july 30/XT

72 degrees
open swim: 1 loop/1200 yards
bike to lake nokomis: 8.5 miles

Bright. Beautiful at the beach. Blinding sun. Difficult to see. I wrote an abecedarian about swimming and seeing. What is it about this poetic form that helps me to write?

A Steady Stroke

Almost
blinded by the sun.
Can anyone see through the sparkling? The
deep blue water mixes with the
endless blue sky and only
flashes of orange and brief
glimpses of the big triangles are visible on the water.
Hardly anything to
indicate which direction to swim. But,
just a brief glance is enough for me to
know that I’m getting close to the
little beach.
My stroke is steady and straight and I have
no doubts that it, and not my vision, is my best guide. Sometimes my
only guide.
Putting my faith in my stroke and not
questioning the movements of my body feels
right, not
scary or
too trusting or
unsettling. I see
very little with my eyes
while swimming across the lake. I don’t need
X-ray vision to feel which direction will take me to shore.
Years of stroke work—bending my elbows, tracing my thumbs up my side, like
zipping up a zipper—lead me to safety.

july 28/8.45 MILES

69 degrees
79% humidity
dew point: 60
the almost downtown turn around

This run felt hard and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. But I did, with the help of several walks. I’m surprised at how little it bothers me that I’m walking so much during these runs. Or that I’m going so slow. Have I given up or just become wiser and more measured in my approach? Or some thing else that I can’t quite figure out? Whatever it is, I’m continuing to train and survive and have moments that I deeply enjoy. I would like to work on pushing through some of the more difficult moments.

For the first half of the run, I listened to an old On Being episode with Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver. Here are a few lines that I particularly liked:

What is the meaning of life?

“have no answers but have some suggestions.” I was expecting her to end her line with: “have lots of questions.” I like that she didn’t and I like the idea that we can make suggestions instead of assertions or claims. These suggestions offer insight without definite answers. I’d like to do a writing experiment organized around the idea of having suggestions instead of answers.

writing while walking

They discuss how Oliver writes on her many walks through the woods.  A notebook is mentioned. I’d like to know, in more detail, her process of walking and writing. A few months ago, I read about Jamie Quattro and how, if she got an idea while she was running for a story, she would stop and find a stick and then scratch some notes on her arm (or in her hand?). I’ve tried composing lines while running by speaking them into my voice memo app. But, how does Oliver do it? Maybe she writes about it somewhere?

listening convivially

Krista Tippet references Mary Oliver’s suggestion to “listen convivially” while walking. Where does Oliver say this? In a poem? Prose? An interview?

convivially: good company, joyful/agreeable attitude, greeting others/the world with delight

For me, listening in such an important part of the process of running and paying attention. I like the idea of being convivial as we listen. What are the subtle (and maybe not so subtle) differences between being convivial and generous or open?

attention without feeling is only a report

“You need empathy with it rather than just reporting. Reporting is for field guides. And they’re great. They’re helpful. But that’s what they are. But they’re not thought provokers. And they don’t go anywhere. And I say somewhere that attention is the beginning of devotion, which I do believe.” Attention/Devotion/Rumination/Engagement/Feeling the Force of Ideas and Experiences and Moments.

mystery is in that combination of discipline and the convivial listening

I’m really interested in how being disciplined and undisciplined combine to generate creativity and a more meaningful life. Limits, in the form of structure–Oliver discusses how one of her most famous poems, “Wild Geese,” began as a writing exercise in using end-stopped lines–and freedom, in the form of experimenting, taking risks, imagining new ways of writing, being, doing.

Such wonderful ideas! I can’t wait to read more.

Here are 2 of her poems that I found and want to spend more time with: Spring and What is it?


And here’s my attempt at playing around with Oliver’s idea of suggestions, not answers.

a suggestion on suggestions

I’ve never been good with answers,
giving them, that is.
I can handle accepting them,
as long as they aren’t final
or firm
or boring,
lacking imagination and a wonder
that is necessary for joyful living.
I used to believe that this was a problem,
my refusal to give answers.
It certainly is for some people.
But, no longer for me.
Answers are overrated and too easy.
Even sometimes lazy.
I always want questions.
And now, having heard Mary Oliver utter it in an interview,
suggestions.
Possibilities to explore, entertain, use in our experiments.
Proposals that might fit the facts and feelings.
Things to consider
and ruminate over as I wander through the woods
or run on the path that stretches ahead of me for miles.

And, a poem inspired by Oliver’s exercise in combining end-stopped lines with enjambment and by Gros (Philosophy of Walking) and his use of Nietzsche and the question from The Gay Science about the value of a book or dance or musical composition: “Can they walk?”

How Does Your Writing Move?

With ideas that end when the line or the path does.
And ideas that wander, traveling over
the edge, maybe down
into the gorge, where mystery lives,
behind the green veil that covers the trees from mid-May to early October.

In forms that hold tight with elbows at a 90 degree angle.
And forms that sprawl
all over the place. Messy moments
transformed into words that spill across
the page, leaking energy (and black ink).

Using syntax that remains steady and even.
And syntax that starts. Stops. And starts again,
moving slowly through ideas and experiences and feelings and images.
Then, rapidly.
Like jagged breathing during a tempo run.

june 30/4 MILES

67 degrees
76% humidity
dew point 57
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

A good run. Followed my plan: Run 1.25/Walk 30 sec./Run 1.25/Walk 1 min/Run 1.5. Ran with headphones, so I didn’t really think that much, which was fine.

I’ve been thinking more about open swimming lately. Here’s a abecedarian poem about it:

Open Swim

Annoying things happen during an open swim.
Bad weather, big waves
Causing choppy water that can make me
Drift off the course. Bright sun in my
Eyes, blinding me. Bright sun on my
Face, burning me.
Goggles that can fog up, although that
Hardly happens anymore now that
I use baby shampoo in the lenses.
Just a little.
Keep it on the
Lens for a few
Minutes, then gently rinse it out. My
Nose used to get really stuffed up after swimming. I could
Only breathe through my mouth. At night, I would
Panic, unable to fall back asleep,
Questioning whether or not it was
Really worth it to keep doing open
Swim. It is. I searched for a solution. I
Tried sprays and pills, which didn’t work. Then, I tried nose plugs.
Uncomfortable and ugly. But effective.
Very, very effective and cheap.
Whenever I swim now, I wear them. I bought an
eXtra pair, just in case I lose the first one. I keep both cases in my
Yellow backpack, always making sure that I
Zip them up tightly, in the pouch on the top.

june 15/12 MILES

69 degrees
57 dew point
64% humidity
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha creek/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north then south then north then south

My route today was a bit crazy. I did a series of loops and turn arounds along the river, along the creek and at the falls. Would it have been easier to run a single loop? Would anything have made this run easy? Doubtful. This 12 mile run (with several walk stops) was hard. It was slow. It was ugly. But I did it. At 3 miles in, I wanted to be done, but I kept going. I’m telling myself that keeping going is the most important thing for my training right now.

I need some tricks or spells or chants or cheers or something to keep me motivated and willing to push through the moments when the doubt starts creeping in and it feels too hard to keep running or moving. Here’s one possibility:

Come on Sara, you can do it!

There was a hill near our old house and when my daughter would have to bike up it, I would chant:

Come on Rosie you can do it
put some Puotinen power to it!

It usually worked and she could make it up the hill without stopping. That is, until she got older and was too cool for such cheezy chants. Maybe I should try a similar one while I’m running. I don’t care how cheezy it is. Besides I plan to chant it in my head, not out loud:

Come on Sara
you can do it
put some Puotinen
power to it!
use the sisu
that’s your birthright
be persistent
fight fight fight fight!

After posting the above shortly after my run, I spent some more time thinking through my struggles with motivation. Here are a few different versions:

A Difficult Run, 7 Versions

1

In the writing class that I’m taking, we just started learning about psychic distance. Here is my first experiment in trying out the various distances, from far away to closer:

I did my long run this morning.
It was slightly cooler, but the humidity and dew point were fairly high. I ran 12 miles.
I ran on several of my favorite paths, but I struggled to keep running.
So many times, I wanted to stop. It felt too hard to keep going. My legs hurt and I felt weak.
Soreness everywhere. Heaviness too. Legs thick and useless. Then doubt. A malevolent thought: You could stop, you know. At first, I stuck to my planned walk breaks and ignored the thought. But, it was persistent. You could stop, you know. By mile 9, it had dug deep into my bones, my bloodstream, my muscles. Too hard to resist or to remember that this moment would pass. I stopped and walked. Then ran. Walked. Ran. Walked. Ran. Until I had done all 12 miles.

2

Run 3 miles.
Walk 3 minutes.
Run 3 miles.
Refill water bottle.
Walk 3 minutes.
Run 2 miles.
Walk 2 minutes.
Run 1 mile.
Walk 1 minutes.
Run 1 mile.
Walk 2 minutes.
Run 1/2 mile.
Refill water bottle.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/2 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/2 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/4 mile.
Walk 1 minute.
Run 1/4 mile.

3

3:3
3:H2O:3
2:2
1:1
1:2
1/2:H2O:1
1/2:1
1/2:1
1/4:1:1/4

4

3 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/4 +1/4 = 12

5

Start long run: 6:04 AM
End long run: 8:14 AM
Average pace: 10’47”
Fastest mile: 9′ 28″
Slowest mile: 12’47”

6

Started without headphones because I wanted to feel the stillness of the morning and hear the birds chirping. At mile 3, decided that I needed the extra distraction of my running playlist. Listened to it for the rest of the run. It helped. A little. The first song I heard was Rufus and Chaka Khan, Tell me Something Good. And somewhere in the middle was It’s Too Late by Carole King.

7

Hover over the poem to see the full lyrics used from “Tell Me Something Good” and “It’s Too Late”

Somethin’ inside died
no
fire
just
pride
good

june 13/3 MILES

68 degrees
88% humidity
mississippi river road path, south

The air was so thick and heavy this morning. Hard to breathe, especially through my nose. Ugh! I hate humidity. I need some sort of counter-spell or charm or way of deranging or paying attention to humidity so that I can endure it.

Words for Humidity

  • muggy
  • thick
  • moist
  • steamy
  • wet
  • sultry
  • damp
  • irriguous (well-watered)
  • dank
  • sticky
  • oppressive

Oh you! You muggy, buggy thing. So thick it makes me sick! Why can’t the water you contain be refreshing like the rain? Why must you make me feel so moist, a word I detest hearing almost as much as I despise feeling its effects: sweat that drips and sticks, heavy air that presses down on my body, sinking me deeper into the ground, making it almost impossible to fly or even to lift my legs up off the damp earth.

Hum/i/dity

hum a ditty
maybe, you’re as cold as ice
or ice ice baby
or freeze frame
or cool it now?
yes, cool it now.

Hey You!

Hey you.
Under that tree.
Maybe you could spare some water?
I’m thirsty and I
Didn’t remember to bring my water bottle. Normally,
I always remember to bring it. But not
Today which is the day I need it most, when the air is so thick and hot and heavy.
You know what I mean?

Sensitive

Have you ever said,
Under your breath, in the
Middle of your run,
I really don’t like humidity & humidity heard you & replied: Well, I
Don’t like you either!
I am going to make you even more miserable because of your
Thoughtless comment!
Yesterday I think that happened to me.

3 ounces per mile

How many cups of sweat can fit
Under the brim of my baseball cap?
More than 2?
It’s hard to
Determine but
I keep
Trying to figure it out while I run through the thick air. I think my cap has
Yielded at least 3 ounces of water per mile.

june 12/REST

A rest and recovery day. Tomorrow is the first day of Open Swim season where I get to swim back and forth across Lake Nokomis as many times as I want for 2 hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays!

This morning I experimented with writing about what I think about when I’m running:

Mundane Thoughts Mixed with Sacred Revelations

Running through my mind, almost
Unrelenting.
Mundane thoughts about my run: breathing, pace, how hot
I am. Mixed with bursts of insight, deep revelations,
New and
Ancient wisdoms, breaking

Through the noise, briefly
Introducing clarity
Only to evaporate in the heat. The
Noise returns. Chatter that
Shatters the sacred.

Listen up Over-thinkers

Is thinking overrated? Yes and
No. Sometimes you need to
Think through problems, possibilities. But
Everything, even thinking, needs to be
Regulated and balanced. Over-thinkers like me need to give it a
Rest. To
Undo the knot of this or that
Problem later…or never.
To stop thinking.
Impossible? It can be but
Often it’s
Not.
Something breaks through rumination. A chirping bird? A sighing tree? An aching calf?

june 10/2 MILES

77 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

It was hard to run this morning. It was hot and I was too sore from yesterday’s long run. Scott and I decided to do a few recovery miles together and then end at our favorite coffee place for iced lattes.

heat feet repeat

the heat, the heat
two feet on repeat
no proper rhythm,
an unsteady beat

the heat, the heat
the need for retreat
sweating so much
that you almost deplete
the salt that you need
to maintain your speed
and avoid defeat

the heat, the heat
out on the street,
too hot to care
about being discrete
with the clothes that you wear
or the people you meet
oh the heat, the heat!

It was hot.

It was hot.
It was not a good idea
to run this morning.
Only 7:30, but
it was hot.
the day shot already.
no more running, biking, gardening,
just hiding
inside.
We should have left earlier.
Maybe 6? Before
it was hot.
I forgot how miserable 77 can be
when there’s humidity
and a high dew point.
And the wind,
it was hot too.
We only ran a few miles before we stopped
It’s too hot,
I said to Scott.
And he agreed.

june 8/REST

I’m experimenting with an account of my first injury. It’s really no fun to think about and try to remember it, so after I offer up the facts, I’ve decided to have fun with them:

Hover over the first paragraphs to reveal an erasure poem

The Facts*

On April 2, 2016, while doing a flip turn in the pool, I felt something pop in my knee. When I got out of the pool, my knee hurt and I was limping.

I had previously experienced a pop in my knee on February 14th of the same year which forced me to take a break for running for the rest of February.

After the second pop in April, my leg felt stiff and I was having difficulty bending it. Within a few days, the limping had increased. My right knee wouldn’t bend and I was struggling with the mechanics of walking, especially lifting and bending my right leg. My knee didn’t really hurt, but it wouldn’t bend.

In May, I went to a sports medicine doctor and discovered, after an exam and x-ray, that I had a bone spur on the interior side of my right knee and that the tendons—or was it the ligaments?—were rubbing up against the bone spur and causing inflammation. I was instructed to seek physical therapy, to undergo the R.I.C.E treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and to take 9 ibuprofen tablets a day until the swelling went down.

At the end of May I was able to start running again. I had not run for about 6 weeks.

This was my first serious injury. It freaked me out. I was so freaked out that I failed to pay careful attention to the details that both the doctor and physical therapist offered. All I remember is “bone spur” “knee” “Inflammation” “RICE” “ibuprofen”

I have a vague memory of the doctor explaining that a bone spur, or osteophyte, can be caused by arthritis. I have no memory of whether or not he mentioned if my bone spur would stay or go away.

*at least, the facts as I’ve tried to recall them. I have trouble remembering “facts,” especially when they’re medical and technical and related to injuries to my body.

SOME FUN WITH THE FACTS:

Hi bone spur! This is Sara. Quick question: are you still there? if not, cool. if so, when are you planning to leave? No pressure. Just curious. BTW, thanks for not causing any problems for the last year.

Osteophyte, some anagrams:

O, the pest, yo
yo, the poets
oh, to set type!
hot eye post
they step too
oh, toes type?
set too hype
he poots yet
hot pot eyes
the soy pet
O testy hope!

R.I.C.E. doesn’t just stand for Rest Ice Compress Elevate, it stands for:

Rude Idiots Can’t Explain
Really, I Care Enough
red indigo copper ecru
ribbon ink carbon electromechanical
rancid icky curdled eggs
Rosie is currently elated
rapture is coming early
Rats! I can’t enumerate.
random isotopes create elements
rhode island can’t eat
Right, I can’t even.
respect is carefully earned
rudeness is considered evil

june 7/5.85 MILES

74 degrees
mississippi river road path south/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path north

A tough run. I should have, but didn’t, bring my water with me. I really dislike the heat. Until my kids are on summer break, which starts next Thursday, I can’t start running until 8:30. By next week, I’ll be running by 6 or 6:30. It should usually still be cool then. I hope.

This is when my training starts to get really tough. The miles are increasing, along with the temperature. I’m not lacking motivation; I want to be out there running. It just feels hard. I would like to blame it on the humidity, but it’s not humid, just warmer. And, it’s not even that warm yet. So, what’s the problem?

In trying to work through this question, I did the following writing experiment:

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

It’s not the humidity, it’s the heat.

It’s not the heat, it’s the atmospheric moisture.

It’s not the warm temperatures, it’s the moisture in the air.

It’s not the warm temperature, it’s the moisture in the air and in your hair, on your skin, in-between your toes, on the back of your neck. And it’s the stickiness between your fingers as you rub them together, trying to keep your hands relaxed. And it’s the fibers from the cottonwood seeds, the catkins, that fly into your eye or your mouth or get stuck in the sweat on your face.

It is the heat and the humidity and the effects of both on your body as you run:
the increased sweat,
the depletion of electrolytes,
the flagging energy,
the dehydration,
the pumping of more blood to the skin and less to your heart or your muscles,
the sweat that can’t evaporate to cool your body,
the elevated heart rate.

It’s not the heat or the humidity it’s the dew point, the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

But, here’s the problem:
Today, as I slogged through my run, struggling to stay upright for 60 minutes, the heat wasn’t too bad, only 74—still high, but it could have been more. The humidity was a mere 37 percent. And the dew point? Only 45! The chart that I found online didn’t even bother describing a dew point so low. It started with 50-54, marking it as very comfortable running conditions. Very comfortable?!

So it’s not the heat, not the humidity, not the dew point? Could it be me? Maybe. But, today’s run was no failure of will; it was a test of fortitude. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t fly or breathe in the world or even run the entire time. But I kept moving, accepting, and not resisting, my limits.

It’s not defeat, it’s humility.

june 6/6 MILES

68 degrees
the franklin turn around + a little extra

Decided to listen to music today because I wanted to. When I started this project, way back in January, I listened to my headphones a lot. Then I went through a phase of only listening to headphones occasionally. More often, I listened to the birds and the cars and the conversations and my breathing. I think I’m settling into a balance of headphones/no headphones. I’ve been tagging them in my posts and I have 40 for headphones, which I’m calling “playlist,” and 45 for no headphones.

For some runners, the headphones/no headphones debate is a big deal. Not for me. I like both. Sometimes I need headphones and music or a playlist to distract or motivate or disconnect me. Other times I don’t want them so I can pay attention to the Mississippi river or my breathing or what I’m thinking about.

Over the past 5+ months, I’ve written a lot about listening with and without headphones. Here are two more poems to add my growing list:

Absent

Perhaps
Listening to music
All the time leaves
You with very
Little connection to the
Is: the concrete realness of things, the
Silence and sounds,
The this of being present on the path.

Present

Not silence
Only sounds:
Heavy breathing, sweat loudly
Evaporating
Across my forehead,
Dogs barking sharply, their collars clanging,
People chattering incessantly,
Hardly stopping to listen
Or absorb the landscape.
No break,
Even the gentle breeze, with its constant
Sighs, interrupts.

Skimming through my past entries, I’ve noticed that I’m interested in opposites: headphones/no headphones, freedom/limits, attention/distraction, mundane/sacred, being undisciplined/becoming disciplined. These opposites produce tensions that I don’t want to resolve, but to balance. I don’t want to pick one, the either/or model, but explore both, the both/and model. To fit with that, here are two more poems about headphones/no headphones:

The Purple Banana

Prince might have
Liked how much
Attention I’m paying to his lyrics. Did
You know he sings the
Line, “let’s look for the purple banana”?
I didn’t, until the
Song came on my phone
The other day when I was running and I listened.

The Daily Walker

Now, after years
Of running, I am finally listening! I
Hear my breathing,
Every inspiration and expiration and
All the rhythms as my foot strikes
Down on the
Path. I
Hear the greetings from
Other runners and the walker who
Never misses his daily walk.
Every time I encounter him he
Says “good morning” to me. I never noticed until now.

 

june 5/REST

I feel pretty good today. My strategic walk breaks must have helped me to get 30 miles for the week without being sore or tired. Yesterday I wrote a nonet poem about my morning routine. I liked the poem, but it functions more as an ideal, one that I sometimes realize, than an actual description of my daily habits. Plus, it doesn’t include the various disruptions that occur, especially during the school year. So I decided to add an additional version and rename the poem.

2 versions with descriptions that vary in how true they are: from almost true to mostly true to I wish they were true to too true to not true enough

Version 1

poetic form: nonet

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.
Write some while drinking the coffee.
Eat: cheerios, banana.
Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.
Put on running clothes
and running shoes.
Go outside.
Walk some.
Run!

Version 2

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.

Get irritated at the dog because she wants to play and I’m too tired because I woke up several times in the middle of the night with restless legs or because I went to sleep too early and slept too long or because I woke up too early, then went back to sleep and had an intense, freaky dream or because I had the extra drink last night that I shouldn’t have had or because one unfortunate side effect of being 42 almost 43 is that I am no longer a “good morning!” person, but a “don’t talk to me (or lick me) until I’ve had my coffee and spent time sitting on the couch, slowly waking up” person or a “I feel regret or shame about some intangible thing that I didn’t actually do and this makes me uneasy until I’ve fully woken up and restored my sense of exuberance” person or because Delia has decided that she will not be ignored and that I will play with her, right now!

Write some while drinking the coffee.

This one usually works out, except for on the rare day when one of the kids gets up early and needs something…breakfast, advice, a hug, a performance of the “Let’s make Mom yell or cry or both” show.

Eat: cheerios, banana.

I also like walnuts, but it didn’t fit the number of syllables that I needed for the line, which was 8, so I left it out. In fact, walnuts are the key to this breakfast. When we run out of walnuts, I’ll still eat the cheerios and banana without them, but it’s just not the same.

Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.

In a better world, one where dropping a deuce is not stigmatized as “impolite conversation” and where the coffee always does its job, I might replace any of the above with “go poop.” Sometimes I wash my face, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wait to brush my teeth until after my run. Most of the time I don’t comb my hair, I just put it back in a ponytail. But I always poop. Pooping is an important bodily function and the failure to do it before a run can be bad. Very bad.

Put on running clothes

Remind one of the kids that “it’s time to get up!” in a sing-songy voice that usually irritates everyone, including me, but I can’t help doing. Remind them again and again and again until there are 10 minutes left before school starts. Luckily, this is not as big of a deal as it seems. It takes 5 minutes to walk to the school from our house. This leaves 5 minutes to get dressed, eat and get out, which can be done if the kid is properly motivated. Threatening to take away their phone is usually motivation enough.

and running shoes.

After the kids have left for school, comfort the dog for a minute because she’s freaked out by all of the yelling and crying and frantic scrambling that has just occurred.

Go outside.

Maybe stretch, maybe don’t. Always try to squeeze the glutes a few times, which probably looks funny, but helps prevent hip and hamstring injuries.

Walk some.

“Some” usually means 2-3 minutes. If I’m walking all the way to the river road, which is 4 blocks, “some” = 5 or 6 minutes. But there’s always some walking involved. For fun, Scott and I like to imagine a comical situation where you might get up out of bed, jump into your clothes, run down the stairs and out the door and immediately start your run. No stretching. No warm-up. No walking. Neither of us ever want to do this, but we saw a neighbor run out their door in their running clothes and continue down the sidewalk one time and we hoped that this was just what they were doing.

Run!

june 4/3.75 MILES

67 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Still getting used to the heat. Otherwise the run went well. In the summer, I don’t have nearly as much stuff to put on before I go out for a run. No extra jackets or base layers or buffs or gloves or double socks. Just shorts, a shirt, socks and some shoes. Here’s a description of my running attire in the summer, in the form of an abecedarian poem:

Attire:

1. black shorts with white trim. Not black as
coal, they’ve faded in the sun. The
drawstring is gone too. It was a pretty bright blue. Now
elastic is all I have to keep the shorts from
falling down.
2. Green
headphones, if I’m listening to music, and
if I am, that music usually includes a
Justin or two: Bieber or Timberlake. My
kids wouldn’t
like me to admit that,
mostly because it embarrasses them. I say, here’s something to look forward to: when you’re 42, almost 43,
nothing embarrasses you!
Other favorites to listen to: Barry Manilow,
Prince. 3. A
quick-drying tank top, either in black or blue. I
really don’t care which.
Sometimes I wear a green tank-top, but it’s
thicker and not quick-drying, so only if the temperature is
under 70 degrees. Otherwise it’s
very uncomfortable.
4. White ankle socks, with an orange
x on the heel, at the end of the word, “Power Sox,” and mismatched trim that is
yellow on one foot and blueish green on the other. 5. Bright blue shoes with
zero swooshes, only coral swishes.

And here’s a poem describing my morning routine in the poetic form of nonet: 9 lines, first line has 9 syllabus, second has 8, and so on until ninth line has 1 syllable.

Morning Routine

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.
Write some while drinking the coffee.
Eat: cheerios, banana.
Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.
Put on running clothes
and running shoes.
Go outside.
Walk some.
Run!

I wrote both of these poems because I was having some difficulty sorting out all of my ideas about ritual and repetition, habit as mundane or sacred (I also wrote about these in yesterday’s log). I decided the best place to start was to describe some of the mundane aspects of my run, like what I wear and what my pre-run routine is.

june 3/4 MILES

77 degrees
mississippi river road path, south

Another hot and sweaty run. Scott and I ran together today. We were both struggling because of the heat, although running through the sprinkles when we were almost done helped. We talked about one of my new favorite poets, Chen Chen, and his book When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. We also talked about Scott’s Stravinsky project. And we were almost successful in avoiding talking about dictators and oppressive regimes.

Before and after running, I wrote two new things:

What’s the difference

between ritual and routine?
Superstition and belief?
When is it a prayer and when is it just proper form? Efficient breathing?
When does a habit become sacred?
Does it need:
a doctrine?
a theology?
hymns about souls and rejoicing and kingdoms and conquering and reigning?
chants about fathers and spirits and ghosts and sacrificing sons?
basement potlucks with seven layer dips?
uncomfortable pews?
getting up too early on a Sunday morning?
yes, it needs this.
Could it be that one defining characteristic of the sacred is
a refusal to stay in bed?

my purple toe

Have I told you about my purple toe? It’s on my right foot and it’s the second toe, the one that sticks out just a little bit farther than the others. Did you know, that this toe, the second one, turns purple? It’s not purple all of the time and maybe purple isn’t even the best way to describe it. Eggplant? I wish it were 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 dissects and disembowels in new ways everyday—first removing the strap, then shredding the front pouch, then taking out the cardboard insert that helps keep it’s structure, then doing something to the 3 ring binders that I can’t quite figure out that makes them only barely close—is purple. The purple he prefers is royal purple. Not fuchsia or pearly purple or phlox.

My purple toe is purple from running. Technically, it’s my purple toenail, I suppose, but toe is much more pleasing to write and to hear and to imagine as purple than toenail. 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 was unaware that this was a thing: your toe can turn purple. I read somewhere that it’s called runner’s toe or subungual hematoma. It’s also called black toe. I like purple toe, so that’s what I’ll call it, or “my purple toe” or “my perfectly purple, not painful at all, toe.” Is it the second toe for everyone? I don’t know.

Here’s how it usually works for me. After some random long/longish run, my second one, the toe that sticks out just a little bit farther, feels strange. It looks like it’s splitting. At first, it isn’t purple, but i know what’s coming: in a day or two, it will be purple. The toenail never falls off. It just grows back in freaky ways: twisted, bent, doubled. Maybe I should call it “my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe.” After the nail grows back, it usually returns to its normal color. That is, until the cycle begins again. The “purple toe effect” has been happening for at least five years now.

In the same online article where I read about “runner’s toe,” it was also referred to as a “runner’s badge of honor.” I’m not sure I’d say i’m honored to have my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe. More like delighted by how it grosses other people out. Or fascinated by its freakishness. Most of the time I forget about it. It’s just a toe that’s part of my right foot that enables me to run—and walk and skip and saunter—without much pain and hardly any injury. It sticks out farther than my other toes. And it just happens to be purple or, if you prefer, which I don’t, eggplant.

june 2/11 MILES

76 degrees
the lake nokomis loop, long

Hot! Sunny! Difficult! Today’s run was not pretty. Well, the path was pretty. The lake was pretty. The many bridges that I ran over were pretty. But my run was not. It was hard and hot and tiring. But I did it, with the help of several walk breaks.

I decided to do my long run today instead of tomorrow because it is my 6th anniversary of running. I started on June 2, 2011. I used the couch-to-5k program and ran/walked less than 2 miles. Today, 6 years later, 11 miles! My route today included the Minnehaha creek path, which is what I ran on in 2011.

I had grand visions of doing some cool poetry experiment with the run: maybe stopping every mile to compose a line. But, I was too distracted and uninspired by the heat. So, instead, I’ll mark the occasion by sharing something that I’ve been working on about the body electric. It’s inspired by Prince (“electric word life”), a pbs show about Ibex and the harrowing lengths they go to replenish their electrolytes (scaling seriously steep cliffs), Walt Whitman and “I sing the body electric,” the movie Fame and their version of “I sing the body electric.” Marilyn Nelson’s “is” and Marie Howe’s “the this,” Frédéric Gros’s philosophy of walking and my own wanderings on electricity and the beauty of machines, developed while running. I suppose there’s a dash of Emily Dickinson in here too.

the body electric

The body electric is not a metaphor. The body is electric. It contains electrolytes, that, when consumed, break up into positively and negatively charged ions that travel by water through the body, triggering electrical impulses in the nerves and muscles. Every body needs electrolytes to function properly. They’re found in sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphate.

The body is a machine.
Not the body as machine
or the body is like a machine
or the body is only a machine.
But, the body is a machine.
An efficient machine,
capturing energy, consuming minerals, converting air into breath.
The body is an intricate machine,
made up of muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
and organs and arteries and veins
and fluids and systems
that work together in the complex process of locomotion.
The body is a marvelous machine,
containing strange creatures
with multiple heads and fantastical names.
The body is a beautiful machine,
composed of grace and exuberance and joy.
The body is a powerful machine,
able to endure intense pain and absorb tremendous force.
The body is a delicate and temperamental machine;
it can shut down from overuse, lack of use or repeated abuse.

This body, my body, is not any body and it is not the body. It is just a body, a somebody who is happily a nobody, running and flying and floating free, feeling the sizzle of the sand under my feet on the path and the howl of the wind rushing by my ears, passing under the shadows of the towering tree in the midst of other bodies, who are somebodies and nobodies as well but who feel the earth and the sky, just the same but differently too. Each of us an I. A self. A soul. A body. But also a we. Selves. Souls communing. Charged bodies with electrons flowing freely. The Body Electric.

june 1/REST

I’d love to run today because it’s so beautiful outside, but I won’t. It’s my day to rest. My right hip is a bit sore and needs a break. And tomorrow is my 6 year runniversary and I’m planning to do my long run to mark the occasion.

This morning I worked a bit more on my sonnet about attention. I tried to stay truer to the Shakespearean form by using 10 syllables in each line. In one or two lines, I failed. Not sure if it’s really in iambic pentameter either.

ATTENTION

is the beginning of a devotion
which can be a form of daily prayer
that you undertake while you’re in motion
running in and through the outside air.

A prayer given with lungs and feet
to inspire the trees and absorb the earth
a letting go to a steady beat
desiring nothing but the rebirth

of an earnest and a loving belief
that has the power to break you open
and to spill out the terrible grief
caused by a decreased sense of hope and

increased apathy, a monstrous twinning.
To end, attention is the beginning.

What I’m Fascinated by, a list
  • breathing/respiration as the process of inspiration (in) and expiration (out). I want to play with these some more.
  • absorption: energy absorption + how Frédérick Gros describes it The Philosophy of Walking: “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 (85)”.
  • body prayer: how does the body pray? What is praying–the rituals and habits?
  • Simone Weil and attention as prayer.

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 30/5.25 MILES

55 degrees
the franklin loop

A good run. Forgot that they were doing construction (again!) on my side of the Franklin bridge so I had to wait for the light, which takes a few minutes, to cross over to the path on the other side. As I waited, I didn’t run in place, but I did keep moving my legs. I was a bit restless. How funny did I look to drivers?

In my log entry for Sunday, I mentioned how the leaves had filled in on the trees in the woods near the stone steps. Later that day, I found a poem that connects and have been wandering through it. Did I think about it during my run today? I’m not sure. Here are some of my wanderings:

VERTICAL, wanderings

The Starting Point: a poem by Linda Paston

Wandering One:

Vertical/Horizontal
Perhaps the purpose 
of life is to capture more energy than it takes to survive.
of leaves is photosynthesis
of animals is respiration: inspiration and expiration

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is
to create mystery and wonder: what’s in those woods?
to irritate and annoy: why can’t I see to the other side anymore?

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal
the gnarled limbs of trees, the textured trunks. Not frail, but tough. Ancient. Wise. 
the branches that stretch wide and far. Wandering. Interrupting hierarchies of sky and ground. Disrupting the seduction of the moon’s glow.

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal not the verticality, but the horizontality of trees which we notice in December as if for the first time: row after row of
twisted forms sprawling sideways.
weathered forms persisting stubbornly.
wise forms learning how to continue surviving.
ancient forms yearning upwards and spreading inwards and outwards.

Wandering Two: staying upright

“And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical…” (Paston)

“Sunday morning—23 degrees, both ponds frozen and glassy. Six miles. About an inch of ice on the trail—frozen snow-melt, frozen slush—but I managed to stay upright….What Wittgenstein wanted from philosophy in the second half of his career was a way to stay upright. ‘We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction,’ he warned, turning his gaze away from perfection and trying to make out how people actually move and think and make connections…It’s the dailiness of these runs I like—” (Gardner, 54)

One goal of my running? Staying upright. Active. Moving. Grounded. Connected. In conversation with the world, with my body, with my breathing, with dreaming and wondering and real possibilities, rooted in the realities of my limits. Resisting restlessness.

Wandering Three: form

Parson’s poem is vertical in form. Long and lean, stretching upwards.

“…most experts agree that ideal running form starts by keeping your upper torso straight (with a slight forward lean)….” Some suggest that you should think tall and look to the horizon. Like a tree, your trunk should be vertical, but with a slight lean. The purpose of good form: to be efficient and to conserve energy, which is especially important for long-distance runners.

In an interview with Krista Tippet, Michael Longley recalled something that the poet Stanley Kunitz wrote in the preface to one of this collections about form and conserving energy: “form was a way of conserving energy. Isn’t that wonderful? He said the energy soon leaks out of an ill-made work of art.” What forms work best for conserving energy? Is form that conserves always efficient?

Mary Oliver on form in Upstream: “Form is certainty. All nature knows this, and we have no greater adviser. Clouds have forms, porous and shape-shifting, bumptious [what a great word! “self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree.”], fleecy. They are what clouds need to be, to be clouds. See a flock of them come, on the sled of the wind, all kneeling above the blue sea. And in the blue water, see the dolphin built to leap, the sea mouse skittering; see the ropy kelp with its air-filled bladders tugging it upward; seee the albatross floating day after day on its three-jointed wings. Each form sets a tone, enables a destiny, strikes a note in the universe unlike any other. How can we ever stop looking? How can we ever turn away” (Upstream, 21)?

May 26/3.75 MILES

66 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

It’s amazing how 66 degrees can feel hot. My body needs to adjust to the warming temperatures. The run felt a bit harder, but it was okay. I can’t remember what I was thinking about as I ran. This is often the case. Thomas Gardiner refers to this feeling as “a bit like half sleep. when you’re awake, in a way, but aware of dreams passing in a kind of un-retraceable wandering” (7).  What do we do with these un-retraceable wanderings? Maybe nothing.

Right before running, I composed two acrostic poems. I had been reluctant to try this form because my only encounters with it were through reading the acrostic poems my kids created out of their names in second grade. It seemed like a form best suited for young kids. But, when I looked up the form on Academy of American Poets, I was intrigued by their description: “The intent of the acrostic is to reveal while attempting to conceal within the poem.” So I experimented with creating poems out of two words that I think about a lot when I’m running:

A Daily Reminder

How does it feel to face your limits, when you’re
unable to continue ignoring that
many others will always be faster, stronger,
in better shape,
live longer,
imagine wider, deeper?
This is not a tragedy.
Your liberation is found in this realization.

Can you Feel Them?

Electrons
live
everywhere.
Can you feel them?
Try.
Really try to
imagine what they feel like, where they are.
Count the
ions.
Try.
You can’t? They’re there, amplifying life and charging it with meaning.

During the run, I thought of another word I wanted to use. I wrote about it when I got back home:

Runner’s Kryptonite

Heavy and thick, feeling
Useless and lethargic
Moisture everywhere
Inside and out.
Don’t want to move. Running
Is hard, harder
Than usual
You have no idea how much I despise this.

So much fun! So far, I’ve experimented with the following forms in my poetry about running: abecedarian, acrostic, anaphora, cento, cinquain, erasure, limerick, terza rima, triolet. Yesterday, I wrote an anaphora poem for my description of the Franklin Loop and limericks for my description of a route I’m calling the Downtown loop, long.

Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge
there is a long bridge with a name
that never does stay quite the same
You start out on Lake
but Marshall you take
if driving in St. Paul’s your aim

Franklin Hill
There once was girl who would run
up big hills ‘cause she thought it was fun
she never complained
although she was drained
Had she spent too much time in the sun?

Bohemian Flats
A place on the path is called Flats
the namer of this was quite bats
the more that you stare
the more you’re aware
the hills here outnumber the gnats!

Washington Avenue Bridge
The bridge that you next run under
makes noises that sound like thunder
if not a rain storm
beginning to form
could be the light rail, I wonder.

I-94 Bridge
A bridge here turns purple at night
in honor of Prince, a bright light
it guides your climb out
of perilous doubt
brought on by sore legs that feel tight.

The Guthrie
run down a short hill and you’ll see
a building that looks like a bee
well that’s not quite true
it’s not black, it is blue
but it sometimes looks black to me

Stone Arch
There once was a girl with gray hair
who ran anytime, anywhere.
She left for Stone Arch
the third day of March
as far as I know she’s still there.

Hennepin Avenue Bridge
there once was girl who would walk
her kid ‘cross this bridge quite a lot
she runs now instead
while her kid stays in bed
he’s grown and no longer a tot!

may 24/5.25 MILES

51 degrees
the franklin loop

I’ve run over 500 miles in 2017. That’s the most I’ve ever done by the end of May. Had a great run this morning. 51 degrees + not much wind + overcast = some of my favorite running conditions. Managed to hold onto some thoughts about Quatro’s ideas on running as prayer and its dis/connections with the runner’s high as a matter of endorphins. I recorded some notes into my voice memo app right before and after the run.

notes: before the run

experiments/wonder/curiosity/why are we curious?/for what purpose do we want to know?/what does it mean to know?/Sir Francis Bacon, exploiter of nature/the drive to know/to understand/to conquer/to control/to own/to use/to exploit/to scrutinize/to dissect/to name

notes: after the run

CONTROL/what about humility?/a curiosity motivated by the desire to feel, to experience, to engage/not to own and control and acquire

The Runner’s High

suddenly, without warning I am
exhilarated
euphoric
effervescent, bubbling over with feeling

sometimes I feel ecstatic
beside myself with joy
beside my shadow with delight
beside the world with reverence and awe
beside my mom with longing, regret, enduring love.

sometimes I feel enormous
capacious
if I stuck out my chest
and opened my mouth a bit wider
I could let in the whole world.

sometimes I feel electric
amplifying sounds
lighting up paths
nothing but pure energy,
a flow of electrons moving through the universe

how to explain these feelings?
are they chemically-induced delusions,
brought on by elevated levels of endorphins or endocannabinoids?
do we need to explain?
can we bear witness to their wonder,
be curious about their origins and impacts
write about them
study them
experiment with them
propose scientific theories about them
without knowing them?
naming and classifying them?
reducing them to chemicals?
claiming that we own the Truth?

I see wonder in the chemicals
their poetic names
their purposes
their possibilities
but only when our theories about them
don’t foreclose
other explanations
other ways of feeling and being.

may 19/6 MILES

47 degrees
the franklin hill turn around

It was cooler today but I didn’t mind. I like running when it’s cooler. Lately I’ve been thinking about the biomechanics of walking and running and how they differ. After looking at a few online sources, including this, I tried the following Please Add to This List experiment: “in a poem, list what you know” (20). I’m not sure if mine is a poem, but I like it.

DID YOU KNOW

that the main difference between running and walking is that in walking you always have one foot on the ground and in running both feet are in the air at the same time mid stride? So in walking you’re always grounded, in running you get to fly.

that the flying occurs just before the foot makes “initial contact” with the ground, either via the heel, midfoot or forefoot? I usually strike midfoot.

that the flying is referred to as the “float phase”? I’d prefer the “flying phase” or the “who needs the ground? Not my feet!” phase.

that the flying happens so quickly that you don’t even notice it? I bet your body and soul do. Or should I say “does”? In “I Sing the Body Electric” Walt Whitman believes that the body is the soul.

that when I wrote the preceding “fact” about Walt Whitman, I mistyped his name as Walk Whitman? He did love walking and wrote many poems about it, including Song of the Open Road. Would you mind if I referred to him, from now on, as Walt “the Walk” Whitman? Or, is Walt “the Walker” Whitman better?

that after flying you do a “controlled landing” and enter the “brake absorption” phase? I’m starting to feel like a plane. I don’t like planes or flying in them. The only flying I like is the kind that I do when I’m running.

that USA Track and Field officially defines race walking as: “a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs”? Have you ever tried race walking? I have, sort of. I went on a training walk with my best friend who was planning to race walk a marathon, which she eventually did a few months later. It was hard preventing my body from flying. And hard to walk that fast. She was fast!

that I like running because it lets me fly and, at least for a millisecond, allows me to lose contact?

that I like walking because it keeps me grounded and tethers me to the world so I don’t just fly (or float) away?

that I often feel like I’ve failed if I stop and walk during a run or a race? I’m working to change this attitude. Walking is not failing; it’s still moving.

that in his running memoir, Haruki Murakami, wrote that his tombstone should say: “At least he didn’t walk”? I wonder if now, many years later, he still feels that way.

that I have tendency to wander, physically and mentally? Sometimes this is helpful, sometimes it is not. Walking, especially at a slow pace and with no destination in mind, encourages it. While running, which enforces limits—my body can only run so far and for so long, discourages it. When I want to wander, I walk. When I don’t, I run.

that I have almost too much energy? Sometimes this energy is physical, sometimes it’s mental. If I don’t use it up, I become restless. Walking is more likely to wear out my brain, running, my body.

I was trying to think about walking and running during my run today. I did, for a a few miles. But then the Franklin hill appeared and I needed to craft some new “running rhythms” to chant as I ran up.

as I ran up the hill

I am climbing up a hill

rhythm: I am climbing (4 eighth notes) + up a hill (3 eighth notes) = 7 steps/1 per eighth note

I
am
climb
ing
up
a
hill

rhythm: 7 quarter notes = 14 steps/2 per quarter note

to get my heart rate down

I need to go slower
so that my pulse will lower

rhythm: I (quarter note) + need to (2 eighth notes) + go (quarter note) + slower (2 eighth notes) = 8 steps/2 per quarter + 1 per eighth
So (quarter note) + that my pulse will lower (6 eighth notes) = 8 steps/2 per quarter + 1 per eighth

to celebrate running

I am flying,
I am free
I am where
I want to be

rhythm: 4 eighth notes per line = 4 steps/1 per eighth

After composing and  reciting the rhythms several times as I ran, I made a recording while I continued running:

These small chants are fun to compose and help a lot with my running.