capacious, generous, spacious, roomier, room to breathe in good air, blank space, hold space/make room for, suspend judgment, believe, allow for more possibilities, uncrowded, a way in, a way out, to break apart

Capaciousness implies care but it is different. It is about creating and claiming/inhabiting a space/moment in which caring can happen.

Be open, be an opening, leave yourself an out, an exit, learn to be an escape artist, find a way in


Doors, windows, fissures, cracks, seeps, leaks, holes, breaches, chasms, chinks, gashes, gaps, vents, slots, slits, passages, crevices, mouths, orifices, ruptures, rifts, gates, gateways, portals, entryways, stairs, a break in the trees, sewer pipes, crosswalks, pores, stomata…poetry as an entrance, questions as an exit, better words as a way in or out

excerpt from Zuihitsu/ jenny xie

My father taught me wherever you are, always be looking for a way out: this
opening or that one. Or a question. Sharp enough to slice a hole for you to slip

excerpt from Instructions for Opening a Door/ Adriana Cloud

A door is just a question you have to ask

a poem is a place to enter

I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple–or a green field–a place to enter, and in which to feel.

Upstream/ Mary Oliver

I did not think of language as the means to self-description. I thought of it as the door–a thousand opening doors!–past myself.

Upstream/ Mary Oliver

a thread about doors in poetry

The Gate/ Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was 
a little taller than me: a young man, 

but grown, himself by then, 
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet, 

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold 
and running water. 

This is what you’ve been waiting for, he used to say to me. 
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This, holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich. 
And I’d say, What?

This, he’d say, sort of looking around.

from run log entry/ july 17, 2020 (see also caring, attention)

I found a very helpful essay from 2008 on Not to Look Away. In it, she talks about her friend Jason who’s funeral she was attending and the gate:

I’m looking for the gate, Jason used to say when he was in pain. I can’t find the gate, but I’m looking. What was this gate my friend Jason was looking for? Maybe he wanted to find the door in the room of suffering, so that he might walk through it into another story. 

and here’s how she describes what story can do:

Is this what a story can do? Emerge from the most painful event and transform it into something else, too? So sad. So funny. Both. And life is there, for a moment, almost adequately represented. 

the story as window?

The days and nights of my life walk by, arm in arm with time, and the gate to the new story stands just outside the circle of my attention. Sometimes I lie here, Jason said, and walk through the old house of my childhood, through all the rooms, and look out all the windows. 

This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window. 

To be present, not to look away, and to transform suffering into something else also–still suffering but more too. Wow, this makes me think so much about Ross Gay and his idea of joy and suffering in the Book of Delights (I checked it out of the library a year ago, and just ordered my own copy arriving today)!

Ways into the Mississippi River Gorge

Crosswalks (streets)
Before Lake
After Lake

36th street parking lot, left corner, down to Winchell Trail
Overlook at 35th Street
Old Stone Steps 34th
Newer steps right before railroad trestle
Older wooden steps shortly after railroad trestle

Official Entrances
limestone gravel trail near overlook at 35th
paved road down to the Minneapolis Rowing club

Well Established Unofficial Entrances
Near 31stUnder the Lake Street Bridge

Main Sewer Pipes
Ravine, 36th
Railroad trestle

Leave the Door Open
doors lurking on pages

Sometimes I feel like there are doors lurking in the creases of every sentence, with periods for knobs and verges for hinges.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January/ Alix B. Harrow
Judith Butler on capaciousness/ Originally posted on TROUBLE.

Last year, J Butler spoke about the continued need for the humanities. I was particularly drawn to her use of “capacious.”

Ideally, we lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world — in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting.

Create and Inhabit Roomier Spaces

To be capacious is to be generous when listening to others’ perspectives, to be willing to take seriously ideas and experiences that we don’t understand or with which we don’t agree. I love the idea of valuing capaciousness. It fits with making and staying in trouble because being capacious (creating/inhabiting roomier, more generous spaces of understanding and engagement) demands that we push ourselves to think deeply and critically, especially about our own actions and ideas.

the spaciousness of uncertainity

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone (Rebecca Solnit in On Being: Falling Together).

I need room

With my central vision almost gone, my depth perception is bad. I haven’t been able to catch a ball for at least a decade and I have a lot of difficulty judging how close or far I am from other people. Usually I overcompensate and swing too wide away from them. Everyone always seems too close, just about to hit me. Often, I am not overtly hostile to people, but I envision them as too careless or as a threat. Sometimes, I underestimate how close I am to objects. I haven’t run into any people–almost on my bike once–but I have run into trees and walls. I need more room for error when navigating space.

no room for rumination

ran by the part of the tunnel of trees that I’m writing about. I’ve been thinking about it as a wide open, spacious room, but it’s more of just a break in the trees. A pause. I recorded some thoughts into my phone when I was done:

Only, just a brief pause. No room for rumination. Only breathing and being before the leaves lock? the leaves thatch? the leaves lattice? the vines envelop the forest again.

Stop Cultivating Empathy. Start Cultivating Belief.
Eat Like an Owl from story blog, processing, dec 9 2015

Last week, I encountered this great quotation:

Eat like an owl: take in everything and trust your innards to digest what’s useful and discard what’s not (Peter Elbow).

Yes! Being generous with your readings of others. Not instantly dismissing ideas or authors. I found this quotation in Elbow’s article, “The Believing Game: Methodological Believing.” In it, he argues for the importance of developing methods for believing in others’ ideas as opposed to instantly doubting and rejecting them. In my notes I wrote in bigger letters, GENEROSITY. I think being generous to other people and their ideas is crucial for learning, engaging and flourishing individually and collectively. I want to include generosity, along with capaciousness, curiosity and patience in my list of qualities of character that help foster transformative learning spaces and experiences.

the openness of it all

from a RUN! log entry

Walking down through the tunnel, I noticed the few times the sun filtered through and the gentle noise of cars and bikes whooshing above. Also, payed attention to the spot, right before the bottom and the 4 fences, when the path seems to float above the forest and where the trees open up into a wide, airy amphitheater-like space. Too layered with leaves to see sky. Up above is green, down below is too. Running by this spot, I feel like I’m flying or floating in green. Walking, I’m slow enough to notice the layers of green and brown, the lack of blue and the openness of it all.

open wide capacious generous airy light feathery layers disorienting unsettling unmooring loosened accessible exposed unencumbered not encased 

amphitheater of air? cathedral? atrium? not grand, just roomier, unexpected

a break, a breather, a pause midway, mid-story, middle, in-between, floating, untethered

openness and a playful attitude

from ch 4 of my dissertation

a playful attitude is one in which women “are not fixed in particular constructions of themselves” (Lugones 2003, 96) but are open to new ways of thinking and doing. Lugones understands this openness in several ways. It is an openness to surprise, that is, an openness to the idea that the world cannot be easily categorized or “neatly packaged” with rules because “rules may fail to explain what we are doing” (Lugones 2003, 95-96). It is an openness to self-construction and re-construction, that is, an openness to the activity of creatively (re)constructing and experimenting with other ways of being or acting instead of limiting ourselves to any one set of rules or way of doing things. And it is an openness to “being a fool,” that is, an openness to the belief that we are not self-important and that we should not be motivated by the goal of mastery and total control over our actions and understandings of ourselves and our relationships with other feminists.

Multiply not judgments but signs of existence

I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes–all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightening of possible storms (Foucault, Ethics 323).

Less editing, more expanding

I do feel like we are so often cutting away and sort of neutering things. And I feel like, especially right now, during the pandemic, I’m so interested in what abundance looks like. Like, what expansiveness looks like, as opposed to that sort of snipping and snipping and snipping until the poem gets smaller.

VS Podcast, interviewing Ada Limón
poetry and white space

Think of the white space in poems—the breaks between stanzas; the part of the page untouched by language, an open field. How can you make room for white space in this day? In each day? Slow down, pause for breath, allow for silence, then continue. Keep moving (Maggie Smith).


is a meadow
after a snowfall
that a poem
hopes to cross

the magic of seeing differently–out of focus, fuzzy

Often, I like the strangeness of my sight; everything is more beautiful. I was mentioning to Scott the other day that I see things through a soft filter, like the one they used for filming Barbara Walters on The View. But even as I love the soft, generous way my vision enables me to see the world, sometimes, it’s exhausting, overwhelming. Walking around the Mall of America the other day, I was unable to see the hard edged outlines of peoples’ moving bodies. Difficult to navigate. Entering a store, I couldn’t immediately read the signs to orient myself, everything just out of focus.

from Halos/ ed bok lee

any nearing face
is surely smiling, gorgeous;

each blurry body’s aura numinous:
style of not style, racially
ambitious, a glob, pure

spectral inchoesion. Aren’t we all
just masses of energy and light
approaching or leaving

one another in the jumbled
future or past; sometimes stop-
ping to embrace

for a moment or decades, 
before passing
way too far for sight?

That visual impairment improves hearing,
tast, smell, touch is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos about bikers’ helmets;
each streetlamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.

love as space

It is developing our own capacity for spaciousness within ourselves to allow others to be as they are — that that is love. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have hopes or wishes that things are changed or shifted, but that to come from a place of love is to be in acceptance of what is, even in the face of moving it towards something that is more whole, more just, more spacious for all of us. It’s bigness. It’s allowance. It’s flexibility. It’s saying the thing that we talked about earlier, of “Oh, those police officers are trapped inside of a system, as well. They are subject to an enormous amount of suffering, as well (angel Kyodo Williams).


without this particular place and location of a willingness to be flexible, open, soft-bellied enough to be moved by the truth of the other in whatever given situation, then it is not transformative. It’s change, maybe; it can be moved backwards again, as we can see — the stroke of a pen (angie Kyodo williams).

To Break Open, Break Apart, Stay Open and Vulnerable
Lead/ Mary Oliver

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

Open Bodies

In the Qur’an, multiple times, God puts thankfulness up there after believing in God, and being thankful is constantly one of the most important things. And when I’m running, I feel like I’m actively expressing that gratitude — first of all, by being able to use my limbs and the faculties that God gave me to run. And also, I’m outside, and when my strides are comfortable, and I feel like nobody’s looking, sometimes I’ll sort of spread my arms out and just think, “Thank you, God. This is beautiful” (Sarah Khasawinah)

While the something greater that orients me and motivates my gratitude is not God with a capital G, and is not connected to an organized religion, I really appreciated what she said. I like to express gratitude when I’m running and I have wanted to spread my arms out and embrace the world! I haven’t done it, but I’ve thought about it (RUN! log, july 15, 2017).

The Runners/ Matan Rochlitz & Ivo Gormley

We were trying to understand what goes on in the minds of runners as they charge through the streets. What does it do to them and what can we find out about ourselves by interrupting them at this moment of vulnerability and clarity?

The Runners: why we interviewed people jogging for a film
IN AND OUT/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Air enters lungs as 

chest rises so does heart head

a vast expansive feeling

open Joy empty Love a desire to Exhale 

    Embrace the whole world 

not with arms stretching wide in a big bear hug 

but with feet flying faster 

and lungs breathing in and out

Bad Air/ Good Air

What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air (Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals)!

I’ve worried that a return to ethics has constituted an space from politics, and I’ve also worried that it has meant a certain heightening of moralism and this has made me cry out, as Nietzsche cried out about Hegel, “bad air! Bad air!” I suppose that looking for a space in which to breath is not the highest ethical aspiration, but it is there, etymologically embedded in aspiration itself, and does seem to constitute something of a precondition for any viable, that is, livable, ethical reflection” (J Butler, “Ethical Ambivalence”).

from In and Out/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Judith Butler’s ethical imperative:
a livable life needs room
to breathe
more good air

Good smells smelled while running:
lilac evergreens freshly cut grass
melting snow unthawed earth
crisp pure cold

Nietszche’s least favorite thing:
Bad air! Bad air!
smelling the entrails
of a failed soul

Bad smells smelled while running:
burning toast smoke from a fire
chemicals after a rain
dead fish

Rhythmic Breathing Exercises
Open Swim Club, outside at Lake Nokomis

Taking up Space
AFTERGLOW / Sara Lynne Puotinen

the big beach
a final time
gravity returns
before I’m ready.
Still unsteady
I stand
then drop
back down
in the sand
waiting for legs
to remember
how to be vertical.

When I
finally exit
the shallow
muscles are
happy to be
used. A gentle
ache slowly
not pain or burning
but glowing

and muscles—
are pleased
with our effort.
We feel strong
more than enough

E N O R M O U S .

At least
too big to
stay in such a
small lake.

walking causes absorption

But walking causes absorption. Walking interminably, taking in through your pores the height of the mountains when you are confronting them at length, breathing in the shape of the hills for hours at a time during a slow descent. The body becomes steeped in the earth it treads (Gros, 85).

Be Open to Everything

Inspired by George Sheehan

George Sheehan claims that for an hour a day, while we’re running, we can try to be poets. Feeling everything intensely and without restrictions. Like an engine with its governor off. We can try. But we’ll frequently fail. A thick smog of obligations, worries and regrets makes it harder to breathe. And to see. And to feel. And to remember to let go and let in more air, more ideas,
more of the world.

Sheehan argues that we should try to be poets, “responding to everything around us and inside us as well,” like engines with the governor off. Then he adds: “The best most of us can do is be a poet an hour a day.” And laments: “There are times, more often than the good times, when I fail. I never do pierce the shield. I return with a shopping list of things to do tomorrow. The miraculous has gone unseen. The message has gone unheard.”

from may 1, 2017 on RUN!

Click on link above to read an erasure poem of Dickey’s quotations.

Sheehan writes about what he tries to do when he’s running: “I must listen and discover forgotten knowledge. Must respond to everything around me and inside me as well. Poets do this naturally. A really good poet, wrote James Dickey, is like an engine with the governor off. And it’s no good for people to say that life should not mean that much to a poet. The really good poet, said Dickey, has no choice; that’s the way he is (3)”.

I was curious about his reference to Dickey and the “engine with the governor off” because I don’t see feeling life this intensely as healthy. At least not for me. I become too lost, too overwhelmed and too much for myself and the people I love. I looked up the phrase, and found two instances of Dickey using it. In the first, found in Sorties, Dickey reflects on his writing process. In the second, found in Self-Interviews, he discusses James Agee.

not innocent but open, wondering and in wonder
from dec 31, 2022 on RUN!

…each day I take to the roads as a beginner, a child, a poet. Seeking the innocence of the beginner, the wonder of the child and the vision of the poet. Hoping for a new appreciation of the landscape, a new perspective of my inner world, some new insights on life, a new response to existence and myself.


The best most of us can do is to be a poet an hour a day. Take the hour when we run 0r tennis or golf or garden; take that hour away from being a serious adult and become serious beginners.

On Running / George Sheehan, 1978

I like the idea of combining the wonder of the child with the vision of a poet, but not really the innocence of a beginner. Instead of innocence, I’d say the openness of a beginner, or maybe even the ignorance? — unknowingness might be better — the enthusiasm, lack of judgment or preconceived notions? Innocence seems too connected to purity and whiteness for me, in terms of how it gets imagined. Yes, I like openness. 

I wasn’t thinking about innocence as I ran, just openness and being open to everything around me and inside of me. When I lifted from my hips, my shoulders relaxed and dropped, my chest opened. I smiled a lot, greeted almost all the other runners with a morning or a wave, didn’t worry about my upcoming colonoscopy. I didn’t try to hold onto everything I was seeing or hearing or smelling or feeling, but let it move through me. 

other thoughts
Fear of Confinement, Being Trapped, Always Need a Way Out

If you asked me to make a list of the top ten things that scare me or that I can’t imagine having to go through, a full body MRI would be on it. If that list had been written 15 years ago, the top item would have been my mom dying. But she died, in 2009, and I survived. So when my therapist tells me that if my knee doesn’t get better soon, I will need an MRI, one in which I am fully encased in a coffin-like tube, strapped to a table, unable to move, the curved walls closing in on me for up to an hour, I think that I will be able to survive that too. I reimagine the MRI, not as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, but as Musty Rusty Incubators or Mini Rhinos Inciting or Mutant Rats Infiltrating or Moody Radicals Impinging or Monster Roosters Incanting. This helps, especially the roosters, which I imagine will sing “The Girl from Ipanema” to me as I lay immobile on a table in the tube (from PATTELAR SUBLUXATION)

closing the opening from STORY
as long as you can stand it, stay out of the way

[on drawing cartoon characters] I don’t have to do very much except draw them again and try not to push things in any particular directions for as long as I can stand to stay out of things, but eventually that open way changes and I start wanting from them. I want them to be really good right away and this stops the natural pace of discovery and replaces it with an objective. This can’t be helped (Lynda Barry).

When is it time to stop the open way? When should you start having an objective? What happens to the discovery process? How does this work for me?

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