may 30/RUN

4.5 miles
bottom franklin hill and back
65 degrees

Windy but sunny. Ran faster than I should have and it wiped me out. Made it to the bottom of the hill — I had to bargain with my shadow to keep going — then paused to notice the river. It was moving a little, some white foam, the water a mix of brown and purple and blue. No rowers or birds or paddle boats.

Listened to the wind shaking the leaves and some cheering somewhere running north. Put in “Billie Eilish Essentials” on the way back south. Picked up the pace for the third mile, especially when “Bad Guy” came on.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker —

Good morning Dave!
Hi Sara, how are you?
I’m great! How are you?
I’m good, thanks for asking!

I don’t know how many times we have had this almost exact exchange over the years, but it’s a lot. As I’ve written before, these words aren’t empty but part of the ritual of being outside, moving, noticing, and connecting.

I was distracted today — worrying about why I feel so strange — not dizzy but light-headed?, with a tight left leg. I talk to the doctor tomorrow. I think it’s the latest intense version of anxiety triggered by hormones and unusual (for me) aches and pains. Thanks, perimenopause! In this distracted, uncomfortable state, can I remember 10 things I noticed?

10 Things

  1. a tall stack of stones on the ancient boulder
  2. greenish white fuzz on the edge of the trail
  3. clicking and clacking of a roller skier’s poles
  4. an e-bike zooming up the franklin hill
  5. a group of school kids speaking spanish in the tunnel of trees
  6. a minneapolis road crew tarring more craters on the path — the tar smelled sharp
  7. the solid, wide forms of the bridge columns at the bottom of the franklin hill
  8. graffiti: the outline of a shape I can’t recall in black
  9. a runner in orange shorts doing hill repeats on the franklin hill
  10. another runner powering up the hill. I watched their steady rhythm and beautiful broad shoulders run out of sight

I did it!

silhouette and concrete poetry

Nearing the end of my shadow month, I’m still thinking about silhouettes. Today, the silhouette of a poem and how poets make their words into a recognizable shape. The most obvious version of this shaping words into form is the concrete poem.


I suppose you could call my mood rings concrete poetry. Some of the words are the shape of my blind spot, some the shape of my total central vision, and some the shape of what’s missing:


Reading more of Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual, I came across a mention of concrete poetry. He doesn’t like it:

Each of us must make a thousand choices in every poem. Nobody is going to take away your poetic license for playing with typography or punctuation or spelling. It can be lots of fun to write a poem about a flying seagull in the shape of a flying seagull, but you need to understand that that bird shape will interfere to some degree with the ability of the reader to pass through the surface of the poem behind that clever silhouette.

A shaped poem with a serious message will never be taken as seriously as the same poem without the trick of shape. A lovely elegy to your dead mother is not likely to be quite as moving as it might have been if you’d not shape the typography to look like a coffin.

The Poetry Repair Manual/ Ted Kooser

A page earlier, referring to other distracting techniques, like of haphazard line breaks and ampersands, Kooser writes:

In business, executives make cost-benefit analyses. I used this term earlier. They never want the cost to exceed the benefit. Every choice you make in a poem, thinking to make it better, can also have a corresponding cost. If you want to make a line look shorter by using an ampersand or an abbreviation of a word, you face the cost of drawing the reader’s attention back to the surface while he or she wonders why you decided to use Sgn for surgeon.

The Poetry Repair Manual/ Ted Kooser

I’d prefer to steer clear of the economic metaphors, but I agree with the idea of giving care and attention to the choices you make and their consequences.


On this day in 2017, I wrote about Linda Pastan’s poem Vertical, which I love and have since memorized. Near the end of the entry, I mention how the shape of the poem fits with the title and topic:

Pastan’s poem is vertical in form. [the words are] Long and lean, stretching upwards.

log entry from 30 may 2017


This month, partly inspired by an ongoing discussion of silhouettes, I’ve been revisiting Diana Khoi Nguyen’s brilliant book Ghost of. The visual poetry in it is strange and stunning and not a gimmick. Her poem, “Triptych,” was an inspiration for my mood rings. Here’s a video of her reading it — WOW!


Ghost of is not all visual poems, there are other forms too, but the ones in which she writes within and around the space of her brother’s silhouette are amazing. In the following poem, instead of a triptych, she uses gyotaku:

Gyotaku / Diana Khoi Nguyen

And here’s what Nguyen says about these gyotaku poems:

Several poems in Ghost Of are titled “Gyotaku.” You’re referencing this traditional method of printing from fish because you’re “printing” from the absent body of your brother?

Essentially, there’s the absent body which I fill in with text, so the absence is rendered into a visual text. Gyotaku is a practice using dead fish to create an impression of what had been captured, an old practice before photography existed. It still goes on today. I liked the idea that gyotaku creates just the impression. You can’t capture the whole of the fish, just wherever the ink or the paint was able to touch the body, the scales, and you get an idea of the thing. Thinking about the act of writing and printing—bookmaking is also inked fabric—it makes sense to also begin to claim, to manipulate, to capture this image-text in a visual way.  
source: Diana Kyoi Nguyen, To Cut Out

Open water swimming is having a moment

Okay, open water swimming. First the awesome, Nyad, and now this:

open water swimming rules

may 29/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls
57 degrees

A beautiful morning for a run! Sun! Shadows! A slight breeze! Ran with Scott to the falls — no stopping today. Mostly it was fine, but the last mile was hard. My left leg was tight. I kept going because Scott wasn’t stopping and I knew I could do it. And now, since I did do it, I know I can do it the next time. Because of my effort, I can’t remember what we talked about. But I do remember encountering some little kids on the path — I was too distracted by the old guy muttering, share the path, as they passed to hear them, but Scott did: the kid, pointing to some flower near the path: We used to have those, but now they don’t grow anymore. Scott was delighted by the way the kid said one of the words — now? — and tried to imitate them.

Oh! Just remembered something I talked about: Emily Dickinson’s “To Make a Prairie.” I was trying to recite it, but I could only remember 2 of the 3 things it took to make the prairie, a/one bee and reverie. Had to look it up: a clover! Of course.

seen: the fine spray of water coming off of the falls, making everything look hazy and dreamy
felt: that same spray, soft, cool, refreshing, barely perceptible
heard: the song, “Eye of the Tiger” from a painter’s radio at a house we passed by at the beginning of our run
smelled: our neighbor’s lilac bush, overpowering, sickly sweet, giving off intense floral energy
taste: anything? probably the salt from my sweat at some point

A few weeks ago, I requested Victoria Chang’s The Trees Witness Everything. Love the brevity of her form! Back in Jan 2022, I got an early, chapbook version of this collection. In the notes of that chapbook, she describes her project:

notes from Victoria Chang’s chapbook, Another Lost Year

Her project of using the different court poetry of Japan is inspiring me to do more with my breathing and striking rhythms: 3/2, 2/1, 3/3/3, and 3/3/3/4. Also, her use of Merwin titles makes me want to use titles/lines-as-titles from Emily Dickinson and other “vision” poets! Yes!

Here are a few:

Losing Language/ Victoria Chang

We were born with a
large door on our backs. When will
we know if it opens?

The Flight/ Victoria Chang

I no longer watch
the birds during the day. I
prefer to save them
for my dreams where an owl’s face
has more than one expression.

In the Open/ Victoria Chang

Weather is wet, it
doesn’t have joints. How snow just
becomes rain, what’s that
change called? Trees witness everything,
but they always look away.

Thinking more about my running rhythms, I’m realizing that I want to tighten up the form some more by limiting the number of lines and total syllables. I like 5, but that might be too few?

Late Wonders/ Victoria Chang

My face is now gone.
Instead, I have a hawk’s face.
None of the poets
notice, they only want fame.
Fame is a bucket of eyes.

and for this month’s focus on shadows:

The Time of Shadow/ Victoria Chang

The zookeepers feed
all the shadows light and meat.
The shadows wish so
badly to leave their bodies,
but they stay for the children.

Thinking about Chang’s use of Merwin titles and my interest in using ED titles, I am reminded of a discussion in Ted Kooser’s book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual:

You can open just about any book of poetry and find poets using titles to carry information. Just look at a table of contents and you’ll see how useful titles can be in suggesting waht poems will be about. . . .

In short, a title isn’t something you stick on just because you think a poem is supposed to have one. Titles are very important tools for delivering information and setting expectations.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual / Ted Kooser

may 28/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
59 degrees
drizzle, off and on

Didn’t realize it was raining the first time I left for my run. Returned home and waited a few minutes until the sun was shining. A mix of sunny and overcast for the whole run. On my walk back: drizzle again. At least I think it was drizzling; it could have just been dripping trees or ponytails. It’s been raining then not raining then raining again for the past few days.

The run was not great, but better than I thought it would be. Yesterday afternoon, without much warning, I started feeling light-headed, like I might faint. Then strange. I put my head down and breathed deeply for 10? 20? 30? minutes. My pulse wasn’t too low or too high, I could talk normally, and my breathing was fine. But I felt wrong. At one point I wondered, do I need to go to the hospital? I drank a glass of juice in case it was low blood sugar. I asked Scott to look up “symptoms low blood sugar” online. Nope, my symptoms didn’t match that. So then I had him look up panic attack. Yep. As he read the symptoms and I recognized them, I instantly felt something lift, at least a little. Ok, just a panic attack — don’t get me wrong, it was awful and I’m not pleased to be experiencing a panic attack, but it seemed better than the alternatives I had been imagining just a few minutes before. Sigh. The next phase of perimenopause for me, increased anxiety and panic attacks? Time to go to the doctor and figure out better solutions, I think.

For the rest of the day, I was tired and a little shaky. I wanted to run today, because I felt better and if it was a panic attack, it seemed important to get out there and keep doing this thing that I love despite any fear I might have over suffering from another panic attack. I read that one of the biggest dangers with panic attacks is that you will stop doing things because you’re afraid of another panic attack. Mostly the run was fine. My legs felt a little heavy — which was already happening last week — and I was a little anxious a few times — do I feel dizzy? am I pushing myself too much?, but I ran about 2 miles before stopping to walk for a minute, then ran another mile before a 10 second break, then ran the rest. And my heart rate was the same as it always is — 161 average. Panic attacks are no joke. Before it happened, I wasn’t upset or experiencing any anxiety. And when it happened, it was purely physical. I think it was a mild one, because I wasn’t terrified, but it did derail the rest of the day: 30 minutes of my head between my knees breathing, then the rest of the day on the couch.

10 Things

  1. everything wet and slick, the sidewalk slippery
  2. dripping trees
  3. gushing sewers
  4. spraying falls
  5. rushing creek
  6. robins hopping on the wet grass
  7. a walker in a BRIGHT red shirt
  8. puddle and mud on the dirt trail that winds through the small wood by the ford bridge — I saw them out of the corner of my eye as I ran by
  9. kids on the playground, laughing, yelling
  10. maybe there were some shadows, but what I remember was dark/wet pavement with the occasional patch of light

Running south to the falls, I listened to the water dripping. Running back north, I put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist.

Before I went out for my run, I was thinking about the silhouettes in the opening credits to the James Bond movie Scott and I watched last night: For Your Eyes Only. One of my favorites, partly because it was on HBO all the time when I was a kid. Click here to watch the opening on YouTube.

My echo, my shadow, and me

Wow, doing a little more research, I found this great article: James Bond: 50 Years of Main Title Design

may 26/RUN

7 miles
to the washington bridge and back
60 degrees
overcast – drizzle – soft steady rain

Overcast at the start, cool. Calm, quiet. The green felt deeper and darker in the gray. A block before I reached the river road, an ambulance sped by, siren blaring. A few minutes later, a police car, silent, but with frantic, flashing lights. I felt relaxed for the first mile. In the second mile my left ankle hurt a little. Started chanting triple berries to lock into a rhythm and to block out creeping doubt. Nothing fancy, just strawberry blueberry raspberry over and over. Once or twice: strawberry blueberry raspberry ice cream caramel strawberry chocolate ice cream

Just before I reached the bridge and the turn around point: drops drizzle rain — soft, steady, soaking. A few reprieves under the leaves, but mostly insistent water. I didn’t care; it cooled me down. The only thing I didn’t like was how my water-logged shorts stuck to my legs. Yuck!

assessment: I had some moments of struggle during the run — my legs were sore, feeling the need for a bathroom — but I also had some moments where I powered through. So much of it is mental. I’d like to come up with some fun distractions. I should return to my St. Paul sidewalk poetry project, find some more poems to run to. I could also do another poem-inspired scavenger hunt. I need a purpose for these runs that isn’t marathon training related.

10+ Things

  1. approaching from behind, rhythmic slapping –the slap slap slap of heavy, striking feet — then a fast runner in a blue shirt ran past me and up the hill near lake street
  2. passed him again when he stopped to study the map at the kiosk — was he lost?
  3. a rower on the river! single shell, their oars skimming the water — not sounding soft like a goose skimming the water, but choppy and hard like ___?
  4. the coxswain, instructing rowers through her bullhorn
  5. slap slap slap the blue-shirted runner passed me again between the trestle and franklin
  6. limestone leaks: even before it started raining, the limestone bluff in the flats was gushing water and leaving puddles on the pavement
  7. whoosh! a car’s wheels driving through the puddles
  8. a strange, intense floral smell — sweet, I think, and not entirely pleasant or unpleasant, just smell and flower and sweet
  9. a honking goose perched on the wall that holds back the river in the flats — were they honking at me? at a biker approaching from the other way?
  10. slap slap slap Mr. Blue Shirt is back! Nearing the end of my run, heading south, he zoomed past
  11. sometimes the rain sounded like footsteps from behind, but when I glanced back, there was no one there
  12. flash flash flash flash lights on the back of two bikes flashed red to let everyone know they were there, which was helpful in this gloom
  13. Good morning! a vigorous greeting from Mr. Morning!
  14. the return of Mr. Blue Umbrella, who walks in the middle of the path and never moves over. I’ve complained about him before — maybe last year? As I ran by him, the smell of stale cigarettes
  15. soft green fuzz on the edge of the trail, above the floodplain forest — was it from one of the cottonwood 3 — 3 giant trees in a yard. Last week, Scott and I walked past them; I have never seen that much cottonwood fuzz: the lawn was almost all not-quite-white!

Because of the rain and the cloud-covered sun, I didn’t see any shadows. I remember wondering if I might be able to see one if I was closer to the streetlamp or a car’s headlight.

may 24/RUN

3.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
64 degrees

Another hot and hard run with heavy legs. Not enough water or iron or rest? My body adjusting to warmer, heavier air?

Ran with Scott to the falls. Windy, green. We talked about the runner’s high and I mentioned my log post from may 24, 2017 that included an early poem about the runner’s high. I’d like to edit it, or at least revisit the ideas in it. This revisiting will include trying to experience more runner’s highs. I also mentioned Jaime Quatro’s article, Running as Prayer, and the deepest level of the runner’s high. Scott said he preferred the word meditation to prayer: less Christian baggage. That conversation lasted about 15 minutes, I think. I can’t remember what else we talked about — oh, the wind, the value of having designated spots for returning your ride share bikes, side stitches.

10 Things

  1. slick path or slippery shoes or both — mud, worn-down tread
  2. wind in our face, running south. Scott suggested that the wind was like a trainer holding a belt around your waist as you ran, which is something we noticed happening before the twins game last week with a player and his trainer and a belt
  3. flashes of pale blue, almost white, river through the thick trees
  4. plenty of puddles
  5. kids yelling on the playground
  6. spray coming off the rushing falls — water falling down and from the sides of the limestone
  7. a long queue for paying for parking in the minnehaha lot
  8. the surreys are back — bunched together near the falls overlook
  9. a cooling breeze heading north again
  10. minneapolis parks mowed a wide strip of grass near the trail by the ford bridge but left the meadow — good news for the bull frogs! Today I couldn’t hear them because of the wind and the traffic but I bet they’re there

Yesterday I posted part of a poem from Lucie Brock-Broido. Here’s part of another beautiful one:

from Periodic Table for Ethereal Elements/ Lucie Brock-Broido

A girl ago, a girlhood gone like a phial of ether
Thrown on fire-just

A little jump of flame, like grief, or,

Like a penicillin that has lost its will for killing
Off, it then is gone.

And, here’s a recording of her reading the whole poem.

may 23/RUN

5.35 miles
flats and back
61 degrees

10 Things

  1. globs of white foam on the river surface, moving slowly south, flat, brown, opaque water near the shore
  2. a hissing goose
  3. dazed, dreamy, almost disembodied, running fast up the franklin hill
  4. dandelion stalks on the grass, right before the ancient boulder, illuminated by sun, casting ragged shadows
  5. looking down at the green of the grass, seeing it as just a clump of green, wondering if people with better vision than me can see the individual blades
  6. walking along the cracked concrete wall that holds back the river, comparing the actual wall to its shadow, noticing what I see better in each. The shadow, the line/edge of the wall, especially when it is cracked — noticing how the shadow breaks there. The “actual” wall: texture, not in fine detail but roughly — all over, not smooth / specifically, gray depressions where shadows inhabit the spots the wall has broken off
  7. approaching a person standing in the middle of the path under the trestle, realizing at the last minute they were not alone, but hugging another person — were they comforting them (or vice versa)? or were they just expressing affection? They held the hug for a long time, much longer than one would in a greeting
  8. Hi Dave!
  9. (how could I almost forget!?) catkin fuzz! white fuzz from cottonwood trees, looking like a dusting of snow, lining the edges of the path. White fuzz, not looking like snow, floating through the air. I had fun trying to bat it around
  10. Taking a walk break, feeling a strange drop of water on the back of my knee, wondering what happened, realizing it was a drip of sweat from my ponytail

Not an easy run. Somewhat of a grind. The first 3 miles were fine. Then I stopped to walk for a few minutes until I returned to the bottom of the hill. Put in a playlist and picked up speed as I run up the hill. Walked for a minute near the crosswalk, then ran faster up the rest of the hill. Ran then walked then ran again for the rest of the run.

No rowers or shadows from birds or big groups of runners or frantic squirrels or unleashed dogs or menacing turkeys. At least one roller skier. Today my shadow only appeared at the end of the run, looking strong with broad shoulders.

the shadow of death

Yesterday as I was reading more of C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade, I was thinking about how she unexpectedly died before it was published, wondering what “unexpectedly” meant. So I looked it up. Maybe a little out of morbid curiosity, but mostly because concrete details about death help me (us, I think) to engage with death in deeper ways that go beyond fear or discomfort or dismissal. Anyway, I looked it up and discovered that she died at 67 in her sleep from a blood clot she got on an overly long plane ride from Chile. Woah — that is unexpected. Thinking about this unexpected fact while I was running this morning, I thought that, for the person dying at least, this might not be a bad way to go — in your sleep. Then I wondered what experience of dying you might miss out on in your sleep. Would you dream about going into a light? Would your life still flash before your eyes as you slept? Or would all just be suddenly nothing?

A few days ago, someone somewhere (a poetry person on instagram?), posted a poem by Lucie Brock-Broido: After the Grand Perhaps. She died a few years ago. I remember that it was shocking and upsetting to many poetry people. She had been 61 and it was a brain tumor. Reading another poet’s account of her, I know she knew she was dying for at least a few months. I thought about her as I ran today, too.

2 shadow moments from After the Grand Perhaps/ Lucie Brock-Broido

After the pain has become an old known
friend, repeating itself, you can hold on to it.
The power of fright, I think, is as much
as magnetic heat or gravity.
After what is boundless: wind chimes,
fertile patches of the land,
the ochre symmetry of fields in fall,
the end of breath, the beginning
of shadow


After what is arbitrary: the hand grazing
something too sharp or fine, the word spoken
out of sleep, the buckling of the knees to cold,
the melting of the parts to want,
the design of the moon to cast
unfriendly light, the dazed shadow
of the self as it follows the self

may 22/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
57 degrees
wind: 14 mph / gusts: 31 mph

New shoes! The Brooks Ghost, black. I’ve been wearing Saucony shoes for 13 years, but after 3 disappointing pairs, it’s time to move on. I like the Ghost — the name and the feel of them. Even so, this run was hard. I feel drained, like I hit a wall. By the end, it felt harder lifting my left leg.

Listened to the wind and the cars and rushing falls for the first half. Put in “Billie Eilish” Essentials for the second half. At the very end of the run, listening to “Chihiro” off of her album that dropped last Friday, I noticed her rhyming:

[verse] I was waitin’ in the garden
Contemplatin’, beg your pardon
But there’s a part of me that recognizes you
Do you feel it too?

[chorus] Open up the door, can you open up the door?
I know you said before you can’t cope with any more
You told me it was war, said you’d show me what’s in store
I hope it’s not for sure, can you open up the door?

Often, I don’t like a lot of rhyming. It can feel forced. But not here, especially with the interesting music underneath and Eilish’s voice. Still, I noticed the rhymes in a way that took me out of the song a little. But not as much as the overdone, forced rhymes in Taylor Swift’s “Peter,” also from her latest album:

Forgive me Peter
My lost fearless leader
In closets like cedar
Preserved from when we were just kids
Is it something I did
The goddess of timing
Once found us beguiling
She said she was trying
Peter was she lying
My ribs get the feeling she did
And I didn’t want to come down
I thought it was just goodbye for now

In closets like cedar? Ugh. I like Taylor Swift, and I like her new album, but I don’t like this song (which means I probably will after giving it more of a chance) and I think Billie Eilish’s music is more exciting and interesting and rich in complexity and complicated emotions.

10 Things

  1. burning silver sliver of river noticed through a gap in the green
  2. no puddles, but stretches of deep brown mud on the path
  3. repaired split rail fence — such a contrast between the weathered wood and the pale new boards — how long will it take for these boards to blend in?
  4. a glance to my left into the savanna: thick green
  5. lime green scooters everywhere — none on the path but parked on the side, down in the ditches
  6. little robins hopping on the grass
  7. 2 kids biking on the walking side of the double bridge
  8. at my favorite view of the falls: I used to be able to see the little bridge below and part of the trail, now it’s all green with only the white foam of the falls cuting through
  9. I was wrong in #2, there was one big puddle near the locks and dam no 1 parking lot
  10. no bugs . . . yet

currently reading in support of shadows: Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright

shade: shelter from direct light; the cooling effect and darkness that that shelter causes; darkening (with a pencil); when black had been added to a hue to make it darker (as opposed to tint, when white was added to make the hue lighter), and:

Reading came first. Reading is the real art form of insult. You get in a smart crack and everyone laughs and kikis because you found a flaw and exaggerated it then you got a good read going. When you are all of the same thing then you have to go to the fine point. In other words if I’m a black queer and you’re a black queer we can’t call each other black queers because we’re both black queers. That’s not a read, that’s just a fact. So then we talk about your ridiculous shape your saggy face your tacky clothes. Then reading became a developed form where it became shade. Shade is, I don’t tell you you’re ugly. I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly. And that’s shade.

Dorien Corey/ Paris is Burning

I remember teaching Paris is Burning in my Intro to Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory courses, when we talked about gender performativity and Judith Butler. That’s when I first learned about shade, I think: 2001. Anyway, this last version of shade seems to loosely (?) fit with C.D. Wright’s title, at least as one reviewer for the New York Times Book Review reads it:

C.D. Wright, renowned poet and essayist, completed ”Casting Deep Shade” just before her sudden death in January of 2016. This posthumous book might have been read strictly as elegy, yet Wright, as if presciently marking a trail through the woods for future readers, came up with a sly signpost of a title as ”pre-amble” to her work, briskly excluding melancholy even while taking stock of crimes against nature. The title is a trick or a kind of riddle. The gerund points to a ”Macbeth”-like conspiracy of tree and human, each ”throwing shade.” Here, for example, is Wright on privacy in an all-witnessing age: ”For the moment, I can locate you, whosoever you are, or re-imagine you in a keystroke. I can see the tree that cast your lawn in deep shade when you were wearing a linen dress, a string of seed pearls, and no underpants.” You get her drift?

Roots / Carole Muske-Dukes (referenced here)

Here’s another definition of “throwing shade” from Merriam-Webster:

to express contempt or disrespect for someone publicly especially by subtle or indirect insults or criticisms

“throwing shade” / Merriam- Webster

I can’t quite express it yet, but there’s something about throwing shade that involves connection and accountability and being implicated in something. It’s more than “expressing contempt or disrespect for someone publicly”. It’s rooted (rooted!) in communities, and the shade is being thrown by people who are deeply connected to each other.

Speaking of implication, can I fit this paragraph for another reviewer in here?

One of the gifts of her imagination is the insight of implication. In a passage where she acknowledges she had not been able yet to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, Wright notes “I sit here eating ‘carefully watched over’ cashews grown in India, from one of the 102 billion plastic bags used annually in the US, wearing a linen shirt (albeit secondhand) made in China, jeans fabrique en Haiti, Delta Blues Museum T-shirt made in Honduras . . . a walking, talking profligate.” If she was, as we all are, profligate, she was also prophet. She spoke to and for trees, and the creatures that owe their well being to arboreal health. She refers to “my standing brothers and sisters, the hardwoods.” Her work documents “the buds of tree consciousness.” Like so much of her language, that phrase operates in multiple planes, conjuring both human awareness of trees, and the fact that trees themselves are conscious, as well as the concrete responsibility of a poet: to cast an image, as a tree casts shade through its limbs and buds. Though any book written about trees in our modern era will necessarily be rife with dire predictions and realities, Casting Deep Shade is hardly dour. Subtitled “An Amble Inscribed to Beech Trees & Co.,” it has the charm and healing properties of a walk in the woods.

Some Trees

Fun with Acrostics: Bring Ya Ass

The Timberwolves have made it to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. People here are excited. During an interview with Timberwolves star, Anthony Edwards, Charles Barkley said, “I have not been to Minneapois in 20 years.” To which Ant replied: Bring Ya Ass. Bring Ya Ass is now a meme and state officials and organizations are into it. Today, Governor Walz issued a proclamation that has fun with acrostics — the first letter of each Whereas paragraph spells out, Bring Ya Ass:

may 20/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
66 degrees
dew point: 61

Ugh! Sticky out there this morning. Lots of sweating. A hard run that didn’t feel great. Mostly sore legs. My shoes have worn out and the pair I bought to replace them hurt my feet. What did I notice in this distracted, uncomfortable state?

10 Things

  1. small purple flowers lining the trail
  2. the path near the ravine that winds through the welcoming oaks was wet from last night’s rain
  3. the path leading down through the tunnel of trees was almost all shade with only a few splotches of light
  4. the flash of squirrel on my right side so faint that I thought it be a shadow or a ghost — not really but I like the idea of Ghost Squirrel
  5. a gritty, slippery path
  6. Dave, the Daily Walker — Hi Sara! Hi Dave!
  7. a hiker wearing a loaded back pack — saw them last week too. Are they camping in the gorge?
  8. at least 2 sweaty, shirtless runners
  9. my shadow beside me
  10. a motorized scooter zooming by on the bike path

That was hard!

before the run

When returning to a favorite childhood book (this works with movies too) for the first time in decades, a question arises: Does it hold up? Is it a good book, or did I love it because I didn’t know any better? In my 20s and 30s, I applied a feminist lens to these books and usually they didn’t hold up. Now, a month from 50, I’m more generous; I like to think about the influence something has had with less judgment. I don’t remember the first time (or how many times) I read The Shades. But I remember liking it and finding the idea of shadow people fascinating.

brief synopsis: Young Hollis stays with a random college friend of his mother’s (beautiful, cool, kind painter Emily) in a creepy old house near a beach while his parents travel through Europe. One day, exploring the overrun, a-century-past-its-prime-garden, he discovers a dolphin fountain. After bathing in it, an older boy in strange clothing (those pants that buckle just under the knee — britches? breeches?) appears — Carl Shade. Turns out he’s a shadow that was cast by Emily’s grandfather. And Carl is not the only one. He’s part of a family — the Shades — and they live in the garden. All of their food comes from the shadow’s cast by real food, their house cast from the shadow of the old summer house that “broke Emily’s heart” when it was torn down. Most of the time they do what they want, but when a human enters the garden, whichever of them best fits that human’s form must shadow them around the garden. Sometimes this shadowing is fun, other times it’s tedious, and occasionally it’s dangerous: if a human climbs over the garden wall, the shadow must follow and be lost to the outside world forever. There’s a benevolent dictator/God (the dolphin fountain whose magic makes the shadow world possible) and an evil, jealous enemy (the beautiful greek statue of a woman/siren who sings seductive songs designed to lure the shadows out of the garden). There’s the magic of the fountain — only those who bathe their eyes (the eyes, of course!) under the bubbling fountain can see the Shades. There are the poor, unfortunate souls of the shadows that listened to the Siren and left, and then tried to return only to be enslaved by the siren in the house (which, we learn near the end, is why the house always looks so gloomy). And there’s the biggest threat of all: the loss of the Self — and connection, memory, family, home — on the other side of the garden wall.

I could probably spend all day writing into and around this story. But that would take too much time. First — does this story hold up? Not if you think too hard about the structure — either of the world of shades and shadows within or the plot. But it was still fun to read again and to inhabit the haunting strangeness of the Shades in their weird garb and with their not-quite-tragic position between real and not real — dependent on humans, yet independent of them too, feasting on shadows yet able to “taste” and enjoy/detest the food.

It’s not the plot, but the images that hold up for me. The scene when Hollis gets a tour of the larder and all of the shadow food stored there, including Emily’s birthday cake from when she was a kid and had a party in the garden. Or the red, fluffy, wonderful rug in Hollis’ room that comforts him when he’s afraid. Or the creepy shadows of the children that encircle the evil Siren. Those little kid shadows remind me of a book that I started reading last year, but had to return before I finished. There are creepy shadowy unseen malevolent kids in it — A Good House for Children by Kate Collins.

Regardless of some plot holes and an underdeveloped Shade world (and the faint classism with its nostalgia for old money and grand houses and its disdain for encroaching “hooligans”), I still like this book and think it taps into some larger feelings I have about shades and shadows as things that are both traces of us and their own things too, and how that combination is haunting and strange and magical and delightful. Does that make any sense?

Just had another thought about the Shades and their shadow food. I’m reminded of the line from Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms”: We diet of water/on crumbs of Shadow.

during the run

I tried to think about shade and shadows and Hollis and Carl while I ran, but I was mostly too distracted by humidity and aching left calves and a constant voice whispering stop and walk and we’re tired in my head. Maybe that was my Shade?

after the run

Now that I have typed the word “shades” so many times, I’d like to study shades, as a variation of shadows, today. Different definitions, expressions, etc. Looking it up, I found a review for C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade. I bought this book several years ago — I can’t remember why, maybe because I was really into thinking about the trees in the gorge? Anyway, I’ve been wanting to read it, but haven’t had a chance. Today’s the day, I think. Well, I’ll start it, at least.

added an hour later: I’m reading Casting Deep Shadow on my back deck under the shade of a bright green umbrella. Listening to the torpedoed call of a cardinal coming in slow waves of four (like Didi Jackson’s “Listen”), with additional notes at the end. I love this book and C.D. Wright’s wandering (and a little whimsical) approach to writing about beech trees. She describes different varieties, defines beech terms, recounts childhood stories sometimes only peripherally related to the beech, and places the trees geographically. On page 25, she even describes an anxiety dream she had about not practicing the piccolo which she believes must be “tangential to signing on to write about beeches.”

So far, she’s written about Beech Bark Disease (BBD), lingering beech leaves, trees from her childhood yard, roots. Here are a few examples of her writing:

Crowley’s Ridge is coated with a windblown sediment known as loess or rock flour. That’s where your kitty litter comes from. Grasses keep it from flying all over. Beeches don’t mind loess. Nor do peach trees, judging from the seet Elbertas that grew there–where Hemingway penned A Farewell to Arms when he was married to Pauline. It is the only rise in the Alluvial Plain of Old Man River. In the event the river floods, rather, when, head for the Ridge.

Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright, page 14

The other distinctive aspect [of the beech] is that in the winter, most younger, lower branches always hold on to a few of their dead leaves all winter. They have a distinctive parchment color, and when backlit transmit light. I love that about them. However, these leaves are dropped promptly as the spring buds expand . . . .So noted by San Francisco-born Robert Frost:

We stood a moment so, in a strange world.
Myself as one his own pretense deceives;
And then I said the truth (and we moved on).
A young beech clinging to its last years’ leaves.

Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright, page 19-20

As a by-product of the Ozark Mountains, I have long been at least semi-aware of my standing brothers and sisters, the hardwoods. Rocks, rivers, and trees we had in surplus. In our yard were four species of oak–white, post, blackjack, and Arkansas oak There are 29 species in the state); 7 or 9 pink and white dogwoods, a handsome blue spruce, an A1 southern magnolia, and two cedar sentinels beside the front steps. The red maple was lost early on.

Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright, page 25

I love her writing style and the stories and accounts that accumulate, creating the feeling of wandering and wondering about beeches. I also like how she weaves in the I and her personal stories — including them, but not making them the center of this story. There is no center, only stories and information culled from a range of sources. I see this book as an inspiration as I continue to work towards polishing my log writing and turning some of my words here into something more condensed, crafted.

may 19/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/north
60 degrees

Ran a littler earlier, so it was cooler, quieter, calmer. Everything green. Everywhere orange cones from yesterday’s race. Encountered a strange squirrel that panicked as I approached — it spun around a few times, then hesitated before darting past me. Saw 4 roller skiers. Kept thinking the bag protecing the base of a new tree was a turkey. Noticed the faint shadows cast by the welcoming oaks. Faint because of the thick air, I think.

Listened to the birds as I ran south, my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back north.

Just after I finished my run, as I walked back, I could hear a man across the street talking on this phone, his voice loud and a little agitated. Was he mad, or was this just how he talked to people on the phone? At one point he paused then said, Hello? Are you still there? Silence. But someone must have still been there because he started talking again.

Almost home, I was thinking about shadows some more as I recited Jorie Graham’s “Still Life with Window and Fish.” In particular, I was thinking about the last line, We are too restless to inherit this earth. Then I thought about the beautiful interruptions — the shadows and the motion washed in kitchen light — and imagined myself as a restless shadow flickering fanning gliding upstream. Then this thought took me to a line from one of Victoria Chang’s Obit poems:

She switched
places with her shadow because
suffering changes shape and happens

Not the suffering in secret part, just the switching places with my shadow.

Typing all of this now, I’m thinking about another J Graham line, The whole world outside wants to come into here, and twilight walks around the neighborhood before people close their curtains, when you can see inside their living rooms, watch the shows on their ridiculously big TVs with them.

added many hours later: In the late morning/early afternoon, I read a favorite childhood book, The Shades/ Betty Brock. I read the whole thing — all 128 pages of it — in about 5 hours. For normally sighted people that might not be a big deal, but for me it is. I read it with my eyes, not my ears! Yes, there was a rough stretch where I kept falling asleep every minute or so and stayed on the same page for about 10 minutes (or, maybe a lot more? It felt like a long time), but I still did it. Tomorrow, I hope to write about a few things in the book, and to also think about those things on my run. One thing that came up a lot in the book was the idea that the shadows in the garden ruled by a dolphin fountain and his magic were both beholden to the humans who entered the garden and independent of them once those humans left. A question I had a few weeks ago: what is the relationship between an object and its shadow?

may 18/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
67 degrees

Warm this morning. Humid, too. Lots of sweat and a flushed face. Ran alongside the 10 milers for the “Women Run the City” race — just briefly; they passed me quite quickly. Everything was wet from the all-night rain. Was there sun? I can’t remember. Rowers? Not sure. Lots of people on the edge of trail, cheering on the runners.

Running north, I listened to the spectators. Running south, Beyoncé’s “Carter Cowboy.”

Right after I got back, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. No more runners, but the road was still closed. So quiet! Scott remarked, and I agreed, that you don’t realize how much car noise there is on the river road until the cars are gone. I wish they could close the road to cars more — like they did during the pandemic.

shadows: cave paintings

The other day, I came across a poem by Muriel Rukeyser that reminded me of a great topic for shadows, especially in terms of painting:

The Painters/ Muriel Rukeyser

In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.

I know very little about cave paintings. Here’s an article to read: Were the First Artists Mostly Women? Also, I could watch the documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams