In 3 and a half months I get to swim across Lake Nokomis three times a week!, but for now I’m at the pool, which is fine. Not as exciting as the lake, but still great to do. I love swimming. I’m hoping to write more about it this summer. Today I decided to swim a mile without stopping. To make it less tedious, I varied my breathing. Here’s how I broke it down: 8 x 200 yds (1st 50, breathe every 3 strokes/2nd, every 4/3rd, every 5; 4th, every 6). What did I think about while I was swimming? Is my knee okay? Why were my goggles leaking? Will they start leaking again? Is my nose plug going to fall off? Is this 550 yards or 600? Am I going to swim the mile or 2 mile race this summer? How long have I been swimming? Would this be more interesting if I could listen to music while I was swimming?
With my knee hurting a little, I decided to do an easy bike ride in the front room this morning. I also managed to take Delia the dog on two walks. The first was early, when over half the sidewalk was covered in a thin layer of ice. The second was later, when most of the sidewalk was covered with deep puddles. Snow melting. Dripping off the eaves and gutters. At the end of the second walk, I sat on my back deck and recorded the dripping:
Listening closely with my headphones, I think I hear at least three different speeds of drips. Yuck! I love the snow. I love when it warms up. But I despise when big mounds of snow melt, dripping off the roof, pooling in the yard, transforming the sidewalk into a lake. I’m sure the path is a mess right now. I wish my knee and I weren’t having a fight so I could go check it out.
mississippi river road path, north/south
A beautiful day for a run by the river. Not too cold with abundant sun. But I should have listened to my body, especially my knee, and not run today. The path was very difficult, with only one narrow strip of bare pavement, and my knee was already a little swollen from hiking through the snow yesterday. It was difficult walking home with a slight limp. I must take a break from running for a few days. It’s probably a good time to take a break with the weather getting warmer then colder. “Thaw, freeze, repeat” is how MPR describes it. Yuck!
Even though I’m (only a little) worried about my knee and whether or not I’m entering another round of subluxations and swelling and even though there’s so much snow on the ground and covering the path and blocking the sidewalks, it’s hard not to think of spring with the warm sun shining on my face and the birds!! chirping. I recorded a little bit of it when I was almost home:
At some point in the year, I might take the birds for granted, hearing them only as background noise, but I couldn’t today. Such a glorious sound!
mississippi river road, north/stone arch bridge
Thursday night we got 5 inches of snow. By Friday the path was already plowed. Minneapolis Parks are awesome! It’s supposed to snow another 5-8 inches this afternoon so I ran this morning while the path was still clear. Another great run. Steady and not too fast. I managed to run the entire steep hill near downtown without stopping to walk! In about a month, I’ll be running it again in a race.
The river was flowing–no ice or snow left. Will it freeze again or will I be seeing rowers on it soon?
Yesterday I finished a draft of a poem I’ve been working on for a few weeks. It’s an homage poem based on Alice Oswald’s beautiful “A Short Story of Falling Water.” Mine is about snow and my current fascination with the crunching noises it makes as I walk and run by the river.
A Short Story of Fallen Snow, audio
A Short Story of Fallen Snow
after Alice Oswald
It is the story of the fallen snow
to turn sharp and slick and force us to slow
it is the wonder of a winter storm
to start out as snowflakes but soon change form
from tiny puffed up pillows that cover the path
to crystals compressed, their size reduced by half
or to a smooth shining surface polished like glass
hidden in plain sight near the edge by the grass
if only you while heading to the river could make
the moment go numb and freeze like a snowflake
to absorb every sound in a blanket of air
releasing when pressed a kind of noisy prayer
then you might learn like snow how to balance
the light of attention against the weight of silence
snow which when cold is so brittle so strong
cracking and crunching a sharp steady song
compacted by cold, yielding to moving feet
compelling you to pause and listen to it creak
which is the story of the fallen snow
whose changing forms makes us slow.
This run felt really great. I didn’t go too fast, but went faster than I thought for how relaxed I felt. I needed this run after having another stressful morning trying to get the girl to go to school. Listened to my running playlist and tried to block out the world. It worked! Almost 60 minutes of somewhere else.
Decided to try out the ford loop before the snow hits again and the path becomes impassable. Even though I enjoyed my run, deciding to do this loop was a big mistake. Tons of super slick ice and rough, clumpy snow made it very treacherous. I slipped several times and landed wrong on my foot at least twice. Still, I did it. Even the steep short hill by Summit! Running across the Lake Street bridge, back to St. Paul was rough–ice and chunky snow.
It’s supposed to start snowing in a few hours. Maybe up to 5 inches. Then another round on Saturday. Possibly double digit totals. Will it actually come? Do I want it to?
I’ve been writing poem fragments every morning when I wake up about winter. Here’s one that I wrote shortly after we didn’t get the snow that was predicted:
early forecasts had predicted
5-8 inches of snow
sub zero temps
lots of wind
it’s 20 degrees colder than yesterday and
I can hear the wind blow but
where’s that snow?
a no show as usual
I should be relieved and
I am but still
I wouldn’t mind watching
some big fluffy flakes floating
down from the sky
delivering little crystal bursts of joy
or at least distraction
as I sit on the couch
waiting for a girl to get ready
to go to school
8 degrees/feels like -3
mississippi river road path, north/south
Bright blue sky. Blinding sun. Cold air. Slippery path. Fogged-up glasses. Crunchy path. I was struck by how the 2 crunching sounds of my feet highlighted the differences between walking and running. When I was walking, the slower, steadier crunch lasted longer, as my foot went from the initial heel strike to the final toe-off. How many bones came into contact with the crunchy snow? When I was running, that second crunch was quicker, with less grinding. I’d like to capture some sound of me running on crunching snow, but that seems hard.
Reading The Snow Poems by AR Amons which is, disappointingly, not all about snow. But, there are some snow poems, like this one:
here a month of snow,
mere January than
nothing. it is
the winter-deep, the
leave it unwritten,
as snow unwrites
mississippi river road path, north/south
We got about an inch of wet snow yesterday/last night so the path was covered…and crunchy. Mostly fine to run on, although a few spots were softer, causing my foot to sink down. A beautiful morning. Grayish-white. Calm. Quiet. Not much wind, not much noise. Tried to catch up to the runner ahead of me after I turned around but couldn’t. Was she going fast, or was I going slow–or were we going the same pace so I couldn’t gain any distance on her? Saw the Daily Walker twice! Both times, from behind, so I didn’t get to say “good morning” to him.
Recorded the sound of my crunching feet on the sidewalk, after I finished my run:
2 distinct sounds. One, a steady grinding, like gears with small teeth turning rhythmically, constantly, The Other, one quick thrust, like a small shovel being thrust into sand or small pebbles. I think that the sounds trade off between my moving feet. But how? I need to go out and walk in the snow some more to figure it out!
Discovered a few great lines in Snow in America:
‘In prose,’ the Mexican poet Octavio Paz writes, ‘the word tends to be identified with one of its possible meanings at the expense of others…the poet, on the other hand, never assaults the ambiguity of the word.’ Poetry is to snow what prose is to rain, says Howard Nemerov, because ‘it flew instead of fell.’
mississippi river road path, south/north
Decided to fit in a quick run since it is so warm today and will be so cold/icy/snowy tomorrow. It was windy and wet but not too bad. I managed to avoid most of the big puddles.
Bright, sunny, above freezing day the cold and gloom
Returns having only briefly hidden
Under the promise of spring’s early
Retracted revoked replaced with more cold—-O how I
Yearn for warmer air!
Very slippery. Almost fell a few times on the way to the river. Ran to the falls, on the creek path, then over to Lake Nokomis. I haven’t run this route since late July, right before my injury. It’s funny how it feels longer than running north on the path. The creek was all open water. The lake was covered with snow but on the bridge I could see slushy, almost open water. As I ran by the little beach, I imagined the summer and swimming across the lake.
I’ve been thinking about snow and ice lately. Hardly any snow on the path today, but lots of ice. Patches of black ice–clear, almost hidden, blending into the path. Patches of thick opaque ice, with an ugly yellowish greenish tint. Strips of jagged ice, the result of snow melting, puddling on the path then refreezing at night. Slick spots under the dusting of snow that happened a few hours before I ran that was mostly melted in the almost above freezing air.
Ran a quick 2 miles at the track. People I saw at the y:
A woman, about my build, my hair color, my age, wearing an orange tank top similar to one that I wear. Scott almost called out to her, thinking she was me.
A short runner in a bright blue shirt, running much faster than me but only running a lap. Is it wrong that I felt some satisfaction when I passed them, still running, while they were walking?
A couple I’ve seen for years, both at the y and on the Mississippi River Road near the lock and dam by the falls, running and jump roping and pulling sleds or lifting heavy weights. Today one of them was pushing a sled by the wall, while the other was doing some leg exercises, then they both walked around the track carrying huge weights above their heads. One time, last summer, I saw them jump roping! up a steep hill.
An impatient woman in the locker room who became even more impatient waiting for one of two pool lanes–the others were filled with older women in an aquablast class–to open up.
The track wasn’t too crowded. The run wasn’t that memorable. Oh–I thought I packed a pair of socks, but actually only packed one, so I ran without socks. No blisters…yet.
mississippi river road path, south/north
After biking in the front room on the stand for 25 minutes, I decided to go out an do a quick run. What a beautiful morning! It’s amazing how 25 degrees can feel warm and spring-like. Ran south, towards the falls and looked across the gorge to St. Paul. Because they don’t plow the walking path in the winter, I usually only run on the biking path, but I noticed that the walking path had a few bare patches so on my way back, I took the snow-covered trail. A few treacherous ice patches, but not too bad. What’s happening to me? I’m choosing to run on snow instead of bare pavement?!
Walking back home, after finishing my run, I stopped to record the noisy birds. I had noticed them earlier, when I was running, chirping and cooing and trilling. Spring won’t be here for another month or two (hopefully not three!), but it’s coming. As much as I love winter running, I’m fine with that.
Sounds Like Spring
In addition to the bird sounds, this audio clip features some delightful (or irritating, depending on your perspective) crunching noises. As I was walking and listening to the sounds, I started thinking about the many different ways a path can crunch: shattering snow crystals, friction from dry snow grains rubbing against each other and/or my foot, salt or sand scratching on the pavement, the treads of my shoes loaded with little pebbles scuffing against the ground.
A few other things to note from this recording:
For most of the audio, I’m walking on a sidewalk that has a lot of bare pavement, mixed with crusty snow and ice. Occasionally, I’m walking on just snow. I can tell that it’s warmer and that the snow will be melting soon because the sound is heavier and more muffled.
There are lots of birds, but underneath them is a constant hum of the city–I think it’s the freeway or a highway a few miles away.
As I continued to walk home, still recording this audio, I noticed my shadow in the snow, joining me. I almost stopped to take a picture.
Sure snow crunches but
it also sizzles and
squeaks on the sidewalk.
It amplifies and muffles
absorbs and reflects
slumbers in silence and
remains awake alert active.
Wrote a pantoum about the path for my poetry class (ah! so many pleasing p’s!)
The Soundtrack for my Run (first draft)
In the winter, above the Mississippi River Gorge
I take up an ongoing conversation
I’m having with the running path.
Mostly I listen.
I absorb with ears and feet
its voices and textures
hearing crystals cracking or feeling soft snow
settling unevenly around my ankles.
These sounds and surfaces
energize and exhaust
speaking steadily into my ear
becoming a soundtrack for my run.
The cracking crystals make me buzz, the soft snow saps my strength.
Cracking, crunching, snapping, sinking, slipping
are the soundtrack for my run
in the winter, above the Mississippi River Gorge.
13 degrees/feels like 5
mississippi river road path, south/minneahaha falls/north
Slightly warmer. Gray. Damp. Occasional gusts of wind. Even though I have a cold, I’m glad I ran outside this morning. Ran around the falls. Still frozen. Thick snow on the creek bank. Just as I was wondering if minnehaha creek was frozen over, I noticed some slushy spots on the surface. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get a lot warmer–over 40 degrees. How much of a melty mess will it be?
3 degrees/feels like -10
Cold. Calm. Hardly any wind. The path was mostly clear. My fingers were cold for the first mile, but then felt warm. Heard lots of birds and imagined spring coming soon. Saw only 1 or 2 runners the entire time. In the last mile, saw the daily walker. The gorge was beautiful. The river, which a few days earlier had been open, was now frozen. I wonder how thick the ice is? Not thick enough! Speaking of thin ice, randomly encountered a National Geographic article about Nordic skating–also known as wild ice or Black ice skating. Scary.
A few days ago, I recorded my walk. If you listen closely and can tune out my crunching footsteps,\ there are some birds singing. I heard these birds today during my run.
5 degrees/feels like -something
Cold but sunny and not much wind. I learned today that the Valentine’s Day 5K is the oldest winter race in Minneapolis. This is my third year running it. Random things I remember:
the dude who sang the national anthem before the race started was good.
my big toes were very cold waiting before the start. I kept singing “my big toes are froze.”
loved seeing bright, electric blue shoes. One person had an electric blue jacket to match. Someone else had hot pink running tights. Not too many costumes. I remember a zebra. No one in shorts or a tank top or short sleeves.
I can’t get Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” out of my head because they played it after we were walking back to the car.
Scott and I split up about 1/4 of mile from the start. I went ahead because it was too crowded to run together.
The road was completely clear–no ice or snow at all–but at least two people were wearing trax that made an annoying clacking noise with every step.
Managed to say “thanks” to several of the volunteers.
Did I look out at the lake even once while I was running next to it? I don’t think so.
Don’t know my splits because I didn’t have my watch on but I’m pretty sure each mile was faster.
Noticed several people wearing bright yellow shirts.
Walked to the studio in the cold sun and felt joy. Much of the sidewalk was covered unevenly with hard packed snow. No wind. I knew it was cold but I didn’t feel cold, just happy and grateful to be outside, breathing in the pure air. When I got to the studio checked the feels like temperature: -11. What has happened to me that I enjoyed weather this cold? I guess I am from/of the North. Been thinking a lot about snow, snow-covered paths, the noises snow makes and why snow sometimes looks blue. I Read Su Smallen’s Kinds of Snow and did some research on snow squeaks. I’m collecting lots of snow words that I hope to use in a poem: snow grains, snow pack, dendrites, hoarfrost, watermelon snow, compacted, trodden, the blue hour, crystals, needles, flakes, graupels, sintering, collapsing, compressing.
6 degrees/feels like -6
mississippi river road path, south/minneahaha falls/river road path, north
Another good run. I didn’t mind the cold. Didn’t overdress. Listened for the birds and heard a few. Also heard a lot of snow crunching under my feet. For several stretches I could hear the dull thwack of my feet striking bare pavement. Ran to the right today to see if Minnehaha Falls is frozen over. It is. The trail along the gorge going south is beautiful. You can really see to St. Paul on the other side. It was mostly still and calm outside. Peaceful. Didn’t see any walkers or bikers and only one other runner. I was the only one at the falls. It was quiet, with no water rushing down or even trickling.
Speaking of the Falls, I’m studying a lovely poem about falling water from Alice Oswald: A Short Story of Falling. I’d like to write an homage poem about crunching snow or frozen water.
6 degrees/feels like -3
mississippi river road path, north/south
What a run! It hardly felt cold, except for my hands which took about a mile to warm up. Sunny. Bright blue sky. Clear air. The snow on the path packed tight.
I was the only runner out there. Did I see any walkers? I can’t remember. Glad I didn’t wear any headphones because I got to hear the snow crunching. Two sounds. One that was steady, almost like grinding or styrofoam being crushed. The other that was softer and shorter. I like these sounds, maybe partly because they are a little annoying.
My shadow ran with me today. She was my friend, leading me along. About a mile into the run one of the tassels on my hat, which had been my mom’s cross country skiing hat before she died, hit my shoulder like it was tapping me, trying to get my attention. My mom saying hello? I imagined her there with me.
I don’t remember hearing any birds. I did glance down at the gorge a few times and saw the river. Was it flowing? I can’t remember. Noticed the silhouette of an oak’s gnarled branches against the deep blue sky. There wasn’t a lot of wind, only occasional gusts that picked up the fresh snow that fell sometime last night and swirled it around.
By the end of the run I was very warm. With a mile left, I was dripping sweat. After the run was over my face burned from the sweat that had frozen on my face.
Yesterday, when it felt too bright and too cold and I was stuck in a car, trying to drive, I wondered, like most everyone else I talk to, why winter is so long and when it will leave. But today, outside on the path, breathing in the cold, absorbing the blue sky, feeling the crunching snow, I remembered that I love winter and am fine if it stays for a few more months.
Ran inside at the track. More crowded than I expected for 2pm on a Tuesday. I guess you could call what I did a tempo run. A little faster but not too fast. I’m writing this the day after the run, so I don’t remember much. Not too many runners, many more walkers. Saw a walker who seemed to be limping wearing thick black socks. He made it around the track for a few laps before sitting down on a chair. Also passed a woman using a walker. Didn’t recognize anyone else that I’ve seen before. No one pulling a sled or crawling. Did see someone using the long ropes–the ones that you grab in your hands and shake, making them look almost like snakes slithering or a wave rushing away from you. What are those called? Looked them up–battle ropes.
Another Sunday run at the track. The guy who runs at a lean was there, running fast and running with his head tilted slightly to the right. Saw an older women–in her 70s? 80s?–running around the track, looking strong even as she was hunched forward. Also saw an older guy–I’d guess he was in the his 70s too–running. Earlier in the day, driving on the river road, saw the Daily Walker and thought about running outside instead of the track, but it was cold and I wanted to go to the hot tub with Scott, so I didn’t.
18 degrees/feels like 5
mississippi river road north/hennepin avenue bridge
Ran on the river road to downtown in the snow. My first time this winter running while it was snowing. Beautiful. It wasn’t too cold. The snow wasn’t too deep or annoying–except for when it felt like little knives hitting my face. There weren’t too many other people out on the path. I think I saw 3 or 4 runners. I was alone in the flats below the U. The steep hill almost to downtown was a bit tough so I walked it for a few minutes. Right at the base of the Hennepin Avenue bridge there was a zipline set up so people in town for the Super Bowl could zip across the river.
I loved this run today.
Heard the snow crunching again and noticed how the steady crunch sound traded off between my feet. The path today was a little more slippery and not packed down because it was steadily snowing. A few days ago I wrote a haiku about how the wet snow felt like running in the sand but I think that this dry, powdery, freshly-fallen snow felt more like running in the sand–especially the soft sand by the river.
Almost forgot to mention the birds. Running in the quiet snow, I kept hearing birds. Not geese or crows but something cooing or chirping. So odd to hear these calls which make me think of spring while running in the pure white solitude.
Here’s a poem about birds that I recently found and really like:
After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.
I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.
I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.
Oh—and another thing about birds: After my run, and after meeting Scott at the coffee place, we walked by a tree, right in front of a spa/salon where they had thoughtfully placed half a dozen bird feeders. Little birds like to gather here. I know because I’ve walked by this tree before. As you approach the birds they flutter and fly, only briefly, away from the tree. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
And a few more lines about birds from a poem:
Snow melts into the earth and a gentle breeze
Loosens the damp gum wrappers, the stale leaves
Left over from autumn, and the dead brown grass.
The sky shakes itself out. And the invisible birds
Winter put away somewhere return…
(from The Late Wisconsin Spring/ John Koethe)
-1 degree/feels like -10
mississippi river road path, north/south
Cold. Sub-zero. Arctic. Freezing. Frigorific. Brisk. Polar. Frozen. Chilly. I didn’t care. Had a great run outside. Almost too warm in my layers: a buff covering my head, ears, neck, mouth; a hood; a hat with ear flaps; a green running shirt; a black running pull-over; a pink jacket; a gray jacket; fleece running tights; fleece sweatpants; two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves + sunglasses. Just a little too much. It’s hard to gauge because I start out so cold. Saw a few fat tires, one person walking their dog, a handful of other walkers and the Daily Walker. My favorite person to see. Don’t think I saw anyone else running. Heard some loud geese honking somewhere under the Lake Street Bridge. What are they still doing here? Heard some mysterious clanging or buzzing coming from the railroad bridge as I ran under it. Heard a helicopter hovering–was it related to pre Super Bowl stuff happening downtown?
I ended my run at 4 miles, right by the welcoming oaks. Walking, I began to notice how my left and right foot each provided a slightly different crunching sound. I liked it so much, I had to record the sound:
Then I created an acrostic poem describing the sound and my experience of hearing it this morning:
A constant crunch
Two versions—one fast
One slow, one
Never stopping, steadily crushing ice crystals
Making quick forceful snaps
One soft, one loud both
Unrelenting in their
Sinking deep into my
Opens me up makes my brain
Rattle vibrate buzz makes me
Yield to the sensation
Earnest with my attention trying to conjure up the
Right words to capture the
Is of this musical moment cars
Drive by as
Attempt to classify the
Noise—somewhat like static but not white noise—is it
yellow noise? a happy yellow buzz
Radiating a constant crackling
Sizzles on the
Outside this moment, it might be just
Noise, but right now the
Sound of crunching snow is