june 17/RUN

10 miles
68 degrees/94% humidity
downtown loop

A tough run. How did I run 10 miles so easily last year? Not sure. Enjoyed most of it, especially the first 5, which I did run without stopping. But I was very tired by the end and I took 2 long walk breaks in the middle. I’ll blame it on my nemesis, humidity. The theme for today’s run was water.

water

  • sloshing water in my hand held water bottle
  • water dripping from the dark green trees
  • feeling dreamy and untethered, only connected to the world by the feel of the wind hitting the sweat on the surface of my skin
  • sweat pooling on my face, not drips accumulating, just pools of water soaking my skin
  • my soaking wet pony-tail, hard strands of hair hitting the back of my neck and shoulders
  • the paper towel I keep in the bag attached to my hand held water bottle all wet because my water bottle leaks
  • the messy, sticky, wet skittles clumped together in that same bag
  • the rain falling, mostly from the sky, occasionally from a tree or a bridge
  • lots of puddles
  • the model posing for a photographer first above the mississippi and mill ruins park, then below
  • my wet shirt clinging to my back
  • the mississippi river below while I run above on the stone arch bridge, rushing and gushing and tumbling over itself at st. anthony falls
  • the bright green grass looking like glowing jewels next to the river
  • wondering whether I should stop and fill up my water bottle by the flats because it’s getting low (I don’t)
  • the three bikers stopping to drink water out of their bottles after climbing the BIG hill, blocking the entire path
  • my eyes stinging from the very salty sweat dripping off of my hair
  • running by several people taking shelter under the lake street bridge because of the rain
  • running in the rain, hearing a rumbling near franklin and wondering, is that thunder or a truck? Pretty sure it was a truck
  • finishing by the water fountain and drinking drinking drinking the cold water

Also, two not water related memories that make me happy: the line of roller skiers–maybe 15 or 20 of them!–passing me near the greenway and the tunnel of trees in my favorite part of the path, all green with a small, circular light at the end.

And a few other images: the way the straps of the tank top on the runner in front of me twisted off to the side–were they twisted because of his gait or the sticky humidity or what?; 2 walker and a big dog up ahead, taking over much of the path;the guy on an electric skateboard with bright LED lights on the front, traveling on the stone arch bridge; the biker who kindly warned me, “on your left”; the intense rushing of the cars on the river road as their drivers hurried to get where they were going; the group of kids walking down the road to the rowing club, near the lake street bridge, that same group walking back up it as I returned almost 90 minutes later–did they recognize me?

june 17/RUNSWIM

run: 3.25 miles
77 degrees/80% humidity
lake nokomis

So hot! The heat index was in the upper 80s, at least. Ran 1 loop with Scott and then a little bit extra on my own before open swim. I don’t remember much of the run except that we went slow, it was very hot and I didn’t feel tired just unmotivated. Maybe music could have helped? My entire face was dripping with sweat. The top of my head, my hair, my forehead, my cheeks, right below my nose. I do not like running in this heat but I still did it and I’m glad.

swim: 1.35 miles/2 loops
80 degrees/choppy water
lake nokomis

A great swim! Decided to be much more deliberate at the start, making sure that I could spot the buoys. Also looked for other swimmers and the lifeguards. After a few minutes, the buoy had completely disappeared but I was okay. I just kept swimming and stayed calm. Soon enough it came into view. For me, open water swimming is always unsettling–even as it’s exhilarating too–because I swim most of the time without being able to see where I’m going. I have to trust that I’m swimming straight and that the buoy will eventually appear. Most of the time it does. I’m sure that open water swimming is hard for everyone but it’s especially difficult for me and my messed up central vision. Whole sections of my central vision–especially those in the top quadrants are blacked out. When the buoy first appears in those areas, I can’t see it all. It’s a void, just endless blueish brownish undulating water. Often, I have to turn my head and use my peripheral vision to try and spot the buoy. A bit of a drag, really, but also good practice for learning to function with very limited vision. What else do I remember? Mostly breathed every five strokes except for when the water was too choppy on one side. Then I picked the side that wasn’t choppy, I think it was my right, and breathed every 6 to that side. Don’t remember seeing any planes or birds in the air. Didn’t notice any particular trees. No strange sounds. Just water. A overturned rowboat, its silver bottom exposed and glimmering in the sun at the little beach, and the white top of a building and the yellow paddle boats at the big beach. Had a few run-ins with other swimmers. One swimmer kept unintentionally pushing me off the far side until I abruptly stopped swimming and went around them the other way.

Speaking of breathing every 5 strokes, here’s a poem I started last year and then edited more this spring:

Every 5
Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis

I used to breathe every 3 strokes
Now I breathe every 5
lifting my head out of the water
1 2 3 4 5 breathe right
1 2 3 4 5 breathe left

I breathe every 5
Breathing oddly allows me to alternate sides
1 2 3 4 5 breathe right
1 2 3 4 5 breathe left
When I breathe every 5 I can stay underwater longer

Breathing oddly enables me to swim straighter
I don’t look underwater—
who can see through the dark murkiness?
I stay under longer, feeling the water lapping over my head
And forget that I am not a fish

I hardly look above the water—
all I see are flashes of white sails green trees orange buoys
I count my strokes 1 2 3 4 5
And try to forget that there are probably fish
swimming below me through the brown nothingness.

I count my strokes 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right
1 2 3 4 5 breathe left
and listen to the water lapping over my head
gliding rhythmically through the brown nothingness
as I swim straight across the lake to the other side.

june 14/RUN

3 miles
gitchie-gami trail, north shore
60 degrees

Partly cloudy. Calm. Ran with Scott while we were up at the north shore for a few days. Shared the trail with some noisy crows and lots of hills. Ran next to speeding trucks, impatient cars, the sweet smell of pine trees and the beautifully blue lake superior.

Earlier this week, I discovered a new form: double abcedarians. Love the challenge! Here are 2 I have created so far. The first has the first letter traveling up the alphabet and the last letter traveling down. The second, does the opposite.

Walking in the woods, you hear a noise

A thump. A crash. A bzzzz.
Bugs or birds or something big and hairy?
Counting calmly, deliberately to six
Does not help slow
Elevated heart rates that rev
Fast. You
Grimace and try to reach the magic digit
Hoping it saves.
It doesn’t. Your
Jumping heart races loudly roughly. The biorhythmic eq
Kept out of sync as lungs fail to expand, heart valves don’t pump.
Laboring, a frantic vibrato.
Mouth jaggedly inhales than
Nose reluctantly releases air from
Overworked lungs until
Pulmonary veins do their work.
Quick beats slow soften are quiet. The noise returns. Maybe it’s only a blue j
Rustling in the woods vigorously, loudly, sounding as big as a yeti
Scratches amplified in the dry brush?
Tricked again into contemplating
Uncomfortable thoughts of
Violent demise.
What, you wonder, could
eXtremely large humanish-y bears do to you, alone in the woods? Don’t panic.
You don’t want to startle this type of bear. Running off frantically is dumb.
Zoologists know this. They have done the research. They have all the gruesome data.

the yellow bike

Zoom. a
yellow bike passes by the curb
extra close to me, making the air feel kinetic
wild, unrestrained.
Veering into my path, the
unapologetic rider pedals off
to terrorize someone else who is running.
Silently, I fume and rehash.
Red-faced, a tsunami
quaking with over-blown outrage. I wonder, what would J
P Sartre think
of my reaction? Would he condemn it as bad faith? An existential
no no, giving other ways of being no room?
Maybe the yellow-biked rider had a reason,
like they were riding closer to say hello or to
keep me company as I ran on the path or to offer up
jokes—corny, idiotic ones that don’t require a high IQ?
I suppose these are plausible. Or
how about this:
gnats flew in his ear, down his throat
flustered, he failed to call out, “hey you!”
Edging close, all he could do was a hasty improv—
deftly swerving, just barely avoiding me, our escape from collision, narrow.
Could this be why? Stop with all this theorizing and relax—
bikers will bike by too closely
and it might just be because they’re a spaz.

june 12/RUNSWIM

run: 8 miles
lake nokomis loop, short
70 degrees/80% humidity

Began the morning with a longish run. It was hot and humid. I was sweating before I finished the first mile. Overcast. So many cars on the river road whooshing past. Was it something about the air quality–the humidity?–that made the whooshing noise seem more hurried or was it just because people were rushing to get to work? Ran slow and steady. Decided I would run to the lake without stopping and then, on the return trip, take walk breaks. Enjoyed running beside the creek. I can’t remember running on my favorite part of the path at all–I remember running right before it and right after it, but not in it. Strange. The creek water was subdued. Surprised with all the snow that we got in April that it wasn’t gushing more. Almost to the lake, ran by the Dinosaur park at the rec center and remembered when my kids were younger and would play here. Both kids had their earliest pre-school classes here over 10 years ago. The lake was refreshing. A nice breeze that mixed with my sweat to make me extra cool. While running there, I kept thinking about how the first open swim of the season is tonight! Can’t wait. This year, I’m hoping to swim more and write more about swimming. Walked for .3 miles and then started running again–10 minutes of running, 2 minutes of walking. Nice. Much easier. And I ran much faster. I think these breaks will help my legs recover faster–I hope. Tried very hard to not think about how I will need to run what I ran today plus 5 more miles in a 1/2 marathon race on the fourth of july. I was mostly successful.

Highlight of the run: Almost finished, I saw an older biker up ahead with a red, wide brimmed hat over her helmet. Never seen that before. How wonderful it is to be old and not give a fuck about how ridiculous you look!

swim: 1.37 miles/2 loops/2400 yards
lake nokomis open swim!

Started open swim with a bang: got the farthest off course that I ever have. Way off course. So far off course that I was almost to the other shore. The lifeguard had to come get me. As I swam back to the buoys I wondered, has my vision got that much worse? But, once I finished the loop and switched out my dark googles for the light ones, I realized that it was the googles. Ugh. I hate not being able to see where I’m going, to feel completely blind, just swimming into nothing. That’s how it felt. I’m glad I did another loop and that I could actually see the second time. Hopefully that won’t make me too freaked out next time I get in the water. I will have to chant to myself: it was the googles, not my vision. In good news, I wore my nose plug and I don’t seem stuffed up at all.

june 11/RUN

2.25 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
65 degrees/78% humidity

2 fast miles with a 1/2 mile warm up. A storm coming. Dark sky, dark green trees. Heavy air. Turned right instead of left. A lone rollerblader. A few runners. A walker with a stroller. A walker without a stroller. Birds chirping. Lots of wind but none of it bothering me. Greeted a few runners. Flew over some dips in the pavement. After several years of running this path, I think I’ve memorized all the hidden holes that wait to trip me. Didn’t look down at the river or notice the trees or smell the gorge or hear the noise my foot made as it struck the ground. Also didn’t hear the sound of my belt rubbing my shorts or my jagged breaths. The faster I run the less I remember.

june 10/RUN

6 miles
65 degrees/84% humidity
the flats

A great run! Walking towards the river, before my run, everything was still and quiet–except for the birds, which were chattering. Not too many people out yet even though it was past 7:30. Near the start of my run, greeted the welcoming oaks and a few runners. The part of the trail that dips below the road and above the gorge was dark and green and mysterious.

wheels

Near the old stone steps, saw 2 parents helping a kid ride their bike. Then heard a bike’s brakes squeaking loudly and longly behind me. The wheel of truck made a clicking noise as it traveled–something must be caught in the tread. Behind me, slowing approaching, a bike gear clicked into place. A lone rollerblader bladed by.  Heard, but didn’t see, a roller skier heading for the greenway path. In the flats, running on the bike path because the walking path is in terrible shape, heard a biker call out “bike path!”–or did they say, “biker behind.”  Stewed over it for a minute. Imagined calling out, “you try running on that path!”

Turned around at the top of the hill and headed home. Made it up the Franklin hill without stopping and kept going–a big victory. Took a short walk and then ran the last mile faster, finishing strong.

Thinking about wheels and bicycles, decided to look for a poem on the subject. Found this fun one:

Nun on a Bicycle
by Jonathan Edwards

Now here she comes, rattling over cobbles,
powered by her sandals, the gentle downhill
and the grace of God. Now here she comes, her habit

what it was always waiting to become:
a slipstream. Past stop signs, the pedestrian
traffic at rush hour, the humdrum mopeds,

on a day already thirty in the shade:
with her robe fluttering like solid air,
she makes her own weather. Who could blame her

as the hill sharpens, she picks up speed and smiles
into her future, if she interrupted
the Our Fathers she’s saying in her head,

to say Whee, a gentle Whee, under her breath?
O cycle, Sister! Look at you now, freewheeling
through the air conditioning of the morning –

who’s to say the God who isn’t there
isn’t looking down on you and grinning?

june 9/RUN

2 miles
dogwood coffee

Sticky, thick air. Overcast. A sky more white than gray. Body felt heavy, tethered to the ground. Didn’t see any roller skiers but Scott and I did see the serious rollerbladers. 6 this time. In formation. Swinging their arms. The view from the rim of the floodplain forest was nothing but green. How buggy is it down there, I wonder? Heard the rowers on the river practicing or were they racing?

june 7/RUN

4 miles
top of franklin hill turn around
65 degrees/60% humidity

No headphones. Heard lots of birds and cars rushing by and my feet striking the path and a school group down in the gorge and people I passed, talking. Didn’t see the Daily Walker–maybe my run is too short? Didn’t see any roller skiers. Did see one rollerblader. Admired the welcoming oaks and the pink heart yarn bomb. Wrinkled my nose at the stink coming up from the sewer, near the lake street bridge. Successfully avoided the cracks in the sidewalk, near the greenway. Didn’t see the river, not even once. Also didn’t see my shadow even though she was there somewhere. Thought I saw my dead mom again, running towards near my favorite part of the path. Practiced some rhythmic breathing: in 2 3, out 2. Tried to catch the runners ahead of me. Felt good and strong and happy. Glad I decided to run the 5k instead of the 1/2 marathon next month.

june 5/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 4 miles, top of franklin hill turn around
bike: 8.8 miles, lake nokomis and back
swim: 1/2 mile, lake nokomis

run

65 degrees. Sunny. Only a little wind. Not too much humidity. A great morning for a run. I’m writing this several hours after the run so I don’t remember too much of it. Ran in the shade. Saw some runners and walkers, no Daily Walker or roller skiers. For some reason, I thought about house keys and where you might hide a spare one. Why (and why do I remember this detail and not much else)?

bike

I’m getting used to biking again and that feeling of not quite being able to see the path. The bike path was crowded, especially on the way back, after my swim. Passed a biker near the falls, alerting them with my usual “on your left” and they said “thank you.” I like when other bikers do that. I try to do it too. It seems rare to hear people actually alert you. Lately I’ve been working hard to not let it bother me. Noticed that sky was bright blue and cloudless. Saw lots of birds’ shadows flying overhead. Mostly small birds. Locking up my bike at the beach, I heard an older woman compliment a younger woman on “her bright yellow bike.” She had a bright yellow bike too, but it was stolen out her garage. She misses that bike.

swim

The water was clear, but not nearly as clear as it had been last week. Still, I was a bit unsettled by it, not wanting to run into any big fish or see them swimming below me. Almost ran into a small dead fish, floating a few feet in front of me. Yuck! Noticed the sloshing of the water a few times. Looked around and saw shafts of light, more like slivers of light, cutting through the brown water. Swam just outside the beach area and saw how the lake floor dropped off. Mostly avoided the plants growing up from the bottom–I think it’s the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil–but one strand? leaf? branch? tapped at my ankle and freaked me out. Didn’t think about much except for how nervous I was about what might be swimming with me. For some reason, swimmer just on the edge of the big beach is scarier to me than swimming across the lake. Strange.

june 3/RUN

4 miles
59 degrees/16 mph wind
top of franklin hill turn around

What a great run! Ran much faster today and it felt good. Ran without headphones and listened to the wind swirling and whirling. Admired the green glow of the gorge. Heard the rowers on the river. Spotted a few roller skiers and the 4 rollerbladers. As they passed me, one said to the rest, “you overanalyze things too much.” Croaked out a “good morning” to a runner who greeted me first. Tried to be patient as a runner slowly approached me from behind, his feet constantly rustling in the strip of grass between the path and the road. Hit a wall of wind about a mile in. Didn’t smell anything. Didn’t inhale a bug, although one got stuck in my eye as I ran up from under the lake street bridge. Didn’t encounter any large groups of runners. Didn’t want to stop. Didn’t think about much except for trying to keep my shoulders from tightening up and my left fingers from rubbing together too much. Glanced at the light pink heart yarn bomb. Ran down the hill by the lake street bridge fast, leaning forward, letting gravity do the work. Felt joyful and free and glad to be out early on a Sunday morning.

june 2/RUN

2 miles
to dogwood coffee
62 degrees

My 7th anniversary of running. It was supposed to rain so I didn’t think I’d be running outside today, but the rain held off and Scott and I were able to do our new summer Saturday tradition: run 2 miles to Dogwood Coffee for a latte, either iced or hot. Today, hot. Then walk home.

With rain on the way, the sky was a light gray, making the green glow. Not glowing brightly but darkly and deeply, vividly. Everything felt green. Looked green. Smelled green.

Almost at the end of our run I heard the distinctive clickity-clack of ski poles. A roller skier! Why do I enjoy spotting them on the trail? I guess because it seems so Minnesotan to be skiing with wheels in the summer, just waiting for winter to come back. About a minute later, Scott and I also saw a group of four roller bladers with their coach. As we passed them, I heard the coach say, “Ok, get in formation.” I’ve seen these speedy bladers for a few years now, sometimes on the path, sometimes on the road. Skating in a tight single-filed line, swinging their arms widely and rhythmically. Growing up in North Carolina and Southern Virginia, where it hardly ever snowed and the only ice was at the big indoor rink at the Charlotte mall, spotting these roller skiers and serious bladers will probably always seem strange and exciting.

 

june 1/RUNSWIM

run: 4.5 miles
swim: 680 yards
lake nokomis
67 degrees/80% humidity
water temp: 75.9 degrees

First, I ran around the lake (almost) twice. Slightly cooler today but still humid and very sunny. Ran without headphones, trying to work on rhythmic breathing and staying focused. Encountered lots of walkers with other walkers or strollers or dogs. Crowded. Almost all the way around for the first loop, I noticed a paddleboat hiding behind a tree on the shore. Was it abandoned or tucked away or just waiting for the paddlers to come back? Is this the same paddleboat that I saw on the grass near the fishing pier last week?  Is someone taking paddleboats from the rental place? Did the paddleboat manage to escape–seems like there’s a fun poem just waiting to be written about the bright yellow paddleboat that wanders the lake.

After finishing the run, I decided to swim. The water was warm which is amazing considering the lake still had ice at the end of April! Guess all those 90+ degree days really warmed it up fast. The water was also clear. Freak-me-out clear. I could see the bottom and the algae plants growing up from the bottom and the fish swimming below me. I have decided that it is better to swim without being able to see what I’m swimming with. If I can’t see it, I can pretend it’s not there, which is probably what it would like too. The coolest part of the clear water was seeing all the shafts of light piercing through the lake. 3, 4, maybe more. I also liked being able to look at the bottom in the beach area–I think I counted 5 or 6 hair bands, lost to their owners forever. I might have swam longer but there were a few school groups at the beach and I was concerned that some of the kids would mess with my stuff. I couldn’t tell if they were in elementary or middle school, but they sure knew how to yell out “fuck” at the top of their lungs. A kid that will brazenly yell out “fuck this” or “fuck you” or preface many words with “fucking” on a school trip might find it amusing to throw my towel in the water or take my sweatshirt. But getting back to how clear the water was, part of me wishes I had spent more time exploring underwater and studying the bottom–how deep it gets, what’s really down there. But, another part of me–perhaps a bigger part–likes the idea of keeping it a mystery. Knowing more might make me more anxious or disappointed in how un-mysterious it is.

Next time I swim, I’d like to pay attention to the sounds and sensations of swimming. What exactly do I hear besides sloshing?

may 26/RUN

2 miles
73 degrees/68% humidity/dewpoint: 62
dogwood run

Ran with Scott north on the river road to the greenway, through Brackett Park, over to Lake Street, then walked to Dogwood Coffee for an iced latte. Hot. Humid. But no swarming bugs and lots of shade. We talked most of the time. Scott about why “The Last Jedi” was a bad movie, me about a two different race disasters that I had watched on YouTube–one runner hitting the wall at the end of a 10K, another tripping over a hurdle. Noticed the tree that had blocked Scott’s path yesterday had been moved and cut up. As we ran by it I asked Scott, “I wonder how loud of a crack that tree made as it hit the ground?” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tree fall to the ground but I bet it’s loud.

may 23/RUN

5.1 miles
67 degrees/81% humidity
the franklin loop

3 miles in, I decided to stop and walk on the franklin bridge. I’m glad I did. Looking out over the Mississippi, I saw one of the biggest birds I’ve ever seen. To me and my questionable vision, it looked almost like a mini-plane floating way up in the sky. Wow, what a wing span! Could it have been a broad-winged hawk or an eagle or a kestrel or a falcon? No idea, but it was cool to see. Tried rhythmic breathing while chanting in my head:

raspberry/coulis
strawberry/custard
mundane is/monday
terrible/tuesday
wonderful/wednesday
terrific/thursday
fabulous/friday
saturday/so so

Not sure how it works for me, but I’ll try it again next time I run. Didn’t see the Daily Walker but was able to greet a few other runners. Didn’t see many bikes or roller-skiers or dogs. Smelled some lilac bushes. Heard the hum of traffic and the shuffle shuffle scratch scratch of my feet on the gritty path. I finished at my favorite part of the path and before the mosquitoes found me, I enjoyed stopping and peering down into the gorge. And I realized: I’ve been writing about the gorge in the summer as having a thick, green veil that blocks your view. That’s not quite right. The trees are thick and you can’t see the river, that’s true, but they don’t totally block your view of what’s down below. Part of what makes it feel so mysterious is how the trees are spaced out, offering quick flashes of more than green. When I look closely, I can see the steep slope and the trunks of the trees reaching above and below me. Even as I can’t see the floor of the floodplain forest, I feel it and how high above it I am. I’d like to spend more time studying this spot and figuring out how to better describe it.

bonus: here’s a great list of the birds found near the Mississippi River Gorge. What’s a mergenser or a tern? I need to find out.

may 19/RUN

2 miles
59 degrees/79% humidity
mississippi river road path, north/brackett park

Overcast. Thick, heavy air. Buggy. Relentlessly green. Cool but clammy. Went on a quick run with Scott. Kept it nice and easy and talked most of the way about the book I’m reading on rhythmic breathing. Earlier today, while I was waiting for Scott to wake up, I did a writing experiment with rhythmic breathing:

For slow, easy runs breathe in for 3, out for 2. 

In 2 3.
Out 2.
Blueberry
crumble
Raspberry
tartlet
Vanilla
custard
Strawberry
ice cream
Beautiful
dreamer
Primary
colors
Mystery
novel
Forbidden
forest
Untimely
death
Let it be
over
Long lost love
refound
Terrible
headache.

For fast runs, breathe in 2, out 1.

Refried
beans
Oven
fries
release
doubt
embrace
me
Sara
smile
Sunshine
bright
Flowers
bloom
Tempers
flare
Striking
feet
Flailing
arms
Yelling
font
Famous
fig
Noisy
bar
Smoky
room
Salty
beer
Bathroom
line
Early
heat
Maple
tree
Thunder
thighs
Coming
storm
Nervous
dog
Gangly
knee
Giving
up
Staring
out.

So much fun!

may 17/RUN

5.15 miles
67 degrees
52% humidity
franklin loop

A good run. Steady and slow. There was cool shade and when there wasn’t, my shadow kept me company. Glanced down at the gorge and all I could see was green and a few slashes of brown. No river. No sandy path. So much green–a sea of it. I kept thinking that it was hard to distinguish between shades of green and that maybe I should think about textures and shapes instead? Soft fuzzy greens. Sharp, spiky greens. Thick, heavy greens. Ran through some swarms of bugs on the way to the franklin bridge. They flew into my eyes and my mouth until I tipped my hat so low that all I could see was the ground. Scott had warned me about them, but I was already committed to my route and decided that experiencing the bugs might make for a good story or a good description. Does it? Not sure what to say about the bugs other than that they seemed determined to drown in the fluid in my eyes. Yuck. On the east side of the river, ended up following (not too closely) a runner ahead of me for a few miles. Would I have run faster if I hadn’t been trying to keep a big distance from her? Maybe. Towards the end of the run, I got to say, “good morning” to the Daily Walker. Always a great way to end my run.

Early on in the run, I remembered a poem I read this morning. It was about cottonwood trees. I wondered, when will the cottonwood trees start snowing cotton? Probably in June.

Cottonwood/Kathy Fagan/from Sycamore

The cottonwood pollen is flying again,
Adrift like snow or ash. It lines
The curbs, it sticks to my lips
Like down to a fox’s muzzle.
I made a poem about it years ago.
We were new then. We’d set fire
To our old lives and made love day
And night, mouths full of each other.
Back then, we were a match
For June: arrogant, promising, feverish.
For as long as we live, summer returns
To us. And snow, ash, they, too, return.

may 16/BIKERUN

bike to lake nokomis and back: 8.5 miles
run around lake nokomis: 2.5 miles
73 degrees

First bike of the season! Sunny. Not much wind. A great day for a ride even with my bad vision. Biking to the lake is fun but mentally exhausting as I struggle to stay on the path. My depth perception is bad and I have trouble distinguishing between the grayish road, the grayish curb and the grayish path. Occasionally, a strip of bright green grass sandwiched between the path and the road helped me to see–another reason to love green–the edge of the path. It was much easier seeing in the bright sunlight. In the shade the light filtered through the trees and created a dappled effect. I used to like this dappling, but now it makes it so much harder to see. Everything swims around even more than usual, especially when the leaves are swaying in the breeze. Most of my thinking was focused on not running into another biker, runner, walker, or car and trying to stay on the path, but I did have a few thoughts: 1. I want to write something–a poem, a line for a poem–about the green strip of grass that helps me to distinguish between the path and road. It will be part of my larger interest in green. Maybe it will turn into a chapbook? 2. I want to document the difficulties of exercising with Best’s disease, especially biking.

Once I arrived at the lake, I ran around it. A loop = 2.5 miles. It was hot and sunny with hardly any shade. I felt a breeze a few times, but mostly hot sun and sweat and a very flushed face. I used to run around lake nokomis all the time. Now that I live 4 miles away, I only do it on long runs or if I bike there, like today. Saw lots of walkers. A few runners. Strollers, Dogs. Ducks. A hissing goose. My shadow, first to the side, then in front leading me over the bridge. Saw the shimmering water and a man precariously perched on a wall on the edge of the lake, fishing. Noticed lots of people sitting on benches, enjoying the day and one woman peering into the marshy, wetlands on the edge of the path, near the bridge. Passed a runner who was running with her phone but no headphones listening to a podcast or the news or a running app? When I started my feet felt heavy and awkward. I wondered if I would be able to run the whole loop without feeling miserable. Soon, I felt better and even though it was hot, I mostly enjoyed it. Ended the run by wading in the water, which up until 2 weeks ago was still covered in ice. Instant ice bath for my knee! No profound thoughts. No runner’s high. No super fast splits. Just a few things remembered and some interesting moments to record. And a sense of joy that summer is coming and I get to spend it at this lake, swimming and biking and running and writing.

may 14/7 MILES

65 degrees
75% humidity
bohemian flats and back

Spring! A great run all the way to the flats and back. Was planning to stop and get water at the drinking fountain at the park, but it wasn’t turned on yet. Heard lots of birds, including a bunch of geese on the other side of the river. Enjoyed running on the sand on the edge of the path, making a great shuffling noise. Also ran in the dirt, right by the river and near a goose who appeared ready to hiss. Saw lots of strollers, a few runners, walkers, bikers. No rowers. Only a few dogs. Dodged some shoes and a jump rope blocking the path at the bottom of the Franklin bridge. Was able to greet the Daily Walker at the end of my run. Chanted “strawberry raspberry blueberry” and “I am flying, I am free. I am where I want to be.” Felt strong at the end of the run. Experienced a pang of doubt when I was almost finished, thinking about how today’s distance is barely half of what I will be running in a month and a half.

I know that running is all too often seen as an introspective activity, but running breaks down the barriers between what we think is inside us and what we see as being outside. Running unites us with places and creates emotional connections with them in ways that are not easily accounted for.

Runners know in their hearts that when thoughts move, we think them differently (Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human, 84-85).

may 8/5.5 MILES

71 degrees
franklin hill turn around

Green. So green! Everywhere I ran, I saw light green. Maybe like the color of the inside of an avocado or the tips of asparagus or the skin of a pear? Running above the floodplain forest, I quickly glanced down. Almost all I could see were green leaves and just the faintest memory of a sandy path winding through the woods to the river. I think it looked even greener because rain was coming. Now, as I write this a few hours later, it is raining and will be for the rest of the day. I like how green looks when the sky is gray. Of course, it’s shimmers in the sunlight, which is beautiful, but the clouds do something special to the green–at least as I see it, with my diseased eyes. It’s more vibrant or deeper or melancholy or? I’m not sure, but I’ve always liked cloudy overcast rainy green best.

I ran down the Franklin hill and kept going for a few more tenths before turning around. Ran back up the hill for a little bit then walked for about 2 minutes. Then ran the rest of the way home. It didn’t feel easy, but I know it wasn’t that hard. But hard enough that I found it difficult to do much more than think about how much I had left to run. Tried chanting “raspberry strawberry blueberry” which helped keep me focused. Did I notice much else? Lots of cars driving on the river road–a steady stream. My pony-tail was dripping a lot of sweat on my shoulder. The wind felt good in my face. Saw the Daily Walker but wasn’t able to greet him. The river in the flats looked brownish-gray. When I got tired of running and wanted to be done, I paid attention to the white line on the path, dividing the bikers from the walkers. Mostly unbroken white with a few worn patches. I think they painted this line last spring. I wonder if they’ll repaint it this year?

In honor of so much green, I found a few green poems on Poetry Foundation that I like:

Green/D.H. Lawrence

The dawn was apple-green,
The sky was green wine held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal between.

She opened her eyes, and green
They shone, clear like flowers undone,
For the first time, now for the first time seen.

Answer in Green/Florence Dickinson Sterns

I spoke to the grass that brushed against my knees:
Are you the answer or Empedocles
Who gave to life a scientific core,
And thus proclaimed himself conspirator
With what a man can dedicate to reason?

Does science solve the problem of the season,
That gives a blossom to the bough or ice to the eaves,
Or brings a livelier color to the changing leaves?

We rustle pages of our Aristotle,
And keep the Hylozoists in a bottle.
Unlike the ancient Genii lost to view,
They claimed a philosophic residue
Persisting through a labyrinth of years.

A robin does not argue. It appears.
It lives its day and lets discussion pass.
“Perhaps you’ve solved the problem,” said the grass.

The Green Eye/James Merrill

Come, child, and with your sunbeam gaze assign
Green to the garden as a metaphor
For contemplation, seeking to declare
Whether by green you specify the green
Of orchard sunlight, blossom, bark, or leaf,
Or green of an imaginary life.

A mosaic of all possible greens becomes
A premise in your eye, whereby the limes
Are green as limes faintly by midnight known,
As foliage in a thunderstorm, as dreams
Of fruit in barren countries; claims
The orchard as a metaphor of green.

Aware of change as no barometer
You may determine climates at your will;
Spectrums of feeling are accessible
If orchards in the mind will persevere
On their hillsides original with joy.
Enter the orchard differently today:

When here you bring your earliest tragedy,
Your goldfish, upside-down and rigidly
Floating on weeds in the aquarium,
Green is no panorama for your grief
Whose raindrop smile, dissolving and aloof,
Ordains an unusual brightness as you come:

The brightness of a change outside the eye,
A question on the brim of what may be,
Attended by a new, impersonal green.
The goldfish dead where limes hang yellowing
Is metaphor for more incredible things,
Things you shall love among, things seen, things known.

may 5/7 MILES

58 degrees
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha creek/lake nokomis/minnehaha parkway/falls/mississippi river road path, north

7 miles without stopping. I ran slow, but I still did it. A beautiful morning. Low humidity, slightly cloudy, light breeze. Everything had a hint of green. The lake was open–no more ice. The ice out (which is what they call it when the ice is completely off the lake) happened on April 30th. Last year: March 7th! Saw a rower at the lake. Heard some rowers on the river. Ran on my favorite part of the creek path. Encountered lots of bikers. A few groups of runners. Some serious rollerbladers. Heard lots of birds. People chatting, including a woman who exclaimed, “well, they shouldn’t have the job!”–whatever that means. Around mile 6 started to have that dazed feeling. Not quite a runner’s high, but a feeling of disconnection, like I was in a dream, just me and the path stretching out in front.

3 times I encountered people stopping on the path, slightly blocking it. First time: near my favorite part of the path 2 women stopped to admire some chalk drawings that were covering the entire path–I didn’t stop to read them. Who drew them? Second time: at Lake Hiawatha, right before the bridge. 2 bikers stopped on the edge of the path, right before the bridge, at a blind corner. Lamenting something that wasn’t there this year–not sure what. I was too distracted imagining a bike going 20 mph, rounding the corner and hitting them. Third time: almost to the top of the hill on the river road path between the locks and dam and 44th street. A shirtless runner was stretched out on the ground, blocking part of the path, holding up his phone to take a picture. Strange.