march 1/RUN

3.45 miles
2 trails + extra
45 degrees
wind: 15 mph / 31 mph gusts

Everyone knows it’s windy — All week I’ve had that song in my head. Partly because it’s catchy, but mostly because it’s windy. The wind didn’t bother me too much. Ran south to the overlook and was startled by a white truck honking as it drove past — was it honking at me, someone else, the wind? Reached the entrance to the Winchell Trail and entered. The path was thick with dead leaves and some mud. I don’t remember much about the river other than that it was blue and open and there, taking up a glorious amount of space. I heard some kids above playing, also some guy on a bike say, in exasperation, fuuucckk. Felt, more than saw, some shadows. Took off my pink jacket before climbing the 38th street steps — overdressed!

I recited ED’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” as I ran. Stumbled over this line a little:

With those same Boots of Lead, again

Not sure why the line was difficult to get right. I thought about sense breaking through, my mind going numb, space beginning to toll. Also: iron boots creaking across my soul. Last night, I asked Scott, after passing a store with the sign “guidance for the soul,” what he thought the difference between a soul and a spirit was — not what he believed — I know he doesn’t believe in either (at least I think he doesn’t) — but how they function theologically. Wait — what I actually asked was, on the scale of most rational to least, where do mind brain soul and spirit fall? I was thinking of ED’s use of mind in the poem as opposed to brain, and her reference to soul. Now I want to look at the Emily Dickinson lexicon and read how she used “brain,” “mind,” “spirit,” and “soul.”

I also want to find another brain poem to memorize — so far I’ve memorized, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” and . . . wait — I was just about to write, “I felt a Cleaving in my Brain,” which I’ve also memorized, but the title is actually “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind.” I think that she uses the terms, like many people do, interchangeably, but I’m fascinated by the small gap between them — the mind and brain are not the same, I think, not exactly. The difference between them gets us to the soul and the self and my thinking about the ultra marathoner Courtney Dauwalter last week — how the mind’s desire to keep going can override the body’s desire to stop. Wow — right now, I seem to be obsessing over and orbiting around ideas of the relationship between the mind and the body, the self and the brain, and surrender and the death of self. Okay, that barely makes sense to me —

I wrote in my plague notebook: brain soul mind self sense will death transformation pain

As I’ve been memorizing/reciting ED’s funeral poem, I’ve been thinking about this funeral in her brain not as a migraine or a mental breakdown or an epileptic seizure, which seem to be the dominant readings, but as the process of transcending the self involving feet treading and the repetitions of a beating drum and a religious ceremony (a service) and bells tolling/ringing and moving beyond reason and Knowing. I first encountered this reading in a comment on The Prowling Bee:

from the line “Then Space — began to toll” through the end of the poem, something else entirely is happening. ED breaks through to an experience that is impersonal and liberating — a direct experience that is unfiltered, not obscured by the depression and stress of the prior stanzas. The experience is vast and lonely — if the self is transcended, what would be the experience? 

The last stanza of the poem describes something far from a mental breakdown. Reason, the logical mind, does not operate without reference points. If the poet is operating from the reference point of self, then everything is measurable and comprehensible — graspable — based on that. With reason and logic, we are in the realm of EDs poems that use metaphors of measurement and mathematics and limits. But in the last stanza of this poem, all that is transcended. What is experienced is beyond reason — but entirely sane. It is the ineffable experience of truth — the poet finishes — knowing — then. If you ask what is known, you have not shared the transcendent experience of the poem.

The Prowling Bee

Reciting this poem while running, I kept thinking about how the treading and the beating, foot strike after foot strike, can lead to a dream-like state where you stop thinking and begin to feel the world (sense breaking through) instead of just observing or knowing it. There’s a lot I could say about the bell, but I’ll save that for later.

note: I worry that I getting lost in theorizing about this, but I also think I’m trying to push at deeper understandings of self and consciousness and how bodies and brains and minds and souls are entangled — especially in my aging, almost-50, often anxious, Sara-self.