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.