june 12/WALK

1 mile with Scott
82 degrees

Was planning to bike to the lake and swim today, but it rained. On and off all day. So I read about Lorine Niedecker and took notes. Then, a quick walk with Scott.

Here are some observations from my deck, the yard, the window at my desk, and the walk:

10+ Things

  1. deck: the sky heavy, gray, expectant — but it’s not supposed to rain today! — it did and then did again
  2. deck: under the lime green umbrella, hearing the first drops, soft and slight
  3. deck: the service-berry bush at the edge of the deck did a better job of keeping the deck dry than the umbrella!
  4. front yard: after rain today, and the wind the past few days, the yard was almost as much twig as grass. Our neighbor’s tall tree with the wandering limbs offers unwanted gifts all year
  5. desk/window: in the left window, a blob stretches above the other hydrangea leaves — dark, diseased — what is it?
  6. side yard: not sure what this blob is even up close — could it be army worms? or is it just a failed unfurling?
  7. side yard: near the gate, a rogue tree is growing outside of our neighbor’s window. Will they cut it down before it gets too big and becomes a problem for us?
  8. desk/window: rain, pouring down, missing the gutter and sliding straight off the roof in sheets — too much debris/dirt in the gutter?
  9. no lightening but far off thunder rumbles
  10. green green green green green green green green
  11. cabbage or lettuce or something else green growing in a neighbor’s planter
  12. the sweet snell of pine after the rain
  13. convinced I was seeing a giant fish sculpture until Scott told me it was wrapping over a tree
  14. workers re-roofing a sharply angled roof with no harnesses

Here ares some thoughts to remember from Niedecker:


LN’s life by/with/on water involves saturation not transcendence.


Thru birdstart
of the soft and serious
(from “My Life on Water”/ LN)


Reading is a bodily act — within the body, not transcending the body. The physical act of reading words with diseased eyes.


Time to challenge the myth that not being able to see “naturally” makes your hearing improve — That visual impairment improves hearing, taste, touch, smell, is mostly myth — Halos. Ed Bok Lee — LN used sound in remarkable ways, and also explored seeing differently.


One of the traditions LN draws from, Objectivism, believed in the clear, straight-seeing eye. In later work, like “Wintergreen Ridge,” she challenged the possibility of this straight-seeing.

Tell all the truth but tell it Slant — ED
Alice Oswald and the slow, oblique, slight squinting of the Old Women in the Illiad


Imagists (Ezra Pound, HD): to see the world as it is, the IS, the this, scrubbing away to the essence

Objectivists (Zukofsky, Williams Carlos Williams): to look with clear eyes, pay attention, as is in context

Oh my scouring eye/that scrubs clean the sky — “perhaps you tire of birds”/ Donika Kelly


I used to think I was goofing off unless I held only to the hard, clean image, the think you could put your hand on. But now I dare do this reflection.



Video, My Life By Water

may 7/WALK

30 minute walk
neighborhood, with Delia
65 degrees

Walked around the neighborhood on a beautiful, windy morning. A few hours before, it had been raining. Puddles everywhere. Mud, too. Birds, laughing kids, yellow and orange and red tulips all around. Also: overgrown weeds, dandelions, unruly grass. Oh — and pollen! I know that it could be much worse, but I still felt it: scratchy throat, itchy eyes, fatigue.

This morning I renewed my driver’s license. For me, it was a big deal. I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy in 2016, two months after I had barely renewed my license because I couldn’t initially read the Snellen chart. The woman behind the counter was generous — I remember her looking at me strangely after I said the wrong letters and then asking, Do you want to try that again? Slowly? For years I had been nervous about the vision test without knowing why.

When the ophthalmologist first told me I would probably lose all of my central vision, I felt relief — I just renewed my license so I don’t have to worry about doing the vision test until 2020! — and worry — What’s will happen in four years? As 2020 approached, my anxiety increased. But, because of the pandemic, I was able to renew my license online. No vision test! Another reprieve for four years!

Next month I turn 50 and it’s time to renew my license again. I decided to do it early, partly to get it over with and partly because Scott and FWA had both renewed their license’s two months ago and the person behind the counter didn’t make them take a vision test. Could I be so lucky? I hoped so.

This morning I was anxious. I tried to convince myself that it would be fine if I had to take the test — I told Scott, it’s great material for a poem. But the same guy was there and I didn’t have to take the test and now I have another four year reprieve.

10 Small Things I Remember

  1. the woman at the front desk was wearing blue gloves
  2. before we entered, a group of teenagers were called in — Anyone planning to take the test should follow me!
  3. I heard those same teenagers giggling a few minutes later
  4. my number, ended with a 54
  5. when it was called, I was told to go to A14
  6. the guy who issued my license asked me to meet him around the corner at A17 for my picture
  7. he had two thick textbooks on the counter — did he ever have time to study? I couldn’t read the titles
  8. for the first time, I wore glasses for my picture — before he took it he said, look at the blue dot. I couldn’t see any blue dot, but the picture turned out fine
  9. earlier, nearing the entrance to the building, a man held a door for a woman as she walked out. She apologized when she almost ran into him and said, I’m sorry, I’m in my own head right now
  10. also nearing the building: birds! so much birdsong!

I am not planning to drive. I haven’t for five or six years. It’s too scary and dangerous. Still, it’s nice to have my license, just in case.

My anxiety over the vision test has some layers, I think. It’s not just about failing it, or even primarily about failing it. I think it’s time to do some digging.

the allegory of the cave, part 2

Yesterday Scott and talked about Plato’s Cave and what we remembered from when he first heard/read about it. Then I watched a few more videos about it, all of which connected the cave and the shadows to a hero’s quest and being enlightened by a Philosopher King. Thought about writing against that and decided I didn’t want to. Instead, I attempted to read Jack Collum’s hard-to-understand-poem, Arguing with Something Plato Said. Some of it, I think I understand and some of it, I don’t. Learned a new word: chiaroscuro

This is an Italian term which literally means ‘light-dark’. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted.

Artists who are famed for the use of chiaroscuro include Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. Leonardo employed it to give a vivid impression of the three-dimensionality of his figures, while Caravaggio used such contrasts for the sake of drama. Both artists were also aware of the emotional impact of these effects.

Nice! With my interest in ekphrastic poems, I plan to think about this concept some more.

april 23/WALK

walk 1: 30 minutes with Delia, neighborhood
walk 2: 75 minutes to the library

I haven’t walked to the library in a long time. 5 or 6 or 7 years? Why has it been so long? Partly the pandemic and the library almost being burned down and then closed for a long time are to blame, but it’s also all the running and having a dog. If I have any time or energy left to walk, I need to take Delia the dog along, and the library is too far for her. Also, she’s not allowed inside.

It’s more than a mile, but less than 2 one way. It was great. I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album on the way there, and Beyoncé’s on the way back (Cowboy Carter). Wow! The Tortured Poets Department was good but Cowboy Carter was amazing.

10 Things

  1. a big white dog sitting quietly and calmly in a dirt back yard next to a chain link fence
  2. a cedar fence that looked almost new, with shiny wood, bulging out towards the sidewalk — what happened?
  3. red tulips in full bloom right up against the foundation of a house
  4. a big tree with a full set of yellowish-green leaves
  5. a terraced yard, all dirt, looking neat and ready to be filled with flowers
  6. a little free library packed with books, its glass door wide open
  7. music blasting from an open door at the Trinity Church, playing “Shake It Off”
  8. 2 squirrels winding up a tree, one chasing the other, their nails scratching the rough bark
  9. my favorite stone lions in front of a house wearing purple flower headbands in honor of spring
  10. a big moving truck backed into a driveway blocking all of the sidewalk and half the street

earlier today

This past Saturday, I took a class on public art and ekphrastic poetry with the new poet laureate of Minneapolis, Heid E. Erdrich. A great class. When I signed up for it, I was just interested in taking a class with Erdrich and learning more about ekphrastic poetry; I didn’t realize that public art would also be a part of it. Very cool. Anyway, the class inspired me to think more deeply about public poetry projects. I have several ideas for my own, with very little understanding of how to make them happen. Perhaps studying other examples will help educate and inspire me. Plus, studying them is another way to learn more about the place I live. First up: Sidewalk Poetry St. Paul

Sidewalk Poetry, St. Paul

Sidewalk Poetry is a systems-based work that allows city residents to claim the sidewalks as their book pages. This project re-imagines Saint Paul’s annual sidewalk maintenance program with Public Works, as the department repairs 10 miles of sidewalk each year. We have stamped more than 1,200 poems from a collection that now includes 73 individual pieces all written by Saint Paul residents. Today, everyone in Saint Paul now lives within a 10-minute walk of a Sidewalk Poem. 

This art project began with previous Public Art Saint Paul City Artist Marcus Young in 2008 under the name “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks,” and continues today with evolved stamping approaches, as well as poetry submission and review processes. Our 2023 Sidewalk Poetry accepts poetry submissions in Dakota, Hmong, Somali, Spanish, and English. The poetry on our streets celebrates the remarkable cultures that make our City home and that makes our City strong. With this as a beginning, other languages may be added in years to come.

Sidewalk Poetry St Paul

I think the first step for me in getting to know this project is to visit some of the poems. I’d like to start running to them! Here’s a map to help me out: Public Art Sidewalks

I think I’ll start (tomorrow) with a favorite poet of mine, Naomi Cohn. She has one on the Southeast corner of Juno and Finn. Very close to it is one by Pat Owen, on the southside of Juno between Finn and Cleveland.

Almost forgot to post this: the first song on Beyoncé’s album, “American Requiem” sings about the wind!

Can we stand for something?
Now is the time to face the wind (Ow)
Coming in peace and love, y’all
Oh, a lot of takin’ up space
Salty tears beyond my gaze
Can you stand me?

Can we stand for something?
Now is the time to face the wind
Now ain’t the time to pretend
Now is the time to let love in

april 18/CORERUN

core: 10 minutes
walk: 45 minutes
wind: 15 mph / gusts: 28 mph

Did 10 minutes of core, which I’ve been doing almost every day for the last week, or longer, I can’t remember. Later, took Delia on a walk to the winchell trail, then over the grate, up the gravel, down through the floodplain forest, across the road, up to edmund, around the rim of 7 oaks, then home. Breezy enough that I needed to hold onto my hat several times.

beaufort scale: another 5, I think. Today’s 5 was storm window rattling, hat raising, branch dropping*, door howling.

*climbing the gravel out of the ravine, I stopped for Delia to sniff. Heard some loud not-quite-cracking noises then a crash behind me: I didn’t see them, but I think it was a few smaller branches. Glad they didn’t hit me on the head!

So much green in the floodplain forest, but not enough to hide my view of the floor. Caught a glimpse of a black biggish dog on the trail, their owner a few steps behind.

the Pain Scale / Eula Biss, 0 and 1

Since I’m diving deeper into the Beaufort Scale for the rest of the month, I thought I’d look at another scale, the pain scale, and the essay about it that introduced me to the Beaufort Scale a decade ago: Eula Biss’ “The Pain Scale.”

The essay is organized around the 12 levels of pain, starting with 0 and ending at 12. Within each level she offers stories about her own pain, the history of pain management in the West, and various reflections that wander and wonder about pain and whether or not it is scaleable. That’s the most summary I’ll give, I think. Summarizing takes too long and uses up energy that I’d like to devote to engaging with Biss’ ideas. Instead of a summary, here are my notes about the essay, starting with 0 and 1 on the scale:


0 as something we must believe in without proof. It requires faith. A good place to see how religion and science have points of connection.

0 as no pain? Is it even possible to not have pain? Is that desirable? I’m thinking about how dangerous it is to not be able to feel pain. It makes us reckless, unable to prevent us from hurting ourselves. I’m reminded of the book, The Covenant of Water and the leper colony — the key problem for the lepers was their inability to feel pain when they cut themselves or broke something. This led to infections and loss of limbs and worse.

0 is not a real measure, but fulfills the need for a fixed point on the scale.

The concept of 0, as a fixed point on temperature scales, differs according to the scale — Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin — and who’s using it. 0 can indicate the point of freezing, but it used to indicate the boiling point. 0 is a construct — human-made, fallible, sometimes arbitrary.

0 on the Beaufort Scale is calm, still, no (evidence) of wind. At 0 is it just air? atmosphere?


This pain scale was introduced by the hospice movement in the 70s; it’s designed to quantify pain. To make what’s inner — our feelings, which are subjective — visible to the outer world and to make them more objective.

Minor pain, pain that doesn’t matter, that’s no big deal.

Where does pain worth measuring begin?

Hospice nurses are trained to identify five types of pain: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and financial. The pain of feeling, the pain of caring, the pain of doubting, the pain of parting, the pain of paying.

1 in the Beaufort Scale is light, barely ripples, hardly any disruption.

april 6/WALK

1 mile with Delia
40 degrees

A second day of taking Delia for a walk in the morning, and what a morning! Not warm, but sunny and calm. Birds, a slight breeze, blue sky. Did a lot of deep breaths as I walked. This morning, I was anxious, but I recognized it as a phase that I could endure, and that recognition helped. Slowly I’m getting a little better at navigating perimenopause.

Wind in Leaves or, Leaves in Wind

This entire poem by Donika Kelly is great and I want to return to it, but for now, I’ll just post the opening and its description of wind in leaves through the seasons. Such a fun way to think about wind — how it sounds in leaves in spring or summer or fall.

from When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Alongside/ Donika Kelly

late spring wind sounds an ocean 
through new leaves. later the same 
wind sounds a tide. later still the dry 

sound of applause: leaves chapped 
falling, an ending. this is a process.

What does it mean that the wind sounds an ocean, and how does that differ from that wind sounding a tide?

Thinking about leaves and wind I’m remembering a line from “Dear One Absent this Long While” by Lisa Olstein:

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,
you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves

How do I describe the leaves in wind? Something to think about on my run.


20 minutes
3? inches
28 degrees

3 or 4 inches for round 1 of winter. We might get more snow in last night’s snowfall, combined with expected snow on Sun/Mon/Tues, than in all of Jan and Feb. Of course, that’s not saying much because our total prior to today was 7.3 inches. I wonder if what we got today will be melted by Monday? Future Sara, let us know!

six hours later: The snow has already melted off of the deck, the sidewalks, the road. Will the snow on the grass be gone before Sunday? Still not sure.

the secret life of plants


Yesterday afternoon, driving back from picking FWA up for spring break, we were talking about trees and how they communicate and their underground networks and how much sentience they have, and I remembered, and tried (unsuccessfully) to explain, the 1970s talking-to-plants craze. I mentioned how Stevie Wonder did an album about it. Scott didn’t remember the album. This morning I looked it up and . . . jackpot! Stevie Wonder’s album: Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants. I’m listening to it right now — ah, 1979! It is the soundtrack for a documentary, The Secret Life of Plants, which may or may not be a reliable source of “accurate” information about plant science (botany?) discoveries in the 1970s — wikipedia doesn’t seem to think so. I dug a little deeper and found an article about the plant craze of the 1970s — The 1970s plant craze / Teresa Castro

In the early 1970s, a general plant craze caught on in visual and popular culture alike. Against the background of New Age spirituality and the flourishing of ecological thinking, the 1970s plant mania came as an eccentric blow to the belief that sentience and intelligence are a human prerogative. It also relied massively on the cybernetic paradigm: envisaged as self-regulating biological systems, plants were recognized as communication systems in themselves. In this essay, I sketch a brief portrait of this complex cultural moment, as visual culture, and in particular film, came to be permeated by references to plant communication, plant sentience and plant intelligence.

intro to 1970s plant craze

In the first line she mentions a 1972 video, Teaching a Plant the Alphabet. Love it!

In her discussion of “The Secret Life of Plants,” Castro describes the author as a “botanist and science vulgarizer” and places the work in the context of a large anti-science and anti-intellectual moment; a hippy desire to heal the crisis in human/nature relationships; and significantly for this article, the mediation of visual and other technologies, like the lie detector. The book takes up the “experiments” of Cleve Backster in 1966 in which he hooked a plant up to a lie detector and noticed a surge in electrical activity similar to a human’s emotional response when he watered the plant. Then, an even greater one when he imagined setting fire to the plant and watching it burn. His conclusion: This plant could think! It “could perceive and respond telepathically to human thoughts and emotions.”

Her conclusion about the book/documentary and its impact:

The Secret Life of Plants badly impacted serious scientific research on plants’ sensory and perceptual capacities. Widespread press coverage of Backster’s pseudo-experiments contributed to this backlash. Work on plant communication and plant signaling “was somewhat stigmatized, and the limited availability of funding and other resources constrained further progress.”

In our present dire ecological crisis, to acknowledge the richness and complexity of plant-life is an invitation to withdraw from a centric reason that separated humans from “nature,” situating human life outside and above it. In what constituted a striking ecological critique of Enlightenment science and its holy dualisms, “hippy times” attempted to tell a different kind of story about “Man” and “Nature” and grappled with a fundamental epistemological shift. Most of all, they experimented widely with alternative modes of engagement with what poet Gary Snyder described as “the most ruthlessly exploited classes”: “animals, trees, water, air, grasses.” As we emerge shell-shocked from a global pandemic, what are we to do now? Maybe we can learn from the past: instead of imagining that “plants are like people”, as suggested by “America’s Master Gardener” in 1971,57 we can focus instead on what it means to be human on a shared planet.

This discussion of plants and communication reminded me of a study I read during my mushroom month: April, 2022. Looked it up and found the entry: 10 april 2022

After a discussion of study about fungi language, I posted this quotation from Alice


I exert incredible amounts of energy trying to see things from their own points of view rather than the human point of view.

It’s a day long effort to get your mind into the right position to live and speak well.

citing Zizek: we can’t connect, be one with nature. It’s extraordinary, alien. It’s this terrifying otherness of nature that we need to grasp hold of and be more courageous in our ways of living with it and seeing it.

Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River

Instead of “plants are just like us; they can think and feel!” of the 70s plant craze, Oswald is holding onto the strange otherness of plants. I wonder what Oswald, a former professional gardener, thinks about the sentience of plants?

I googled the question, but before I could find an answer, I found her amazing lecture on the tradition of rhapsody, the litae women in the Iliad, back doors, and Marianne Moore. Wow!

Sidelong Glances: Oblique Commentary on the Poetry of Marianne Moore / Alice Oswald

I listened to the lecture, going back again and again to try and transcribe some of her brilliant words. Her “obliquely, slightly, slowly” approach to Moore with a description of rhapsody and the “squinting, limping old women” of the Iliad (litae) and the need for coming through the back door and repeated image (and sound) of iron bell resounding like the voices of dead poets that came before us was amazing. I’ll have to listen to it again, I think.

a few passages to remember

The poet, especially the female poet, must labor not only to hear the voices of the literate dead, but my leaning and hushing and listening beyond listening to hear the illiterate, anonymous, marginal voices of rhapsody.

Literature has a front door and a back door, and the labor of moving through poems, opening the back doors to let in the fresh air of the unwritten, if you do it for long enough, finally compels you to leave the house altogether, since the tradition inherited by the oral tradition goes right back into birdsong, windsong, heartbeats, footsteps, rivers, and thickets. Not to mention all the oscillating sounds of tides and seasons and waves and why shouldn’t rhapsody include the stitch work of plants?

Go in through the back door?! Love this idea and what it mean for how I understand doors being opened through poetry! And connecting it to birdsong and wind song and all those amazing sounds heard while running above the gorge! And plants!

[not nature poetry but] natural pattern which includes and aligns the poem making habits of the mind with the metrical structures of physics. That is what I mean by rhapsody and that is what I want you to listen for when you put your ear to a written-down poem: backwards and beyond male literature, as far as the first repetition of a leaf on the first repetition of a morning.

Aligning the poem-making habits of the mind with the metrical structures of physics: the biomechanics of running, the drip drip dripping of water due to gravity, air being forced out of and welcomed into the lungs. And the repetitions — the first repetition of a leaf on the first repetition of a morning — very cool.

And, where to place Robin Wall Kimmerer within this conversation? I think I have an answer, but I decided to read another section of Gathering Moss about the Standing Stones. After writing about scientific names for mosses and reflecting on the power in self-naming, she writes:

I think the task given to me is to carry out the message that mosses have their own names. Their way of being in the world cannot be told by data alone. They remind me to remember that there are mysteries for which a measuring tape has no meeaning, questions and answers that have no place in the truth about rocks and mosses.

Gathering Moss

As I typed up the title of RWK’s book, I just realized something great about the title: gathering moss can refer to us (readers) gathering up stories and lessons from the moss, but it can also mean moss gathering — an image of a complex community of mosses and the agency of moss to gather themselves, independent of us. Nice.

random: Last night I discovered that a cartwheel is named after the wheel of a cart. When you are doing a cartwheel, you are acting like a wheel of a cart. Duh — I guess it seems obvious, but I associated the words so strongly with my memories of gymnastics as a kid that I never thought about it referred to outside of that.

march 11/WALK

35 minutes
Drs. Dorothy and Irving Bernstein Scenic Rest Area*
52 degrees

*This is the first time, after almost 10 years of living here that I recall reading the sign at the 35th street parking lot overlook. After a quick search, I couldn’t determine who Dorothy and Irving are and what type of doctors they were.

What a wonderful spring day. High of 64 and sun! Such a strange time. Winter hardly happened. The snow total this year: 7.3 inches. Last year: 89.7.

see: The Lost Winter

I miss the crunching snow and the cold air and the big flakes hitting my face and layers and running on ice without slipping and snow walls and desolate river views. And, I’m happy to see spring early — to hear more birds, wear less layers, sit on the deck, open the windows.

Once we reached Drs. Dorothy and Irving Bernstein Scenic Rest Area, we took the gravel path down and around the ravine: a shelf of snow and slick slats on the grate over the seeping water. Otherwise, mostly dry and without mud. Walking back through the neighborhood we noticed some birds — first, their tin-whistle song, then their fleeting forms fluttering across the thin branches. Could I turn this into a part of my bird triptych poem? At first we thought they might be blue jays, but then settled on robins. Did Scott see that they were robins? Not me. All I saw was a small, but not too small form, up in the trees. Mostly, quick, darting movement, then flight, once, hovering on a high-up branch.

Before the walk I wanted to archive two sources:

to archive

james schuyler and color: Reading a past entry from march 11, 2023, I was reminded of James Schuyler and his wonderful use of color. I had forgotten that he was an art critic. Searched, “james schuyler ekphrasis” and found this LARB review of a then recent book (circa 2011) of Schuyler’s poems: Scrappiness. The review gave a lot of attention to one of the poems, which is about a painting, but (maybe?) not an ekphrasis: A Blue Shadow Painting. Here are some color lines I’d like to remember:

It’s like this: the orange assertions, dark there-ness
of the tree, malleable steel-gray blueness of the ground; and sky; 
set against, no, with, living with, existing alongside and part of, 
the helter-skelter of rust brown, of swift indecipherables. The day
is passing, is past: mutable and immutable, came to live, 
on a small oblong of stretched canvas. Blue shadowed day, 
under a milk-of-flowers sky, you’re a talisman, my Calais. 

another line to remember: Not Make it new, but See it, hear it freshly.
listen to the full poem: A Blue Shadow Painting, audio

charles simic: I found a link to this article — Charles Simic and Me/ Dana Levin — on poems.com the other day. I like the brevity of Simic, at least what I’ve read in The New Yorker.

Williams used to say that he could revise a poem twenty different times just by changing the line breaks.

Charles Simic and Me / Dana Levin

Reading this, I immediately thought of an essay I read a few years back: Learning the Poetic Line/ Rebecca Hazelton. I’d like to reread it, and practice its 6 S’s. But — what are some ways other than line breaks to shape the story? Are these line breaks too visual, only achieving their effect when read with eyes and not ears? How can I represent line breaks in a way that resembles how I see? And/or what, other than line breaks, can I use to represent how I find/make/experience the world?

and is more interesting than but

Simic practiced this philosophy of and in all his poems, a metaphysics of radical inclusion: brutality and death were everywhere in life, and they were ordinary.

Charles Simic and Me/ Dana Levin

the real task, for him [WCW], was not to chronicle the development of knowing but to enact, via enjambment, the struggle of seeing—and so to find himself asking the reader to participate in that struggle too, to work with him in empathy?

Charles Simic and Me/ Dana Levin

the struggle of seeing — asking the reader to participate in that struggle too

poems as made things—products of decision, as much as magic

What a wonderful, thought-provoking essay! I think one of the problems with my Haunts poems are the line breaks and the music of the words? I’m using the breathing rhythm of 3/2, but do they all need to fit that strict form? How can the 3/2 feeling being played with in the lines? Adhered to, but in new ways? Yes! I will work on line breaks today and try to see my poems in not new, but fresh ways!

Found this Charles Simic poem in his collection, The Lunatic. My answer to his questions: yes, I have.

Late-Night Inquiry/ Charles Simic

Have you introduced yourself to yourself
The way a visitor at your door would?

Have you found a seat in your room
For every one of your wayward selves

To withdraw into their own thoughts
Or stare into space as if it were a mirror?

Do you have a match you can light
To make their shadows dance on the wall

Or float dream-like on the ceiling
the way leaves do on summer afternoons,

Before they take their bow and the curtain drops
As the match burns down to your fingertips?


A late afternoon walk with Delia and Scott. Colder than expected. 38 degrees. Full winter layers. Winter coat, double gloves, hat. Lots of sun and long shadows leaving gnarled shapes across the sidewalk. A Bluejay screeching. A kid laughing, playing baseball with an adult (his dad?) at the Howe playground. Cars commuting home on the river road.

We talked about a new word I learned: nocebo (as opposed to placebo) and Scott’s work today. I mentioned that I’m feeling out of sorts with my writing practice. Too many directions, too many BIG concepts. I want to get back to writing my small poems.

earlier in the day

After 3 days of running in a row and a calf feeling much better but still on the mend, it’s time for a break. I decided to leave my watch off too. No stands or workout minutes or calories burned. No monitoring of my heart rate or my balance. I’m still moving — baking and cleaning and doing laundry and taking the dog for a walk — even if that movement isn’t making a sound.

Speaking of watches, 2 days ago I wrote about time and the clock. Here are some more references to time I’d like to remember:


That loneliness is just an ongoing 
Relationship with time. 
(Lake of the Isles/ Anni Liu)


Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.
(Let it be Forgotten/ Sara Teasdale)


When the big clock at the train station stopped,
the leaves kept falling,
the trains kept running,
my mother’s hair kept growing longer and blacker,
and my father’s body kept filling up with time.
(Big Clock/ Li-Young Lee)


Mosses, I think, are like time made visible. They create a kind of botanical forgetting. Shoot by tiny shoot, the past is obscured in green. That’s why we have stories, so we can remember.

The mosses remember that this is not the first time the glaciers have melted. If time is a line, as western thinking presumes, we might think this is a unique moment for which we have to devise a solution that enables that line to continue. If time is a circle, as the Indigenous worldview presumes, the knowledge we need is already within the circle; we just have to remember it to find it again and let it teach us. That’s where the storytellers come in.
(Ancient Green/ Robin Wall Kimmerer)


IN THE ANISHINAABE languages of Skywoman, our words for moss, aasaakamig and aasaakamek, carry the meaning “those ones who cover the earth.” Soft, moist, protective, they turn time into life, covering the transient and softening the transition to another state.
(Ancient Green/ Robin Wall Kimmerer)


Time is a circle reminded me of the tracking of the “wheeling life” that I did while running last year. I was inspired by Forrest Gander’s poem “Circumambulation of Mount Tamalpas”:

maculas of light fallen weightless from
pores in the canopy our senses
part of the wheeling life around us and through
an undergrowth stoked with the unseen
go the reverberations of our steps

the wheeling life: 10 things

  1. car wheels, near the road — relentless, too fast, noisy
  2. car wheels, below, on the winchell trail — a gentle hum, quiet, distant
  3. bike wheels, approaching from behind very slowly — a little kid biking to school with his mom who had a carrier with another kid behind her seat
  4. bike wheels, nearby, another kid and adult on the way to school
  5. the wheel of life as a loop: a favorite route, running south, looping back north, first on edmund, then on the winchell trail
  6. the wheel of life as transformation: red leaves decorate a tree halfway to the river
  7. the wheel of life as cycles: not the end of the year, but the beginning — school time: kids at the elementary school
  8. the wheel of life as constant motion: on the trail, below the road and above the river, everything is active: birds calling, squirrels rustling, wheels traveling, river flowing, feet moving, leaves and lungs breathing
  9. the wheels of life as cycle: always in late september, hot and humid and too sunny
  10. the wheels of life as transformation: thinning leaves, falling acorns, a small view of the river

march 2/WALK

2+ mile walk
neighborhood/river/Winchell Trail
50 degrees

Tomorrow Scott and I will do our weekly “long” run, so today we walked. A beautiful morning. Earlier, after sitting at the dining room table for too long, I stood up and my calf felt weird. So difficult to describe it — no pain, just a strange, slight tightness — oh, I also remember that it ached a little on the posterior side. It made me anxious. Would it cramp? Why was it tight? During the walk it felt strange occasionally, but never hurt. I tried to be aware of my walking and to stay loose, relaxed, like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, I decided. Yes, loose ankles, almost floppy feet.

Down on the Winchell trail, Scott pointed out how clear and ice-free the river. I’d add: blue and calm and, at one spot, burning the white heat of light hitting the water. Such a wonderful day for a walk.

As we walked and tried to stay relaxed, I kept thinking about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world. Last week, when I was watching some interviews with Courtney Dauwalter (CD), she kept talking about how we can change the stories we tell ourselves when we’re in pain and that stories matter. I need a new story — new stories? — about my aging, anxious body.

I mentioned to Scott that when CD is having difficult in a 100 mile race, she visualizes opening a filing cabinet and looking through folders of past experiences, trying to find something that could help her figure out how to handle her problem. CD loves facing and solving problems. Before she ran professionally, she was a high school science teacher.

Lately, I’ve started describing my approach to handling aches and pains and anxiety: cracking the code. What code? I think I mean the code of why I react to all these minor aches and pains with mild panic. And I also mean: the code of why the anxiety travels around my body, not staying too long in one spot: a strange-feeling calf, a tight throat, an upset stomach. During the pandemic, it was sinus headaches, a heavy face weighed down by an imaginary iron plate. This code story is useful and makes me feel empowered, like I’m doing something or gives me the illusion of control. Sometimes I need that illusion.

Walking on the Winchell Trail, looking out at the river, I told Scott about the 5 (or 4?) time Ironman winner Natasha Badmann and her approach to dealing with difficulties in a race. In particular, she talked about the Energy lab, which is one of the most brutal stretches of the Kona Ironman. While most racers think about this stretch as taking your energy, she understood it as giving it to her — while running through it, she could look off in the distance and marvel at the dolphins swimming in the ocean. I need to find this interview again. I told Scott that I’d like to change my story to think about what pain/anxiety is giving me, instead of what it is taking away/depriving me of. When I started this blog, I wrote about how the new aches and pain I was feeling while running were an opportunity for me to pay attention to a body that had been neglected for decades.

CD’s story about pain and facing challenges and bodies that are trying to convince you to quit is the pain cave. She visualizes putting on a hard hat, grabbing a chisel, going to the very back of a cave, and then trying to make it bigger. Carving out more space for what could be possible.

One more story that I mentioned while we walked (and that I mentioned on here last week). Emma Bates talks about greeting the pain like an old friend.

Old Friends from Merrily We Roll Along

Hey, old friend,
Are you okay, old friend?
What do you say, old friend,
Are we or are we unique?
Time goes by,
Everything else keeps changing.
You and I,
We get continued next week.

Most friends fade
Or they don’t make the grade.
New one’s are quickly made
And in a pinch, sure, they’ll do.
But us, old friend,
What’s to discuss, old friend?
Here’s to us who’s like us
Damn few!

Maybe I should create a friend playlist and try to be better friends with my body?

feb 26/WALK

40 minutes
to the river and back
57 degrees

A warm, windy February afternoon. Took a walk with Delia the dog and Scott. Heard some kids on the playground that I mistook for a siren. Then later, heard some actual sirens. Also heard some ragtime music coming from a bike on the path. Marveled at the gnarled oaks and the jagged shadow one cast on another branchless tree. Noticed how high the bluff was above the forest floor. Encountered many happy, chatting walkers, one runner without a shirt.

It’s Windy

Is it the strange, too-early spring weather? The fact that I’m turning 50 in 4 months and that my kids are turning 21 and 18? Not sure, but my thoughts have been scattered lately, flitting from one idea to the next without landing anywhere for too long. Maybe it’s the wind. This morning I said to Scott, what a beautiful morning! Too bad it’s windy. Then Scott started singing “Windy” by the Association — I tried to join in, but I was in the wrong key (as usual). I should have a t-shirt that says, I’m always in the wrong key, I said (which, I think, isn’t always a bad thing to be in). Anyway, I decided to listen to the song and read the lyrics. It’s actually about wind! How delightful!

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
Above the clouds (above the clouds)

I think I might create a page of wind poems/songs and add this, along with “They call the wind Mariah” from Paint Your Wagon and “I Take to the Wind” by King Crimson.

an idea (for the future? now?): Yesterday I posted a poem that uses an Emily Dickinson line in the title (I heard a fly buzz), then obliquely references her in the poem. A year or so ago, I had the idea that I’d like to write a series of poems that use some of my favorite Emily Dickinson lines as titles for my poems about vision loss, how I see, and how I’ve been carving out a new way of being with my moving practice. I’ve already written one that was published this past December in the print journal, Door is a Jar:

The Motions of the Dipping Birds/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Because I can no longer see
her face, when my daughter talks I watch

her small hands rise and fall,
sweep the air, flutter.

I marvel at the soft feathers her fingers make
as they soar then circle then settle

on the perch of her hips waiting
to return to the sky for another story.

I think Victoria Chang’s collection, The Trees Witness Everything, in which she uses W.S. Merwin poem titles and then writes her own poem, might be a good inspiration. I’ve been wanting to do this project for several years, but I wasn’t quite ready. Am I now? I’ve already been moving towards it with my interest in memorizing 50 Emily Dickinson poems before my 50th birthday — did I mention that in here, or was it just in my “to do” list? Oh, I hope this idea sticks and helps me to write more poetry. Lately, I’ve had tons of ideas that I start, but that really don’t go anywhere.

As part of this Dickinson project, and inspired by yesterday’s poem, I decided to memorize ED’s “I heard a fly buzz — when I died”. After memorizing it, I listened to someone else’s reading of it and noticed a line change:

[original] The stillness in the Room
[alternate in video] The stillness round my form

Which is correct, I wondered. At first, I thought the alternate might be the correct one, but it didn’t seem quite right — form neatly rhymes with the last line of the verse: Between the Heaves of Storm. ED liked slant rhymes, not straight ones. I looked it up and discovered that ED’s first editor, Mabel Loomis Todd, had changed the line to form. She also took out ED’s dashes. I’ve read about the fraught relationship between ED and Todd (who was ED’s brother’s lover) and Todd’s heavy-handed editing, so I’m sticking with the original!

medical term fun!

I’m still working with g a s t r o c n e m i u s and s o l e u s scrabble tiles. Last night’s favorite:

Guess a minute’s colors

I told RJP and she said, 7:42 is yellowish-green. Do I see any particular minute’s colors? No. But I do like trying to describe what colors I see at any given minute.

What happens when I reverse 2 words: Guess a color’s minutes?
Or, Minutes colors a guess?
Or, As color, minutes guess
Or, minutes: a color’s guess (as in, meeting minutes)
Or, a guess colors minutes

Back to ED’s buzzing fly. Whenever I read this poem, I think about an article I discovered a few years ago that discusses how accurately and effectively ED describes the physiology of the dying eye — 15 march 2021