too gloomy and gray
  7. light rain falling — barely felt it either
  8. no fat tires or Daily Walkers or bright blue running tights
  9. the woodpecker knocking on dead wood in the gorge
  10. my breath — too warm today for that!

before the run

I was just about to write that I’ve moved on from windows — my January challenge — to assays and not seing but in midst of thinking it I conjured a new version of windows that I’d like to ruminate on for a moment: a window opening. I like the slight difference that exists between an open window and a window opening. An open window is already open, but a window opening captures the moment when the air first enters and new understandings arrive.

Side note: Suddenly while writing this, I remembered a mention of windows that is almost entirely unrelated to the last paragraph except for it involves windows and not knowing how to open them. I just finished the gothic horror novel. A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else reading this, but near the end some monstrous creatures are attempting to open a window but they don’t know how. If they did, it would be the end for the main character and her companions. I’ve already returned the book (bummer) or I’d post the actual description here of the strong creatures flailing and not understanding the concept of a window — it’s gross and disturbing and compelling and not recommended when you’re eating lunch (which I was).

I’m about to go out for a run. I’ll try to think about opening windows or windows opening.

during the run

I imagined I might have a few moments where something I noticed felt like a window opening. I didn’t. About a mile in, I decided to do triple beat chants with the word: op en ing/ op en ing — then, op en ing/wel com ing/ won der ing. Thought about the openness of opening versus the confinement of closed, or even closing. After chanting opening for a few minutes, I remember lifting out of my hips and leading with my chest — an opening of my body.

after the run

Walking back after I finished my run, I listened to The Woman in the Window. I heard this and it got me thinking:

“And what’s going with the rest of the block?”

I realize I have no idea. The Takedas, the Millers, even the Wassermen–they haven’t so much as pinged my radar this last week. A curtain has fallen on the street; the homes across the road are veiled, vanished; all that exists are my house and the Russells’ house and the park between us.

Not seeing: being so preoccupied/obsessed with something that everything else doesn’t exist.

Then the narrator continued and I thought some more:

I wonder what’s become of Rita’s contractor. I wonder which book Mrs. Gray has selected for her reading group. I used to log their every activity, my neighbors, used to chronicle each entrance and exit. I’ve got whole chapters of their lives stored on my memory card.

Before the run I had been thinking about what it means to not see. I’d also been thinking about what it means for me to see. I might turn both “Not Seeing” and “Seeing” into poems and submit them to Couplet Poetry for their submissions window next month. Anyway, listening to the first bit from The Woman in the Window, I suddenly thought about how an obsession, being preoccupied with something, like whether a neighbor has been murdered, makes one myopic. And then listening to the second bit, I thought about the new way I see by making note of everything, slowly, habitually noticing all the small, seemingly unimportant and peripheral moments. This is how I see now: moment on moment on moment.

Here’s a poem by Jane Hirshfield. It’s in her “assay” form, which I’ve been studying for the past few days. As I understand it, an assay explores, imagines, tries out different meanings of a word or a concept. Is this an assay about “moment” or am I’m misunderstanding the poem?

Assay Only Glimpsable for an Instant/ Jane Hirshfield

Moment. Moment. Moment.

–equal inside you, moment,
the velocitous mountains and cities rising and falling,
songs of children, iridescence even of beetles.

It is not you the locust can strip of all leaf.

Untouchable green at the center,
the wolf too lopes past you and through you as he eats.

Insult to mourn you, you who mourn no one, unable.

Without transformation,
yours the role of the chorus, to whom nothing happens.
The living step forward: choosing to enter, to lose.

I who am made of you only
speak these words against your unmasterable instruction–

A knife cannot cut itself open,
yet you ask me both to be you and know you.

jan 22/RUN

5.8 miles
the flats and back
26 degrees

(added a few hours later): I almost forgot to mention that this entry is my 2000th post. Not every single one of these entries is about a run, but most of them are. Wow. When I started this project to document marathon training in 2017, I had no idea where it might lead! So happy I’m still here writing and running and noticing!

Hooray for warm (but not too warm) mornings and clear paths and flying geese and frozen rivers and runners in electric blue running tights and frozen seeps and weeping springs and brief visits from shadows and squirrels that don’t dart and not slipping on the few spots where there was snow and chirping birds and laughing woodpeckers and clicking blue jay jaws and running down hills then walking back up them and winter playlists and legs and lungs and hearts that work!

A good run. Before the run, I had a brief wave of anxiety — not for any reason. It just came on all of a sudden — feeling strange, tingly, finding it a littler harder to breathe. Peri-menopause and messed-up hormones, I’ve decided. Running helped, partly because moving always helps and partly because I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to run at a 9:30 pace for so long if something was really wrong with me.

I wasn’t sure how far I’d run this morning, but when I got to the bottom of the franklin hill I had an idea: run until you reach a frozen seep. So I did, which made my run a little longer than usual. What a seep! And falling water from a spring. I thought about crossing the road to get closer to the seep, but there’s no curb and the road isn’t that wide and cars drive faster here then they should, so I didn’t. Instead I took some video from the edge of the trail and then I stood still and marveled at the falling and frozen water, and then the height of the bluff.

frozen seep / weeping spring / 22 jan 2024

After the seep, I ran again until I reached the bottom of the franklin hill, then walked up while I recited ideas for a new poem about the idea of not-seeing. One connection to windows: not seeing a window (or glass) and bumping into it. I’ve read several poems that feature birds who run right into the glass and are dazed. Are there any poems about people? I suppose people mostly (always?) run into glass doors not windows. I’ve done it at least once, while I was studying abroad in Japan. The worst thing about running into glass is the grease smudge your face leaves on the glass. It just stays there, staring at you, embarrassing you — not just because it’s evidence that you ran into the glass, but that your face is greasy.

I’m wondering now: what are the most embarrassing things to not see?

Here’s a poem I found from poem-of-the-day that I’d like to remember.

Arequipa/ Ben Okri

Leaves that fall.
Ought to breed
Fire from stone.
The world counts
On our fall.
Our solitude interests
The butterflies
And the lost gold
Of the afternoons.

Ochre and blue walls
And the fading peaks
Of volcanoes
And the sunlight
Plummeting beyond
The hills waken
Leaves to their
Lost trees.

To discover
You still have
A world
To make
At sunset
The stones.

Love the brevity of this poem and the double-meaning of the first line: leaves from that fall and leaves that fall down. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru (south of Lima, slightly inland — 100km from the coast).

jan 20/RUN

4.35 miles
minnehaha falls and back
5 degrees

Back outside! Cold, but much warmer than Tuesday. Low (ish) wind, plenty of sunshine, clear paths. I felt a little tired and sore, but still happy to be outside. Was planning to do my usual routine of running without music, then putting some in at my favorite spot by the falls, but I forgot my headphones. Oh well, if I had been listening to music I might not have heard a goose honking.

10 Things

  1. startled some birds in the brush on the path near the ramp that winds down to the falls bridge — some rustling noises, then a silver flash as the sun caught the feathers on one of the bird’s wings — it reminded me of Eamon Grennan’s line about a lark’s silver trail in Lark-luster or EDickinson’s silver seam in A Bird, came down the Walk
  2. the falls were hidden behind columns of ice
  3. a few people (3 or 4?) walking on the frozen creek, admiring the falls from up close
  4. falling water sound: tinkling, sprinkling, shimmering
  5. the creek was frozen over, with just a few open spots where the water flowed beneath it
  6. running past the stretch of woods near the ford bridge — all the leaves are gone, the small rise up to the bridge fully visible
  7. crunch crunch crunch as my feet struck the ground — not slippery or hard or too soft
  8. my shadow, sharp lines, solid, dark, lamp post shadow, softer, fuzzier
  9. the rhythm of a faster runner’s legs as they passed me — a steady lift lift lift — so graceful
  10. a lone geese honking — not seen, only heard

Somewhere near the Horace Cleveland overlook (near the double bridge), I thought about interiors and exteriors and how you can look in or out of windows and then outside as the abstract/thinking/theorizing/writing and inside as the body. I want to remove the barrier between these, to mix writing with being/doing/moving as a body. Then lines from Maggie Smith’s “Threshold” popped into my head: You want a door you can be on both sides of at once. You want to be on both sides of here and there now and then…Yes, I do.

added 21 jan 2024: Reading through a past entry this morning I suddenly remembered the black capped chickadee calling out their fee bee song so loudly as I ran up the hill between locks and dam no. 1 and the double bridge. Wow! I recall thinking they were in beast mode (a reference to Michael Brecker and how some people describe his playing).

Jane Hirshfield’s Ten Windows, Chapter 6 (Close Reading: Windows)

Many good poems have a kind of window-moment in them–they change their direction of gaze in a way that suddenly opens a broadened landscape of meaning and feeling. Encountering such a moment, the reader breathes in some new infusion, as steeply perceptible as any physical window’s increase of light, scent, sound, or air. The gesture is one of lifting, unlatching, releasing; mind and attention swing open to new-peeled vistas.

windows offer an opening, a broadened landscape, fresh air, a lifting, unlatching, releasing, expansion, an escape or a way into somewhere else

In this chapter, Hirshfield does a close reading of ED’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” — yes!

I have called the third stanza (And so of larger — Darkness –/Those Evenings of the Brain –) the poem’s first window, but for me, the true window in Dickinson’s poem is contained in one word; its quick, penultimate, slipped-in “almost.” (And Life steps almost straight). The effect is so disguised it feels more truly trap-door than window: On this close-to-weightless “almost,” the poem’s assurance stumbles, catches. Its two syllables carry the knowledge that there are events in our lives from which no recovery is possible.

I love Emily Dickinson’s almost in this poem. The space it gives — the possibilities — for living your life otherwise. It seems that Hirshfield reads this almost as unfortunate — you almost made it back to your normal life after the darkness, but not quite. I don’t. There’s so much room (and a lot less pressure) in the almost! So much to write about this idea, so little time right now.

In the chapter, Hirshfield references a “popular” Dickinson poem that I’ve never encountered before:

The Brain — is wider than the Sky — (1863) J632/ Emily Dickinson

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do —

The Brain is just the weight of God —
For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
And they will differ — if they do —
As Syllable from Sound —

I’d like to put this into conversation with my mid-run ideas about the body and the mind — maybe add Mary Oliver’s ideas about the difference between a poem and the world from The Leaf and the Cloud too.

jan 19/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 4 miles
treadmill, basement
outside: 6 degrees, feels like -7

Because I was sick earlier this week, I’m being cautious and not running outside when the feels like temp is below 0. Running on the treadmill isn’t as interesting, but it is helping me to keep my heart rate down.

Watched a Hot Ones while I biked, listened to the audiobook for The Woman in the Window (in honor of windows month!) for almost 3 miles, then my winter playlist for the last mile.

The run felt easy and not too tedious. I looked over at my shadow — a giant head swaying. I think I saw the shadow of my ponytail swinging a few times. When I looked again, I lost my balance a little and stepped off the side briefly. Oops.

In The Woman in the Window, Anna is agoraphobic and has been stuck in her fancy house for 10, or was it 11?, months. She keeps her windows shut tight and spies/watches/looks at her neighbors through them (with the help of a high-powered camera lens). In the chapter I just heard (18), a woman she is watching, Jane Russell, looks back and waves, which freaks Anna out. She realizes that just as she watches others, they could be watching her.

side note: I know very little about this story other than that someone is murdered, Anna sees it, and no one believes her. Listening to this chapter and being introduced to Jane Russell, I’m guessing she’s the one getting murdered. I’m also getting the feeling that not only will people not believe that Anna saw the murder, they won’t believe that Jane Russell is real. She’s just Anna’s drunk/over-drugged hallucination. Am I right, or have I seen The Lady Vanishes too many times (thanks 1980s HBO!) Continuing with Lady Vanishes vibes, I’m wondering if the small portrait Jane sketched of Anna that she hastily shoved in her drawer will be proof (if to no one else, at least to herself) that she’s not making it up! Jane does/did exist! In The Lady Vanishes it’s the message written in the fog on the window, or the sugar packet that proves the little old lady who vanished actually exists — am I remembering that right? I think I’m conflating the 1938 original with the 80s remake here. Anyway, I’m probably wrong about Jane not being real. She has a son who can verify her existence. It was the random moment when Jane sketches Anna that made me think of this scenario. Future Sara, let me know after you’ve finished the book!

update from feb 1st Sara: A lot of what I thought was right, but not quite. Lots of slight twists. For example, everyone believes Anna exists, but she’s someone else. The portrait does come up and does reinvigorate Anna’s flagging belief in what she thinks she saw, but it doesn’t serve as an a-ha moment or matter much to others. And all the stuff with the son? I probably shouldn’t have been, but it surprised me.

In addition to the actual windows in her house, there’s also the window of the computer screen. After she waves back at Anna, Jane comes over and they talk. Jane asks Anna what she does in the house all day. Anna describes the chatroom she participates on and the french lessons she takes online. Then Jane calls the computer, “her window to the world.” The window as Windows (mircrosoft) has come up in my exploration of windows and their meanings alreadyearlier today even, when I was reading the Part 2 article I mention a few paragraphs below.

Magritte and windows

(written before the run) On the 15th, while rereading entries from that day in past years (thanks to Scott’s “On This Day” plug-in!), I encountered a great vision poem that I had read before, but not that closely, I guess, because I missed how much it spoke to me and my experience with vision loss. The poem: Ekphrasis as Eye Test/ Jane Zwart. And the verse that particularly spoke to me was this:

Other losses begin in the middle of the field:
redacting the kiss at a picture’s center–
wrapping lovers’ heads in pillow slips; hovering doves
at eye level anywhere hatted men stand.
They could be anyone, the strangers Magritte painted
almost as their mothers, maculas wasted, would see them.

  • the kiss, lovers’ heads in pillow slips: The Lovers
  • the dove and the hatted man: Man in a Bowler Hat
  • Magritte’s mother killed herself by jumping off a bridge when he was 13. When her body was found days later, her nightgown was wrapped around her head (I can’t remember where I read that — found it!)

When I read these lines, I didn’t immediately get the references I mentioned above, but I did recognize the featureless faces and wasted maculas in my own vision. I recall liking Magritte exhibit when I was kid — I had a poster of the business men floating in the sky — but I hadn’t thought about him much since.

I inherited my mom’s copy of a 1992 exhibition she saw at the Art Institute of Chicago, but I hadn’t looked through it much, if at all. I picked it up and saw the cover — his painting with a train emerging from a fireplace — and thought: Charles Bonet Syndrome! CBS happens to some people as they lose their central vision; it often involves strange hallucinations. I read about people seeing waterfalls coming out of skyscrapers, old carriages coming down the street, and a dozen cooked eggs on a fireplace mantel. A train emerging from a fireplace seems to fit in these.

The cover of Magritte book. At the center, a fireplace with a black train, steam coming out of the top, emerging from its center. On the mantel, a clock. And behind that, a big mirror. In the bottom right corner, the book title: Magritte
Magritte on my desk, next to Forrest Gander’s “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas” under the glass

Of course, there are other meanings intended with this train, but I immediately saw it as CBS hallucination. Looking through the book at all the featureless faces and faces obscured by apples and doves, I recognized my own inability to see faces. Very cool.

This morning I decided to dig into Magritte a little more. I discovered (or maybe remembered) that one of his reoccurring themes was windows — fitting for this month’s theme! Fearing copyright issues (I’ve been burned before), I’m not posting any of the images here. Instead, go here for examples: Magritte windows.

In my brief research (googlin’), I found this: Part 2: Magritte’s Window Paintings. At the end of the post there’s an article on the symbolism of windows, with some useful descriptions:

This intimate relation between the window, seeing, and perception (cf. eye/gaze) has become part of everyday language: the eyes as windows to the soul (or heart, or mind) [1] point out the possibility of looking inside a person through the opening of his eyes, where an inner state is reflected.

note: 1 The notion of  the ‘eyes as the window to the psyche’ goes back at least to a text by the Skeptic philosopher Sextus Empiricus (2nd century A.D), who might be citing an even earlier text. Cf. Carla Gottlieb. The Window in Art. From the Window of God to the Vanity of Man. A Survey of Window Symbolism in Western Painting (New York: Abaris, 1981), pp.49f.

I’m always searching for references to this phrase as I interrogate the idea that we see each other’s souls, and their humanity, by looking into their eyes.

The window as an opening in a wall refers to an absence which can be filled – by a material (glass, wood, paper, stone), by that which is seen through it, or by something rather immaterial like light or air. If defined as an absence, the window becomes a frame for its variable content, a marker of difference between what is inside and outside.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about Nothing lately, so I’ll have to add this idea of absence/frame to my list of ways of understanding the word/concept. Maybe I’ll add it to the series of Nothing poems I’ve been working on, which have emerged from my stripping down and reimagining my Haunts poem.