sept 29/HIKING

Took a great hike with Delia the dog this morning on the Winchell trail. Walking on the river road path between the 36th and 35th street parking lots, we walked under several trees lining the path. They seemed to be greeting us or maybe heralding the beginning of our walk, the opening to a ceremony or sacred ritual. I need to write more about this stretch of the path.

The marathon is on Sunday. Mostly, I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t run it, but I still can’t wait until it’s over so I can move on. Thinking about it, I composed to quick poems:

Consolation Prize

Maybe the best consolation
I can take from getting injured
and missing the marathon
is that right now,
sitting at my dining table,
a little over 24 hours before the race,
I’m not undone with anxiety,
overwhelmed with the what ifs,
unable to imagine how a human body
can run for more than 4 hours.
It’s a very small consolation
but I’ll take it.

Missing

almost 2 months ago
I misplaced my kneecap
only for a few minutes
it was gone
it came back
but not before
misplacing my marathon
I found the kneecap,
but not the marathon.

sept 28/HIKING

I can’t wait until I can run again–next week, I think. Until then I’m walking a lot more and biking occasionally. Today, I did both. Biked 4.75 miles to Minnehaha Falls and then hiked to the river. What a beautiful fall day. Walking on the dirt trail, through a grove of trees just starting to turn yellow, I briefly wondered if I should take a picture. But I didn’t. I’d like to spend some time, sitting on a bench, and find words to describe it. But what words? I need better ones, better than “beautiful.”

Here’s a poem I discovered the other day.

O Autumn! Autumn!/Effie Lee Newsome

O Autumn! Autumn! O pensive light
and beautiful sound!
Gold-haunted sky, green-haunted ground!

When, wan, the dead leaves flutter by
deserted realms of butterfly!
When robins band themselves together

To seek the sound of sun-soaked weather!
And all of summer’s largesse goes
For lands of olive and the rose!

I like Newsome’s trick twisting flutter by into butterfly. And the phrase “to seek the sound.” And I like her enthusiasm. I’m usually too restrained, so I appreciate someone willing to gush and overuse exclamation points.

Words other than Beautiful to describe my view:

  • aesthetically pleasing
  • alluring
  • appealing
  • attractive
  • dazzling
  • gorgeous
  • grand
  • handsome
  • lovely
  • magnificant
  • wonderful
  • splendid
  • resplendent
  • radiant
  • awe-inspiring
  • transcendent
  • sublime
  • poetic
  • vibrant
  • vivid
  • intense
  • aetheral

sept 26/WALKING

Walked with Delia the dog and decided to record my observations. Here’s a transcript of what I spoke into my iPhone memo app for our almost 20 minute walk (update: I turned it into a poem):

Sounds and Things I Pay Attention to on my Walk

The squeaking of the garage door
The glistening reflections on the wet pavement
The trickling water from the fountain in somebody’s backyard
The low, electric hum of the cicadas
An occasional chirping bird
My footfalls on the wet pavement
The trickling of the water in the sewer after the rain
The wheels of the stroller approaching me, almost feeling hostile and threatening
The whoosh of the water under the wheels
The clanging of Delia the dog’s tags on her leash
The big orange construction cone on the driveway, amidst the grayish brown wood and cement blocks
An occasional drip of water, sometimes a plop, sometimes just a drip
The traffic way in the distance
Some unspecified hums
A single yellow leaf falling off a tree already having lost most of its leaves
Burgundy and yellow flowers next to pink and light purple ones
Small puddles on the sidewalk
Darker black asphalt patches where the sidewalk has been repaired
Drips from the trees on my hat
A squirrel running quickly across the street even though there’s no danger of a car
Water rushing in the sewer
The not bright blue, not powder blue, maybe cornflower blue, Adirondack chairs
A runner running by, out in the street; fun to watch their stride—so graceful
and relaxed
The ugly purple leaves on the ground
A car just in the middle of the road for some unknown reason
Some cars approaching me with their lights on, some without
the Furry fuzz
Clanging from a truck, unloading scaffolding perhaps,
unloading some sort of equipment that I’m not turning around to see
It echoes in the otherwise calm, peaceful morning
Talk radio birthdays: T.S. Eliot, Ira Gershwin
I keep listening to hear what kind of talk radio it is
An interesting bark from a dog, deep and low and then high pitched and whiny
A gray car that’s been in an accident
Milkweed pods, some black and dead, others still green and ready to burst
A bright yellow school crossing sign
A slightly paler yellow seat, rope swing on a big tree with gnarled branches
A plane overhead
Walking through clumps of wet, dead leaves on the sidewalk
A bright red chair in front of a green house
The crunch of a walnut shell or a stick under my shoe
A squirrel running ahead of us on the path
Another bright red chair
and two red cars
A truck backing up
somewhere nearby
but not that close.
More drips.
Beautiful mums in pots on the front steps
The light from a front door still on. Was it left on by accident overnight, or is it on because it’s darker this morning?
A squirrel overhead, rustling in a tree branch
More planes and crows

Devoting my time to looking and listening to my surroundings and then describing them into my phone meant that I had no time for any broader ruminations. What would a walk where I randomly spoke what I was thinking into the phone be like?

sept 25/XT

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, front room

In addition to biking for almost half an hour, I took my dog on 3(!) walks without my knee brace. No knee brace! Very exciting. I still can’t run for another two weeks, but it’s exciting to feel confident enough to walk without the brace. My knee and leg are getting stronger.

I have 2 weeks left before I can start running. I’d like to take that time to revisit some of my thinking about walking. Although I was very happy to be walking so much today, none of my walks were particularly transcendent.  Most of my time was divided between making sure my knee felt okay and making sure that Delia the dog kept moving. No brilliant thoughts. No poetic lines. No problems solved.

What did I notice?

  • The gigantic cottonwood trees that made my neck ache and my head dizzy as I tried to look up at them.
  • The huge hostas that encircled another cottonwood tree, a little further up the street.
  • The burnt gold of the leaves of another tree. A maple, maybe or an oak? For the past few years, I’ve mostly seen glowing yellow leaves; these were golden.
  • The bright pinks and yellows of the zinnias.
  • The crows cawing as we walked through the Dowling community garden.
  • The wooden camel lawn ornament in the yard of a house right next to the garden.
  • The buzzing of the cicadas–more intensely electric in the morning, a slower hum in the afternoon
  • A police siren.
  • The walnut shells, broken up and discarded, that looked almost like mounds of poop, at least to me.
  • The stillness of the air and the Mississippi river. No rowers on the river.
  • The bright blue lights that framed the inside of the front window of a house.

That’s all I remember. How different would this list be if I had composed it right after getting back from my walk, or while I was on the walk?

sept 22/FINAL PT?

This afternoon, I have another physical therapy appointment. I’m hoping that this will be the last one and that I can start running again. Mostly, I feel optimistic because my knee doesn’t hurt and I seem to be able to walk normally, but I’m still nervous. My knee clicks a little and sometimes aches a little. What will my physical therapist tell me?

Started a new poetry class this week. So exciting! I’m really enjoying taking writing classes. For the assignment this week, I had to write an homage poem. I chose, “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” partly because I discovered this poem last spring and had created a writing assignment for myself using it as a model. Here’s what I posted:

13 Ways of Looking at a Tree While Running

1.
Among the veil of green
The only noticeable thing
Was the red leaf on the tree.

2.
Through the effort of running,
I was of no mind,
Absent, like the leaves on a tree
In midwinter.

3.
The tree sizzled in the hot breeze.
Mocking the already overheated runner.

4.
A runner and a path
Are one.
A runner and a path and the trees
Are one.

5.
I do not know which to prefer,
A mystery concealed
Or a mystery revealed,
The tree leaved in summer
Or bare in winter?

6.
The humidity hovered above me
With thick persistence.
The canopy of the tree
Trapped it on the running path.
The visibility
Lost in a fog
Of hazy air.

7.
O fit runners of Minneapolis,
Why do you seek inspiration from shiny PRs?
Do you not see how the tree
Releases oxygen
Making inspiration possible?

8.
I breathe out in jagged fits
And in steady, even rhythms.
I breathe, also,
Because the tree
s
Need me to.

9.
When the tree was no longer in view
The runner imagined
What it would do,
Now that she was not looking.

10.
At the sight of a towering tree
Swaying violently in the storm,
Even the most ardent nature-lover
Would reconsider hugging it.

11.
She ran below the tree
Grit crunching under her shoe.
Once, she freaked out
When she thought a falling walnut
Was a branch.

12.
The river is moving.
The trees are not.

13.
It was humid all morning.
It was hot.
And it was going to be hot.
The tree stood
Offering no shade.

Here are a few other versions that don’t quite fit Stevens’ structure:

1.
In the summer
the floodplain forest
at the bottom of the gorge
is covered with leaves—
a veil of green
almost, but not quite,
concealing my view of
the blue river as I run above it.

2.
When it rains
that same floodplain forest
glows in soft greens
and rich browns
dripping
thick
wet
mystery.

3.
Running by,
I never stop to study the trees.
If I did,
could I see them breathing,
their leaves acting as lungs
inhaling carbon dioxide
and exhaling oxygen?

4.
At a certain point
during my run,
I’m in a daze,
not seeing the trees
so much as feeling
how the shade of their leaves
cools the air.

5.
After a violent storm,
I cautiously ran under
the fallen limb
precariously propped
against another tree.

6.
Red or gold or orange leaves
are pretty on a tree
but not on the path
where they conceal
debris that lies in wait
ready to twist my ankle.

7.
Never trust
a path
without trees.

sept 19/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 350 yards
bike: 8.5 miles
air temp: 75 degrees
water temp: 68 degrees

I didn’t swim much, because the water was pretty cold and it was very windy, but I swam in the lake again today! And I might try again tomorrow.

Listened to an on being episode with Maira Kalman and they talked about how wonderful trees are. I like the line: “We see trees. What more do we need?” I think I’d like to use that as the title of an essay about trees or as a line in a poem. I can’t wait until I can run by my favorite trees again.

sept 15/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 1/2 mile

Overcast. Calmer waters. Probably the last swim in the lake until next June. When I was done, I stood in the water, absorbing the view. First, staring at my open swim path across the blue-gray water to the little beach. And then, the tops of the trees, lining the shore all the way around. Some of the trees have already started to change color.

The only other people in the water when I was swimming were a couple of children, their caregiver and two guys in waders with metal detectors. It’s cool to hear the sound of the metal detector clicking (or would I call it scratching?) on the bottom of the lake as I swim by. I’m not sure that I would ever want to use a metal detector, but I can see the appeal. What an intimate knowledge of the lake floor they must have, it’s terrain—the dips and divots, the drop-offs—and the treasures it contains—coins, goggles, bobby pins and the two nose plugs that I lost this summer.

After swimming, I met up with Scott and we sat on the bench for a few minutes, barely talking, mostly looking out at the lake. We left when we smelled cigarette smoke. Later in the parking lot, Scott mentioned that the smoke came from the cigarette of an old guy in a wheelchair being pushed around by a nurse, probably a hospice nurse.

Overheard on the beach, just after exiting the water: “and that’s one thing you never do wen you go to an all-girls college!” What was the beginning of the story? What is the one thing?

Also overheard, from the metal detectors dudes, just before entering the water: “wow! that’s a big one! maybe one and half feet tall!” At first, I thought they were talking about a fish, which made me nervous about swimming, but later I decided it was something else. But what?

sept 14/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 1 mile
biking: 8.5 miles

What a gift, to be able to swim three days this week at the lake in mid-September! Swam a mile today. The water was choppier during the second half of my loop, which made me to feel even more disconnected from the world. Couldn’t see or hear much. Just water rushing over me. I like that feeling of being disconnected. Occasionally had thoughts of some random lake creature emerging from the depths to eat me, even had visions of being the girl at the beginning of Jaws. It’s so funny how I can swim across the lake, way out into the middle, and never be worried about what’s swimming below me. But, swimming 70 or so yards out, on the edge of the swimming area, I imagine things lurking.

I’m working on a collage involving ritual, routine and habit, playing around with what constitutes the sacred and how running might allow me to access it. Here’s what I have so far: Ritual/Routine/Habit

sept 13/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 1/2 mile (880 yards)
bike: 17 miles (to the lake twice)

Another 82 degree day at the lake. Windier than yesterday. Choppy water with waves. At one point, swimming far out, by the white buoys, at the edge of the swimming area, about 70 yards from the beach, some bigger waves rolled over me and I wondered: is this a bad idea, swimming alone and so far from shore, in this rough water? But it was fine, except for when I swam into leaves and vines. Or did they swim into me? With no warning, a red leaf suddenly appeared on my googles and freaked me out. Because the water was so rough, I modified my route: 2 loops next to the buoys, swimming with the waves, one direction, and against them the other. Then 2 loops from the shore out to one buoy, with the waves rocking me side to side both ways. Sitting on the beach after finishing my swim, I looked out at the water, struck by how ordinary and calm it seemed. Unless I had been in it, I would have had no idea how rough it was.

 

September 12/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 1200 yards
bike: 8.5 miles

Last night, after lamenting to my family how open swim was over for the season, we drove by Lake Nokomis on the way to somewhere else and I noticed that the white cylindrical buoys were still in the water. So, today I biked over to the lake and relived summer for an hour. Air temperature: 82 degrees. Water temp: ? But it felt wonderful. Bright sun. Just a slight breeze. Freezing water for only the first 5 minutes. Why does summer have to be over? And why didn’t swim every single day at the big beach? Every year I ask that question and promise myself that I will do it next year. And of course, I don’t. But I did manage to swim at the lake several times every week this year. So maybe next year will be different and I’ll keep my promise.

I still have another week and a half before I can start running again. I’m ready to move and to write words that move too. Looking back over past log entries, I’ve been observing how my writing seems less mobile these day, just like me. No different versions of the wind or leaves noticed on the trees by the gorge or reporting on how I’m breathing or how humid it is or what critters I’ve witnessed. I need to get back out there on my favorite path. I am reminded on Nietzsche and his way of assessing writing, which I found in Frédéric Gros’s A Philosophy of Walking:

It is our habit to think outdoors–walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful. Our first questions about the value of a book, of a human being, or a musical composition are: Can they walk? Even more, can they dance?

 

 

sept 8/2 more weeks

My knee is looking better, according to my physical therapist, and, “in theory,” I should be able to start running in 2 weeks. Definitely not time to prepare for the marathon, which I already knew, but time to run by the river during the fall when the leaves are yellow and orange and flaming red. I’m excited to be inspired by the colors and the smells and the crisp, electric air.

Last week, after reading several poems that talked about changing your life, I decided to make a list.

Things that cause change:

  • Moving from Michigan to North Carolina to Southern Virginia to Northern Virginia to Iowa to Minnesota to California to Minnesota to Georgia and then back to Minnesota, for good.
  • Getting up from a chair too quickly, twisting your knee wrong, temporarily and partially dislocating your kneecap.
  • Being exposed to new ideas
  • Moments of clarity, moments of wonder, moments of calm
  • the seasons
  • the end of something: open swim, the summer, the semester, a book
  • the beginning of something: winter running, an online class, a poem
  • Giving the cashier a twenty dollar bill when what you’re buying only costs $18.50.
  • Breathing deeply.
  • Breathing at all.
  • Not breathing ever again on September 30, 2009.
  • the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells
  • Deciding not to cut your hair and seeing how long it can grow.
  • Binge-watching Community instead of Parks and Rec
  • Going to an animal shelter and adopting a dog
  • New presidents
  • a faulty gene in chromosome 11 (region 11q12-q13) which is also known as VMD2.
  • turning 42, then 43
  • new schools
  • leaving the house and turning to the right instead of the left when taking the dog for a walk
  • slowing down
  • accidentally spitting toothpaste on your shirt when brushing your teeth
  • erosion as the result of wind, water, freezing temperatures, a clogged gutter, a dangerously incompetent, narcissistic and hate-filled leader
  • no longer eating meat
  • switching from Avenir to Helvetica
  • asking a question: the right one or the wrong one
  • wetsuits, better goggles, nose plugs
  • changing the water filter in the refrigerator
  • choosing to laugh instead of cry
  • Memorizing a poem.
  • Swimming an extra loop at open swim and experiencing the glow of the sun lower in the sky.
  • Paying attention to the trees and their leaves
  • Cataloging the sounds and the smells and the landmarks on your run

sept 7/Better

This week I’ve been biking for 30 minutes every morning with my bike on the stand, in the front room. I’ve also been walking the dog twice a day. My knee is feeling much better. So much better that I was able to email my physical therapist yesterday and tell her I didn’t think I needed a doctor’s appointment or an MRI. Hopefully she’ll agree when she sees me tomorrow. I haven’t been as good at posting on this log, but I’ve continued to write and post on “my running stories” page. Here’s what I finished this morning: Better Words

sept 4/1 MONTH

One month ago today, I stood up too quickly and temporarily displaced my knee. I had temporarily displaced my knee several times before that without knowing it, sometimes causing injury, sometimes not. This was the first time I felt a lot of pain and knew that something had moved out of place.

This month has been very difficult. Not running. Not walking without a brace. Not knowing what was wrong or when it would stop being wrong. My current status is not quite known. I have one more day to decide if my knee is recovering enough to continue physical therapy or to schedule another doctor’s appointment and an MRI. Most of the time, my knee seems better, but then I’ll be walking and my kneecap will unexpectedly slip.

The best way for me to describe how it feels to walk around with a messed up kneecap that might suddenly, without warning, pop or pang or slide or shift, is this: Sometimes in the winter, when the sidewalks are covered with new ice, or covered with old ice that is hidden by freshly fallen snow, or covered with ice that was melted snow that refroze over night in jagged patches, I walk too carefully. My whole body is tense, waiting to fall. I ache in anticipation. My legs are tight. My movement forced, unnatural. Right now, in the first week of September, I am walking like it’s winter and there’s ice on the sidewalk.

Sept 1/RECAP

A Recap of the Week

  • Still not able to run.
  • Swam on Monday.
  • Biked to the State Fair and walked around it all day, then came home, not-so-smartly walked the dog without my leg brace and felt something pop again on Tuesday.
  • Biked to the lake, ripped my wetsuit as I was putting it on, took it off and swam around the buoys by the big beach anyway, then went to physical therapy and was told that my knee was still pissed and that we’d give it one more week and if it wasn’t better, I’d need to see the doctor again and probably get an MRI and maybe have knee surgery on Wednesday.
  • Took the dog on 2 walks, mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, went for dinner with my dad and his wife on Thursday.
  • Biking to the fair and then walking around it again today.

When the physical therapist mentioned an MRI, my first response was: will I have to be fully enclosed? I’ve never had an MRI and for years it has been on my list of things I never want to do because they will freak me out. Being trapped, unable to move, in a confined space? No thanks. But not being able to run again or to walk without my knee popping out is not an option, so if I need an MRI, I’ll get an MRI. To prepare myself for this possibility, I decided to derange the MRI, to take away some of the power of the letters to haunt and terrify me by rethinking the acronym.

MRI officially stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. But, it might also stand for:

Must Read Incessantly
Magical Realism Included
Musty Rusty Incubators
Mile Runs Impress
Mighty Rosie Inspires
Maybe risk injures?
More restored instruments
Myopic readers irritate
Must resist incumbents
Must resist injury!
Miniature Rhinos Incite
Monster Roosters Incant
Moody Radicals Impinge
Mustard Relish Infusion
Muffin Roll Invasion
Moldy Reed Infirmary
Musk Rat Infatuation
Minneapolis Re-evaluates Infrastructure
Mississippi River Island (Rosie’s suggestion)
Massive Recalls Impending
Mauve = red + indigo (Scott’s suggestion)
miffed redneck implodes
Multiple raisins ingested
Made really irate
Mountain rappelling Idiot
Mutant rats infiltrate

A note about mutant rats: this acronym was inspired by Scott’s story about how warmer weather is allowing rats to have longer breeding seasons and to produce bigger rats that could grow to the size of infants. Rats the size of infants? This will surely haunt my dreams sometime soon.