Categories
Reflections

Green

This week in my poetry class our assignment was prose poems. I decided to write about running and walking and paying attention and my quirky vision and my favorite color: green.

GREEN

i.
The used-to-be-kelly green now briny green or olive green or sweaty green or should-be-thrown-away green twins baseball cap bought at a game years ago that, after many adjustments, fits just right—even when wind is really blowing and trying to rip it off and throw it in the river—and that I wear whenever running is fraying on top, creating a briny green bald spot and causing distress because I love it and don’t want to get rid of it and fear that there will never, ever be another cap as great or faithful in keeping out sun and capturing sweat so it doesn’t run into my eyes as this one that snugly, but not too snugly, sits on my head.

ii.
Writing down Mary Oliver’s line I don’t know exactly what a prayer is, I do know how to pay attention I think sometime soon, maybe mid-run, above the river, sweat dripping off the brim of a barely still green baseball cap, face turning bright red, unevenly flushed cheeks—not rosy but ruddy, I’ll notice wind sounding like water gently boiling or an oak leaning forward listening in as other trees talk or a canopy of different shades of green, all fruits—pears, limes, avocados—and say out loud, “Me too Mary.”

iii.
Walking with Dog. Above—oak savanna, hidden by hill. Near—tree stumps with chain link limbs. Below—steel blue river, bare brown trunks, bright, glowing green slashes of invading buckthorns refusing to accept late fall and snow coming soon. I softly call to Dog, “stop! slow down! no, this way!” Irritated. Annoyed. Trying to avoid a fall with slippery leaves, either wet or hiding holes. Dog’s sniffing and darting too much to listen. Then looking ahead suspiciously. At something. I stare too. Trying to see what Dog sees. Nothing’s there. I stare. Again and again. Just lonely Black Fence. “There’s nothing there, silly Dog!” I keep walking. Suddenly Black Fence grows a person. Not like trees growing fences further back but like a person spontaneously sprouting out of Black Fence fully formed. Leaning and looking at me, then at steel blue mississippi.

Categories
Reflections

Elegy for My Mom

a poem written for the anniversary of my mom’s death, taken from a log entry written on her birthday, march 5, 2017

On the occasion of my mom’s 75th birthday,
I wanted to take her on my run.
I wanted her beside me
as I traveled on the bluff,
above the Mississippi River.
To talk about the trees we encountered or
the wildflowers she knew the names of but I didn’t or
the poetry class I was taking or
the latest book about early American history she was reading or
the difficulties in raising a wonderfully willful and exuberant daughter or
when the Real Housewives would stop being a thing or
where to plant zinnias in my backyard or
why you can’t find a decent pair of jeans that aren’t skinny or
what she was weaving on her loom or
how it was to be 75 when you always feel 17.
I wanted to do this but I couldn’t.
She’s been dead for 8 years and
when I’m running, I can’t
spare the energy needed
to imagine her beside me.
The most I can do is imagine
that she’s the shadow that leads me
on my early morning runs
or the runner I encounter on the path.

 

A few months ago
running south on the river road
I thought I saw her
coming towards me,
at least the her I like to remember:
mid 50s, short reddish hair—
before she started dyeing it blonde to hide the gray—
teal running shorts,
muscular legs,
jogging so slow that she was almost walking.
I knew it wasn’t her but
for less than a minute
I allowed myself to believe
my mom was still alive—
that she was never diagnosed
with a death sentence
that she never had to stop running
or walking or breathing.
Then I remembered
if those things hadn’t ended—
mainly the breathing—
I might not have started
running or writing to reshape my grief.
Who would I be without my grief?
Someone else, someone
whose Mom was still alive
but maybe not someone
who loved to run or someone
who would write a poem
for their dead mom
on the occasion of her 75th birthday.

Categories
Reflections

26.2 Reasons

WHY AM I TRAINING FOR A MARATHON: 26.2 Reasons

Attention, as in paying, not asking for,
Adventure,
facing Adversity
Absorption: more time outside to take in the world.

Breathing in and out,
reclaiming a Belief in myself and in possibility,
Because I want to and I can.

Commitment,
Conservation of energy, sanity, exuberance, joy,
Care of soul/body/intellect.

A desire to be Dedicated and to redefine Discipline.

a way to Experiment,
Escape,
Endure.

Form as a Focus for my creative explorations,
improved Form in running,
a stronger, healthier Form.

an expression of Grief and evidence of surviving it,
Gravity: defying it by flying.

Humility: practicing it, confronting it, learning to embrace it.

Inspiring, as in inhaling and feeling motivated to create and to Imagine new ways of being.

Joy!

Knees that I used to believe couldn’t, but now know can, run for hours without stopping.

Limits, pushing at them, playing with them, accepting them,
for the Love of running
and
 being Long, Lean and Limber.

Muscles: tight, compact, strong,
Mind/body split: proving it doesn’t exist,
Mom: a runner for many years, dead now for almost ten,
Mystery: in the woods, on the long runs,
Magic: in the movement.

Nihilism-avoidance,
No excuses,
Nostalgia for an athletic childhood.

Opportunities: to open up, to commit to something important, to try something new.

Prayer,
Presence,
Playlists,
Podcasts,
Purple toes,
a big fuck you to Pancreatic cancer, the disease that killed my mom and that made me question how much I could trust a healthy, strong body.

Questions! So many Questions about running, training, enduring, the body, breathing, injury and more!

Runner’s High,
Rituals,
Repeated practices,
Routines.

Student: to be one again, learning new things about the body and creativity,
Something to Share with Scott,
Seeking the Sacred.

Triumph,
a lack of Traffic
ignoring, surviving, resisting Trump.

Unrelenting,
Uncomfortable,
Undulating grasses and waves to watch and admire.

Victory,
Vision: new ways of “seeing” the world without relying on diseased eyes.

to Wander,
Wonder,
acquire Wisdom,
celebrate Winter and
examine the Wind: how many versions can I name while I run?

Xerxes Avenue: I don’t want to train for any marathon, I want to train for the Twin Cities marathon. The marathon in which I can run through my city, by places I haunt, places I’ve lived, places I love, including right by Lake Bda Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) as it intersects with Xerxes Avenue.

a Yearning,
to maintain a Youthful perspective,
Youngins: a role model for my kids.

an expression of a Zeal for living and being present/alive/healthy/active/energetic.

(æ)
æthereal or ethereal: an airy, other worldly, dream-like state that can be achieved during long runs and that makes me feel calm and peaceful and relaxed and removed.

(∫ long s)
to ∫tretch and
∫tay upright.

Categories
Reflections

My Purple Toe

I’m currently taking a great class on non-linear narrative structures. This past week, we looked at lyric and all-middle narratives. I wrote an all-middle essay about a running injury and got some very helpful feedback. I wanted to post my updated draft here. This is the third version of this story. I posted the first version on my running site. And here’s the second version, the one I submitted for my class. 

My Purple Toe

I have a purple toe.

It’s not purple all of the time and maybe purple isn’t even the best way to describe it. Eggplant? Or electric purple or purple mountain majesty or grape popsicle purple?

Purple is my son’s favorite color. His computer case is purple. His clarinet case is purple. His suitcase is purple. His school binder, which he disemboweled in new ways all school year—first removing the strap, then shredding the front pouch, then taking out the cardboard insert that helps keep its structure, then doing something to the 3 ring binders that I can’t quite figure out that makes them only barely close and finally, losing the zipper and the handle so he carried it by cupping his hand under the gap where the zipper used to be—is purple. For the last month, he awkwardly carried that binder two blocks every day in one hand. It barely looked like a binder, but it still got the job done, delivering his notes and his homework and his pencils to school.

The purple my son prefers is royal purple or Tyranian purple, although he just calls it purple. He never considers that purple is fuchsia and pearly purple and phlox and Tyranian purple too.

Did you know that Tyranian purple is named after the ancient city of Tyre, where it was originally discovered, according to legend, rimming the mouth of Hercules’ dog after it had consumed some sea snails? It was the mucus of these snails, and a ton of it, that was used to create the shade. The mucus of 250,000 sea snails were necessary for producing just one ounce of dye. An expensive color reserved for emperors and kings and other elite.

Technically speaking, I suppose, I have a purple toenail and not a purple toe.

Toe is much more pleasing to write and to hear and to imagine as purple than toenail, don’t you think? Plus, anyone can have a purple toenail; just slap some nail polish on it and it’s purple. But, a purple toe is special. A purple toe is a sign of a runner. Before I started running, I did not know that this was a thing, that your toe could turn purple when you run a lot.

It’s called runner’s toe or black toe or BT, for short. I like purple toe because that’s what mine looks like to me, so that’s what I call it, or “my purple toe” or “my perfectly purple, not painful at all, toe.”

I have this rare eye disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration called Best’s disease, that makes me fail color-blind tests and that has scrambled my macula so much that I can’t always see faces clearly or the color red or objects that first appear in certain areas of my central vision, so just because I see my toe as purple doesn’t mean it is purple or anything close to purple.

If you looked at my toe, would it look purple to you, or black or gray or blue or just gross?

I was diagnosed with Best’s last August at the age of 42, when my vision got too bad to ignore, but I’ve been unknowingly living with a milder version of it for decades, unconsciously adjusting for my vision quirks.

A toe turns purple or black or gray or blue or ugly or awesome, depending on your perspective, for many running-related reasons: friction and increased mileage and burst capillaries and blood pooling under the nail and maybe ill-fitting shoes with a toe box that isn’t big enough or running down lots of hills, which often causes your foot to slide forward.

Here’s how it usually works for me: After a random long run, my toe hurts slightly and feels strange. It doesn’t turn purple right away, but I know what’s coming: in a day or two, hello purple toe! The toenail never falls off. It just grows back in delightfully grotesque ways: twisted, bent, doubled and thick. So thick! So filled with layers of toenail, mashed together. So marvelous in its ability to accommodate the crowd!

I think it should be called “my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe” because it doesn’t usually hurt and doesn’t do anything except look gross.

Do you have a purple toe? If so, don’t worry. Approximately 3 months after your toe turns purple, a new nail will grow and the old one will fall off, or it won’t, and you’ll have a double toenail, like me. Throughout this process, you can keep running or forgetting that it exists until someone sees it and either shrinks away in disgust or breathlessly asks, “what happened?” or just admiring it and your body’s ability to restore itself.

That is, as long as your black or gray or blue or purple toe doesn’t hurt a lot or keep hurting or turn totally black. If that happens, you probably have a sub hematoma. A sub hematoma occurs when there’s more serious trauma to the toe and the blood flow pressure builds up with nowhere to go. You need to relieve that pressure by creating a small hole in the nail with a sterilized needle and then pushing down while the blood oozes out. Oozes. This was the word that the online source that I consulted used, a site called Lazy Runner.

For the record, I have never had a sub hematoma and needed to make blood ooze, although I have had an in-grown toe nail and needed to make pus ooze.

Runners often take pleasure in talking about the gross things that running does to their bodies and the gross things that they do to their bodies to keep running. They do this to shock others, to distract themselves and to marvel at the resilience of the body in responding to and recovering from trauma.

Also for the record, there’s a chance I might become legally blind at some point, but I will still be able to see trees and toes and shapes of faces and words, when they’re magnified, and the running path. I will be able to see these things, but just a bit differently. More fuzzily. Sometimes fantastically. Conjured images through words and sounds and memory. Containing beat-up binders and pleasing P’s and Hercules, well, his dog at least, and DIY surgery techniques.

I’m already training for when and if this happens.

Runners frequently take a longer view of what is broken in a body, what can be accommodated, what can be ignored and what can and can’t be fixed. They don’t panic. They adjust. They figure out new ways to build endurance, with one primary goal in mind: to keep running. Always to keep running.

Categories
Reflections

Writing with Ro

After hiking in the gorge with Delia (our dog), Rosie and I had a lot of bug bites. We decided to create some counter-spell poetry, to ward off the itching. Here are a few lines:

Bugs, bugs go away
I don’t like you anyway
You’ll never live to see the day
when I stand up here and say:
Bugs! Bugs! They’re Okay!

Bugs, bugs they’re everywhere!
Even in my underwear!
I think I feel them in my hair!
eww so gross, I’m in despair!

Bugs, bugs go away
I know how, I’ll get some spray
spray you once, spray you twice
I don’t care, I’m not that nice.

Happy summer days
turn to
crappy bummer days
as you can see
I’ve been stung by a bee!

As the weather starts to warm
all the bugs begin to swarm
they like to dive, then they hover
in no time, your skin is covered.

OR

As the weather starts to warm
all the bugs begin to swarm
as their bites begin to cover
all your skin, it’s time for a glove or
something else to block out the pest
something that will put the itch to rest!