march 20/RUN

4 miles
trestle+ turn around
22 degrees
wind: 21 mph gusts

Straight into the wind running north. Not fun, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. Felt stronger, faster for parts of it. Running up the hill just south of the lake street bridge my calf tightened up a little. I stopped, walked, then started again, more cautious this time. Thought about Thomas Gardner and Poverty Creek Journal and his brief descriptions of sore calves after a tough session of hill repeats. After lots of anxiety for weeks, calf pain is now just a normal/regular part of my running. I’m glad — not for the off and on pain, but for the everydayness of it.

Some shadows — soft, crooked, in motion: birds, gnarled tree branches, broken fence rails. Other shadows — dark, on trees, looking like someone standing there. Don’t remember seeing the river but I do remember the floodplain forest — open, bare, beautiful. No chain across the top of the old stone steps. Wondered what will happen in a few days; big snow predicted, well, possible.

Listened to birds and cars and grit on the trail running north, my winter playlist running south.

before the run

Encountered these lines on twitter this morning, from Charles Wright:

When what you write about is what you see, what do you write about when it’s dark?

Charles Wright

I like thinking/reading/writing about the dark. Imagining it otherwise, not as the absence of light, where light = life and happiness and safety, but as where more things are possible, outside the scrutiny of those watching and judging and classifying. The dark, soft. The dark, no need for sharp vision or eye contact. The Dark, where Emily Dickinson’s little men hurry home to their house unperceived and robins in a trundle bed try and fail to hide their wings under their nightgowns. Where Carl Phillip’s willow wants more for compassion than for company. The dark: the moon, the stars, louder silence. The dark, where reds and greens and blues and yellows are no longer necessary —

A strange thing I’ve realized about my color vision. I can still see colors — the light green placemat my computer sits on, the purplish-reddish-blueish of my computer desktop, my bright blue hydroflask. And I can still see when things are in color. But, when something lacks color, like a movie in black and white or the middle of the night in my bedroom, I can’t tell that there isn’t any color. It looks and feels the same.

4 moments when I noticed this:

one and two: from a log entry on 13 nov 2022

1 Yesterday afternoon, in the chapel at Gustavus, which was not dim but not bright either, I started to notice that looking one direction, toward the far window on the other side, the only color I could see was an occasional red square embedded in the walls (I double-checked with Scott; there were also a bunch of blue squares too). The hymnals 15-20 feet away, which I know are red, looked dark but colorless. Staring out at the crowd of people, everyone looked like they were dressed in dark or light — not quite black or white, just dark clothes or light clothes. No variation, no purples or blues or oranges or anything but dark and light. It was strange, partly because it didn’t feel strange. It wasn’t like I thought, where is all the color?

2 It felt more like when I wake up in the dark and, after my eyes adjust, I see the room and it looks like the room, but just darker, dimmer and without color. And, usually I don’t think there’s no color — sometimes I might even think I see color because I know my robe is purple or the pillow is yellow, or I don’t see yellow, but I recognize the pillow on the couch as that yellow pillow because I already know it’s yellow.

three: from a log entry on 12 jan 2024

The other day, Scott, FWA, and I were discussing the scenes in Better Call Saul that are set in the present day and are in black and white. Scott and FWA both agreed that those were harder to watch — they had to pay more careful attention — because they lacked color, which is harder because visual stories often rely heavily on color to communicate ideas/details. I said I didn’t realize that they were in black and white; they didn’t look any different to me than the other scenes, which are in vivid color (at least that’s what they tell me). I realized something: it’s not that I don’t see color, it just doesn’t communicate anything to me, or if it communicates it’s so quiet that I don’t notice what it’s saying.

four: this week

A few days ago, we decided to finally watch Maestro. Wow! We haven’t finished it yet, but Scott and I are really enjoying it. The first scene is in color, which is intended to represent the present, at least the present as it exists in the movie. The second scene is in black and white and represents Bernstein just before his big break. After watching it for a minute or two Scott said, you see that this in black and white, right? And I said, oh, is it? I didn’t notice. I was focused on the contrast — the dark, closed-curtain window and the outline of brightness around it.

Color exists, it just doesn’t speak to me in the same ways (as it used to, or as it does to other people). It’s not a foreign language, it is just turned down, whispering. Yes, it does make it harder to understand visual stories that rely on color to tell part of the story — a favorite: present times = color; the past = black and white — but it doesn’t bother me that much. Instead, I find it fascinating, the opportunity to notice the constructs of color and to see the world (and color) differently.

Okay, that was a long ramble about color and black and white, but I think I’d like to write another color poem about it.

Now back to the quote from Charles Wright on twitter. As is often the case, there was no mention of where it came from, other than it was from Charles Wright. I always find this frustrating. But, I found it easily enough: Littlefoot, 32 in The New Yorker, 2007. Such a wonderful poem!

Back yard, my old station, the dusk invisible in the trees,
But there in its stylish tint,
Everything etched and precise before the acid bath
—Hemlocks and hedgerows—
Of just about half an hour from now,
Night in its soak and dissolve.
Pipistrello, and gun of motorcycles downhill,
A flirt and a gritty punctuation to the day’s demise
And one-starred exhalation,

V of geese going south,
My mind in their backwash, going north.

my old station: love this way of describing a usual spot to sit
the stylish tint: oh, the softness of near-night!
everything etched and precise: I love walking at night in the winter and noticing the contrast between the sky and the bare branches, which I can see more clearly than at any other time. During the day, those branches are a fuzzy blur, but at night they are etched!
Hemlocks and Hedgerows: sounds like a musical act or a comedy duo Scott adds: proto Prog rock/psychedelic band, Margaret’s Electric Forest or Garden, first album: Hemlocks & Hedgerows
a pipistrello is Italian for bat, or “small mouse-like animal that flies”
sounds of day’s demise: a flirt of a bat, the gritting punctuation of a motorcycle’s gun downhill
one-starred exhalation: me, almost every night — o, look at the stars!
I love hearing, then seeing, a V of geese in the evening. The choice of backwash instead of wake is interesting — and flying south/mind going north is a wonderful way to suggest being out of sync

Wow, that is one packed first stanza! I’ll skip the next one to get to the quoted lines:

When what you write about is what you see,
what do you write about when it’s dark?
Paradise, Pound said, was real to Dante because he saw it.
Nothing invented.
One loves a story like that, whether it’s true or not.
Whenever I open my eyes at night, outside,
flames edge at the edge
Of everything, like the sides of a nineteenth-century negative.
If time is a black dog, and it is,
Why do I always see its breath,
its orange, rectangular breath
In the dark?
It’s what I see, you might say, it’s got to be what my eyes see.

I’ll have to think about these lines some more. Right now I wonder, when your peripheral vision is fraying, do you see strange things, like flames, at the edges? What do edges look like to me in the dark? I’ll try to remember to notice when I wake up in the middle of the night tonight, like every night. In the light, they are fuzzy and dance a soft shimmy.

It’s real because we see it? Different ways to respond to this. I’m thinking about how so much of what our eyes see is illusion or guessing based on habits and repeated practice and context and other brain tricks. Even so, most people believe that what they are seeing is real. If they believe, and act as if what they are seeing is real, why can’t I believe and act as if what I’m seeing is real too? All those soft, generous things; those strange headless and legless torsos walking towards me; that river burning with a white heat that sets the trees on fire?

Okay, it’s almost 11 am. I need to go out for my run before I finish this!

during the run

Did I think about this poem at all while I was running? I can’t remember.

after the run

During the run, I noticed bird shadows crossing my feet, both of us flying, the birds in the air, be just above the trail. I decided to add it into a fun poem I’m writing called “Birding.” It’s a series of small verses in my 3/2 form in which I describe how I see birds with my cone-dead eyes.

Not sure if this works:


a shadow

over feet

downhill — flight
4 ways:

the moving

the descending

a belief

signal some

thing and

the small form

closer to

the sun.



And just like that, my plan to return to Wright’s poem will have to wait. Instead, I’m thinking about shadows, which is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I realized, earlier this month, that shadows see more real to me (as in, having more substance, easier to see as solid) than the object from which they’re cast — is that the most awkward way to say that? Here’s what I wrote on march 9, 2024:

As I was admiring the fence railing shadows I thought about how clear and real they seemed to me. Much more there than the actual fence railing, which was staticky and vague.

log / 9 march 2024

So, in the draft of my poem, I wrote: a belief/shadows/signal some/thing. In a different version, I wrote: a belief/shadows/have substance. Do I like that better? I can’t decide. I think it was inspired by a passage I read in Becoming Animal (which was a recommendation from my super smart niece):

One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. If I am strolling along a street on a cloudless afternoon and I notice a shapeshifting patch of darkness accompanying me as I walk, splayed out on the road perpendicular to my upright self, its appendages stretching and shrinking with the swinging of my limbs, I instantly identify this horizontal swath as my shadow. As thought a shadow was merely this flatness, this kinetic pancake, this creature of two dimensions whom one might peel of the street and drape over the nearest telephone wire.

Becoming Animal / David Abram

I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but I was able to access it through the reading sample on amazon — so I’ll return to finish later.


The line about draping the shadow over a telephone wire enabled me to remember a delight poem I read by Paige Lewis a few years ago:

When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows/ Paige Lewis

what I really mean. He paints my name

across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners
to my ankles. Then he paints another

for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game,
saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your

shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels
of your shopping cart.
It’s all very polite.

Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take
them to the Laundromat—the one with

the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine—
and watch our shadows warm

against each other. We bring the shadow game home
and (this is my favorite part) when we

stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled
my husband grips his own wrist,

certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.

march 9/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
25 degrees

Oh, I love running in weather like it was this morning! Sunny, calm, crisp air. So many shadows, some sharp some soft. Sparkling, shimmering, simmering river. Today my legs didn’t feel heavy and my calf was quiet, or maybe it was humming happily? My IT band didn’t hurt either! No compression sleeve while I ran, just after, for recovery.

I felt good. When I reached 2 miles I stopped, spoke a few notes into my phone, put on Beyoncé’s Renaissance and ran south.

10 Things

  1. shadows of the fence railing above the ravine, 1: 3 slightly crooked lines on the path, very solid and sturdy and thick
  2. fence railing, 2: the 3 lines became straight and crisp, seeming more real than the actual fence railing to my eyes
  3. shadow, 3: another solid sharp thick line from a tree’s branch
  4. shadow, 4: a soft, almost fluffy, form made from a cluster of small branches
  5. shadow, 5: a flash of dark overhead — a big bird in flight?
  6. shadow, 6: not a flash, but a flutter or flurry of movement — a few darting birds?
  7. a small white dot in the sky — was it a plane? the moon? I tried to find it in my periopheral vision but couldn’t
  8. something dark and plastic looking down below on the winchell trail — a sleeping person?
  9. young voices rising up from longfellow flats
  10. hopefully mis-overheard — one older woman to another: I farted and then the diaper filled with blood — what?

As I was admiring the fence railing shadows I thought about how clear and real they seemed to me. Much more there than the actual fence railing, which was staticky and vague.

At some point in the run, I had an idea for the triptych poem I was working on earlier this morning: intentionally do not mention the type of bird I’m writing about. It’s all about these different ways that I see birds through my peripheral — swishing wings, a call/cry/sound?, a sense of feathers and a shadow. Yes!

This weekend, I need to finish the wonderful book I’m listening to before it gets automatically returned to the library: The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I’m thinking about doors a lot lately. Wrote this before breakfast:

an open
door says

come in and
a shut

door says who
are you

but a door

does not speak, 
it sings.

Does it work? Not sure. And here’s a wonderful poem by W.S. Merwin:

Door/ W.S. Merwin

This is a place where a door might be
here where I am standing
In the light outside all the walls

there would be a shadow here
all day long
and a door into it
where now there is me

and somebody would come and knock
on this air
long after I have gone
and there in front of me
a life would open

feb 24/RUN

1.25 miles
27 degrees

A short run to see how my calf was doing. I think it’s okay. No pain. My heel felt a little strange by the end, but that could be from the cold — I didn’t run long enough to warm it up. (a cautious) Hooray!

My favorite parts of today’s run: cresting the hill on edmund and seeing the river burning a bright silvery white in the distance; the comforting smell of a fire burning in someone’s fireplace; and the wind chimes echoing through the alley as I walked home.

before the run

While searching for calf stretches I came across this delightful fact: the calf is often referred to as the peripheral heart!

Throughout the calf muscles is a network of veins, arteries and nerves. The calf muscles and the deep veins have a network of valves and pumps. This system is called your “peripheral heart.” This is because, when you’re in an upright position, the calf muscles work against gravity to close the valves – contracting and driving blood from your legs towards your heart.

Sore Calves: A Full Guide

Very helpful. I remember reading about calf heart attacks and I wondered why they were called that. Now it makes sense! Also good to remember: the calf is made up of 2 muscles: gastrocnemius (bulging one) and soleus (flat, underneath).

Before heading out for my run, I tried out these stretches. I liked them:

after the run: fun with medical terms!

I haven’t done one of these for some time. I want to turn gastrocnemius and soleus into something else. Inspired by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, I’ve pulled out my scrabble letters and I’m making new words or phrases.

  • gout ocular messiness
  • regulate moss cousins
  • smile across us tongue
  • oust uncola’s regimes! this has an extra s that I couldn’t fit, but it was too good not to mention

That’s all I have right now. I think I’ll keep working on it later today. It’s fun, but the tiles are harder to see than I thought.

feb 6/RUN/WALK

6.2 miles
dog park and back
44 degrees

Another warm, spring-like day. More mud, no snow. Overcast. The wonderful sounds of birds. For 2/3 of the run, I listened to cars and my feet striking and voices and water gushing. For the last 1/3, I put in a playlist — Winter 2024.

I felt good — so much better than yesterday. Most of the time, I was zoned out, listening but not looking more than I needed to. I know that I glanced down at the river, but all I remember is that it was open. Somewhere near the shore little strips of snow still remained.

I felt strong and sore and not amazing, but certain that I’d be able to keep running.

A few hours later, RJP and I took Delia on a walk. I often ask and RJP rarely says yes, so today was a nice surprise. We ended up taking the old stone steps down to the river at Longfellow flats — a fitting destination because I just found out today that my poem about these steps and the spot by the river will be published in Scrawl Place. Wonderful news! The poem is titled `112 steps — the number of steps you take to get to the bottom. I counted 111 today, but I think I forgot to count the top step.

added the next morning: I almost forgot about the turkeys! Running south, somewhere near locks and dam no. 1, I saw them: 6 or 7 turkeys crossing the path. One of them sped up to pass before I got to them — a half walk half run that was more efficient than the human version but just as awkward. Hooray for wild turkeys!


some notes from The Plentitude of Distraction

William James: (in his Laws of Habit lecture) the ability to experience subtle degrees of emotion depends on practice, on a regular encounter with non-teleological ways of apprehending the world. Once the brain stops cultivating gratuitous pursuits–music, poetry, painting–and limits its range to the recording of facts, to the single-minded quest for information, then its emotional and aesthetic elasticity deteriorates.

Work, unlike leisure, usually follows one direction and points toward a clear goal. This endows it with a reassuring automaticity. Art and play, on the other hand, tap into untried areas of the brain, calling for greater effort and elasticity not readily available to the untrained mind.

He believes in mental, not just physical aerobics, pushing for a veritable gymnastics of the spirit.

what might a poetics and spiritual gymnastics — that involves the body too — look like?

a problem: when attention is more about busyness than wonder

disengaged engagement

a heightened yet singularly unfocused relationship to phenomena

slow, not fast-paced result-oriented engagement, requires a particular sort of endurance — boredom as a necessary step to lasting absorption

endurance exercises to practice — I love this idea of thinking about disengaged engagement as an exercise, one to be added to my exercise plan: runs, core, stretching, building up ways to be distracted

being human means to inhabit a presence-absence mood — detached attentiveness, letting the minor and major coexist, active and passive

listening to furniture music from Erik Satie

Montaigne: no linear thinking, float along with the light, winged flights of fancy…nothing worthwhile can be harvested immediately — important: this type of wandering/distraction is not the same as our current culture of distraction (finger swipes and taps on screens)

Walter Benjamin: delicious idleness

Focus is useless without distraction, and distraction, without motivation and a pinch of single-mindedness, rapidly dwindles into listless lethargy.

Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own: “It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

If you set your goals of efficiency and productivity aside, if you stop measuring your days by what you can report to your boss or to your conscience, you might be ready to call your symptoms of distraction by another name—reverie, daydreaming, ruminating.

Now listening to the score for Better Call Saul.

Roland Barthes and emptiness training — stepping away, slowing down, slowly gaining access to a world that will eventually demand focus

inventiveness can only be culled from the outer margins of consumerism

All this talk of slowness and gradual focus and learning how to not understand the plot right away or to make sense of everything instantly is a key part of my seeing through peripheral vision. Or, is it? Could it be more about not seeing, as opposed to seeing differently? I’ll think about that.

key themes for distraction: slow, gradual, idle, non-linear, reverie/daydreaming, a practice/skill

Aerial View/ Jericho Brown

People who romanticize an Africa
They’ve never seen
Like to identify themselves
With lions. It’s all roar and hunt,
Quick fucks and blond manes.
People love the word pride.
Haven’t you seen the parades?
Everybody adores a lion
But me. I want to be a giraffe.
I’m already tall and long-necked.
In the real Sahara, a giraffe beats
A lion’s ass every day
On Instagram. I’ve seen
A giraffe shake the leaping cat
Off its back and toss it like litter.
I’ve seen a giraffe stomp hooves
Down hard on the lion’s face
Before it got the chance
To meow. I want to be a giraffe
And eat greens of every variety
Straight out the tree. I already
Like to get high. Lions need
Animals like us. We need no prey.
I already won’t chase anybody
For my food. But maybe
I can still be romantic. Maybe
I can still be romantic in spite
Of my pride. Someone will notice.
Up the sky, not down the street.
You can watch me while I watch you
And the rest of the savanna
From my aerial view. Lord,
Let me get higher. Just one of me
Is a parade.

What a beautiful poem! I love Jericho Brown’s work and his interviews and the brief podcast he did about Dickinson. I wish I would have been at Emory when he was there — would I have been brave enough to take one of his classes?

feb 5/RUN

3.2 miles
locks and dam no. 1 and back
45 degrees

Ran in the afternoon. 45 degrees and no snow. Spotted one lone chunk of ice floating in the river. Very mild. I was overheated in my layers: black tights, black shorts, long-sleeved green shirt, orange sweatshirt. For a few minutes of the run I felt good, but for most of it I felt off. Some gastro thing, I think.

In my state of discomfort and distraction, did I happen to notice 10 things?

10 Things

  1. overheard, one woman walker to another: It’s been five years and a lot has changed
  2. kids yelling on the playground
  3. a flash of white car up ahead — were they driving the wrong way in the parking lot? No, the car I was seeing was on the road, on the other side of the ravine
  4. someone roller blading — not roller skiing
  5. the short dirt trail where folwell climbs up to the top of the bluff then back down again was all mud
  6. lots of bikers on the bike path
  7. lots of walkers down below on winchell
  8. (as mentioned above) the river was open except for one big chunk of ice
  9. playing chicken with a walker who was walking on my side until the last minute — were they playing chicken too or just oblivious?
  10. no grit on the path or shadows or honking geese or regulars

today’s peripheral: just a distraction

daydreams reveries distractions

When ideas float in our mind, without any reflection or regard of the understanding, it is that which the French call reverie; our langauge has scarce a name for it.

John Locke, cited in The Plentitude of Distraction

To make a prairie/ Emily Dickinson

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

This short book takes a second look at distraction, extracting untold pleasures and insights from its alleged dangers, defending and celebrating the unfocused life for the small and great miracles it can deliver.

The Plentitude of Distraction/ Marina can Zuylen

Reverie in Open Air/ Rita Dove

I acknowledge my status as a stranger:
Inappropriate clothes, odd habits
Out of sync with wasp and wren.
I admit I don’t know how
To sit still or move without purpose.
I prefer books to moonlight, statuary to trees.

But this lawn has been leveled for looking,
So I kick off my sandals and walk its cool green.
Who claims we’re mere muscle and fluids?
My feet are the primitives here.
As for the rest—ah, the air now
Is a tonic of absence, bearing nothing
But news of a breeze.

feb 4/CORE

30 minutes

30 minutes of squats and planks and leg lifts and clam shells and bridges. This is my second time doing the workout; it felt much easier (but not easy!) than the first time.

Today’s example of peripheral is a journal I discovered a few months ago: Peripheries. Here’s a description from their About page:

Peripheries is a non-profit literary and arts journal established in 2017 that publishes artistic work that is, broadly understood, “peripheral”; work that explores the interstices between discourses, traditions, languages, forms, and genres. In this spirit, along with publishing poetry, visual art, and short stories, our scope is expansive, including translations, interviews, reviews, aphorisms, recipes, instructions, and manifestos; we also enjoy material peripheral to published work, such as storyboards, drafts, sketches, and word lists. We encourage formal experimentation that is in a mutually-informing, organic relation to the artist’s topic or question, which might also explore the peripheral: the marginal, the incidental, the boundary-experience, the tangential, the borderline, and particularly the metaxical spaces (that both attract and repel) between artistry, theological speculation, mystical experience, and religious traditions. We are excited to expand these discussions in whatever way is meaningful to you and bring your myriad interpretations into dialogue on our pages. 

peripheral as interstices — a space that intervenes between things, especially closely spaced things / a gap or break in something generally continuous / a short space of time between events — I really like this idea of interstices … Scott is just informing me that interstitial is commonly used in web development. It’s a page you get sent to when you’re clicking on a link that will take you to another site. It warns you that you’re leaving their site so they’re no longer responsible for what happens to you.

I don’t have any more time to write about this now, but I’d like to return to it — think more about what it means and read at least one of the issues that I already downloaded (3).

feb 3/RUN

5 miles
ford loop
38 degrees

Ran with Scott on the ford loop. Today I talked about the US Olympic Marathon Trials, which I watched this morning. A runner from Minnesota, Dakotah Lindwurm, got third. Scott talked about the music project he worked on before the run — a little jam with his new keyboard and bass. We also mentioned slippery mud, tight shins (Scott), cramped toes (me), running up the Summit hill during the marathon, and mistaking a fire hydrant (Scott) and a black fence (me) for people. I was surprised that there weren’t more people out running — it’s not that cold and the paths are clear. Maybe it was the time of day — 12:30?

10 Things

  1. an empty bench on the bluff
  2. a wide (r than I remembered) expanse of grass between the path and the edge
  3. the crack trail
  4. some strange decorations on the fence in front of the church — yarn? paper chains?
  5. a car blasting music at an overlook parking lot — the only lyric I remember was senorita
  6. a wide open view of the river and the other side
  7. a double lamp post on the ford bridge — one light was on, the other was not
  8. the dead-leafed branch that’s been pushed up agains the other side of the double bridge for months — still there with all of its dead leaves
  9. no poem on the poetry window — have they stopped doing it? was it just for the pandemic?
  10. ice on river, near the east shore, one chunk almost the shape of a right triangle

Searching “peripheral” on the Poetry Foundation site, I found this interesting blurb:

Poet Tan Lin edited issue 6 of EOAGH, for which he invited contributors to submit a piece of “peripheral” writing – that is, a text that doesn’t directly supply the material or inspiration for the authors’ work, but is in some tangential, peripheral, or ambient way, related.


I would like to play around with this idea of the peripheral text in my own writing. What are the peripheral texts, ideas, practices that contribute to my poems, especially my Haunts poems?

feb 2/RUN

4.7 miles
river road trail, north/south
35 degrees

Another beautiful and disturbingly mild late morning. No snow or ice. Glancing over at the gorge, it looked like April not January. Noticed my shadow — first she was in front of me, then behind and off to the side. Heard a pileated woodpecker laughing somewhere above me. Smelled something sour just below me, near the rowing club. Almost slipped on some mud.

I thought about, and tried emphasizing, my peripheral vision as I ran. What did I see? I can’t remember.

Listened to birds and traffic and my striking feet as I ran north. Put in Jesus Christ Superstar running south.


This month’s challenge: peripheral. The first thing I did was to search through my old entries and tag any mention of the peripheral.

The next thing I wanted to do was to create a playlist of peripheral songs, like I did with windows last month, but not much was coming up — except poet-singer Fiona Apple’s excellent Periphery. So, I’m taking a different approach: peripheral music = incidental music or ambient or background music. Maybe even a movie or tv score? Erik Satie’s furniture music (I discovered this term on apple music last year when I was searching for “chill” music). Here’s something about Satie that I found:

the idea of “music to be ignored” was first articulated by Erik Satie, who wrote what he called “furniture music” (musique d’ameublement).   This was music which had no set form and sections could be re-arranged as a performer or conductor wished, much like furniture in a room, and to act as part of the ambiance or furnishings.

Antecedents of Ambient Music

As I write this, I’m listening to one of the most well-known of the background/ambient genre: Ambient 1: Music for Airports by Brian Eno. In an article about ambient music, Open Culture offers these words from Eno in an interview:

“For me, the central idea was about music as a place you go to,” he said in an interview about his recent ambient album Reflection. “Not a narrative, not a sequence that has some sort of teleological direction to it — verse, chorus, this, that, and the other. It’s really based on abstract expressionism: Instead of the picture being a structured perspective, where your eye is expected to go in certain directions, it’s a field, and you wander sonically over the field.”

Hear the Very First Piences of Ambient, Erik Satie’s Furniture Music

Yes! I love things that aren’t driven by a narrow story or purpose — no teleology — but create a place to inhabit. Poems are often described as places — a house or an open field. The idea of the eye (or the ear) wandering through a field immediately makes me think of peripheral vision — it doesn’t offer focused, detailed images, but a broader sense of the whole picture — less the trees, more the forest.

All this writing about ambient music makes me think of one of Eno’s longtime collaborators, Robert Fripp. In 2020, he released an ambient track, culled from his decades of recording, every Friday. I’m listening to a playlist of them on Apple Music right now: Music for Quiet Moments 1: Pastorale (Mendoza 3rd June 2007). I love what Fripp writes about these moments on his blog (I like the design of his blog too!)

Music For Quiet Moments…


A Quiet Moment is how we experience a moment: the moment which is here, now and available.

Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet;
and also where we find them.
Sometimes quiet moments find us.

Some places have an indwelling spirit, where quiet is a feature of the space:
perhaps natural features in the landscape;
perhaps intentionally created, as in a garden;
perhaps where a spirit of place has come into being over time, as in an English country churchyard.

Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound;
in a place we hold to be sacred, maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square.

A Quiet Moment is more to do with how we experience time than how we experience sound.

A Quiet Moment prepares the space where Silence may enter.

Silence is timeless.


My own quiet moments, over fifty-one years of being a touring player, have been mostly in public places where, increasingly, a layer of noise has intentionally overlaid and saturated the sonic environment.


Quiet Moments of my musical life, expressed in Soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.   

Paradoxically, they have mostly taken place in public contexts inimical and unsupportive of quiet.

Some of these Soundscapes are inward-looking, reflective.
Some move outwards, with affirmation.
Some go nowhere, simply being where they are.

Robert Fripp’s blog post

The peripheral as the space/time where these quiet moments are possible.

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 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.