3.25 miles mississippi river road path, north/south 72 degrees
Another warm morning when it was difficult to breathe. Stopped to walk for 1 or 2 minutes at 2.5 miles, then finished strong. This summer I don’t care if I have to walk. More opportunity to check out the gorge. Listened to my audio book because I’m enjoying it (and trying to finish it). Encountered a lot of runners on the path. Saw the Daily Walker but wasn’t able to greet him. No Man in Black. I think I heard the rowers but I’m not sure because I was listening to my book. Noticed my shadow a few times. Saw 2! groups of rollerbladers, a group of 5 and a group of 7 or 8, zooming down the path gracefully. Love watching them fly by with their rhythmic arms.
Haze. Three student violists boarding a bus. A clatter of jackhammers. Granular light. A film of sweat for primer and the heat for a coat of paint. A man and a woman on a bench: she tells him he must be psychic, for how else could he sense, even before she knew, that she’d need to call it off? A bicyclist fumes by with a coach’s whistle clamped hard between his teeth, shrilling like a teakettle on the boil. I never meant, she says. But I thought, he replies. Two cabs almost collide; someone yells fuck in Farsi. I’m sorry, she says. The comforts of loneliness fall in like a bad platoon. The sky blurs—there’s a storm coming up or down. A lank cat slinks liquidly around a corner. How familiar it feels to feel strange, hollower than a bassoon. A rill of chill air in the leaves. A car alarm. Hail.
I know I’ve read this poem before but I don’t think I’ve posted it. I love how it seems like simple reporting of the mundane but offers much more. Some great lines–sweat as primer, heat as the coat of paint. The rill of chill, the lank cat slinking, the couple on the bench interrupting the scene repeatedly, the coming storm–literally and metaphorically, the hollow bassoon. So good! I want to try to write a poem like this about my neighborhood.
2.75 mississippi river upper path, south/lower path, north 84 degrees
Ugh, this heat. I have a lot of trouble running when it’s this hot. Listened to my audio book and tried to take it nice and slow. Ran above on the way to the falls and down below on the way back. Don’t remember much except for being hot.
Earlier this morning, I took Delia the dog for a walk to the gorge. On the lower path to the left, past the big sewer drain, below the path with the Welcoming Oaks. Kept going to the part of the running path that dips below the road. Before heading down, stopped at the top and studied the two boulders. 4 small stones make up the cairn perched on the taller rock. No plaque on this rock. How long has it been here? The boulders rested beneath a sprawling oak tree with a branch that bent down to greet me. The leaves were perfect forms of the classic oak leaf–like the cartoon versions I used to see at my elementary school in Northern Virginia–Oak Hill Elementary. Walking down into the tunnel of trees, there was so much cotton in the air and on the edge of the path. I realized, this doesn’t look like snow but feathers, like someone was in the midst of a big pillow fight or a goose had flown off in a hurry or a seam from my winter coat had ripped and spilled out the feathery lining. The fuzzy white cotton softened the rough edges of the path and decorated the dirt patches in the grass.
So hot and hard to breathe! Not sure if it’s all the cottonwood flying but I had a lot of trouble breathing. Time to start running earlier–good thing school ends for the kids tomorrow. Listened to my audio book as I ran, so I don’t remember much–except it was hot, I was sweating a lot and my throat needed to be cleared all the time. Came close to tripping over a dog.
Stopped running at the spot I’m trying to write a haibun about. 4 fences–wrought-iron, stone retaining wall, wood retaining wall, split rail. These fences stand at the start of the ascent into the tunnel of trees. Noticed some small maples (I think) on the edge of the path. Not sure what the other trees are. I did see some broad leaves with jagged edges. What are those? At the beginning, the slope isn’t too steep or high but it gets steeper and higher and darker and narrower as you climb. Wondered why this not so steep spot was the place where a wrought iron fence was placed when there are much steeper spots farther up and decided it was for the cars coming around a curve up above. Not sure if that’s correct. Did a car crash through the split rail here too as some point? In the winter, when this lower path is not cleared and I have to run above on the biking path, I sometimes worry that a car might slip on ice, slide up on the path and hit me. At the end of the tunnel of trees and almost the top of the hill are too boulders (I need to go back and study them some more) and a welcoming oak tree. On top of the taller rock is a cairn of 3 or 4 rocks stacked on top of each other. Who put them there? I think I first noticed them last year. At the top of the hill, is a porta potty, a parking lot, an overlook, some benches, more boulders and the welcoming oaks.
Breathe . As in what if the shadow is gold en? Breathe. As in hale assuming exhale. Imagine that. As in first person singular. Homonym :eye. As in subject. As in centeroftheworld as in mundane. The opposite of spectacle spectacular. This is just us breathing. Imagine normalized respite gold in shadows . You have the right to breathe and remain . Imagine that .
swim: 1000 yards lake nokomis
More shafts of light. Such a cool effect. Tons of cottonwood on the water surface (and in my suit after I got out of the lake and took a shower). A few strange floating objects–wood or something else? The sun was creating this weird red tint effect on everything. I think I saw a few fish swimming below me and another swimmer next to me. Lots of boats encroaching on the designated swimming area. Nearing the shore, swimming inside the wading area, the water was clearer and I could see the bottom. Really cool. I didn’t see all the things on the bottom, like hairbands, but just where the bottom began.
bike: 8.5 miles lake nokomis and back swim: 1050 yards/.6 miles lake nokomis
Back again at the beach today. Only one small, puffy cloud, the rest of the sky was a bright, blameless blue. Lots of people at the lake but not many in the water. I didn’t think it was too cold–I wonder what the temperature is right now? Whatever it is, I didn’t need a wetsuit and I wasn’t freezing after I got out of the water. Did 3 big loops without stopping and then, after a quick break, one more loop. Maybe a mile is only 6 loops?
The water was turgid and light brown with several shafts of paler brown light beaming down from above. A cool effect. A few times I saw some silver flashes below me. Big fish? Every swim right outside the big beach is tinged with mild trepidation–what’s below me? and what if it decides to surface? Planes heading to MSP Airport roared overhead. Was able to mostly spot the smallish, vertical white buoys. I think I’ll practice more sighting (and not panicking when I can’t sight) tomorrow. Feels good to be in the water again. Hopefully I can keep up my goal of swimming almost every day.
In honor of the fish I may or may not have seen but certainly swam above, here’s Elizabeth Bishop’s classic and marvelous poem:
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
bike: 8.5 miles to lake nokomis and back swim: 1000 yards/.57 miles lake nokomis main beach
Yes! Summer is here. My first real swim of the year at Lake Nokomis. Thought about doing a mile but since I haven’t swam since October, I thought I’d better take it easy. I did 5 loops in my wetsuit which I don’t like wearing because it feels tight and too constricting. But today it was nice in the cold water. The water was not clear at all and a bit choppy. Noticed a few kayaks just outside the swim area. Was able to see the white buoys some of the time. The real test will be when I try to sight the orange buoy a week from today. I’d like to go swimming as many as I can before that. My goal is to regularly do at least 10 loops.
Don’t remember thinking about much except for whether or not my legs were cramping up or if water was getting in my ear or if there were any fish below me or boats approaching or how my yellow backpack was doing propped up against the big light post. A few times the waves in the water looked like other swimmers.
2.9 miles north to railroad bridge/stairs to path below/white sands/rowing club/upper path 68 degrees
My legs are sore today. Partly because it’s my third day in a row running and partly because I decided to start runner’s world’s squat challenge this morning (since my lower back has been bugging me intermittently for the past 6 months, I’m always looking for ways to strengthen it). Decided to listen to my audio book and run past the part of the path above the floodplain forest and towards the railroad trestle. Noticed right away that it was hard to breathe–the cottonwood trees are snowing cotton. The edges of the path were a soft white and little bits of fuzz floated in the air in front of me.
Ran to the railroad trestle and felt wiped out. Took the steps down below and walked the Winchell trail, halfway up the gorge. Beautiful! I was a bit uneasy because after seeing no one but one man, I looked up at the sides of the limestone gorge and realized, in all the green, how hidden I was and how steep any path out would be. No steps leading up. No winding dirt trail. But my unease wasn’t too bad. I started running and caught quick glimpses of the river through the breaks in the tree line. Made it to the Minneapolis Rowing Club and walked up the steep driveway. Started running again and kept going until I returned to my favorite part of the run: where the walking path dips below the road and follows the edge of the bluff right above the floodplain forest.
I stopped on the edge to look down at the forest and noticed that I was in the midst of three fences: a wrought iron fence on the edge of the hill, a stone retaining wall dividing the lower walking path from the upper biking path, and a split rail fence above the wall beside the biking path. So cool to have all 3 fences here, especially since I’ve been wanting to write about this section and about the different types of fences on this route.
The other thing I noticed as I walked up, along the edge, was how green everything was. Different shades (or tints?) of green covering the ground, blotting out the sky. No river, no sky, no forest floor. Only green with the occasional brown trunk or branch. Disorienting, but really cool. At this part, the footpath is flanked on both sides with green–a tunnel of trees, with a smallish circle of light up the hill (the opposite direction of this picture), leading out to 2 big boulders and a porta potty at the northern edge of the 35th street parking lot.
On the map it is precise and rectilinear as a chessboard, though driving past you would hardly notice it, this boundary line or ragged margin, a shallow swale that cups a simple trickle of water, less rill than rivulet, more gully than dell, a tangled ditch grown up throughout with a fearsome assortment of wildflowers and bracken. There is no fence, though here and there a weathered post asserts a former claim, strands of fallen wire taken by the dust. To the left a cornfield carries into the distance, dips and rises to the blue sky, a rolling plain of green and healthy plants aligned in close order, row upon row upon row. To the right, a field of wheat, a field of hay, young grasses breaking the soil, filling their allotted land with the rich, slow-waving spectacle of their grain. As for the farmers, they are, for the most part, indistinguishable: here the tractor is red, there yellow; here a pair of dirty hands, there a pair of dirty hands. They are cultivators of the soil. They grow crops by pattern, by acre, by foresight, by habit. What corn is to one, wheat is to the other, and though to some eyes the similarities outweigh the differences it would be as unthinkable for the second to commence planting corn as for the first to switch over to wheat. What happens in the gully between them is no concern of theirs, they say, so long as the plough stays out, the weeds stay in the ditch where they belong, though anyone would notice the wind-sewn cornstalks poking up their shaggy ears like young lovers run off into the bushes, and the kinship of these wild grasses with those the farmer cultivates is too obvious to mention, sage and dun-colored stalks hanging their noble heads, hoarding exotic burrs and seeds, and yet it is neither corn nor wheat that truly flourishes there, nor some jackalopian hybrid of the two. What grows in that place is possessed of a beauty all its own, ramshackle and unexpected, even in winter, when the wind hangs icicles from the skeletons of briars and small tracks cross the snow in search of forgotten grain; in the spring the little trickle of water swells to welcome frogs and minnows, a muskrat, a family of turtles, nesting doves in the verdant grass; in summer it is a thoroughfare for raccoons and opossums, field mice, swallows and black birds, migrating egrets, a passing fox; in autumn the geese avoid its abundance, seeking out windrows of toppled stalks, fatter grain more quickly discerned, more easily digested. Of those that travel the local road, few pay that fertile hollow any mind, even those with an eye for what blossoms, vetch and timothy, early forsythia, the fatted calf in the fallow field, the rabbit running for cover, the hawk’s descent from the lightning-struck tree. You’ve passed this way yourself many times, and can tell me, if you would, do the formal fields end where the valley begins, or does everything that surrounds us emerge from its embrace?
Wow. Sunny. A slight breeze. Low humidity. What a wonderful way to celebrate 8 years of running. Saw the Man in Black and the quartet of in-sync rollerbladers (what should I call them? first thought: the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, but that doesn’t quite fit–I need to think of another famous group of four–the Beatles?). Encountered a lot of runners, a large group of walkers and some bikers. Busy on the trail this morning. The run felt easy then hard then easy again. Let gravity do the work as I ran down the hill under lake street bridge. Then managed to outrun two bikers up the hill–I think one of them was around 10 so maybe it’s not that impressive? Listened to my audio book for most of the run then switched to Lizzo on my running playlist. The only time I looked at the river was when I briefly stopped to study the railroad bridge. Even then, I barely saw it. I was too busy studying the trestle. Turning around and running south, I noticed the black metal fence on the other side of the trestle and I started thinking about the different types of fences that line the trail: wooden split rail, abandoned chainlink (on the lower path), black wrought iron, stone. I want to add some of that detail into my haibun or write something else about these different types (or do both).
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
run: 3.5 miles mississippi river road path, north/south 55 degrees 84% humidity
bike: 8 miles lake nokomis and back 68 degrees
Felt cool this morning after last night’s thunderstorms. Green and dark and dripping. Listened to a new audiobook, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which was a nice distraction. Ran to the split rail fence and noticed the crumbling stone wall at the railroad bridge. Also noticed that the slivers of river looked very white through the thick vegetation. Encountered various pairs of runners–almost always in pairs–and my favorite: the group of 4 hardcore rollerbladers. Every summer they train on the river road path. They’re so fast and synchronized. With about 1/2 mile left, I heard the rowers on the river so I turned off my audiobook and listened. Running up the last hill I twisted my foot slightly on an invisible stick. And a few minutes later remembered that tomorrow is my 8th runniversary. On June 2nd, 2011, I started running.
Within this black hive to-night There swarm a million bees; Bees passing in and out the moon, Bees escaping out the moon, Bees returning through the moon, Silver bees intently buzzing, Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb, And I, a drone, Lying on my back, Lipping honey, Getting drunk with that silver honey, Wish that I might fly out past the moon And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower.
Found this on The Slowdown podcast. I love Tracy K. Smith’s reading of it.