august 31/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
61 degrees

Ran in Scott’s hometown. Here you can see a lot in 3 miles. Downtown, the fairgrounds, a creek, river, a few parks, the library, the almost built fitness center.

After seeing all the creepy, wonderful mannequins at the state fair last week, I’ve decided I want to write about them. For a few years now, Scott’s been taking pictures of them for me. Today’s mannequin is “sassy no arms”:

View this post on Instagram

Sassy No Arms.

A post shared by Scott Anderson đź“Ž (@room34) on

august 30/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
55 degrees

In the 50s. Yes! Love the cooler weather. Listened to my audio book–Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress–and enjoyed feeling cooler and relaxed. I don’t remember much from the run. Didn’t see the Daily Walker or the river. Didn’t hear the clickity-clack of ski poles or the whirring of bike wheels. Lots of traffic backed up when someone was turning left and at the 4 way stop by the greenway. So nice to not be in one of those cars! Finishing the run I felt good. Not sore or tired just strong and excited about more fall and winter running.

august 28/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
60 degrees

Windy. Cool. Fall is coming, then winter and winter running! Very sad to be done with open water swimming but ready for routines and kids in school and cooler weather and layers and colorful leaves and creepy Halloween yards and cold clear air and no more itchy dogs. A good run this morning. My leg felt tight 2 miles in so I walked for a minute. Tried to look at the river but the one time I remembered, it was too hard to see. Smelled someone smoking pot below me in the gorge. Saw the man in black–not in black but in shorts. I recognized him by his extra long legs. No Daily Walker. No roller skiers. Not too many runners or walkers. No rowers or squirrels or soaring birds or shadows. I don’t remember seeing my shadow for a long time–where’d she go?

Just found this awesome video of Bruce Lee talking about being like water. Yes!

transcript (lines breaks by me)

Empty your mind. Be
formless shapeless
like water
now you put
water into a cup
it becomes the cup you put
water into a bottle
it becomes the bottle you put
it into a tea pot
it becomes the tea pot
now water can flow or it can
craaaaasshh
be water my friend

It’s interesting that the title of this video is “be as water” when Bruce Lee says be water. I like it better when it’s not a simile.

august 27/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails
59 degrees

Woke up too tired this morning. Running helped a lot. Windy and cooler. Starting at 8:15, there are lots of cars. Such a crowded parkway! A few runners, some bikers, at least 2 roller skiers. Listened to an audio book up above, the water coming out of the sewer below. At the first pipe, it was a quiet, steady stream. At the second, a little louder and faster. Thought about my breathing and locking it into a rhythm that would keep me steady. 1 2 3/45 up hill and 5 4 3/21 down hill then 1234/5678 Slowly, I’ve been working on poems that mimic my breathing while swimming and running.

This morning I read an essay by Jericho Brown in which he describes his invention of the duplex form. He writes:

I decided to call the form a duplex because something about its repetition and its couplets made me feel like it was a house with two addresses. It is, indeed, a mutt of a form as so many of us in this nation are only now empowered to live fully in all of our identities. I wanted to highlight the trouble of a wall between us who live within a single structure. What happens when that wall is up and what happens when we tear it down? How will we live together? Will we kill each other? Can we be more careful?

At the end of the essay, he lists the rules of the form:

Write a ghazal that is also a sonnet that is also a blues poem of 14 lines, giving each line 9 to 11 syllables.

The first line is echoed in the last line.

The second line of the poem should change our impression of the first line in an unexpected way.

The second line is echoed and becomes the third line.

The fourth line of the poem should change our impression of the third line in an unexpected way.

This continues until the penultimate line becomes the first line of the couplet that leads to the final (and first) line.

For the variations of repeated lines, it is useful to think of the a a’ b scheme of the blues form.

And here’s an example from his latest book, The Tradition:

JERICHO BROWN
DUPLEX (I BEGIN WITH LOVE)

I begin with love, hoping to end there.
I don’t want to leave a messy corpse.

   I don’t want to leave a messy corpse
   Full of medicines that turn in the sun.

Some of my medicines turn in the sun.
Some of us don’t need hell to be good.

   Those who need least, need hell to be good.
   What are the symptoms of your sickness?

Here is one symptom of my sickness:
Men who love me are men who miss me.

   Men who leave me are men who miss me
   In the dream where I am an island.

In the dream where I am an island,
I grow green with hope. I’d like to end there.

august 26/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
65 degrees

Cooler. Breezier. Overcast. Too many cars rushing past me on the road. Listened to my audio book for a while then took out my headphones. Played chicken with a woman running up by the lake street bridge. I was running to the right, furthest from zooming bikes that might be coming up the hill behind me, she was to the left, also hugging the rail. She wouldn’t move, probably because she was oblivious. I wouldn’t move either because I’m stubborn and need rules, like always stay to the right, because my eyes don’t always work and I can’t see if someone is coming. I was prepared to run into her if she didn’t move, which I recognize is somewhat ridiculous but I get really angry when people don’t pay attention in these simple ways. As someone who can’t always see, other people’s refusal to care can be dangerous. The good news: just a minute or two after that, I completely forgot about it and enjoyed the rest of my run. Didn’t stop to walk at all and looked at the river at least once, but forgot to check if there were any stacked stones on the big old boulder.

I love this poem. I love Maggie Smith. Her mix of joy and grief is so great. So much I love about this poem. Here’s a list:

  • the focus on lists and their connection to and
  • lists of not quite grievances, lists of things loved
  • describing a fear of death as not wanting to be in the dirt
  • the desire for two parts bees humming to one part bee sting
  • idea of repetitions and a workout
  • rhyming hum with tongue
  • the flow of the couplets

Let’s Not Begin/Maggie Smith

Let’s not begin the poem with and,
though it begins that way

in spirit: one in a long list of—
let’s not call them grievances.

I’m trying to love the world,
I am, but is it too much

to ask for two parts bees
vibrating their cups of pollen,

humming a perfect A note,
to one part sting?

Worry and console, worry
and console: it’s how I stay

in shape. See, I’m sweating.
Some nights my daughter cries,

I don’t want to be in the dirt,
and this is what I call a workout.

My heart’s galloping hell
and gone from the paddock—

I don’t want to be in the dirt
because I’ll miss you
—

and there’s no stopping me.
But let’s not end

with the heart as horse,
fear-lathered, spooked deaf.

I’m trying, I am, for her.
If I list everything I love

about the world, and if the list
is long and heavy enough,

I can lift it over and over—
repetitions, they’re called, reps—

to keep my heart on, to keep
the dirt off. Let’s begin

with bees, and the hum,
and the honey singing

on my tongue, and the child
sleeping at last, and, and, and—

august 25/RUN

3 miles
two trails

What do I remember from my run today? Noticed the water came out of the sewer pipe in quick bursts. No gurgling or gushing just spurting. Watched the river through the trees–beautiful. The leaning trunk was still there. Lots of bikers and runners. No roller skiers on the trail but one on the road, after I was finished. No rowers–why not? No huge groups of runners–the most I saw together was three.

Three Songs at the End of Summer
Jane Kenyon – 1947-1995

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket….
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

This poem! I’ve read it before but I don’t think I’ve posted it here. I would love to write an homage (poem or lyric essay) to this. Maybe tomorrow? Love so much about this poem. Right now: Across the lake the campers have learned/ to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.

august 23/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails

A nice morning. Listened to my playlist up above and felt fast. Listened to the gorge on the lower trail. The river was glowing through the trees. I think the tree trunk was still leaning by the 38th street steps, but I can’t quite remember. Surely I would have noticed if it were gone?

august 22/RUNSWIM

3 miles
trestle turn around
63 degrees

Brand new too white running shoes this morning. My favorites: Saucony Grid Cohesions. Started on version 4 (I think), am now on 11. Cheap and dependable. Thought about upgrading but I’m too frugal. Also, when I buy expensive shoes, I feel pressure for them to be perfect–they better be, if I spend $120 on them, I think. Usually this ends with me wearing shoes that don’t quite work for too long because I spent so much money on them. So inexpensive grid cohesions it is. They worked well today.

Started with an audio book but decided to turn it off and listen to my feet striking the ground–was I plodding too much? Also got to hear the intense, quiet rush of traffic as people hurrying off to work. Chanted some three syllable words, mostly strawberry and raspberry. Didn’t look at the river even once. Barely noticed the lake street bridge or the overlook above the rowing club or the railroad trestle. I guess I was thinking too much about the run and how my legs were sore. I do remember looking to see if anyone was sleeping behind the bench, near the bridge. Sometimes people do in the summer. One time I saw someone sleeping on the hard, uneven paving stones under the bridge. Ouch. Encountered some walkers, no regulars. No Daily Walker. No roller skiers or rollerbladers. Any other runners? At least one, running much faster than me.

I like the form of this poem and how each stanza ends with an introduction to the next stanza. I want to experiment with it.

SEEK
by Sophia Holtz

the moon is a cataract that can’t see rats
chewing bone-filled trash, the satellites
passing above us making maps
of everything we touch. a machine

recognizes a human face, I forget
everyone’s names, & somewhere
a man is making a list of threats
he’s calling law. sometimes while I walk

I look for places where I could hide
because once or twice in my life
a man has tried to follow me home.
certain games are practical,

the way animals gnaw on what’s inedible
so they’ll become better knives.
at work, the children are playing
in an open space, all of them hiding

behind a trashcan, the game more ritual
than search, but it also reminds me
of towns likely burned to the ground
before they were emptied, or at the very least

erased from the map. if you’re small
your best trick is to become invisible.
even insects know this: how many
generations for a moth to resemble lichen.

swim: 1.7 miles
cedar lake

The final open swim of the season. As always, it’s difficult to believe that another year is done. A beautiful evening, a beautiful lake. So pleased that I was able to swim five days in a row. Breathed every five and five/six/five. Heard some planes, felt lots of scratchy, sharp water weeds. Checked out the opposite shore–I think it’s hidden beach. Really nice.

august 21/RUN

2.2 miles
lake harriet

Ran this morning around lake harriet with Scott while our son was taking his 2nd of 3 behind the wheel driving lessons. So great! The water was still, glass-like. Near where all the boats are docked (would you call this a marina?), the water was smooth for 10-15 meters, then suddenly rippled. What was causing this? Noticed a beach with a big swimming area that I’ll have to try out next week before the lake closes for the season. After we finished, had breakfast at Bread and Pickle, something I wanted to do for a few years. Heard a kid jubilantly call out, “I just saw a fish! A Northern Pike! Right there! Right there!” Such wonderful enthusiasm. O, to be so unabashed in my joy! A goal for this year. I’m tired of cynicism and swallowing the quirky joy I have for so many small and random things like garden gnomes and undulating waves and bright, glowing green running shoes!

Halos/ed bok lee

Blood vessels are invading
both corneas, crowding
the sclera, says my opthamologist.

Not an emergency yet, but
just be aware and get proper rest. I ask
about laser surgery and he sighs; confesses

when his own eyes are shot, he’ll
surgically insert acrylic lenses.
Two slits, no stitches, fifteen minutes.

With lasers, you’ll still need
readers and eye drops. On my walk
home, I take off

my glasses to receive the breeze.
I like that any nearing face
is surely smiling, gorgeous;

each blurry body’s aura numinous:
style of no style, racially
ambigious, a glob, pure

spectral inchoesion. Aren’t we all
just masses of energy and light
approaching or leaving

one another in the jumbled
future or past; sometimes stop-
ping to embrace

for a moment or decades,
before passing
way too far for sight?

That visual impairment improves hearing,
taste, smell, touch is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each streetlamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.
I don’t mind opening a book

like a pewter Rorschach test,
or waking up each morning
inside a fish tank of dream.

I like, whenever I wish, strolling past
the myopic me
in a window or mirror or whatever

reflects back to believe the soul is
ubiquitous like water
in our voices, our cells.

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:
to the dead, we’re the ghosts?

This poem captures so much of what I’ve been feeling about my vision and the magic of seeing differently–out of focus, fuzzy. Often, I like the strangeness of my sight; everything is more beautiful. I was mentioning to Scott the other day that I see things through a soft filter, like the one they used for filming Barbara Walters on The View. But even as I love the soft, generous way my vision enables me to see the world, sometimes, it’s exhausting, overwhelming. Walking around the Mall of America the other day, I was unable to see the hard edged outlines of peoples’ moving bodies. Difficult to navigate. Entering a store, I couldn’t immediately read the signs to orient myself, everything just out of focus.

swim: 1.5 miles
cedar lake

This final week of getting to swim every day is wonderful. Cedar Lake is the best. Looked it up and discovered that at its deepest point, it’s 88 feet. On average, it’s 37 feet. Cool. Felt strong and fast swimming today. More choppy water. More people to pass. As I neared the buoys, it always felt like I was swimming in place or swimming away from the buoy. A bit disorienting. I think there was a current that was pushing both me and the buoy away from each other–is that possible? Discovered an easy way to sight the shore that is invisible in the blinding sun: there’s a clear break in the trees that I can see no matter how bright and shiny everything else is. Breathed every five, then five/six/five. Took a few short breaks at the end of a loop but mostly swam non-stop. I wish there was another month of this swimming–hard to wait until next June for it to happen again.

august 20/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails

Another good run. Down below, on the way back north on the lower trail, I noticed how the first sewer drain I ran by vigorously trickled while the second one sporadically gushed. Heard a bird making the classic bird call through the trees, deep in the gorge, that I imagine when I think of a bird chirping in a forest. So bird. Didn’t take the steps at 38th street again and planned to continue on to the gravel hill just past the social justice keys but took a wrong turn at the fork in the trail and ended up climbing sooner, conveniently right by the water fountain at the 36th street parking lot.

Yesterday I posted a poem with a wonderful use of the word O. (O, to take what we love inside/to carry within us an orchard, to eat/not only the skin, but the shade,/not only the sugar, but the days, to hold/the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into/the round jubilance of peach.) So when I saw a poem that takes on the O even more, I wanted to post it. I love the unbridled enthusiasm of an O! (and of the exclamation mark!!)

O, She Says
BY HAILEY LEITHAUSER

O, she says (because she loves to say O),
O to this cloud-break that ravels the night,
O to this moon, its mouthful of sorrow,
O shallow grass and the nettle burr’s bite,

O to heart’s flare, its wobbly satellite,
O step after step in stumbling tempo,
O owl in oak, O rout of black bat flight,
(O moaned in Attic and Esperanto)

O covetous tongue, O fat fandango,
O gnat tango in the hot, ochered light,
O wind whirred leaves in subtle inferno,
O flexing of sea, O stars bolted tight,

O ludicrous swoon, O blind hindsight,
O torching of bridges and blood boiled white,
O sparrow and arrow and hell below,
O, she says, because she loves to say O.

swim: 1.3 miles
cedar lake

Another great swim! I am really enjoying how much smaller cedar lake is. I heard someone say a loop is 600 yards. It’s easier to swim longer and farther and faster. The water was choppy again, which is great. I love battling the waves. I had no problem swimming straight today and had fun passing people.

august 19/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails +
59 degrees
humidity: 85%

Ran up above listening to another audio book, down below listening to a bird, my breathing and water gurgling out of the sewer–not gushing or rushing, falling? When I got to the leaning tree trunk and the 38th street steps I didn’t go up but stayed on the lower trail. No mud, only dirt, an occasional stone and wildflowers. Not too overgrown. Think I could see my breath as it hit the sunlight streaking through the trees–was this because of steamy humidity? Ran past the railing where the keys with social justice messages painted on them used to hang and up the gravel hill to the paved path, near the overlook, the welcoming oaks and the two old boulders. No stacked stones on the taller one. Saw the dark-haired woman I usually pass and the old lady in the straw hat. She wasn’t listening to any TED talks today.

From Blossoms
BY LI-YOUNG LEE

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

O, what a poem! I want to spend some time memorizing these lines so I can remember them when I need them. I want to carry within me an orchard and live from joy to joy to joy!

swim: 1 miles
cedar lake

A great evening for a swim. The water was choppy, which I liked. The sun was blinding, which I didn’t. Again, couldn’t see anything on the way back to the start except for an opening in the trees which I determined was where the beach was. So I swam straight towards it and was right. When I was done, I swam through the swimming area. Suddenly it got much darker below me–is it deeper? The attitude at the lake is more laid back than at Nokomis. Kayaks in the swimming area, a dog swimming out to greet the swimmers as they made their way to the first buoy, lifeguards sitting in camp chairs. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me. Next year I will try to make it to more of these cedar lake swims. Almost forgot: too many scratchy, pesky vines floating in the water, getting tangled on my shoulders, in my fingers as they entered the water.

august 18/SWIM

2 miles
cedar lake

Open swim is over at Lake Nokomis but it’s still happening at Cedar Lake. So glad I found out how great it is to swim at Cedar. Next year I’ll have to swim here more often. Starting my swim, I couldn’t see at all. No landmarks–no roofs of big buildings or light poles. Only trees. Just swimming into the void of blueish gray water. Luckily I had lined up the buoys before I left so I was okay. The water was opaque and warm enough. Only a few bits of milfoil reaching out to grab my arm. These water weeds are surprisingly scratchy on your skin. It was mostly cloudy. A few times the sun broke through, other times the clouds darkened. On the second half of my last lap it suddenly became very choppy. I love swimming into the waves! Felt strong and fast, then tired. A nice, glowing burn even now an hour later. Overheard one woman say she was leaving soon for Maine to swim there–was it for a race? Not sure. My breathing was mostly every five, sometimes every 3, sometimes 3 then 4 on repeat or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or hear any planes.

In all of my searches for “lakes” or “water,” how have I never encountered this poem before? Love how she captures the reverse world that water creates!

Water Picture
May Swenson – 1913-1989

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don’t fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.
A baby, taken to feed the
ducks, dangles upside-down,
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of
cherry bloom for roots,
where birds coast belly-up
in the glass bowl of a hill;
from its bottom a bunch
of peanut-munching children
is suspended by their
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks
forming the figure 3,
steers between two dimpled
towers doubled. Fondly
hissing, she kisses herself,
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter,
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge
folds like a fan.

august 17/RUNBIKE

run: 2.6 miles
lake harriet

Ran around Lake Harriet with Scott while our son was having his first behind-the-wheel driver’s ed lesson. Crowded. Lots of dogs and walkers and runners and cracks in the paved path.

bike: 14 miles
hidden falls/crosby farm/river road

Biked to Hidden Falls in St. Paul. So cool! Walked by the river first. Watched a kayak leisurely paddling until a motorboat roared by. Saw the dogs at the dog park across the river. Got bit by at least 4 mosquitos. Finally found the trail to the falls. A beautiful, small waterfall, lined with rocks. We timed it right so we were alone. Reminded me of Emerald Pools in Zion–one of my favorite places. Walked up the stone steps–definitely a WPA project. Thought about my grandfather who lived in West St. Paul and worked for the WPA. Did he help stack these stones? 110 steps up–Scott counted. I wonder if any of the men making these steps thought about how long they would still be here and who might be walking over them in the future?

august 16/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
64 degrees
humidity: 90%/dew point: 62

Sometimes, less often in the last year, when I wake up I feel regret or shame about some intangible thing that I didn’t actually do. This makes me uneasy until I’ve fully woken up and restored my sense of exuberance. Usually a run or a walk or just being outside helps. Today, running while listening to Lizzo, worked. Ran by the welcoming oaks, through the tunnel of trees, which isn’t really a tunnel but 2 walls of green, past the old stone steps. Heard a dog barking deeply and persistently in the gorge. Felt strong running up the hill after the lake street bridge. Wanted to sing along with Lizzo being 100% that bitch but didn’t. Smiled at several runners and walkers. Didn’t see the river. Avoided a stupid squirrel. Tried to keep my shoulders relaxed and my right arm swinging as much as my left.

Saw this poem on Instagram. The poet, Crystal Williams, offers this explanation for why she wrote it:

“Many years ago I heard someone describe Aretha Franklin’s voice as the voice of God, which was an amazing thing to say. This meditation is my attempt at understanding why that statement struck me as profoundly true. In the end, Aretha’s voice is an aggregation of the choruses of the natural world—all of their harmony, complexity, and distinctiveness—and it is as close to the divine as I can imagine.”

I really love her description of the divine here: the aggregation of the choruses of the natural world

The Voice of God
Crystal Williams

      Poem for Aretha Franklin

when she opens her mouth
our world swells like dawn on the pond
when the sun licks the water & the jay garbles,
the whole quiet thing coming into tune,
the gnats, frogs, the dandelion pollen, the
pebbles & leaves & the whole world of us
sitting at the throat of the jay
dancing in the throat of the jay
all of us on the lip of the jay
singing doowop, doowop, do.

august 15/RUN

3 miles
two trails
63 degrees

A nice and easy run. Cooler. Not too much sun. Not that crowded. Didn’t see the little old lady shuffling by that I’ve been writing about but I did encounter a woman I’ve seen at least 2 or 3 times before who walks the opposite way I run. While I start by running south on the upper trail, north on the lower trail, she starts north on the upper trail and south on the lower. I get to greet her twice. Don’t remember much about the upper path run, but I remember noticing how bright and glowing the river was below me on the lower trail. Heard some roller ski poles clicking-clacking. A car horn aggressively honking–at least 5 or 6 times. Some bikers talking. The leaning tree trunk is still leaning near the 38th street steps. After taking them up and running north, I noticed 3 rocks stacked on the ancient boulder near the tunnel of trees.

On the Dirt Path Near Folwell Avenue Haibun
Sara Puotinen

Even if you try to time it just right when you climb the steep, short hill up to the dirt packed path, you cannot avoid the swarming swath of sex-crazed gnats or the little old lady slowly shuffling by, swinging her hiking poles, a voice TED-talking out of her phone’s speaker reminding you that this is why we are all here. Do not bother the bench resting on the rim of the gorge to ask what this is. If looking through the thickly thatched oak leaves to gather glimpses of the silvery river sparkling in the morning sun doesn’t already answer everything, the bench certainly won’t be able to help.

Bugs and old ladies
wake up early in June but
so does the river.

august 14/BIKERUN

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A great ride early in the morning before it was too crowded. Thing I remember most: not once but twice some dumb squirrel darted out right in front of my bike, forcing me to use my brakes. I hate squirrels.

run: 2.7 miles
two trails

Such a beautiful morning! Not too hot or windy or humid. Decided to do a quick run even though I’d already biked to the lake and walked around it. Up above, encountered at least one roller skier, some bikers, a dog and their human, a few other runners. Down below, an unleashed dog running ahead of its owners, a few solitary walkers. Watched the river out of the corner of my eye. Avoided muddy, mucky leaves. Ran cautiously under the leaning, yarn-bombed tree trunk.

swim: 1 mile
cedar lake

Finally decided to try out open swim at Cedar Lake. I’ve never been because it’s a lot farther from my house. Really wonderful. Not too many people there, which was great. Smaller loops–not sure, but I think a loop was 400-500 yards? (instead of 1200 at Lake Nokomis). I liked mixing it up with smaller loops. Easier to not get off track even when you couldn’t see, which I couldn’t on the way back because of the sun. Why are so many of the beaches east/west, with one way always being in the sun? No big, crazy beach filled with too many people. Found out after I finished swimming that the rest of lake nokomis open swims will be at cedar. It’s very sad to be done for the season at nokomis without being able to say goodbye to the lake but I’m glad I can still swim–if I can make it over to Cedar. It’s about a 16-18 mile bike ride round trip. Breathed every five strokes. Felt strong and fast and free.

Lake Water
By David Ferry July 16, 2007/ The New Yorker


It is a summer afternoon in October.
I am sitting on a wooden bench, looking out
At the lake through a tall screen of evergreens,
Or rather, looking out across the plane of the lake,
Seeing the light shaking upon the water
As if it were a shimmering of heat.
Yesterday, when I sat here, it was the same,
The same displaced out-of-season effect.
Seen twice it seemed a truth was being told.
Some of the trees I can see across the lake
Have begun to change, but it is as if the air
Had entirely given itself over to summer,
With the intention of denying its own proper nature.
There is a breeze perfectly steady and persistent
Blowing in toward shore from the other side
Or from the world beyond the other side.
The mild sound of the little tapping waves
The breeze has caused—there’s something infantile
About it, a baby at the breast. The light
Is moving and not moving upon the water.
The breeze picks up slightly but still steadily,
The increase in the breeze becomes the mild
Dominant event, compelling with sweet oblivious
Authority alterations in light and shadow,
Alterations in the light of the sun on the water,
Which becomes at once denser and more quietly
Excited, like a concentration of emotions
That had been dispersed and scattered and now were not.
Then there’s the mitigation of the shadow of a cloud,
Phrases and even sentences are written,
But because of the breeze, and the turning of the year,
And the sense that this lake water, as it is being
Experienced on a particular day, comes from
Some source somewhere, beneath, within, itself,
Or from somewhere else, nearby, a spring, a brook,
Its pure origination somewhere else,
It is like an idea for a poem not yet written
And maybe never to be completed, because
The surface of the page is like lake water,
That takes back what is written on its surface,
And all my language about the lake and its
Emotions or its sweet obliviousness,
Or even its being like an origination,
Is all erased with the changing of the breeze
Or because of the heedless passing of a cloud. When, moments after she died, I looked into
Her face, it was as untelling as something natural,
A lake, say, the surface of it unreadable,
Its sources of meaning unrndable anymore.
Her mouth was open as if she had something to say;
But maybe my saying so is a figure of speech.

I’d like to read this poem several more times. Wow, that ending!

august 13/RUN

2.4 miles
two trails
62 degrees

Slightly cooler this morning. Noticed the river sparkling in the sun. Saw the old woman in the straw hat sitting on the bench that I’m writing about in my most recent haibun as I ran south, but by the time I turned around and reached the bench again she was gone. No rowers. No roller skiers. Not many bikes or runners. A few walkers. Only the leaning, yarn-bombed trunk is here.

note: No open swim tonight due to bad water quality. No!!! Hopefully the lake won’t be closed for the rest of the season. What a bummer.

When I Am Asked
BY LISEL MUELLER

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.

It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

august 12/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Biking to the river, it was strange to see smoke coming out of the sewers; they’re testing for leaks. Not too crowded on the bike path. Just past 44th street, I encountered a bike surrey, about to cause a traffic jam in the double bridge. Later on the way home, I think I passed 5 or 6 surreys. So many today!

swim: 1.3 miles
lake nokomis

Swam 8 little loops off the big beach. Wonderful! The lake was nearly empty, only a swimming class in the shallow area. A few paddle boarders out in the middle. Overcast, looking like rain any second. Not too windy or warm. Nice. Swam for 40 minutes. Smooth, strong, steady. Realized that the swimming breathing stroke poems I’m working on aren’t quite right. The rhythm is not 5/6/3/5 like I’ve been doing but 5/6/3, 5/6/3. Maybe I’ll work on some 5/6/3 or 5/6/3/5/6/3 verses today. After I stopped swimming, standing in the sand in the swimming area near the shore, it started drizzling. I almost went back out to swim some more, but I was too tired. …After the 6th loop, I stopped briefly and noticed the silence. So calm and peaceful! I love this lake.

august 11/RUN

1.3 miles
longfellow neighborhood

Still keeping my filling all 3 rings streak going. Now at 76 (or is it 77?) days. Went out for a quick run with Scott to earn the last 11 exercise minutes. I rarely ever run this late in the day (6:30 pm). It’s later in the summer so the light isn’t lingering as long in the evening. Soft, beautiful.

Encountered this poem in a book about line breaks, discussing the effect of breaking the line “they taste good to her” in 3 different ways.

To a Poor Old Woman
William Carlos Williams – 1883-1963

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

august 10/RUN

2.6 miles
two trails

A quick run before the rain starts. All day drizzle then showers. I like how the greens look–so dark and soothing and mysterious!–when it’s just starting to rain. Encountered a few runner’s groups and a peloton on the road. Heard the rowers–the coxswain calming giving instructions through the bullhorn. Also heard the trees shaking off the water from an earlier rain. Running through the dark green I wondered if I might meet up with a coyote or a fox. (I didn’t). Very humid, but cooler. Lots of liquid everywhere–in the air, up in the trees, dripping through the drain pipes, soaking my back and my neck and my head.

Speaking of liquid, I found this poem while searching on the poetry foundation’s site for “dark green”. Emily Hunt’s collection of poems is titled Dark Green.

Property
Emily Hunt

There are these flowers
with centers like liquid

hollows up close
and the outline

melts like a trick.
An illusion is usually

dark by the end.
An illusion is thin

curving for some
spark, along it to trace

a straight
shot to the rigged

bones of the plot,
to drink the quiet, like dirt.

august 9/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

I never plan it, but according to my workout app, I’ve been averaging 12.7 mph for almost every bike ride I’ve done to the lake for the past month. 12.7 mph is not fast but it’s fast enough for me. And it never feels slow. No run-ins with jerks biking too fast or taking over the whole path or yelling at me. Can’t remember why now, but some cars or bikers did prompt me to shake my head disapprovingly. The dreaded middle-aged mom’s head shake!

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Swam little loops off the big beach today–4, or was it 5? I can’t remember. All I know is that I swam for about 25 minutes. The water was great. Smooth. Not too cold. A couple bright yellow paddle boats hovered just off the swimming area–actually, they weren’t that close but with my depth perception they looked like they were right on top of the white buoys. The water looked yellowish brownish green. There was another swimmer swimming loops. Spent a lot of my sighting time making sure I didn’t run into him. Breathed every five for most of it, occasionally 3/6/3/6 or 5/6/5/6. Felt so powerful and fast slicing through the water and easily rounding the buoys. What a wonderful feeling! Almost convinced myself that it was too much of a hassle to swim today. So glad I didn’t.

every five
Catch pull push release
five times then a breath

three/six/three/six
powerful
strong shoulders and straight strokes
jubilant
generous lungs stay filled

five/six/five/six
swimming little loops
well–not little loops but
loops that are smaller
than loops across the lake

“welcome!” says water
“join us!” cry out the fish
“hello!” calls the bird
perched on the white buoy

Boy Crazy/Carmen Giméndez Smith

The echoes of sirens and cicadas,
and the drunk boys who howl
into the trees at 2 a.m. infect
my window while I sleep,
and I’m pulled into a girl I once was,
calling for love into a sky transected
by power lines until sunset when the town
tightened into itself. I prayed for a boy’s
wolf life, the dream of skulking along
streets with hunger and immunity.
I wanted to cup the moon’s curve
in my hand like it belonged to me,
that was how young I was.

Love the unexpected meaning of the title here and so many of the phrases–infect my window/pulled into a girl I once was/when the town tightened into itself/a boy’s wolf life/skulking/hunger and immunity.


august 8/RUN

2 miles
austin, mn
61 degrees

Did a quick run with Scott in his hometown. Felt humid but not too hot. Ran on the slanted city sidewalks. Lots of shade. Not too hard, but not too easy either. My left leg felt tight again at the end. Encountered one walker, no bikers, and one runner when we were almost back to the house. Not too many people out here on this beautiful morning.

Writing a Poem
by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
a just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. If it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write. Its buzz takes away
feelings, takes over ears, is drilling a hole

in a loose tooth as you sit in history’s
dental chair, frantic and still, the drill
hammering the gums until only
spit oozes, dribbles, spills over, fills

cavities you didn’t know you had,
only the drill lives in your head
only the dull sharp dizz-dizz-dizz.
This is how the poem ends, dizz-dizz….

This poem captures the annoyance and frustration I feel when I hear leaf blowers. So overwhelming and insistent in their buzzing! (And so pointless in their efforts to clear out every single speck of leaf or debris.) I despise leaf blowers.

swim: 1.4 miles
lake nokomis

3 1/2 little loops + a big loop. Loved how choppy it was today, like swimming into a wall of water. Again, couldn’t see the buoys at all on the way back. Still swam straight. Even though it was 77 degrees, the air felt cold. The buoys were weirdly off, with the one closest to the little beach too far to the right. Don’t remember seeing any fish or hearing any airplanes or being stalked by any sailboats.

august 7/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees

Ran for 20 minutes, then walked a little, then ran again. Listened to my audiobook. Looked down at the river. Noticed that one rock was placed on top of the old boulder. Encountered some walkers and runners, at least one roller skier. So many cars on the river road. No Daily Walker today.

Found this wild erasure poem the other day. Pretty cool. I need to keep messing with forms.

Raging Girls/Keey Cressio-Moeller

august 6/RUNSWIM

run: 2.5 miles
two trails

Writing this a few days late, so I don’t remember much. Listened to my audio book up above, nothing down below. Was hoping to encounter the woman with the radio for another writing prompt. I did, but I passed her from behind and couldn’t hear anything. Bummer. Looked a little closer and saw that the yarn hanging off the leaning tree trunk is yellow and pink.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Swam a few little loops, then one big loop. A great swim. Absolutely couldn’t see the buoys until they were right next to me on the way back, but I could occasionally see a lifeguard on their kayak and the sparkling roof of the changing room building so I managed to stay on course the whole time. Felt strong and relaxed and happy to be swimming.

august 5/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails
72 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Last night my weather app told me there would be scattered thunderstorms this morning but when I woke up they had been pushed back to noon. Cloudy this morning and feeling like stepping into a sauna or the bathroom after someone has taken a too long hot shower. Listened to my audio book (another Agatha Christie) up above, everything else down below. Heard trickling and some rowers, car wheels whooshing and ski poles clickity-clacking up above. For the third time, encountered the little old lady walking with her hiking poles listening to a radio show or an audio book or something. Today I heard, “which reminds us of why we are all here.” Decided that I should create a poem or some piece of writing around this phrase. This phrase could be the title or the ending line of the whole poem or a sentence or a refrain. A week or so ago I posted a cliffhanger about the tree trunk leaning over the path near the 38th street steps. It’s still there and still continuing to lean lower. Someone has yarn-bombed it–yarn in colors I can’t remember are dangling down as decoration or warning. Will anyone ever take this trunk away?

Had a thought about my vision problems and their impact on how I see the gorge. My deteriorating vision has helped me to pay more attention to everything–to hear more, smell more, see more. It has also twisted/warped/made strange what I see which can make it more interesting or fantastical.

august 4/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Hot and sunny this morning. The bright light was hard on my eyes, but I could still see enough to bike. I love easy Sunday morning bike rides to the lake for open swim.

swim: 2.2 miles
lake nokomis

A great morning for open swim. Did a little loop off the beach then 3 big loops. It was hard to see the buoys, swimming into the sun on the way to the little beach, but there were enough people around and my stroke was straight so I made it without any problems. So much easier to swim when I don’t worry about how I can’t see. Noticed how, when the light shines just right on the bright orange buoy, it loses its color and becomes a dull gray hulking shape. I couldn’t see the orange until I was almost right next to it. Is that my vision or do people with normal vision lose the orange too? Most of the time, the water felt good. Smooth, easy, light. And I felt fast. But in a few spots, it felt a lot thicker and slower. Sometimes, as I’m nearing the buoy, it seems like I’ll never reach it like the Mom in Poltergeist when she’s running down the hall to save Carol Ann. The water was filled with random leaves and twigs and vines of milfoil. Didn’t swallow any but I could feel them brush past me as I swam. The minuscule minnows were swimming at the big beach again, greeting me as I entered the water. “Have a good swim! Enjoy being a fish for an hour,” I imagine they might have said if they weren’t already too occupied in their own enjoyment of being fish.

The August Preoccupations
Catherine Barnett

So this morning I made a list

of obsessions and you were on it.

And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,

and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,

silent comedy, and waiting.

I could forswear all these things

and just crawl back into the bed

you and I once slept in.

What would happen then?

Play any film backwards and it’s elegy.

Play it fast-forward it’s a gas.

I try not to get attached.

But Lincoln!

I see stars when I look at him.

I love lists and poems as lists and the breezy way this poem starts and the line about Lincoln and seeing stars. I remember listening to a podcast in which the artist/author/all around awesome human Maira Kalman talked about how much she loves Abraham Lincoln. I googled it and found this article.

august 3/RUN

2 miles
to dogwood coffee
76 degrees

Hot and humid again. Ran with Scott north on the river road, west on the greenway, through Brackett Park, then to Dogwood Coffee. Felt fine. On the way, we talked about the trail and road surfaces. They put red gravel on the road just past the lake street bridge after patching it. Where did they quarry it, I wonder? Where do the materials for the asphalt trail come from? Are they local?

august 1/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.2 miles
two trails
69 degrees
dew point: 62

It’s hot again. Ran the two trails. Listened to an audio book (Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage) on the upper trail. Nothing on the lower–excerpt for an older woman’s radio (the same woman I passed last week). Instead of taking the steps up at 38th, I kept running on the dirt trail to the savana. Sometimes this trail is muddy, today it was not. I think I quickly glanced at the river only once or twice. Mostly, I don’t remember what I saw or heard. No interesting smells or sounds.

Let us for a moment call this pain by other words/Dominik Parisien

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull?

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head?

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

This poem is so great. Immediately reminds me of Eula Biss’s The Pain Scale essay. I don’t think I have a favorite line, they’re all beautiful. Maybe, “which constellations light the sky behind your eyes?”

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Great weather for a bike ride. Especially fun after the swim, on the way home, when it was almost twilight. The final stretch up the river road is always tricky at this time–so crowded. Bikers/runners/walkers spreading out over the path, disregarding the lines or the rules of which path to stay on. It makes it so much more dangerous for me. I’m fine biking in my lane, following the lines, but I can’t always see darting people or judge the amount of space I need to get around someone. Very frustrating.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Did a little loop before open swim started, then 2 big loops. Might have been able to do more, but my brain got tired of not being able to see much. Still, a great swim. The water felt nice–not too warm or cold–and the waves weren’t bad. For the first time, I ran into someone. Not hard, just a tap on their leg before I veered off. The buoys were too far off the main beach but in a straight line. Easy to follow. The sun was blinding heading back from the little beach. I wonder, does it get better or worse the longer you stay in the water? I can’t remember because I usually stop swimming by 6:30. Next time, I should stay until 7:30. Heard some clangs underwater, roaring planes in the sky. Several sailboats. Breathed every five strokes for the first loop. Second loop: every five to the little beach, every 6 to the right on the way back to the main beach. After I finished, met Scott at Sandcastle for a beer and watched a sailboat, with a brightly colored sail, slowly drift closer to us. What a great night! What a great lake!