may 9/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around +
65 degrees / humidity: 70%
wind: 18 mph / gusts: 30 mph

So much wind! As I neared the river, a surprise gust swept through and ripped my visor off my head. Luckily, that was the worst thing the wind did. No knocking down thick branches onto my shoulders. No pushing me off the edge of the gorge. Just a few big gusts, and a wall to run into after I turned around at the trestle.

The wind and the humidity distracted me from noticing much else. Did I even look at the river? One thing I do remember noticing: the green in the floodplain forest is thickening. Already the view through to the river is gone in that spot. I also noticed the welcoming oaks. They’re still bare and gnarled.

Near the end of my run, when I had one hill left and wanted to be done, I chanted some of my favorite lines from Emily Dickinson again: “Life is but life/Death but death/Bliss is but bliss/Breath but breath.” It helped!

10 Things I Noticed While Running*

*4 thoughts that distracted me from noticing + 6 things I still noticed despite the distractions

  1. my left hip is a little tight
  2. it is very humid
  3. I hate my sinuses and allergies; I wish I could breathe fully through my nose
  4. I wish I had worn a tank top. I’m so glad I didn’t wear that sweatshirt I almost put on because I was cold in the house!
  5. an intense floral scent — lilac, maybe?
  6. only a few big branches down near the trail
  7. a woman walking and pushing a stroller, a dog leash in one hand, a dog stretched across the trail
  8. several walkers dressed for winter in coats and caps
  9. an inviting bench perched at the edge of the gorge, taking in the last of the clear view before the green veil conceals it
  10. the creak of some branches in the wind: another rusty door opening!

This final thing I mentioned noticing, the door, made me want to find another door poem, so I did:

Doors opening, closing on us/ Marge Piercy

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.

march 29/RUN

3.5 miles
river road, south/winchell trail/river road, north/edmund
39 degrees / feels like 30
wind: 20 mph

Overcast, windy, cold. Not too many people out on the trails. Ran south on the paved path, then a little on the Winchell trail — dirt, then rubbled asphalt, then paved, back up on the river road trail, through the tunnel of trees, then over to Edmund. Everything bare and brown and looking like November. Very pleasing to my eyes. Soft and dull, not sharp or crisp. Down on the Winchell Trail, I was closer to the river, but forgot to look. Maybe it was because I was too focused on the wind and reciting the poem by Christine Rossetti that I memorized this morning. I was reminded of it when I found it on my entry for March 29, 2020.

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

It was really fun to recite (just in my head) as I ran. It’s iambic, mostly trimeter (I think?). I also recited the opening to Richard Siken’s “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One:

“I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble but I am invisible.”

Before I went for my run, I spent more time with Alice Oswald. Here are a few bits from an interview she did in 2016 for Falling Awake:

I frequently get told I’m a nature poet living in a rural idyll, but just like the city, the country is full of anxious, savage people. The hedges seem so much stronger than the humans that you feel slightly imperilled and exposed, as if, if you stopped moving for a minute the nettles would just move in.

I think about this idea of the vegetation taking over when humans (by the gorge, Minneapolis Parks’ workers) stop managing and maintaining it. Creeping vines, tall grass, wandering branches, crumbling asphalt. I see these things all the time and often imagine how the green things might consume us when we stop paying attention.

I’m mostly interested in life and vitality, but you can only see that by seeing its opposite. I love erosion: I like the way that the death of one thing is the beginning of something else.

Erosion, things decomposing, returning, recycling. I’m drawn to noticing these things as I loop around the gorge.

It’s good to remember how to forget. I’m interested in the oral tradition: what keeps the poems alive is a little forgetting. In Homer you get the sense that anything could happen because the poet might not remember.

I like the idea of finding a balance, where I remember some things and forget others, or I forget some things so I can remember other things.

Poetry is not about language but about what happens when language gets impossible.

I like the idea of things being impossible to ever fully achieve, where no words can ever fully capture/describe what something it. When language is impossible, it’s possible to keep imagining/dreaming up new meanings.

I’m interested in how many layers you can excavate in personality. At the top it’s all quite named. But you go down through the animal and the vegetable and then you get to the mineral. At that level of concentration you can respond to the non-human by half turning into it.

This line about getting down to the mineral, reminded me of some of Oswald’s words in Dart and Lorine Niedecker’s words in “Lake Superior”:

from Dart / Alice Oswald

where’s Ernie? Under the ground

where’s Redver’s Webb? Likewise.

Tom, John and Solomon Warne, Dick Jorey, Lewis
Evely?

Some are photos, others dust.
Heading East to West along the tin lodes,
80 foot under Hepworthy, each with a tallow candle in
his hat.

Till rain gets into the stone,
which washes them down to the valley bottoms
and iron, lead, zinc, copper calcite
and gold, a few flakes of it
getting pounded between the pebbles in the river.

from “Lake Superior” / Lorine Niedecker

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

And the idea of moving through layers, reminds me of Julian Spahr and their poem that moves through layers, first out, then in:

poemwrittenafterseptember 11, 2001 / Julian Spahr

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.

In this everything turning and small being breathed in and out by everyone with lungs during all the moments.

Then all of it entering in and out.

The entering in and out of the space of the mesosphere in the entering in and out of the space of the stratosphere in the entering in and out of the space of the troposphere in the entering in and out of the space of the oceans in the entering in and out of the space of the continents and islands in the entering in and out of the space of the nations in the entering in and out of the space of the regions in the entering in and out of the space of the cities in the entering in and out of the space of the neighborhoods nearby in the entering in and out of the space of the building in the entering in and out of the space of the room in the entering in and out of the space around the hands in the entering in and out of the space between the hands.

How connected we are with everyone.

The space of everyone that has just been inside of everyone mixing inside of everyone with nitrogen and oxygen and water vapor and argon and carbon dioxide and suspended dust spores and bacteria mixing inside of everyone with sulfur and sulfuric acid and titanium and nickel and minute silicon particles from pulverized glass and concrete.

How lovely and how doomed this connection of everyone with lungs.

I’ve been wanting to do something with layers and the gorge. What form might it take?

march 25/4 MILES

36 degrees
downtown loop

Scott and I started at the Guthrie, ran next to the beautiful, extra blue Mississippi river under the Hennepin Avenue bridge and over the Plymouth bridge through Boom Island and Father Hennepin park over the Stone Arch bridge and then back to the car. At the start of the run, I noticed so many intense shades of blue. The sky a purplish blue clashing with the steel blue river and the royal blue biking/walking signs on the path. Then I noticed the wind–such wind!–almost taking our breath away. 15 mph with strong gusts.

Scott stopped to take a picture on the Stone Arch bridge and I asked him to include me in the picture:

jan 10/5.1 MILES

38 degrees
10% snow-covered
franklin loop

Another warm and windy day. Another run on the Franklin loop. The path is almost clear but that will change tomorrow when it snows again. Since they don’t clear the east side of the river path quite as well, I’m not sure how long it will be before I can run this loop again. Listened to my playlist and had a good run. Could tell I was getting faster and that my last mile was my fastest. It’s a very gray, gloomy day. What did I think about? I really can’t remember. Didn’t worry about anything. Didn’t experience doubts about whether I could keep running. Didn’t struggle with trying to find the right words or ideas for my poems. Didn’t feel guilt about something I’m supposed to do or something that I already did. Just ran and felt the wind in my face, at my back, rush past my ears. Avoided puddles and ice patches. And tried to keep my breathing steady.

jan 9/5.3 MILES

35 degrees
wind: 13 mph with 21 mph gusts
25% snow-covered
franklin loop

Warmer. Snow melting. Slushy and slick. The path was mostly clear with an occasional ice patch and some gritty debris. Dirt. Sand. Some dead leaves and ground up twigs. It made a fun rubbing sandpaper kind of a noise as my feet struck the asphalt. I’m glad I didn’t wear my headphones. I would have missed this sound entirely. Ran across the Lake Street bridge over to Saint Paul and up to Franklin. Noticed a few walkers heading down to the East River Flats, which I only discovered about a month ago. How wet and slippery is it down there? On the east side of the river it was calm and warm but I knew what that meant: all the wind would be on the west side in my face as I finished my run. And it was. I think I felt a few of those 21 mph gusts that I read about. Tough, but I didn’t stop. With a mile and a half left a runner—in shorts!–passed me but hovered just ahead. I followed him all the way home, feeling good.

Last year, I spent a lot of time trying to identify different versions of the wind. I think this year, or at least this winter, will be about the path–the different sounds it makes, how it feels, how it looks.

dec 19/4 MILES

36 degrees
10% snow-covered
wind: 20 mph
mississippi river road south/minnnehaha falls/mississippi river road north

Earlier this morning I took the dog for a walk and the weather seemed perfect. Not much wind. Warm. Sunny. So, even though I ran yesterday and the day before that, I decided that I better get out there. Tomorrow it’s supposed to snow and the paths will probably be covered again with ice.  I got ready but just before I opened the front door to leave I heard it. The wind howling. Uh oh. I decided it was too late to stop so I went out for my run. The wind wasn’t too bad–only gusting in my face occasionally. Most of the time, it was at my back. When I reached the river road, I ran to the right instead of the left—to Minnehaha Falls. Pretty cool. Half frozen, half gushing. The path was almost completely clear. Only a few ice patches.

nov 15/4 MILES

37 degrees
wind: 16 mph/gusts up to 25 mph
mississippi river road path, north

Windy. Dark. Gray. Cool. Before leaving the house, I could see the trees swaying, so I knew it would be windy. Decided to not wear headphones and pay attention to the wind instead. How many versions would I be able to name? Remembering to pay attention to the wind was difficult. I kept getting distracted. Another runner creeping up on me. I could hear their feet strike the grit on the path. Tried slowing down a little–or did I unwittingly speed up?–to let them pass. They must have turned off at Lake Street. The few remaining orange and gold leaves stubbornly clinging to the branches, refusing to concede to winter. The faint beeping of an alarm–beep beep beep beep beep–coming from a car driving by. The uneven path just past the railroad bridge, waiting to twist my ankle if I stepped wrong. But even with these distractions, I noticed the wind.

versions of the wind

  • Muted wind, made gentle by a hood covering my ears. Roars becoming whispers
  • Sneaky wind, hiding from me, tricking me into forgetting about it until the path twists and it rushes at me, full force
  • Thoughtful wind, generously clearing the leaves off the path right in front of me
  • Teasing wind, playing with my hood, moving it onto my shoulder where it bunches up annoyingly
  • Helpful wind, pushing me along, enabling me to go faster, feel freer in the second half of my run

The sounds and textures of the wind blended in with other sounds. Was that the wind rushing at my back or a car whooshing along the river road? Wind blowing turned into cars traveling into a bike wheel turning, its chain clanging into wind shivering into a leaf blower blowing into jagged breathing into grit crunching. So many noises, one flowing into the next, never starting or stopping just shifting form.

As I ran, I thought about form. How I’ve been taking writing classes on form–unconventional forms, finding the right form, using different forms to provoke and inspire–and thinking about my running form. I’d like to write a poem or a hybrid essay about form, weaving together ideas about writing and running form. Maybe include one of my favorite lines by a poet about how form is a way of conserving energy–“energy soon leaks out of an ill-made work of art.” Forms: the shape of the wind, bare oak branches, sloping hills, relaxed shoulders, slightly bent trunk, twisting path, winding river, flowing sounds, scattered leaves piled up on the path.

I also noticed the colors. Oh, the colors of late fall! Not as showy as October’s glowing greens and yellows and oranges and flaming reds, but achingly beautiful. Dark dark brown, tan, steel gray, pale blue. Flashes of rusted red and burnished gold. All muted colors, nothing bright to hurt my eyes, nothing too intense to disrupt the calm that has sunk beneath the surface of my skin.

One final memory: Running on my favorite part of the path where it dips below the road and close to the top of the gorge, my shoe squeaked as it landed on wet leaves.

Today’s run has given me so many writing ideas! Lunes about the wind. An anaphora about color. A pantoum about the shifting shapes of sound.

update: here are the poems I just crafted after writing my log entry:

versions of the wind, mostly haikus, a few lunes

1.
muted wind, softened
by hood covering cold ears
roars become whispers

2.
sneaky wind, tricking
me into thinking it left.
still here, just hiding.

OR

the sneaky wind hides
making me think it has gone
it waits near the gorge

3.
thoughtful wind
clearing leaves off path
as I near

OR

the thoughtful wind clears
the pile of leaves off the path
before I approach

4.
teasing wind
playing with my hood
annoying

OR

near the bridge
the teasing wind plays
with my hood

5.
running fast
and feeling freer
wind at back

OR

helpful wind, pushing
me to run faster, freer
it is at my back

OR

the wind helps me to
run faster and feel freer
when it’s at my back

Not an anaphora about color, just free verse

Oh, the colors in November!
The closing credits of fall
after October’s big show
so subdued in their splendor
nothing bright or intense to disrupt
the calm that sits
on the surface of my skin
dark brown
light tan
steel gray
pale blue
rusty red
burnished gold
I stare at the gorge
my eyes grateful
for the rest.

a pantoum

Running log, november 15, 4 miles
today I’m paying attention to the wind
but it is not the only sound I hear
the wind mixes with other noises

I’m listening closely for the wind
but I’m confused—is that the wind or a car coming?
the wind mixes with the noise of whooshing wheels
one sound blends into the next

I’m confused—is that the wind or a car coming?
or is it the wheel of a bicycle, its chain clanging?
one sound blends into the next
the rushing wind becomes whooshing car wheels then a whirring bike wheel

A bike wheel, its chain clanging, becomes the wind again,
shooshing, sounding like brushes softly hitting a snare drum until
the wind becomes the distant hum of a leaf blower then my quick breaths as I run
sometimes jagged, sometimes smooth

sounding like wind that roughly rushes near the bridge or softly sifts through the tall grass
so many noises, one flowing into the next
never starting, never stopping
wind car bike leaf blower runner the shifting shapes of sound

oct 30/3.85 MILES

37 degrees
wind: 16 mph
mississippi river road path, north

Ran for 35 minutes and 3.85 miles without stopping. Negative split each mile. My knee was sore for the first half, but it mostly felt okay. It was windy and cool with some light drizzle/snow. Checked on the progress of the leaves on my favorite part of the gorge: all gone. Now I can see the slope down to the forest floor and the Mississippi.

Thinking again about routine, rituals and habits and what is/isn’t sacred about running and preparing for running. Wrote a poem in homage to Craig Arnold’s Mediation on a Grapefruit. Towards the end of the poem he writes:

a discipline
precisely pointless       a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause     a little emptiness

My homage is about coffee brewing, an essential part of my pre-race routine/ritual. note: I can’t figure out how to the spacing here. It’s supposed to have more, like Arnold’s poem.

Meditation on the Smell of Coffee Brewing

To wake when nothing is possible
before the unexpected joys of the day
have saved me
To come to the kitchen
and pull out a thin paper basket
before breakfast
To open the metal tin lid sounding
like cymbals being lightly struck
by a drum stick
metallic and sharp as a cold winter morning
To tip
each rich brown scoop into the filter
not that carefully sometimes spilling
several darkly fragrant grounds
To pour each cup of water
into a cheap black coffee maker
the water settling until the whole
carafe is emptied
and only then to breathe and to brew
who knew
this habit
seemingly not the point a repeated
performance ending with the nose
a deep inhale with no substance

each morning harder to live within
each morning harder to live without

and

Meditation on a running shoe

To wake when nothing is possible
before my morning run
has saved me
To go to the front room
and find my electric blue wings
after breakfast
To take them out of the shoe rack
light and featherless        with orange swishes
swirling on the side
vibrant and zesty as citrus
To slide
each foot in, first right then left
so mindfully     without making
my socks bunch up.
To tie each lace
into big, loopy knots
then tuck the loops    until the whole
shoelace is protected
and only then to run
more than fun
a ritual
reverently practical       a sacred
preparation for the body and spirit
a moment      a little attention

each morning more necessary to live within
each morning more impossible to live without

may 31/6 MILES

62 degrees
the franklin hill turn around + extra

Today was a harder run than yesterday. My legs felt sore. I took it out too fast. And I was overdressed. Decided to walk a few times when I felt like I needed it, which was a good idea, not a failure, I’ve decided. Recorded two voice memos into my iPhone, one about attention as a salve against apathy and another about how bodies are machines.

Before the run, I started working on a series of wanderings around attention. I’ve given years of attention to attention in my ethical work on curiosity and a feminist ethics of care and now, in this running/writing project, it keeps coming up as a primary goal for me: to pay attention to my body, to my surroundings, to my voice, to authentic expression, to nagging injuries, to breathing, to joy, to staying upright, to resisting oppressive regimes.

Attention, Wanderings

Wandering One

Mary Oliver from Upstream

“Attention is the beginning of devotion” (8).

Here’s my (first?) attempt at a sonnet, riffing off of Oliver’s line:

Attention is the beginning of devotion.
Devotion, the beginning of prayer.
Attention sets curiosity in motion.
Curiosity is a form of care.

Attention can lead us to question.
all that we’ve been taught.
Compelling us not to rest on
the assumptions we have wrought.

Attention promotes belief
belief breaks us open,
spilling out a grief
that comes from loss of hope and

apathy, a monstrous twinning.
Attention is the beginning.

Wandering Two

Marilyn Nelson, “Crows

“What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet….”

So many ways to connect this excerpt with my wanderings on the vertical yesterday! The tree. the horizon. The purpose of life.

This is makes me think of Krista Tippet’s interview with the poet Marie Howe. Howe has some thoughts about the is, which she calls the this, and how we struggle to “stand each is up against emptiness” (hover over the following quote to reveal the erasure poem):

It hurts to be present, though, you know. I ask my students every week to write 10 observations of the actual world. It’s very hard for them. Just tell me what you saw this morning like in two lines. You know I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth. Uh, and the light came through it in three places. No metaphor. And to resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason….We want to — we want to say it was like this. It was like that. We want to look away, and to be, to be with a glass of water or to be with anything. And then they say well there’s nothing important enough. And then it’s whole thing is that point.”
Attention

attend to:
witness
keep vigil
be devoted

have a long attention span:
don’t forget
keep noticing
pay attention

give attention:
care
care for
care about

be curious:
wonder
imagine
believe

receive:
breathe in the this and breathe out the that
slowly absorb the is through your skin

note: So many more variations to do, including one with Simone Weil.

may 16/3.3 MILES

64 degrees
muggy and windy
mississippi river road north

Was able to get in a quick run between thunderstorms. It’s funny how the winter weather didn’t prevent me from running outside, but these spring thunderstorms are. So humid. At one point during the run, when the walking path dips down and follows alongside the wooded gorge, everything looked weird, almost like I was seeing it through a filter. I wondered if it was my vision then I realized it was steam, trapped in the trees! Yuck.

Before and after the run I worked on having more fun with medical terms. Specifically, more fun with the biomechanics of walking. So much fun! When I started it, I had no idea where it would lead me. This is the unexpected result:

It starts with a step, versions and variations

Version One:

“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toes pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust).”

variation
It starts with a step:
heel touches down
weight rolls forward
onto ball of foot
big toe pushes off
body shifts
legs reverse
step + step + step + step + step + step + step = walking

Version Two:

The biomechanics of a step: The Stance Phase in 5 parts

  1. Heel strike/the heel first touches ground
  2. Early flatfoot/from when the foot is flat until body’s center of gravity passes over foot, here the foot is loose and floppy
  3. Late flatfoot/body past center of gravity, heel beginning to lift, foot is rigid
  4. Heel rise/the heel rises off the ground
  5. Toe off/the toe lifts off the ground.

variation
the heel strikes
on the ground,
not out at the plate or
because of unjust working conditions.

early flatfoot
a police officer with a morning shift.

late flatfoot
another officer, working the night shift.

heel rise
apparently I was wrong about why the heel was striking.
It is because of unjust working conditions.
She and other foot workers are refusing to lift anything off the ground until their demands are met, namely adequate health care.
They are rising up!

toe off
Management is becoming increasingly irritated by the peaceful strikers.
All mechanical operations have been shut down.
How can the toe be lifted off the ground when the heel won’t do her job?
The early and late flatfoots, who have both finished their shifts, are called in to force the heel and her compatriots to submit.
Neither of them are happy about it.
They’re tired and want to go to bed.
Besides, they agree with the heel and are angry with management.

Version Three:

The biomechanics of a step: The Muscles

During the heel strike/early flat foot phase the anterior compartment muscles work to gently lower the foot onto the ground. The anterior compartment muscles are the tibialis anterior muscle, the extensor hallicus longus, and the extensor digitorum longus. .

During the late flatfoot to heel rise phase the posterior compartment muscles control the body so it doesn’t fall forward. The posterior compartment muslces are the gastrocnemius, the soleum and the plantaris.

variation
During the strike, the heel is confronted by some well-meaning but naive co-workers who are urging her to reconsider her tactics. “Why not ask nicely?” the tibialis anterior muscle suggests. “Yes!” agree the extensor hallicus longus and the extensor digitorum longus, “if we take a gentle approach and try to reason with them, management is sure to see that we deserve better!”

Listening in on their conversation, early flatfoot rolls her eyes and can be heard to mutter dismissively to late flatfoot, “yeah right.”

Heel refuses to listen to the anterior compartment muscles. “We will strike!” she declares. She is joined by many others, including the posterior compartment muscles. The gastrocnemius and the soleum help by reassuring the crowd of striking workers and the plantaris delivers the strikers’ demands to management.

Version Four:

The biomechanics of a step: The Swing Phase in Three Parts

  1. early swing/after toe is off the ground, just until it is next to opposite foot
  2. midswing/the swinging foot passes by the opposite foot
  3. late swing/lasts from end of midswing until heel strike

variation
The striking heel, along with the toe and the ball of the foot, soon realize that their tactics are not working. Management is refusing to consider their demands. They reluctantly determine that their only option is to walk out. To do this, they need the help of the other foot. The dorsiflexors of the ankle joint are enlisted to initiate the swing phase so that the toe can try to convince the workers in the opposite foot to collaborate on the direct action. The big toe is successful with her negotiations. So successful that not only does the opposite foot agree to the plan, but so do early and late flatfoots. Slowly and steadily the feet trade off steps. One heel strikes, one foot is flat, one toe lifts off. The other heel strikes, the other foot is flat, the other toe lifts off. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

note: The technical information for the versions comes from these sources:

I had not intended to write about the heel striking, but I’m glad I did. At some point, pretty far into the process, I realized that the management was me. And the workers were going on strike because I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. This version of the biomechanics is very different from Solnit’s romantic understanding of walking. I think I went in the direction that I did because I associate learning/being curious about the technical aspects of walking with injury. Why else would I want to dissect the process and learn the specific names of muscles, bones and joints?