june 30/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees

Such a beautiful day! I’m getting used to biking again, and it’s not too bad. My biggest worries: having to pass other bikers and unexpected cracks or potholes. I’m able to bike when it’s not too crowded, so that helps. Averaged about 11.5 mph. That’s probably as fast as I should safely go. As I biked, I thought about how grateful I am still to be able to bike. Maybe I’ll always be able to bike, but probably, if/when I lose all of my central vision, it will be too difficult and unsafe.

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis, big beach
80 degrees/ sunny/ calm

Another great swim. Pleased with myself for pushing through my inertia and biking over to swim again today. In “sara miles” (1 mile = 30 minutes), I swam 1.5 miles. I’m starting to think that I might actually be swimming more than 1 mile in 30 minutes. Trying to decide if I should recalibrate–1 mile = 25 minutes? Yes. So, I actually swam 1.7 miles. The water was smooth and not too warm or too cold. Actually, I don’t remember feeling the temperature of the water, so it must been just right.

Things I Remember From My Swim

  • Heard and saw at least one more military plane roaring overhead
  • Breathed every 5 strokes
  • Concentrated on trying to shut my mouth as I went under–I don’t ever swallow the water, but I often have it in my mouth in-between breaths
  • My goggles were slightly fogged up for the first 20 minutes
  • I saw several flashes beneath me. Fish, I think. Not sure what kind or how big. It’s better I don’t know
  • Had trouble keeping track of which loop I was on–was it 3 or 4, 5 or 6? I used to have this problem a lot swimming laps in a pool. I’d always think I had done more than I had. Today, as I tried to remember, I thought about how often I am thinking too far ahead. I was losing track of my loops because I kept thinking about the next one. I’m sure this is a common problem, or at least, losing track is a common problem. Do more people lose track because their mind is wandering, or because, like me they’re thinking too much about the laps and jump ahead to the next one in their mind?
  • Listened to the water and the sounds it made as I moved through it–sloshing, not quite an echo–what words do people use for describing underwater sounds?
  • Near the end of the swim, I suddenly noticed some spray, like someone/something was there. Had a fish jumped out of the water? Was it a shift in the wind? I’m not sure
  • Was briefly freaked out by a piece of milfoil that crossed my path
  • About 30 minutes in, I felt warmed up and stronger
  • Thought about what it might feel like to try and swim across a bigger lake or a channel–how would my body feel being in the water moving for hours? I like the idea of the challenge of swimming a far distance in open water, but I don’t like what it might do to my body–especially calf cramps. I hate calf cramps

Found this poem on a cool open water swimmer’s blog (Swimming at Dawn):

SWIMMER (FEMALE)*/ Concha Méndez

My arms:
the oars.

The keel: 
my body.

Helm:
my thought.

(If I were a mermaid,
my songs
would be my verses.)

*Translation by Nancy FreyIncluded in the poetry collection of Concha Méndez titled Inquietudes(Concerns) from 1926. 

june 29/RUNSWIM

run: 3.3 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees
humidity: 87% / dew point: 66

A birthday run after it rained. Not a downpour, just a light shower. Everything felt cool until the sun came out and my body warmed up. Saw Dave the Daily Walker and we talked about both feeling sick a year and a half ago and meeting on the trail (march 13, 2020). He wondered if we both might have had covid. I’ve wondered too. Probably not.

Tried to see the river, but couldn’t through the veil of green. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks and intended to count the stacked stones on the ancient boulder but somewhere between the last oak and the boulder, I forgot. What happened in those 5 or 10 seconds? I think I was distracted by the clanging of a dog’s collar down below. One of the reasons I decided to run this morning was to travel through the tunnel of trees right after it rained. Everything is dark green. But by the time I had reached this spot, it had lightened up too much. Still, it was peaceful and shaded and green. I quickly glanced down below me and thought about how not being able to see the forest floor (because of the leaves and vines) made me feel higher up–floating or flying in green air.

There’s another spot on the trail, not too far past the old stone steps but before Minnehaha Academy, where the trail splits: the bike path stays above next to the road, the running path drops slightly and hugs the side of the bluff. Any time of the year, the running path is narrow here, being so close to the edge and because of a big tree at one spot–what kind of tree? probably an oak–but it becomes even more narrow in the summer when the all the green comes. Today, it was a tight squeeze. Running through, I felt the dew from a few reaching leaves.

Found this poem on poetry foundation when I searched for “rock.” My family’s farm (sold in 2004) had lots of rock piles and they were part of the legend of our family as Puotinens who persist.

Rockpile/ Robert Morgan (1985)

Sprinkled with a luminous dust
of moss and algae, the rocks seem
alive in the sunken woods, bright
as Christmas balls or peeled and
rotting globes, their maps just rags
of lichens and their worlds oblong,
broken, dented eggs. And ferns feather
through the edges of the mound like
a circle of fire around the cairn
or fallen monument. But no
pagan elders worshipped here or
committed sacrifices on this altar.
Though five or six generations
of children carried the stones out
of a field, pried them up with picks
and poles, heaved and toted them
like curses to the edge of the woods
(what frost had worked to the surface
each year like tubers and bones)
until they had a chimney’s worth
and more, piled for snakes to thread
and poison oak to wind. Though fields
they cleared have been woods for a century
and the kids who struggled the weights
from clay are now grandfathers of
grandfathers, each with his own stone.

About 10 years, I created a digital story out of old footage STA took at the farm:

swim: 3 miles/ 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees/sunny/calm

I felt strong and didn’t stop between loops–I paused a few times to clear my goggles or adjust my nose plug or try and see where the green buoys were. I would like to try for a 5k on Thursday.

It feels like it’s getting harder to see the orange buoys. I am not having any problems staying on course, but I’m relying more on other landmarks. Is this a sign that my vision is declining more? Or, is it just where the light is and how it hits the buoys?

Things I Remember From My Swim

  • Someone was playing a drum somewhere and whenever I briefly paused at a white buoy near a beach, I could hear the thumping. I asked STA, and he said they were playing by the overlook way across the lake. Wow, that drum was loud!
  • At least 2 military planes roared overhead in my 3rd loop. They were so loud that several other swimmers stopped to look up
  • I never really saw the green buoys other than the idea of them being there–not a flash of green, but a quick knowing of where they were and a sudden surge in my stroke as I confidently swam towards them. Strange
  • The green buoys were so far over that the course was more like a square than a triangle
  • As I said to STA, it was a birthday miracle that I didn’t plow through a few swimmers. They were swimming backstroke which, for some reason, made it more difficult to see them. Why? Were their heads lower in the water that way?
  • One of the backstrokers bumped into me
  • I breathed every 5, with a few 5 then 6, and a couple every 3
  • No fish or dragonflies, but some milfoil got stuck on my head, near my goggles for a while
  • A few worries: will I be stuffed up after this? is my calf cramping up? why are my goggles leaking slightly?
  • Near the end of my 3rd loop, as I approached the big beach, my shoulders felt strong and big and wonderful

After typing that last bullet point, I noticed a line from Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” that I taped on my desk that seems fitting:

I am larger, better than I thought.
I did not know I held so much goodness.

What a great birthday!

june 27/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees

Biked to Lake Nokomis for some swimming off of the big beach. There’s an open swim at Cedar Lake tonight, but it’s too far to go twice in one week, so I’ll go there on Wednesday, which is the other day there’s an open swim at Cedar. Biking wasn’t too bad. Not too crowded, which makes it easier. My biggest problem: unanticipated ruts or potholes. I can’t see them at all, or until I’m right on top of them. My poor tires. Lots of loud thuds and cracks and pops. But no crashes or falls off of my bike. The other big thing I remember: as I was powering up the hill between lake hiawatha and lake nokomis, I suddenly hear a loud pop and then crackling. Fireworks. At 10 am on a Monday. In the bright sun. Near a random green space between lakes. Why? Luckily I don’t startle easily, because something like that might have made me fall of my bike. So loud and unexpected. I hate fireworks.

The bike ride back, after my swim, was fine too. I encountered a biker who was biking with both of his hands by his sides, and not on the handlebars. How do people do this? I suppose, part of me is envious of someone that carefree, but most of me is incredulous. So dangerous on this cracked, curved, crowded trail.

swim: 1.55 miles/ 9 loops*
big beach, lake nokomis
75 degrees/ sunny
no chop

*since I’m not entirely sure of the distance, and my watch doesn’t seem to be accurate, I’m creating my own standard here, my Sara miles (similar to “jerry miles” from the bowerman track club). 30 minutes = 1 mile, or 6 loops = 1 mile. I added the extra .05 to the distance today, because I did swim a little more and to make my total distance a whole number.

Yes! I want to bike to the beach during the day and do a swim at least once every week. The water was a great tempature and calm. And no one else was swimming around the buoys. For the first half of the swim, I counted my strokes–1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left–and tried to stop thinking. Mostly it worked, although I do remember thinking about the water, how it felt as I glided through it, or as my arms pushed it past my body. Every so often, my buoy tugged at my waist–remember me, it seemed to say, I’m here too. The water was opaque; the only thing I remember seeing was bubbles below me from the water I pushed down at the end of each stroke. A kayak and a paddle board passed by me at some point. I briefly imagined what would happen if a fish bumped into me–not bit, just bumped me.

Earlier this morning, I was reading and ruminating over Bruno LaTour’s ideas about the two shores of a river as nature and culture or truth and the dream or what is real and what is described. A classic problem in philosophy is to find a way to bridge these distant shores, to see how they connect, to link the actual world with our perceptions of it. I’ve barely skimmed it so far, but LaTour is arguing that, instead of finding/creating a bridge, we should get in the river and learn how to navigate the water between these two shores. As I swam, I thought about what kind of reality swimming is–is it real? a dream? a distortion? Then I started thinking about classic philosophical approaches to this problem, and wondered, what if the idea that there is a distinct, sharp reality–a truth–was the illusion? What if the clear divisions we believe to exist between entities–fish, water, me– are our attempt to impose order where it doesn’t exist? Not sure if this is making sense, but it’s starting to sound a lot like a poem I wrote 2 or 3 years ago, Submerged. I think I’ll try to revisit/edit it.

what is poetry?

Found this collection of definitions of poetry in a sticky note that I created on sept 8, 2017–that was about 8 months after I started this log, about 6 months after I discovered I loved poetry, about a month and a half after I injured my knee, and 2 weeks before I could run again. I wish past Sara would have noted which awesome poetry person tweeted these definitions or where to find the essay they wrote, but she didn’t. Oh well.

Well, here is a list of how several poets have defined what a poem is (lifted from an essay I once wrote): What a poem is: “The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth). “A small (or large) machine of words” (Williams). “Language that sounds better and means more” (C.D. Wright). “A verbal contraption” (Auden). “A form cut in time” (Pound). “At bottom, a criticism of life” (Matthew Arnold). “The journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air” (Carl Sandburg). “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson). “An empty basket; you put your life into it” (Mary Oliver). “Somebody standing up… and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment” (Galway Kinnell). “A holy thing” (Roethke). “A momentary stay against confusion” (Frost).

a poetry person on twitter/sept 2017

Erosion/ Eamon Grennan

What the sea does–coming, going–is mole beneath the
seeming solid earth
and keep eating at it until it gives over at last its stony hold
on things
and another chunk comes tumbling. What’s strange is, after
thirty years,
I’ve never seen this happen, never been there at the pivotal
single moment
when these two conditions, these major states of being
(solidity and flux,
the rooted and the foldaway ruthless rootless heart of the
matter) meet and
mate for an instant in which sea-roar and land-groan are one
gigantic sound
and then that jawing withdrawal, that collapse, that racing
after–so foam, stones,
churn of sand, swirl of search become a wrecked mouth
bulging with one
loud clamourtongue, which the rock you stood on plunges
into, dumbing it.

O, I love this poem and the single moment when sea roar and land groan meet and mate!

june 27/RUN

4.3 miles
minneahaha falls and back
66 degrees/ dew point: 62
light rain

Ran south on the river road trail past the falls and stopped at the big statue just past the pergola garden. When I would walk or bike the kids over here, about 10 years ago, we (or was it mostly me?) called this statue “big feet” because all the kids could see was his big feet. There was also a little feet (John Stevens)–a much smaller statue not too far way. Today I wanted to find out who Big Feet actually was. I assumed he might be someone connected to Fort Snelling–Zebulon Pike or Snelling or Franklin. Nope. Gunner Wennenberg, a Swedish composer, poet, and politician. This statue was erected on June 24th, 1914. Looking him up online, I am amused by this last paragraph in the wikipedia entry (originally found in an old Encyclopedia Britannica):

Wennerberg was a most remarkable type of the lyrical, ardent Swedish aristocrat, full of the joy of life and the beauty of it. In the long roll of his eighty-four years there was scarcely a crumpled rose-leaf. His poems, to which their musical accompaniment is almost essential, have not ceased, in half a century, to be universally pleasing to Swedish ears; outside Sweden it would be difficult to make their peculiarly local charm intelligible.

Difficult to make their peculiarly local charm intelligible? Ouch. I’m not sure if any part of my ears are Swedish–Finnish and Czech and Norwegian–but I listened to one of his hymns, and I thought it was nice (I don’t like the word nice here but I’m not sure I could go so far as to say it was beautiful).

During this run, I felt strong and relaxed and sweaty. So much sweat. The temp was 66, the dew point 62. Difficult for sweat to evaporate and cool me off. I listened to a playlist so I didn’t hear any trickling or gushing water. No rowers or birds or small bits of conversation. I did feel the light rain cooling me off sometimes.

For today’s water and stone poem, I decided to search for a Swedish poet. I found Tomas Tranströmer, the 2011 Nobel Prize Winner for Poetry.

excerpt from The Half Finished Heaven

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Under Pressure

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening.
We’re living here on a shuddering work-site
where the ocean depths can suddenly open up –
shells and telephones hiss.

You can see beauty only from the side, hastily,
The dense grain on the field, many colours in a yellow stream.
The restless shadows in my head are drawn there.
They want to creep into the grain and turn to gold.

Darkness falls. At midnight I go to bed.
The smaller boat puts out from the larger boat.
You are alone on the water.
Society’s dark hull drifts further and further away.

june 26/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
71 degrees/ dew point: 64

It felt hot and humid this morning. Overcast. Ran up the marshall hill without stopping until I reached the bridge steps. It was hard, but I didn’t stop. A good mental victory. Heard some rowers on the river and the coxswain directing them. Crossing back over the bridge, I stopped to read a few small pink signs affixed to the bridge. One was about hope making anything possible, another about how one road block shouldn’t stop you. The other day, as STA and I crossed the bridge in the car, we noticed that the entire bridge was covered in these signs, now only these 2 are left. STA thinks the wind might have blown them off.

Near the start of my run, descending the hill and entering the tunnel of trees, it was a dark, impenetrable green, made darker by my vision. It looked like I was running into a lightless smudge. Very cool–not scary at all. Once I was in the dark green, there was light and trees and thick air. Noticed the 4 fences I’ve written about and the stone wall framed by trees, remembering the time I saw someone perched in one of these trees–hiding? spying?

Now, after the run, I feel sore. I often feel sore in the summer. Not injury-sore but doing-more-exercise-especially-swimming-sore.

Erosion/ Linda Pastan

We are slowly
undermined. Grain
by grain . . .
inch by inch . . .
slippage.
It happens as we watch.
The waves move their long row
of scythes over the beach.

It happens as we sleep,
the way the clock’s hands
move continuously
just out of sight,
but more like an hourglass
than a clock,
for here sand
is running out.

We wake to water.
Implacably lovely
is this view
though it will swallow
us whole, soon
there will be nothing left but view.

We have tried a seawall.
We have tried prayer.
We have planted grasses
on the bank, small tentacles,
hooks of green that catch
on nothing. For the wind
does its work, the water
does its use work.

One day the sea will simply
take us. The children
press their faces to the glass
as if the windows were portholes,
and the house fills
with animals: two dogs,
a bird, cats–we are becoming
an ark already.

The guess will follow
our wake.
We are made of water anyway,
I can field it in the yielding
of your flesh, though sometimes
I think that you are sand,
moving slowly, slowly
from under me.

june 25/SWIM

2 miles/ 2 loops
open swim lake nokomis
78 degrees/ sunny

Another open swim. Since I swam last night too, I only did 2 loops this morning. Over 7 miles of swimming this week so far. I can’t remember the last time I swam this many miles in one week. Excellent. It was sunny and warm and the orange buoys were invisible. No problem. I looked for the quick flash of the silver boat bottom at the little beach and knew I was on course. I didn’t see the buoys until they were right next to me. Decided to swim without my safety buoy today. Easier. I encountered–mostly passed, which is a lot of fun–other swimmers, but mostly felt alone. Me and blurs of green and blue. Below me, the water is completely opaque. I’ve never seen the bottom of this lake, except for right next to shore. A few times I felt some slimy vegetation wrapping around my shoulder, but not much else. No sloshing of water in my ears, no strange metallic sounds rising up from underneath. I saw a few paddle boarders crossing the lake–no motorized boats are allowed on this lake, which is wonderful.

Anything else? Oh–I felt happy and powerful and confident swimming without any problems across the lake. Some of this was because my shoulders are strong and I can swim fairly fast and steadily without getting too tired, but more of it is because I can swim across without being able to see much–just enough vision to keep me on track. In the water, I don’t doubt myself or second guess what I’m doing. I don’t want to be a fish but I wish I could take more of the water with me into the rest of my life. I wonder if I do better in the water because I can’t hear or see or feel anyone judging me or trying to encourage/force me to do things the way they think they should be done?

A Swim in Co. Wicklow/ DEREK MAHON

The only reality is the perpetual flow of vital energy.
                                                                           —Montale

Spindrift, crustacean patience
and a gust of ozone,
you come back once more
to this dazzling shore,
its warm uterine rinse,
heart-racing heave and groan.

A quick gasp as you slip
into the hissing wash,
star cluster, dulse and kelp,
slick algae, spittle, froth,
the intimate slash and dash,
hard-packed in the seething broth.

Soft water-lip, soft hand,
close tug of origin,
the sensual writhe and snore
of maidenhair and frond,
you swim here once more
smart as a rogue gene.

Spirits of lake, river
and woodland pond preside
mildly in water never
troubled by wind or tide;
and the quiet suburban pool
is only for the fearful —

no wind-wave energies
where no sea briar grips
and no freak breaker with
the violence of the ages
comes foaming at the mouth
to drown you in its depths.

Among pebbles a white conch
worn by the suck and crunch,
a sandy skull as old
as the centuries, in cold
and solitude reclines
where the moon-magnet shines;

but today you swirl and spin
in sea water as if,
creatures of salt and slime
and naked under the sun,
life were a waking dream
and this the only life.

There’s a lot I like about this poem and its vivid descriptions of swimming and the water. I don’t like the repeated use of and, joining two verbs: writhe and snore, slash and dash, suck and crunch, swirl and spin. I get why he’s doing it–reflecting the energy of the sea, but somehow it doesn’t fall right on my ears. Maybe I should read it a few more times.

Spirits of lake, river
and woodland pond preside
mildly in water never
troubled by wind or tide;
and the quiet suburban pool
is only for the fearful —

no wind-wave energies
where no sea briar grips
and no freak breaker with
the violence of the ages
comes foaming at the mouth
to drown you in its depths.

I have swam in the ocean (swum?) but never more than wading and playing in the waves, never far out for an open swim. I did snorkel at the great barrier reef, but that was different. The water was calm and I wasn’t swimming much freestyle or too far, just in circles, watching brightly colored fist. Even though it scares me–especially the idea of sharks (thanks, Steven Spielberg)– I’d like to try sometime. Probably with a few other people. The lake water I swim in is mostly calm, with some chop, and once in a while whitecaps. Swimming across Nokomis is not the same as swimming in the ocean, but it’s also not the same as a pool–which can have it’s share of foam and dangers if you’re swimming in a lane with lots of other people. Lake Nokomis is strange because it was originally a swampy area, only averaging 5 feet of depth. It was dredged out and turned into a lake in the 1910s. But, it’s lake water, and it’s packed with fish, and it’s not small.

june 24/SWIM

3 miles/ 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
83 degrees

The third day in a row of open swim. It was overcast, which I thought would make it easier for me to see all the buoys, but the lack of light drained their color. Hardly any smudges of orange, and only when I twisted my neck so I could see the buoy through my peripheral. Strangely, I saw the green buoys more often, which was not a lot. Will it ever stop being amazing to me that I can swim across the lake without panicking when all I can see is endless water? Heading back from the little beach, where the path between buoys is wider and less direct, I had a moment of feeling like I was swimming off the edge of the earth. Alone, off course. Then I saw an elbow and knew I was fine, heading toward the big beach. As I swam, I remembered a poem I wrote for my chapbook on swimming about my feelings of love and annoyance for other swimmers as we swim in the lake. I tried to love the other swimmers more than be irritated by them as they unintentionally routed me. I really tried; sometimes it worked.

i feel 
a deep love
for these other half fish half humans
who seem to love deeply what i love
all of us sharing a lake a moment 
a joy for the generosity of water

and i feel
continued annoyance
at their cluelessness 
on how to swim straight 
and their inability to wrangle 
jutting elbows and flailing frog-like legs

i try to remember my love and forget my irritation
but when the lake water sloshes over my head gently
it washes away everything

I like the idea of this poem, and many of the lines, but I think I can make it much better. I’d like to work on it, and some others from the collection, and maybe try to get them published. What if I turned by various verses about the lake and swimming into one long poem? How would that work? How does a long poem work?

Other Things I Remember

  • Choppy water, none of it washing over my head, but tugging at the safety buoy I have tethered to my waist. Makes swimming more difficult–the buoy around my waist, acting like Coleridge’s albatross around the Ancient Mariner’s neck
  • Once I mistook a fish for a wave and when I stopped suddenly my buoy bumped into me, which felt like a fish, and for a flash, I freaked out
  • I noticed several swimmers stopping briefly to try and find the buoy. One guy stopped several times. He was slightly faster than me, but was working much harder, churning up water with his big kicks
  • I didn’t think a sailboat was the buoy tonight
  • I was swimming faster than 2 breaststrokers ahead of me, but as I approached they sped up–on purpose or without realizing it, I’m not sure–and wouldn’t let me pass
  • It is harder to see through my central vision, I think, and I feel even more cut off from the world when I swim than I used to. Mostly, this does not bother me; I like the dream world that lake swimming creates
  • Right before starting, a woman called out, “Wow, the number on your cap is over 1000!” And I said, “Is that how many swimmers there are in open swim club?” And, she said, “Well, my cap is 13!” If there are over 1000 swimmers signed up for open swim, they are not all in the water with me tonight. Maybe 100 are here

june 23/RUNSWIM

4.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back + winchell trail
64 degrees
dew point: 60

I feel better at the end of this run than I did during it. A beautiful morning, not too windy or hot, sun that gently dazzled but didn’t beat down. Even so, I sweat a lot and felt hot. Thought about the dew point, trying to remember exactly how it worked. I researched it and wrote about it a few years ago, but when someone asked me what it was a few days ago, I couldn’t remember. How do I forget these things so quickly? Here’s my explanation I wrote in 2017:

It’s not the heat or the humidity it’s the dew point, which is the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

Saw a flash of white, churning water as I ran past the falls. Noticed an opening in the thick trees with a dark winding trail just below the ford bridge–it seemed inviting until I imagined all the bugs that would be waiting for me in there. Heard some voices down in the gorge, on the river. Rowers. Also heard the clicking of a gear change as one bike passed, the clunking of a chain that needed to be greased as another approached.

As I ran on the Winchell Trail through the thick green, I thought that when I’m running by the gorge, I think of in broad, basic ways: tree, rock, bluff, bird, water. Then my mind wandered, and I wondered: (Why) do we need more specific, “technical” names in order to connect with the land? I thought about the importance of names and the violence of occupying and renaming, the value of knowing the history of a place, understanding how it works scientifically, and placing it in a larger context (space, time). Then, as I ran up the short, steep hill by Folwell, I thought about how important it is to learn to think on all of these levels at once, or at least be able to switch back and forth between them. I can experience the gorge as water, rock, tree, bird, wind, or as stolen land occupied and used, abused, restored, protected, ignored, exploited. As a geological wonder, slowly–but not really slowly in geological time, 4 feet per year–carved out by the river eroding the soft St. Peter sandstone. As both wild/natural and cultivated/managed–the site of erosion due to water, and erosion due to the introduction of invasive species, industry, too many hikers, bikers, houses nearby. There isn’t an easy way to reconcile these different understandings and their impacts.

After I finished my run and started walking home, I thought about how these levels/layers could be represented or expressed in a poem. What forms would work best and how to translate all of it into a form? I imagined a mostly blank page with the elemental word in the center (rock or water or tree), then additional pages with other related meanings–you could flip through and somehow add meanings or see all of the meanings at once. Does this make sense? Then I thought about a poem that somehow mimics the form of a fossil, what would that look like? Or the different layers of rock representing different eras of geological time. Not sure if this will go anywhere, but I’ll spend some more time thinking about it.

To chlorophyll, refineries, coal, furnaces beneath early skyscrapers, fossils/ Caroline Kenworthy

after Jane Hirshfield

Back then, what did I know?
The distance between moving cars I could turn into.
How far past EMPTY the engine would run.

I moved daily, rolling over poured rock,
traveling to learn. I was propelled by bodies

of organic matter. First, they were found.
Well, no. First, they were blue flowers carpeting a forest floor,
or the brown and hungry animal moving through them.

Then, they were found, pumped, sifted, melted, strained,
boiled, strained again, divided. Then burned.

Funny to think that we didn’t know what coal was,
and then we did. From there— efficient refinement attracts
our kind— we made these bodies pourable.
The dark rainbow and sharp whiff of petroleum.

I want to explain what I mean by bodies—
at first, I meant sentient movers. As if movement springs only from brains.
Then I thought, an organized, silent burning of sugars. I think,
a system to translate the world into the self.

Life’s long inhale of nutrients, and longer, hotter exhalation in decay. Packed, still, silent.

Hard to remember that matter hums constantly.
These cars and highways— how much of moving is death rearranged.

swim: 1.2 miles/ 4 loops
cedar lake open swim

Cedar Lake! Cedar Lake! Hooray for open swim at both lake nokomis and cedar lake. Very different experiences. Nokomis is 600 yards across, Cedar Lake is 300. Nokomis is about 15-20 feet deep, Cedar is 30-40 feet deep. Nokomis has a big beach with a boathouse and restaurant, Cedar has porta potties. I like both. Today, it was windy and bright. Choppy on the way back and hard to see the shore. My sighting trick: there’s a break in the towering trees where the small beach is.

june 22/SWIM

3 miles/ 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees

Another good swim. I didn’t get off course but I did find it much harder to sight the buoys. Was it all the bobbing bright orange swim caps that I mistook for the buoy, or that I didn’t rinse out all of the baby shampoo I use to anti-fog my goggles so my eyes stung, or the bright sun, or another decline in my vision? Swimming with the sun behind me, I usually could see a smudge of orange and swam straight to the little beach, but swimming into the sun, I couldn’t sight the green buoys at all. I mostly used the roof at the big beach as a guide and when I thought I was sighting the hulking shape of the green buoy, I usually was sighting a sailboat.

Breathed every 5 strokes almost the entire time. A few 5 then 6, or 3 then 5, or 3 then 4. Might have seen a few fish below me, or they could have just been sun streaks. Last week, I saw several dragonflies hovering above the water, looking like little helicopters. Didn’t notice any tonight. No airplanes either. I encountered a few swimmers out in the middle of the lake, but mostly I felt alone, which was fine with me. Every so often, it felt strange and unsettling, but I didn’t mind. I don’t remember hearing anything and all I remember feeling was the choppy waves as I neared the big beach. When I got out of the water, my right eye burned so much that I had to keep it closed. Bright sun + a trace of baby shampoo still in the google = bad news

Earlier today, I spent some time reading up about geological time. Eons and eras, periods, epochs, and ages. So much classification and names for divisions of time! Western science is really into naming things, often after people. It might be interesting to read an intellectual history of geology in the 19th century, but only if it’s written by an engaging writer, like Bill Bryson. I wonder if he writes about geology in his book, A Brief History of Nearly Everything?

Conversation with a Pebble/Alyson Hallett

Here’s what I’ve been wondering. If fire hides in wood
what hides in a stone?

I hold a pebble
in the palm of my hand. It looks like an egg that wants to hatch.

I do not know how long
it will take, how long its incubation or breaking through.

My time is slow, Pebble says. Slower Than you can imagine.

I know this is true.
I kiss the pebble,
Watch the moisture from my lips sink in.

That’s what I’m hiding,
It says. Water. The tiniest Rivers, lakes, seas.

Ideas of what water
Can be. Yes, pebble says,
I am hiding all the world’s memory.

june 21/RUN

3.15 miles
downtown loop
64 degrees

Ran the downtown loop with STA while FWA was at his first in-person lesson at MacPhail since March of 2020. Downtown loop = stone arch bridge + st anthony main + nicollet island + boom island + plymouth bridge + west river parkway. A great afternoon for running, not too hot. We checked out the new park and the indigenous restaurant opening next month. Nice!

All morning, I was putting together a rough timeline of the history of the area, starting 12000 years ago when the glacial Lake Agassiz spilled over its edge and traveled through the River Warren all the way to St. Paul. For some time, I have been confused about conflicting dates I encountered–was the gorge formed 12000 or 10000 years ago. Today I learned more: 12000 years ago the River Warren eroded the softer sandstone under the limestone near downtown St. Paul which created the massive—apparently bigger than Niagra Falls–Warren Falls. For almost 2000 years the falls slowly traveled up the Mississippi River to the confluence (where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge, near Ft. Snelling). Then it split into 2 waterfalls, one followed the Minnesota River then fizzled after entering an existing river bed, the other followed the Mississippi River and slowly carved out the gorge, traveling 4 feet every year until thinga become more precarious and erosion accelerated–about 100 feet a year in the 1860s, right before the falls had to be shored up with a concrete apron in 1870. So, I guess you could say the gorge began forming 12000 years ago when the Warren Falls started it’s slow march from St. Paul, or you could say 10000 years ago when the falls reached Ft. Snelling and moved upstream to Minneapolis.

We ran by some of the entries in my timeline, like the Hennepin Avenue bridge–the first bridge to span the river, built by Franklin Steele in 1855 and replaced 3 times, or the Stone Arch Bridge, built by James J. Hill in 1885, or St. Anthony Main which is older than Minneapolis but became a part of it in 1872.

june 20/RUN

1.4 miles
austin, mn
65 degrees
drizzle

In Austin for Father’s Day. Ran with STA at the park by his parent’s house, trying to stay close in case the light rain turned heavy. Windy, slightly wet, humid. Noticed the remnants of a Juneteenth party at the park building–just a few bits of trash that missed the trashcan. Also noticed the gentle curves of the trail as it winds through the (almost completely) shade-less, square park. These curves make all the difference–well, I think the giant evergreen trees help too–spruce? pine? I better check with STA about what kind of trees they are. Barely felt the rain drops as we ran. Rain! They needed it in Austin. Yesterday, it was strange and unsettling to walk through the brittle, hard, thirsty grass. Up in Minneapolis, we need it too–and now, writing this in the evening, back home, it’s raining. No more 90s, tomorrow in the 60s. For a day or two, that’s fine with me.

I’ve posted this one before, but it’s worth posting again. A favorite of mine–poet and poem.

A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

june 19/RUN

3.7 miles
marshall loop
65 degrees

Writing this a day later, so I don’t remember as much from my run. Another run on the Marshall Loop. North on the river road trail. Past the welcoming oaks which I forgot to greet. Past the ancient boulder which I forgot to check for stacked stones. Through the tunnel of trees, which I remembered to notice and admire, breathing in the silence of an early Saturday morning. Up the short hill and over the lake street bridge until, somewhere in the middle, it turned into Marshall and St. Paul. There I saw at least 2 or 3 shells on the water–rowers! After the bridge, Marshall becomes a semi-steep, multi-block hill. Last week my goal was to run up it and not stop until I got to the top, then walk for a minute before running again. Today’s goal: no stopping on the hill or at the top. No walking, only running. Success!

Still thinking about water and stones for the month of June. Today: fossils. Mostly inspired by the amazing poem (which I posted on here before): And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal/ Wang Ping, especially this part:

Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

Found a few resources for learning more about the fossil in this area:

And here’s a great poem (and an essay explaining the poem) about fossils:

Not the Thing but a Fossil of the Thing/ Rebecca Foust

Fern fronds fletched like a feather etch ache into gray slate,    

five petals float in a now-unbound crown,     

a thumb-sized spine curls and fans out to a tail, a spall splits

into stone pages stamped with tree bark

repeating like wallpaper, a leaf shines like oiled leather, oblate,

and an ammonite’s dull weight   

smells of new snow. A clam called brachiopod, licked, gleams

like a dark marble and tastes

of clapper-less, cast-iron bell, its absence of sound and soft parts

perfecting an imperfection

of knowledge called faith, bare of the lies told by the thing itself

—bravado bloom, spilt perfume, music,

bee-pollen, and blood and all that hot narcotic blur—these casts

and molds pungent as words,   

and as the moon’s craters are seen best in eclipse, so that when

I trace the diamond-on-diamond-on-diamond

of what once was a tree, a canopy spreads overhead, a bud

unwinds and wells with dew,

an ancient sea swells to flood the dry valley below, wet salt

to knees, hips, waist, neck, mouth, eyes   

and under my breastbone—a fish leaps—

I hope I can spend some more time with this poem, it’s great. I’d like to ponder fossils and how they are a thing and the trace of a thing.

june 18/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees

First time since august of 2019 that I’ve biked to the lake. So grateful that my vision is good enough for me to do it. When I lose my central vision, will I still be able to bike? Biking is important because I can no longer drive (or, I no longer feel safe driving): it’s much faster than walking and much more fun than taking 2 buses over to the lake (I don’t think there’s a direct bus route to the lake, so even though nokomis is 4 miles away, you have to transfer). Biking is not too bad unless I have to pass another biker who is going too slow, then it’s scary. Very hard to see for sure if someone’s coming the other way. No passing needed on the way there, and only twice on the way back. What a gorgeous, sunny, summer day!

swim: 3 miles/3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
78 degrees
sunny/no chop

Last year, open swim added more days to their schedule–this bummed me out since I wasn’t doing open swim because of covid and in solidarity with my kids who couldn’t do the fun things they wanted to do in order for all of us to stay safe and healthy. I’m very glad they kept the expanded schedule for this year. Very cool to be able to swim on Friday mornings across the lake!

Morning swims are usually harder for me because the position of the sun makes it difficult to sight the buoys to the little beach, which only has the sparkle of an overturned rowboat as a landmark. Evenings are easier, because when the sun shines in my eyes or the buoys are backlit, I can always rely on the towering light poles or the roof of the boathouse to keep me on track. Today, the sun made it hard to see the little beach, and the buoys were only hulking, colorless shapes, but I was fine. The little rowboat was a bright beacon—at least, I think it was the rowboat; I saw something vaguely shining and decided it was the rowboat and I was swimming the right way. I could sense the final buoy from a long way off. I never saw anything that was orange, no flash or dot. Instead, I felt the buoy was there. I sensed the absence of the water or the beach and my brain told me that that void was buoy. So weird.

I breathed every 5 or every 3 then 4 then 5 or every 6. Before we started, I heard another swimmer on the beach telling a friend:

“I try to breathe every 3 strokes.”
“That’s good, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
“Yeah, but then I feel like I’m going to pass out!”

Did this swimmer mean that they need more air and every 3 is too many strokes in-between breaths? I guess I’m pretty strange with my breathing every 5 or 6, every so often, 7. It doesn’t bother me to stay underwater that much longer. It helps me stay lost longer.

At one point, heading toward the little beach, I tried reciting “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” After a few lines, I realized that it was too distracting, that I needed to focus more on swimming straight and staying on course.

june 17/SWIM

2 miles/2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees

Another great open swim. So far, I’m enjoying this new course. It’s longer and more forgiving, I think. Swimmers are spread out wider so you don’t have to worry about running into anyone going the opposite direction. It helps that more people are doing open swim too. More limbs to sight when I can’t see the buoys. I felt strong when I was swimming, and stronger when I was done. I love the feeling of my arm muscles after swimming. A warm glow, slightly sore, physical evidence of effort.

Not sure if or when I’ll get used to how strange and remarkable it is to be able to swim this course when I can hardly see the buoys–just a quick flash of orange green or the idea of it bobbing in front of me. Could it be that my brain “sees” the buoy even when I don’t consciously see it with my eyes? From the research I’ve done on vision, I think it’s possible. The body is remarkable. Swimming is remarkable. I love how confident I feel when I swim. Probably the most confident I ever feel doing anything. I never doubt or second-guess myself in the water. I just swim. I wish more things in life could feel this easy—well, not easy, but right or natural.

I did a lot of breathing every five strokes. Sometimes every six or every three or every three then four. Saw some ducks, was rocked by some waves, saw some flashes that might have been fish.

For much of the day, I was reading/reviewing the history of the Mississippi Gorge, starting with the occupation and renaming of Owámniyomni to St. Anthony Falls by Father Hennepin in 1680. Much of my focus today, without entirely intending it to be, was the tracing of commerce and capital, from furs to timber to flour to hydroelectric power. Learned about Franklin Steele and his tactics for grabbing land and making money. (Why Nobody Wants to Talk About Franklin Steele) What a terrible person, yet he did so much to make Minneapolis what it is today. Difficult to figure out to reconcile the benefits of progress with the terrible damage it causes. Maybe they can’t be reconciled.

june 16/RUN

4.3 miles
the falls + winchell trail
65 degrees

A beautiful yet difficult run. Not sure why it was so hard. Maybe because I swam last night and didn’t eat enough breakfast before I ran this morning? Or maybe because of allergies from lake water? Still, it was great to be outside early (but not that early, already 7:20) in the morning. The sun was warm, the river was sparkling, the falls were flowing. I don’t remember hearing them gushing. Must be all the heat and the lack of rain. I wonder how full the creek is right now?

Heading back from the falls, I turned down by the overlook at 44th and entered the Winchell Trail. I walked for the first stretch, where the asphalt has surrendered to the dirt and the trail sits steeply above the river. Not even a dribble of water at the 44th street sewer pipe by the curved retaining wall. Encountered a few more people than I normally do on the trail, but I didn’t care or worry about how close I was to them. It’s fascinating (and a little unsettling) how quickly and easily you forget hyper-vigilance.

As I write this, someone is weed-whacking their lawn with an old, barely working weed-whacker. Sometimes its whine sounds like a person, weakened by age or pain or both, moaning. “Ooooooooooooooo.” Sometimes it sounds like a tiny mosquito buzzing around my ear, hovering too close. This is to say, it’s annoying!

Thought about stopping at the falls and checking out the different signs–with brief history blurbs or poems or names–but I didn’t. I think I’ll bike over there one day for a field trip. Maybe I can convince Scott and then we’ll get a beer at Sea Salt?! Speaking of signs, I just re-read this in Waterlog by Roger Deakin:

Most of us live in a world where more and more places and things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about all this is that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming [and running] will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands, by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official version of things (4).

Waterlog: A Swimming Journey Through Britain/ Roger Deakin

As much as I agree with this idea of wandering away from official versions and ready-made interpretations, I also see the value of some of the historic signs that help us to get a deeper sense of the history of the land, how it has been shaped, and how we are connected to it. These signs need to be read critically and put in the larger context of who is telling the story and how. Sometimes these signs need to be updated or rewritten.

Found this poem via Maggie Smith (the poet, not the actor) on twitter. Like most great poems, after reading it a few times, there’s a lot I still don’t get.

The Blind Leading The Blind/ Lisel Mueller

Take my hand. There are two of us in this cave.
The sound you hear is water; you will hear it forever.
The ground you walk on is rock. I have been here before.
People come here to be born, to discover, to kiss,
to dream, and to dig and to kill. Watch for the mud.
Summer blows in with scent of horses and roses;
fall with the sound of sound breaking; winter shoves
its empty sleeve down the dark of our throat.
You will learn toads from diamonds, the fist from the palm,
love from the sweat of love, falling from flying.
There are a thousand turnoffs. I have been here before.
once I fell off a precipice. Once I found gold.
Once I stumbled on murder, the thin parts of a girl.
Walk on, keep walking, there are axes above us.
Watch for occasional bits and bubbles of light—
birthdays for you, recognitions: yourself, another.
Watch for the mud. Listen for bells, for beggars.
Something with wings went crazy against my chest once.
There are two of us here. Touch me.

I love the lines about water and rock: “The sound you hear is water” and “The ground you walk on is rock.” I also like the double meaning of turnoffs, both things you don’t like, and alternate paths and ways to travel.

Thinking about the title, The Blind Leading The Blind. According to Merriam-Webster it is “used informally to describe a situation in which someone who is not sure about how to do something is helping another person who also is not sure about how to do it.” Often this is interpreted as a useless, pointless, clueless thing. But, in a dark cave, where seeing is impossible, a blind person would be better equipped to lead than a normally sighted person. Also, why should being unsure about something mean that you can’t do it, or that you’ll bad at it? How can we ever really be sure about anything? I imagine Mueller’s two “blind” people (you and I) as not helpless from lack of sight, but connected and hopeful through touch.

june 15/SWIM

2 miles/ 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees

The first open swim! The first open swim! A perfect evening for it. The course was slightly different this year. There were the usual 3 orange buoys in a straight diagonal line from the north end of the big beach to the little beach, but there were also 2 bright green buoys a little further south. Huh? I had to ask another swimmer who looked like she knew what she was doing–actually, I heard her tell someone else that she had swam this course last year. They’ve changed up the course a little to make it safer and longer. Instead of always having the buoys on your left like they’ve done in the past, they are always on your right. The path is a straight shot from the northern end of the big beach to the little beach using the orange buoys. But on the way back, you travel much wider, using the invisible (to me) green buoys, and aim for the southern end of the main beach.

When I started swimming, I thought this new route would be a problem for me and how I’ve learned to swim without seeing that much, but I quickly got used to it, and decided that I liked it better. I like how it’s longer and that it’s wider. I can’t see the color green at all in the water, so the return buoys, if I manage to “see” them are just big, smudged hulks (and sometimes I confuse them with the similar shaped smudge of a sail from a sailboat further south), but I can use the silvery white rooftop at the big beach to guide me back to shore. I’m grateful for such a big landmark.

I didn’t run into any other swimmers, and I didn’t get way off course. At one point, I stopped to try and sight where I was, and a person swimming to my left stopped too. I think they were following me, hoping I would guide them the right way. I did. So strange and amazing and delightful to be able to navigate with such minimal, fleeting signals. How difficult was it for other people to see? When they looked straight ahead, just barely lifting out of the water, could they see the orange buoys clearly, a beacon in the empty blue and green? Or, were they like me, who was only able to see the smear of orange when I turned my head so that I could view what was straight from the side? Most of the time, the orange dot disappeared when I looked at it directly. Only once or twice, when it hit just right, did it appear. I was reminded of how much my sighting and seeing is based on trusting my straight strokes and learning to effectively and efficiently use the scant clues I have from what I do see. Open water swimming is a great confidence boost for me, and a reminder of how much I can still function. When I lose my central vision completely (which will almost surely happen soon), will it get worse, or have I learned to see mostly through my periphery already? I don’t know. For now, I’m happy to be swimming and not panicking, feeling strong and confident and at home in the water.

Searching for poetry about buoys, I found this awesome post by a poet-in-residence at a boat yard–Underfall Yard. They’re exploring the area, reading about boats and buoys and swimming and water, leading poetry workshops for visitors, planning poetry readings. I would love to do something like this! Wow. Very cool and inspiring!

And, a poem about orange buoys!

june 14/RUN

2 miles
austin, mn
70 degrees

Ran with STA to the downtown coffee shop. Saw the “Peanut Mobile” parked outside of the SPAM museum and then was approached by an old guy wanting to talk. At first, it was fine, but then he inched too close and wouldn’t stop talking. Then, after he left, STA mentioned as he talked, the guy spit a lot. I’m vaccinated, so I am confident I’m fine, but I’m not ready for this type of normal. It bothers me how quickly we went from lockdown to completely open. Where is the gradual transition? Where is the space for being uncomfortable, for still wanting to keep distance, for acknowledging and working through the difficulty and fear and anxiety involved in learning to see people as more than covid-carrying weapons (ED’s loaded gun)? I am not ready for normal again. And who wants that old normal, anyway? I want something better, less harmful.*

*update on 15 June

Just read “Dionne Brand: On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying” and it fits so well with some of my thoughts about the normal:

The repetition of “when things return to normal” as if that normal, was not in contention. Was the violence against women normal? Was the anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism normal? Was white supremacy normal? Was the homelessness growing on the streets normal? Were homophobia and transphobia normal? Were pervasive surveillance and policing of Black and Indigenous and people of colour normal? Yes, I suppose all of that was normal. But, I and many other people hate that normal. Who would one have to be to sit in that normal restfully, to mourn it, or to desire its continuance?

and

But I hear what they say and many others do as well, “Look we should never live the way we lived before; our lives need not be framed by the purely extractive, based on nothing but capital.” Everything is up in the air, all narratives for the moment have been blown open — the statues are falling — all the metrics are off, if only briefly. To paraphrase Trouillot, we want “a life that no narrative could provide, even the best fiction.” The reckoning might be now.

Searching for poems about “rock,” I found this great one. I like the multiple meanings of rock bottom here:

ROCK BOTTOM/ Eamon Grennan

So this is what it comes down to in the end: earth and sand
skimmed, trimmed, filleted from rocky bone, leaving only
solid unshakeable bottom, what doesn’t in the end give in
to the relentless hammer, whoosh, and haul-away of tides
but stands there saying “Here I am here I stay,” protestant
to the pin of its absolute collar, refusing to put off the sheen
on its clean-scoured surface, no mourning weeds in spite of loss
after loss–whole wedges of the continent, particles of the main
plummeting from one element to the other and no going back
to how things were once, but to go on ending and ending here.

It’s interesting to put this beside my above discussion about the before times and the after times. How does it and doesn’t it fit for me?

I’m also thinking about the literal bedrock of the Mississippi River Gorge: what is the deepest layer of rock? I think it’s St. Peter Sandstone, but I will gather together my research to verify.

june 13/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
64 degrees

planes sprinklers cicadas
shimmering leaves in trees interrupting hoses
dry dusty dirt
2 rowers — bright orange shirt — flickering like a bad signal
honking geese drumming woodpeckers crowing bikers
a steep hill
resting roller skiers panting runners hungry bugs
underwater in a sea of green
above water in a sky of blue
sweaty and stuffed up
alone together in a quiet early morning

Cooler today. Not an easy run, but a peaceful one. I love the early(ish) morning outside before most people are up.

Before heading out for my run, I read about the lobster diver who was swallowed and then spit out by a humpback whale. Woah. He dives in shark-infested waters, has lost many friends to great whites, almost died in a plane crash in Costa Rica where the pilot and several people were killed and he was stranded, half-dead in the jungle for days. He only had “soft-tissue” injuries and can’t wait to get back in the water and start scooping lobsters off of the sea floor again. He’s the last lobster diver left. Skimming through the article (Man swallowed by whale by Cape Cod, MA) again. He’s from Provincetown, the hometown of Mary Oliver and the source and inspiration for much of her poetry. If she were still alive would she have written about him? Probably not. More likely, she would have written about the whale:

The Humpbacks by Mary Oliver

Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything,
even the great whale,
throbs with song.

Most likely, the whale didn’t intend to swallow the man; they were blinded by their billowing mouth as they opened it to feed.

Here’s another poem I posted a few years back, but it’s too fitting not to post again:

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale/ Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

june 12/RUNSWIM

run: 1.1 miles
lake nokomis
72 degrees

Did a quick 10 minute warm-up before going for my swim. 8:30 and already crowded trails. I heard at least one mourning dove. Favorite thing: hearing and feeling my feet shuffling on the sand on the edge of the trail.

swim: 1 mile/ 6 loops
lake nokomis big beach
73 degrees

Another mile beside the white buoys at the big beach. Such a wonderful swim. I don’t remember seeing any minnows at the edge of the water. No ducks either. Instead, milfoil. During my first loop a strand of it wrapped around my shoulders and face and I had to stop and fling it off. Then, a few loops later, I felt something on my thigh. At first I thought it was just the water being pushed by my arm. Then I reached down and pulled out another milfoil strand. I imagined the lake was attacking me, then decided it was embracing me.

When I started, there was a fitness class in the water and I heard the instructor calling out, “Lift those knees!” I saw some kayakers, paddle boarders, another swimmer. I noticed a steady processional of planes in the air above me.

I used my new bright yellow buoy. It works very well. As usual, I wore a nose plug which doesn’t bother me at all. White rimmed open water goggles, a bright blue latex swim cap, a purple-patterned on black TYR suit.

The sun was bright on the water. I definitely don’t have photophobia, a possible symptom of cone dystrophy, because the brightness didn’t bother me at all. Looking out at the water, so shiny and reflective, I briefly wondered how will I see the big orange buoys next week when I swim across the lake.

At one point when I was swimming, I thought about the origins of Lake Nokomis and when it got it’s current name. Looked it up (wikipedia): It used to be called Lake Amelia, most likely named for the daughter or wife of Captain George Gooding who came with the first troops in 1819. When the Minneapolis Park Board purchased the land in 1908 and in 1910 renamed it Nokomis, after (of course) Longfellow’s poem.

See a map of then Minneapolis Park Board Director Theodore Wirth’s ambitious plans for the lake in 1913

from EXAQUA [Oh, that’s what I was]/ Jan-Henry Gray

Oh, that’s what I was originally thinking of with the notion of swimming or orbiting that you mentioned: a giant essay that interrupts (or cleaves?) into the book. To cleave is to separate and to bring together. To yoke. To it: I’m thinking of this essay I want to write as… Essay as Ocean. Not necessarily in a geographic, landscapey way but weirder, queer, dense, full of strange currents with different temperatures, something immersive, at times panicky, the feeling of losing oxygen but delighted by the sight of strange objects that litter the ocean floor. An oasis of sight. Geography textbooks and all of that richly descriptive language. How can anyone read about the unseen formation of volcanoes or the glacial creation of lakes and not feel connected to the Earth—capital E? Essay as a vast, limitless, edgeless, impossible-to-keep-in-one’s-head-all-at-once phenomenon. Essay as a way of breaking up the rest of the poems that surround it. I wanted to offer a break, a reprieve. Freedom from forms.

I love this poem and I want to spend some time with it. I was just telling STA about how great swimming is for disorienting you, distorting your senses. Immersive, panicky, delightful, strange. And the line, “How can anyone read about the/unseen formation of volcanoes or the glacial creation of lakes and not feel connected/ to the Earth–capirtal E?”

june 11/RUN

5k
2 trails + 7 oaks
81 degrees
dew point: 68

How many days have we been above 90 now? Just checked my log, since at least June 4th. Tomorrow the high is only 86. Summer running is not my favorite, although I am learning to endure it more. 55-65 degrees is what I’d like to have for these early morning runs.

I ran south on the river road trail and passed lots of bikes, but not too many runners. All the green made it difficult to see the river. At 42nd, I encountered a roller skier in the grass taking a break. Can it still be my good omen if I don’t hear the clickity-clacks? Entering the Winchell Trail at the southern start, it was dark and quiet and thick with heat. No noise, not even a single dribble from the sewer pipe. A few days ago, STA and I were discussing the grossness of the word “dribble”–it’s a failure to flow or function properly. You dribble drool or pee. It’s like a weaker form of leaking.

Parts of the Winchell trail were a blur. I don’t remember running down the hill to the little bridge with the raised lip of the trail that I have to look out for so I don’t trip on it, or running up the mini hill just before the steeper climb at Folwell. After ascending at Folwell, then descending on the other side, back down a little closer to the river, I realized I was more than half way done with this hot run, and it felt easier because of this realization.

For the last 1/2 mile, I started reciting “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in my head. I got as far as the verse, “The Sun came up upon the left/out of the sea came he/And he shone bright/and to the right went down into the sea.”

Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha

Lorine Niedecker’s work is inspiring me to think in deeper ways about the place I run–the Mississippi River Gorge, Minnehaha Falls, Lake Nokomis. Part of this involves thinking more about the rock and stone–the physical geography, and part of it involves reflecting on the haunting trace of dishonest treaties, stolen land, buried stories and traditions, and who controls the stories we encounter/remember/pass on about the river, the gorge, and the falls (St. Anthony and Minnehaha).

Yesterday, I decided to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” It’s in the public domain so I was able to download the entire thing for free on iBooks–all 400+ pages of it! 22 chapters?! Wow. I had no idea it was so long. I wonder what part of it is etched on the stone at Minnehaha Falls? I’ll have to check next time I bike or run over there. Not sure I’ll be reading the entire thing, but it’s interesting to skim it and think about how much of where I live takes names from this poem: Now I live in Longfellow neighborhood, I used to live in Nokomis east. My kids went to Hiawatha Elementary School and spent their summers in camp a few miles away at Lake Hiawatha.. I regularly run to Minnehaha Falls and beside Minnehaha Creek. I do open swim at Lake Nokomis.

The only part of “The Song of Hiawatha” that I remember, is the brief bit that my grandma Ines would recite when we visited her at the family farm in the upper peninsula of Michigan:

By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water

Gitche Gumee is another name of Lake Superior. So many connections. In “Lake Superior” Lorine Niedecker never mentions Longfellow or his poem, but she does reference Schoolcraft–the explorer whose notes and book Longfellow relied on for his epic poem. Another thing I just learned about Schoolcraft: he “discovered” and named Lake Itasca. It’s not a variation on an indigenous name, but the mashing up of the latin phrase for true/head source: verITAS CAput

Last night, I checked out a little bit of the final chapter (ch 22): “Hiawatha’s Departure” and I cringed when I got to the description of the white missionary being welcomed by Hiawatha with delight:

From the distant land of Wabun*,
From the farthest realms of morning
Came the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet,
He the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face,
With his guides and his companions.

And the noble Hiawatha,
With his hands aloft extended,
Held aloft in sign of welcome,
Waited, full of exultation,
Till the birch canoe with paddles
Grated on the shining pebbles,
Stranded on the sandy margin,
Till the Black-Robe chief, the Pale-face,
With the cross upon his bosom,
Landed on the sandy margin.

Then the joyous Hiawatha
Cried aloud and spake in this wise:
“Beautiful is the sun, O strangers,
When you come so far to see us!
All our town in peace awaits you,
All our doors stand open for you;
You shall enter all our wigwams,
For the heart’s right hand we give you.”

“Never bloomed the earth so gayly,
Never shone the sun so brightly,
As to-day they shine and blossom
When you come so far to see us!

*Wabun is also the name of a park near Minnehaha Falls that I sometimes run through and that has a wonderful wading pool that I used to take my kids to when they were younger. I never knew what Wabun meant; it’s sunrise (from the Anishinaabe language).

But, back to Schoolcraft and Niedecker’s poem “Lake Superior.” Here’s an excerpt from the poem that uses details from Schoolcraft’s accounts of reaching Lake Itasca and the source of the Mississippi River. Interesting to note something I just found out: Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” takes place in UP Michigan by the pictured rocks on Lake Superior, near Munsing. Niedecker references Pictured Rocks in this excerpt (“Wave-cut Cambrian rock/painted by soluble mineral oxides”:

Schoolcraft left the Soo–canoes
US pennants, masts, sails
chanting canoemen, barge
soldiers–for Minnesota

Their South Shore journey
as if Life’s—
The Chocolate River
The Laughing Fish
and The River of the Dead

Passed peaks of volcanic thrust
Hornblende in massed granite
Wave-cut Cambrian rock
painted by soluble mineral oxides
wave-washed and the rains
did their work and a green
running as from copper

Sea-roaring caverns—
Chippewas threw deermeat
to the savage maws
Voyaheurs crossed themselves
tossed a twist of tobacco in”

Inland then
beside the great grainite
gneiss and the schists

to the redolent pondy lakes’
lilies, flag and Indian reed
“through which we successfully
passed”

The smooth black stone
I picked up in true source park
the leaf beside it
once was stone

true source park = true source = lake itasca

I love how a poem like this requires some work from the reader. So many references, some might be obvious to those who know, but not to those of who don’t. So, we have to look things up, and it’s not too hard now with so much information online. How did people read these poems in the past? Did you spend your entire day at the library, hunting down sources? That might be fun. I like giving the reader work and some of the responsibility. For too many years I was told, as the writer, it is my sole responsibility to make my writing clear to others. If they can’t understand it, it is my failure. Poetry refuses this obligation and invites the reader to put in some effort to understand.

Chocolate River: I was thinking this was about the color of the river, but after more searching I found a reference to it in an account by Schoolcraft about the discovery of the sources of the Mississippi River: “on the coasts of the lake between Gitchi Sebing (Great River), called by the French, Chocolate River.” In some more searching, I haven’t found any more about a chocolate river. In the process of looking this up, I found a very cool page, What Color is the Mississippi River?–I recall asking this question not too long ago on this log.

june 10/SWIM

1 mile
lake nokomis big beach
30 minutes

Another mile swimming just off the big beach around the white buoys! Another almost perfect weather day–no wind, sun, warm, but not too warm, water! I checked online, the water temp is 75, which is plenty warm for me. Today I used my new safety buoy, not for safety, but to hold my phone and keys so I don’t have to leave them in my yellow backpack on the beach while I swim. It’s an inflatable buoy–bright yellow–with a dry pouch inside that you can store stuff in. You hook it to a belt that you wear around your waist. Pretty slick. For 7 years, when I swim, I leave my yellow backpack on the beach and it always makes me a little nervous, especially because it has my phone and my bike lock key. Now, I won’t worry. And, it’s good to have a buoy so that other people in boats can see me.

Right before my swim on Tuesday, as I put my swim cap on in the shallow water, I watched little minnows quickly swimming away from my approaching feet. Such a sweet and delightful thing to witness! What is the collective noun for minnows? A flash of minnows? A flurry of minnows? Looked it up and found some other answers: a swarm, a stream, a school of minnows. The minnows were still there this morning. I can’t remember if they stay all summer; I’ll have to check from them in July and August.

Since I had my phone with me, my distance was more accurate: today the activity app said I swam 1.08 miles, as compared to Tuesday when it said I swam .67 miles. I have decided that, for my purposes, 6 loops = 1 mile. 2 miles swam, 98 to go!

I didn’t see any flashes below me, or shafts of light, but I did encounter a few ducks right before I started, and a few bits of milfoil floating in the water. I noticed how the white buoys disappeared in my central vision, then reappeared in my periphery. I saw a paddle boarder and another swimmer–mostly I sensed another swimmer, hearing their hands occasionally slap the water, glimpsing a quick flash of foaming water in their wake.

I breathed every 5 strokes or five/six/five or three/four/five/three or every six. As I swam every six I thought about a poem I wrote a few years ago, “Submerged,” and how I like stroking more, breathing less in order to spend more time submerged, pretending I’m a fish. Sometimes I thought about my wonderful son FWA and how he graduated from high school last night. Those thoughts made my swim more relaxed. Other times I thought about something else–I can’t remember what, just that it involved worries–and my swim was harder, less free.

Found these two excerpts from Niedecker’s poem, “For Paul” (1950). The first one is about her failing vision: in 1949, she was diagnosed with nystagma (roving eyes). The second one is about June:

You are far away
sweet reason

Since I saw you last, Paul
my sight is weaker . . .

I still see–
it’s the facts are thick–
thru glass:

*

Hi, Hot-and-Humid

That June she’s a lush

She marsh wallows, frog bickering
moon pooling, green gripping

Fool
Keep cool

In my June 8th log entry, I posted Niedecker’s poem, “Paean to Place.” Love this poem. In an article about Niedecker’s ecopoetics, I found a link to a facsimile of a hand-written version of this poem that she made into a book for a friend. Nice!

Paean to Place, facsimile

Last night at FWA’s graduation, the principal gave an introduction/welcome in which he did a land acknowledgment, recognizing the land/city where the school was built is Dakota land. I wasn’t able to hear exactly what he said because a group of people two rows back wouldn’t shut up–am I the only person who actually wants to listen to (and enjoys) the speeches? Probably. Anyway, I’m not sure of his wording, or if he used the words “stolen” or is versus was Dakota land, but I was glad to hear him say something. Just hours before graduation, I was reading an article about land acknowledgment, its problems and possibilities: WHERE WE STAND: THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA AND DAKHÓTA TREATY LANDS

I’m thinking about how to incorporate a deeper recognition and acknowledgment of the history of that land I write about in my bio and through my poems.

june 9/RUN

4 miles
marshall hill
74 degrees
dew point: 66

Delia the dog woke me up and forced me out of bed at 5:45, yesterday it was 5:55. I suppose I should be grateful; I like early mornings in the summer. If she wakes me up at 5:30 tomorrow, we’re taking a walk. Mornings are magical. Getting up so early, I was able to sit, drink my coffee, and still get out for my run before 7. Very nice.

I ran the marshall hill route for the first time since november 24, 2019, just near the end of the before times. Running north on the river road trail, I greeted the Welcoming Oaks. So wonderful to run by them on this sunny morning! And, to run by the sprawling oak that shades the ancient boulder with the stacked stones–2 today. Heading down into the thickening tunnel of trees, I heard the clickity-clack of a lone roller skier and then the coxswain’s bullhorn. Rowers! Later, running over the lake street bridge, I managed to spot the rowers on the smooth, glassy river. Running up marshall hill was tough, but I convinced myself not to stop for a break until I was at the top. Reaching the east river road and running down the hill right above Shadow Falls was fun. Near the end of the run, I could hear the buzz of the cicadas. I liked the noise even though it sounded like heat.

My focus on water and stone this month has led me to Lorine Niedecker and I am excited. Her work is opening many doors for me. I bought Niedecker’s Lake Superior a few years ago, but never really looked at it. Now, I am, and I’m amazed. The book begins with her poem “Lake Superior” and then an excerpt of her notes for the poem. She took 300 single-spaced, type-written notes for a poem that is less than 400 words. Wow! At the end of the notes, the editor of this book mentions that all 300 pages of Niedecker’s notes are available online through the University of Wisconsin Digital Collection. Nice!

side note: Reading an article about Niedecker, I discovered that her name is pronounced nee-decker, and that it had originally been spelled Neidecker but she changed it to make the pronunciation less confusing. Really? When I see Nie I think nye, and when I see Nei, I think neigh or nye, not nee. But maybe that’s just me?

Here’s a poem of hers that I imagine is one of her more well-known:

Poet’s work/ LORINE NIEDECKER

Grandfather   
   advised me:
         Learn a trade

I learned
   to sit at desk
         and condense

No layoff
   from this
         condensery

I love this poem–the idea of condensing as a trade, the valuing of condensing, the exemplification of it in the poem, “Lake Superior”–300 pages of notes condensed down to 300+ words!

Here are a few reasons I’m excited about Niedecker now, at the beginning of my encounters with her:

  • She writes about the lake I was born on, Lake Superior, and geology and geography that resonates with me
  • Her process: all the notes condensed down to a pithy, beautiful poem + the type of notes: history mixed with her travel stories, critical commentary on land and language and globalization
  • The forms of her poems and how the later ones might be influenced by her vision diagnosis when she was 46–she had nystagmic (your eyes constantly move, struggle to focus)
  • Her attention to and writing about rocks and water
  • The impact of her work through the WPA Writers program on the guide for Wisconsin + her work with Aldo Leopold
  • This brief essay, Switchboard Girl, in which she writes about her struggle to find work with her eye condition. I’m planning to read this closely; it might give me some useful language for understanding and communicating my own struggles with work after my diagnosis

It’s exciting to me how, slowly–4+ years of writing, reading, studying, listening to, memorizing poetry–I’m finding more ways into beautiful, useful, powerful, better words.

water and stone, another perspective

After posting this entry, I read some more of Tom Weber’s Minneapolis: An Urban Biography–specifically about the Dakota people, the settler colonizing of the area, and how Ramsey (gov. of Minnesota when it became a state + responsible for the Dakota Exclusion Act, making all Dakota people illegal in Mn + namesake of the county in which St. Paul resides) and Pike (responsible for the shady illegal treaties that led to Dakota people ceding all of their land to the US) were awful. Then I googled some more about St. Anthony Falls and found this interesting bit of information:

Owamni-yomni is ‘whirlpool’ in the Dakota language.
Gakaabika is ‘severed rock’ in the Ojibwe language. 

Water and rock. I want to read more about this naming and why the Dakota chose to emphasize water and the Ojibwe rock. Both viewed the place as sacred–I know a little more about the Dakota and how importance this water was for them, but not as much about Ojibwe and sandstone/limestone.

june 8/SWIM

1 mile/6 loops
lake nokomis, big beach
84 degrees

My first real swim (30 minutes straight) since September of 2019! Very exciting. My apple watch consistently underestimates the distance, so I’m not quite sure, but based on my pace and past loop swimming, I’ve decided I swam a mile. My first mile of many this summer, I hope. It’s ambitious, but I’d love to swim 100 miles this summer. Only 99 left.

The water was about as good as it gets. Not too cold, no chop, no debris. I could see the white buoys out of my periphery. I think I saw a few big fish swimming below me and some beams or streaks of light. Swimming so close to the white buoys, I got a good look at the brown muck on the underside of the buoys at each end. Yuck. I “raced” a paddle boarder paddling in from the middle of the lake, and avoided a few other boats. I mostly breathed every 5 strokes. Sometimes 5, then 6. A few times, 3. A lot of the time I thought about how my right shoulder–the one I injured last spring scraping paint off of the deck–ached a little more than my left, and whether or not the every-so-often sharp pain in my right ear was the start of something, but occasionally I thought about how much I love swimming, and how, even more than running, it gives you a way into another world, where your senses don’t work, or work strangely. Very cool. I like this water world.

For a few hours after I had finished, my body, especially my shoulders, felt slightly and pleasantly sore–not that miserable sore where you can barely move, but the sore you feel when you have worked your muscles and they are grateful to be used in this way finally, after a long 16 months away from the water.

My theme this month is water and stone. As I read through various essays, poems, articles, I’m coming to realize that I’m understanding the theme through the work of one of my new (not new, she’s died 4 years before I was born in 1970, but new to me) favorite poets: Lorine Niedecker. Here’s the opening to a beautiful poem that might serve as an inspiration for me (note: her cool spacing didn’t work when I pasted it into wordpress. Click on the poem to read it with the cool spacing):

Paean to Place/ LORINE NIEDECKER

And the place
was water
Fish
fowl
flood
Water lily mud
My life

in the leaves and on water
My mother and I
born
in swale and swamp and sworn
to water

I was born on water, Lake Superior in Hancock, Michigan, and my mom was too, Mississippi River in West St. Paul, Minnesota. While my mom never learned to swim, or love being in the water, I did. As a digital story I created more than 5 years ago begins: “I have loved water all my life.”

june 7/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
75 degrees

Too warm this morning. Decided I needed the distraction of headphones and my old spotify playlist. Ran on the trail for the first half, then walked across turkey hollow (no turkeys today) and ran up 47th. I don’t remember glancing down at the river. I was too busy looking out for other runners. Do I remember much of this part of the run? Only the 4 or 5 times I had to cross over the bike path to give approaching runners room, and that it was uncomfortably warm outside. After running up 47th I headed over to the guantlet (the narrow strip of grass between Becketwood and 42nd, with the river road on one side, a small wood on the other) and then to Edmund. I decided to stop at the house on Edmund that posts poems on their front windows to see if they had posted a new one–the last one I saw was M Oliver’s “Work.” Yes, they did. The sun was too bright on the window to see the top of the poem, but the rest of June Jordan’s “These Poems” was wonderful. I love that my neighbors post these poems.

These Poems/ June Jordan – 1936-2002

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

Ah, love this poem. And it fits with my theme of water and stone with the line, “These words/they are stones in the water/running away” Not sure about the image of stones in the water running away? Do stones run away? I’ve seen them skip or tumble or be a throw away or roll, but never run. I’m probably missing something…

june 6/RUNswim

2.5 miles
lake nokomis
75 degrees

STA and I drove over to the lake early to avoid the heat and then ran around it. Hot and sunny, but not too bad for me; STA was having some difficulty with his knee and hip, so not so good for him. Lots of people to dodge, mostly in packs of 2 or 3 or more. We weren’t trying to avoid them as much as just not run into them. The highlight of the run: passing 3 people standing near a pooping dog, hearing one of the people say: Such a big poop and right by a trashcan! Good dog! He said this in a voice that you usually hear when someone is praising a toddler. Okay, maybe I also liked feeling the breeze coming off of the lake and watching it glimmer and feeling almost normal and locking into a steady rhythm with my arms swinging the same amount and in perfect chorus with my legs. Oh–and I also remember stretching at a table near Sandcastle and noticing the light from the overhang reflecting on the pavement, making it glow a pale, pretty blue.

swim: just a quick dip in the drink (100 yards?)

I wanted to test out the water before open swim, which starts on the 15th!, so I decided to try a quick swim. It wasn’t that cold, just lots of waves from all the wind. My first time swimming since August of 2019. It felt like I never stopped, and strange and unknown at the same time. In other Junes the lake water has been clear, but not today. Couldn’t see a thing below me. Also hard to see above water. Time to prepare for vague shapes, and not knowing where I’m going, and trusting straight strokes. Always good practice and it makes every swim more exciting–will I get way off course? will the lifeguard have to come get me? I really hope that I can swim a lot this summer. Could I manage 100 miles? I’ll see. Open swim has expanded; I can swim 6 days a week. Minneapolis Parks is amazing.

Here’s a poem for this month’s theme of water and stone. Wow.

The Museum of Stones/ Carolyn Forché – 1950-

These are your stones, assembled in matchbox and tin,
collected from roadside, culvert, and viaduct,
battlefield, threshing floor, basilica, abattoir–
stones, loosened by tanks in the streets
from a city whose earliest map was drawn in ink on linen,
schoolyard stones in the hand of a corpse,
pebble from Apollinaire’s oui,
stone of the mind within us
carried from one silence to another,
stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, horneblende,
agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards,
chalk, marl, mudstone from temples and tombs,
stone from the tunnel lined with bones,
lava of a city’s entombment, stones
chipped from lighthouse, cell wall, scriptorium,
paving stones from the hands of those who rose against the army,
stones where the bells had fallen, where the bridges were blown,
those that had flown through windows, weighted petitions,
feldspar, rose quartz, blueschist, gneiss and chert,
fragments of an abbey at dusk, sandstone toe
of a Buddha mortared at Bamiyan,
stone from the hill of three crosses and a crypt,
from a chimney where storks cried like human children,
stones newly fallen from stars, a stillness of stones, a heart,
altar and boundary of stone, marker and vessel, first cast, lode and hail,
bridge stones and others to pave and shut up with,
stone apple, stone basil, beech, berry, stone brake,
stone bramble, stone fern, lichen, liverwort, pippin and root,
concretion of the body, as blind as cold as deaf,
all earth a quarry, all life a labor, stone-faced, stone-drunk
with hope that this assemblage of rubble, taken together, would become
a shrine or holy place, an ossuary, immoveable and sacred
like the stone that marked the path of the sun as it entered the human dawn.

This poem. Beautiful and powerful and haunting. I need to spend some time with it. So much to think about and reflect on. Here are two other things to put beside it:

From the Emily Dickinson Lexicon, entry for stone

stone (-s), n. [OE stán, wall; Gk. ‘pebble’.] (webplay: body, buildings, cold, dead, earth, express, eye, fall, fences, forgot, glance, gold, great, hard, heart, lie, lifeless, means, mirror, myself, perfectly, Philosopher’s, sense, set, small, stand, still, supposed, turning, universally, use, walls, water, weight).

  1. Hard mineral substance.
  2. Piece of rock; [fig.] thing which has a characteristic of a rock: unbreakable, inanimate, unfeeling, immovable, lack of consciousness, used to throw at things, used to break things, used in building structures.
  3. Jewel; precious gem.
  4. Grave; sepulcher; crypt; mausoleum; burial vault; [fig.] large stone covering the entrance of Jesus Christ’s sepulcher which was removed at the time of his resurrection.
  5. Coffin; casket; solid enclosure holding a dead body.
  6. Headstone; monument marking a grave.
  7. Imaginary substance thought to be able to turn other substances into gold. 
  8. Phrase. “[Written / set / stamped] in stone”: unalterable; prescribed by fate; will of God.

gneiss (which has come up in a few different places for me in the last few days):

Gneiss is a foliated metamorphic rock identified by its bands and lenses of varying mineral composition. Some of these bands (or lenses) contain granular minerals that are bound together in an interlocking texture.

Gneiss: Metamorphic Rock

STA’s favorite joke from high school science class:

She was gneiss, but he took her for granite.

june 4/RUN

3.3 miles
2 trails
72 degrees

Ran earlier this morning–at 6:30–to beat the heat. High of 99 today. We already turned the air on. 90s for the next 5 days. All this heat should warm up the lake. Less than 2 weeks until open swim begins!

I ran south on the upper trail. I tried to look at the river but it was hard. Too much green. Even at the overlook by the entrance to Winchell Trail was green. Only slashes of silver–or white heat–burning through the trees. Running north again on the Winchell Trail at the steepest spot above the river, I could feel the river through my peripheral vision. Sometimes it was a constant brightness, other times a rhythmic flash, keeping time with my striking feet as I passed one tree after another.

Yesterday I mentioned noticing the large crack in the trail that’s been marked with white spray paint and looks like Florida or a tube sock. Glancing at it today, I think it looks more like a knee-high sock or a compression sock, and not really Florida–although it still reminds me of Florida which, despite all the shit happening there these days, is not a bad thing. I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents in Deltona–the heat, the tropical humidity, the beach, Epcot, even the swampy salty tap water. I miss the ocean; I haven’t been there since FWA was a few months old, he’s 18 now.

Other things I noticed: a tall tree on the Winchell Trail leaning over a little too much–was it about to fall?; the trickle of water from the sewer pipe at 44th and the faster flow at the 42nd street pipe, the noise of water mixing in with the noise of rustling leaves; the river more light than water; my good omen: a lone roller skier; the shuffling, stomping feet of a runner behind me, becoming more distant with each step; a furry, big dog sitting calmly, perched at the top of the 38th street steps next to a bench and a human; some singing birds–robins, I think; a greeting from a runner; my new running shorts irritatingly riding up on the one side–probably due to the heat.

Reading Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior.” I’m thinking about rocks and layers and these two opening lines, one from her poem, “Lake Superior,” and one from her essay, “Lake Superior Country, Vacation Trip ’66”:

from Lake Superior

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock

from Lake Superior Country, Vacation Trip ’66

The journey of the rock is never ended. In every tiny part of any living thing are materials that once were rock that turned to soil. These minerals are drawn out of the soil by plant roots and the plant used them to build leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Plants are eaten by animals. In our blood is iron from plants that draw out of the soil. Your teeth and bones were once coral. The water you drink has been in clouds over the mountains of Asia and in waterfall of Africa. The air you breathe has swirled thru places of the earth that no one has ever seen. Every bit of you is a bit of earth and has been on many strange and wonderful journeys over countless millions of years.

june 2/RUN

3 miles
2 trails + the tunnel of trees
65 degrees

Even though I ran yesterday, I decided that I had to run today too, on my 10th anniversary of running. Taking those first steps with the couch to 5k program 10 years ago changed my life, and, honestly, saved my life. Not so much my literal life, as my livable life.

Today I ran south on the river road trail, then turned down at 42nd and ran north on the Winchell Trail. I heard lots of woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees and a tinny mechanical chirp that I think might be a robin but I’m not sure. At the end of my run, right by my house, I also heard a bird calling out, “tweet tweet look at me!” What is this bird? I looked up birdsong mnemonics but couldn’t find anything close to the phrase I heard. I encountered some other walkers and runners and bikers and a maintenance truck with someone up in a bucket trimming a tree. I heard the kids laughing and yelling on the playground. I greeted the Welcoming Oaks and got lost in the green in the tunnel of trees. I counted the stacked stones (2) on the ancient boulder. I noticed the cottonwood fuzz piled up on the edges of the grass. I thought about water and stones and how different yet connected they are here near the gorge. I stopped at the fallen tree branch balanced precariously on the fence creating a bridge to cross under and measured (roughly) the distance from my head–about 2 or 3 inches. No wonder I always want to duck! I avoided the dip in the road and the big crack that is marked by white spray paint in the shape of a tube sock or Florida (at least that what it looks like to me!). I tried to breathe deeply through my noise and swing my arms so that the right swung back as much as the left. I monitored how my left quad felt and my lower back. I crossed the road twice at crosswalks, twice not, making sure to triple check before I went. I peered down at the inviting opening carving out a space between dark green near the oak savanna.

But I didn’t look down at the river, or, if I did, I can’t remember anything about it. What color was it? Were there any rowers on it? Was it smooth or rough? This seems to happen a lot–I lose the river. Is it because when I look at it, I often don’t see anything but water–blue or brown or gray–just there. A blob or a streak or a wide swath. I guess I’m too far away, and it’s too hard to notice anything in a flash–unless it’s sunny and it sparkles or reflects.

Today’s poem on the theme of water and stone is from the amazing Alice Oswald:

Evaporations/ Alice Oswald

I

What I admire is Dew
To have the strength of Dew
To pass apparitional through a place
Without trace or title
To be Snow!
To be almost actual!
Oh pristine example
Of claiming a place on the earth
Only to cancel
Rain
Rain
Smashed against stone
I love leaf and un-leaf
Of frost and un-fern
All these incisions
And indecisions of the Dawn
Yes Yes there is Ice but I notice
The Water doesn’t like it so orderly
What Water admires
Is the slapstick rush of things melting
I have taken my bedding to the fields
First it was Mist
Uncontrollably whispering
Then it was Dew
Disclosing the cold in my mind
Saying simply that it
Comes from nothing
And will return to nothing
Then it was…

II

In their lunch hour
I saw the shop-workers get into water
They put their watches on the stones and slithered
frightened
Into the tight-fitting river
And shook out cuffs of splash
And swam wide strokes towards the trees
And after a while swam back
With rigid cormorant smiles
Shocked I suppose from taking on
Something impossible to think through
Something old and obsessive like the centre of a rose
And for that reason they quickly turned
And struggled out again and retrieved their watches
Stooped on the grass-line hurrying now
They began to laugh and from their meaty backs
A million crackling things
Burst into flight which was either water
Or the hour itself ascending.

O, Alice Oswald! I read somewhere that when she does readings of her poems, she often?always? does it from memory. Very cool. I love so much about this poem: the gentle rhyming at the beginning–dew/through, place/trace. The idea of being almost actual. Frost and un-fern, the slapstick rush of things melting, the way the dew and the mist speak to her. Then, in the second part: the watches on the stones reminds me of M Oliver’s lamenting of clocks and the prison of normal time. I love the cormorant smiles and the meaty backs (which is kind of gross), and the “million crackling things” that burst into flight which could be water drops or the evaporation of the magical hour in and of the water.

june 1/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha creek trail + lake nokomis
71 degrees

Today is STA’s 10 year anniversary of running (his runnaversary); mine is tomorrow. We decided to celebrate them together by running part of the path where it all began in 2011: Minnehaha Creek Trail. What a beautiful day! Maybe a little too bright and warm, but it feels like summer, normal summer.

Running on the trail brought back memories of the kids when they were kids. We lived over by this trail, and not as close to the river, for 10 years. I walked and biked it with FWA and RJP countless times, probably mostly in the summer–to camps, to and to the lake. It was strange to be on this path—for the first time in almost a year–and notice all the differences, like how the trail travels under 28th avenue now instead of steeply climbing up to a crosswalk. As we ran on it, STA remarked on how you would never be able to tell there had been a different trail here unless you remembered it. Yes, the importance of remembering. I’m good at that. It’s strange to be visiting these known, yet unfamiliar, places in the same city in which I still live. Growing up, I never lived in a town for more than 5 years: 4 years in UP Michigan; 5 years in Hickory, North Carolina; 1 year in Salem, Virginia; 4 years in a northern Virginia suburb of D.C; 4 years West/Des Moines, Iowa–well, when I was in college in Minnesota, I still lived in West Des Moines for the summer, so I guess you could count that as 8 years. Anyway, after a few years in the LA area, and a few years in Atlanta, we moved to Minneapolis for good. We’ve lived here since the late fall of 2003, when FWA was 6 months old. He’s 18 now. Wow. I love this place, and I love it even more since I started running around it. Tomorrow is my official 10 running anniversary, so I think I’ll write about what running means to me tomorrow.

Remembering Today’s Run

  • Such a warm, bright sun. Annoyingly (to STA, I’m sure), I had to recite a few lines from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”–the part after the Mariner has killed the albatross and the whole ship is paying the price: no breeze, “all in a hot and copper sky/the blooding sun at noon/right up above the mast it stands/no bigger than a moon.” The part I recited was: “Day after day, day after day/we stuck, no breath, no motion/as idle as a painted ship/upon a painted ocean.” We were moving but the air was not. When in the direct sun, I remember feeling hot and stuck
  • Checking out the menu for Sandcastle and thinking about how we could get some beers and fries after some of my swims this summer
  • Feeling sad about the big willow tree just past the echo bridge–a tree that I’ve featured in at least 2 poems–was recently cut down. Bummer
  • Stopping a lot so STA could take pictures (he posted them on instagram). At one spot, we noticed how still the water was and how clear the reflection of the boat was on its surface. I remember mentioning the myth of Adonis and how he looked at his reflection–but, I should have known better; checking my log entries I found the entry where I first mentioned this story and it was Narcissus. Here’s my entry from just over a year ago:

a mirror reflecting the fluffy clouds. I imagined that the water was another world, doubled and reversed, like in May Swenson’s great poem, “Water Picture“: “In the pond in the park/ all things are doubled:/ Long buildings hang and/ wriggle gently. Chimneys/ are bent legs bouncing/ on clouds below.” Love how “In the pond in the park” bounces on my tongue. I kept glancing over at the water and admiring its smooth beauty and how it looked like a mirror. I started thinking about the Greek myth (which I couldn’t really remember) about the hunter who looked at his reflection. I looked it up just now–of course it was Narcissus. Here’s an interesting article I found that discusses him and the idea of mirrors in water–it even has a picture of Salvadore Dali looking into the water.

april 27, 2020

A new month, a new theme. Last month was birds; this month is water and stone. Today’s poem is one I posted on this log a few years ago (I think), but it’s time to revisit it:

Wind, Water, Stone/ OCTAVIO PAZ

TRANSLATED BY ELIOT WEINBERGER

for Roger Caillois

Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,
stone’s a cup of water,
water escapes and is wind.
Stone, wind, water.

Wind sings in its whirling,
water murmurs going by,
unmoving stone keeps still.
Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:
crossing and vanishing
through their empty names:
water, stone, wind.

Stone: stops/blocks, holds things, is still
Water: carves out stone, escapes and transforms, sings