Keeping up the Saturday tradition of running the marshall loop. Got a later start so it was sunnier, with less shade. Listened to a iTunes playlist that I created a few years back–The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy, Billy Joel, ACDC, Pat Benatar, Jamirquai, and perfect timing for John Williams’ Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark: running up the last stretch of the marshall hill, almost at the top.
Running over the lake street bridge to St. Paul, I watched a big bird–I think it was a turkey vulture–soaring high above the river. Running back over the lake street bridge to Minneapolis, I looked down at several shells. Rowers! Right below me, just crossing under the bridge heading south, was a single scull. The rower was wearing a bright orange shirt. Since they were facing me, I thought about waving, but then decided I was too high up and moving too fast.
Reaching the top of marshall, running by Black Coffee and Waffles, I could smell the waffles and their sweet bakery smell. I used to love waffles, piled high with whipped cream and chocolate. Now that much sugar gives me a headache. What a drag it is getting old.
There is still a lot of smoke in the air. It didn’t bother my breathing too much. Crossing the bridge, the smoke made everything hazy and the sky was almost white.
4.5 miles minnehaha falls and back (on the winchell trail) 72 degrees
They canceled open swim today; the air quality is dangerous (176, which is unhealthy). The smoke from the fires up north is still here. I’m disappointed but also relieved. I can still feel the effects from the smoke of last night’s swim. I went out for a run instead, which made me feel better. I didn’t have any trouble breathing. Ran to the falls and back. The falls were low; no roaring, rushing water. I saw a large bird–a turkey vulture? hawk?–high up in the sky. I don’t remember hearing any black capped chickadees or cardinals or woodpeckers. Running at the start of the Winchell Trail, I (too?) quietly warned the walker ahead of me that I was coming. He had headphones on and didn’t hear me. Then he turned, saw me, and uttered, in surprise, “Oh God!” I wasn’t running fast, so it was no big deal. Just funny. Heard some water trickling out of the sewer pipe at 42nd. Don’t remember what I thought about, but I do remember trying to forget the increased anxiety I have over wildfires and Delta variants. Some days it’s a struggle hanging onto joy and delight in the midst of so much evidence that everything is falling apart.
Water: a smoky river, not glittering in the hazy sun; a subdued waterfall; a receding creek; dripping ponytail, forehead, back; trickling pipes; thirst and the desire for some sips from a water fountain; an empty, swimmer-less lake
Hot. Sweaty. Too many bikes biking in pairs beside each other, taking over the path. Still, a good run. Just before starting, I listened to a recording of myself reciting 2 poems I’m working on. Thoughts about them came and went as I ran above the river. On the Winchell Trail, right before running up the short, steep hill near Folwell, I thought about how I don’t always notice the river when I’m running next to it. Sometimes I’m distracted by other thoughts or an approaching person. Sometimes the river is hidden behind a veil of green. And sometimes I’m too lost in the dream world. Then David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech with the refrain, “This is water” popped into my head. I decided to stop at the top of the hill and record my thoughts:
Okay, I’m running and I had an idea. Thinking about how when I’m running on the Winchell Trail above the river, sometimes I don’t remember to look at the river, to acknowledge the river, behold it, recognize that it’s there. And I started thinking about David Foster Wallace and “this is water” and how sometimes it’s important to notice and behold and say, “this is water.” To say, “this is water,” is to stand outside of it, to have some sort of distance, to be beside it. Sometimes we want to be immersed in the water. We want to be immersed in a dream world or a now that is not outside, not as distant, not beside. That means we don’t notice that this is water because we’re in it, and that’s a good thing too.
I reread the transcript of Wallace’s speech. I like many of his ideas about the value of a liberal arts education for giving us the tools to think critically, to be aware, to notice a wider range of realities beyond our limited, selfish one, to move past our unconscious “default” settings. Much of it is based on choice and will and our ability, which we must cultivate through education/practice/habits, to be open to understanding situations in new, potentially more generous, ways.
I like these lines:
If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
In his speech, Wallace’s primary default setting is that we are selfish–everything is centered on us–and that we passively and consistently frame the world in this way. His solution: actively and deliberately think about the world in other ways. Seriously consider others’ perspectives, their struggles. Be actively critical, not passively uncritical. But, as I’m learning through poetry and various other things I’m reading about attention, sometimes letting go, being vulnerable and not in control, not trying to see things more generously but just being out in the world, moving and breathing and attending to it, sharing space in it with others (and not claiming it as yours) enables us to transform our experiences of it. I feel like I’m not quite making sense here, but I’m trying to get to the point that there are different forms of caring and giving attention, and some of them don’t involve deliberate, controlled focus on something. I’m thinking of soft fascination and being beside/entangled and the periphery.
bike: 8.6 miles lake nokomis and back 80 degrees wildfire smoke from Canada
No problem biking to the lake even though it was very smoky. They finished the sewer work they were doing by the mustache bridge so the bike trail was finally open again. Hooray! So much easier and safer not having to bike on the road and cross back and forth so many times. Very happy to feel mostly comfortable on my bike, able to see most things and not feel scared all the time.
swim: 2 miles / 2 loops lake nokomis open swim
Dark tonight. Strange, unsettling. Eerie on the lake with the sun covered with smoke. My googles fogged up again, even though I treated them, making it harder to see. I think Johnson’s Baby Shampoo doesn’t work, only Johnson’s baby wash does. Heard lots of sloshing and splashing. Enjoyed the swim, but felt less buoyant. At one point, it almost seemed like my foot was about to cramp up so I briefly stopped to stretch it. I’m getting better at stopping, taking my time. Another military plane flew low above me, roaring in the sky. That, with the waves and the smoke, make it feel almost apocalyptic. Noticed a bird flying in the sky too, near the plane. From my perspective in the lake, looking up from the side as I breathed, they looked the same size and shape. Funny how being the lake makes everything seem the same. Because of the smoke, I tried to take it easier, so I only swam 2 loops.
A few days ago (july 26) I foolishly asked how much choppier it is in Lake Superior than it was at cedar lake while I was swimming. Here’s one answer by the poet laureate of the UP (poet laureate? very cool!):
4 miles trestle turn around + extra 73 degrees humidity: 85% / dew point: 68
Woke up to dark skies. An hour later: thunderstorms. Around 10 it stopped, so I went out for a run. It was warm and humid but not oppressive. How is that possible? Forgot (again) to greet the welcoming oaks, but checked for stacked stones by the sprawling oak tree. Zero. Everything was dripping. Including me, after about a mile. I don’t remember seeing the river. Too much green. Noticed one of the unofficial trails leading down into the gorge just before lake street. Also noticed a tent set up under the lake street bridge, right next to the portapotty. All zipped up. I wondered how hot they were last night, when the low was in the upper 70s. I also wondered if they were in the tent because they’d been evicted (looked it up and the 15 month eviction moratorium is ending but landlords can’t evict until Sept).
delight of the day
As I approached the trestle, I began hearing a loud rumble. At first I tuned it out, but then I realized: a train! It was hard to see with all of the green blocking my view of the bridge, but slowly I saw the cars. The train was still there, rumbling along, as I passed under the trestle a minute later. Very cool. In the hundreds of times I’ve run under this trestle, I have only encountered a train on the bridge 3 or 4 times. These tracks are hardly ever used. Why was the train crossing today? I kept waiting for the beep beep of the horn but it never came. Only booms as the car lumbered over the old tracks.
After the rain, it’s time to walk the field again, near where the river bends. Each year I come to look for what this place will yield – lost things still rising here.
The farmer’s plow turns over, without fail, a crop of arrowheads, but where or why they fall is hard to say. They seem, like hail, dropped from an empty sky,
Yet for an hour or two, after the rain has washed away the dusty afterbirth of their return, a few will show up plain on the reopened earth.
Still, even these are hard to see – at first they look like any other stone. The trick to finding them is not to be too sure about what’s known;
Conviction’s liable to say straight off this one’s a leaf, or that one’s merely clay, and miss the point: after the rain, soft furrows show one way
Across the field, but what is hidden here requires a different view – the glance of one not looking straight ahead, who in the clear light of the morning sun
Simply keeps wandering across the rows, letting his own perspective change. After the rain, perhaps, something will show, glittering and strange.
Wow, I love this poem. I’m very glad I searched “after the rain poetry” and found it. The different view he discusses in the later stanzas is what I’m exploring. It’s ED’s slant truth and my sideways/peripheral. It’s also the practice of soft fascination–what we don’t notice we’re seeing when we’re focused on other things. And it’s learning new ways to see without certainty.
Hot and humid this morning. Not too bad in the shade. Heard some birds, noticed the river. Can’t really remember what I thought about as I ran. The paved trail near the road was crowded with walkers, runners, and bikers. On the trail below, I was one of only a few humans. It was a good run.
the gnat swimming in the liquid in my eye
the darting chipmunk who crossed my path and made me stutter-step down in the savanna
the coxswain’s voice floating up from the river
the runner and 2 bikers side-by-side, approaching me on my left and right at the same time, too fast and too close
the calling cardinal
encroaching vines brushing my face, my shoulders, my ankles
the dog and their human walking near a big boulder, another pair on the gravel just past the ravine
the jingling collar of another dog, far below me, much closer to the water
the branch of a tree, waving from the weight of a critter–a squirrel? bird?
yellowed leaves littering the dirt trail
the stones studding the trail, a few making me slow to a walk so I didn’t trip over them
swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops lake nokomis open swim 91 degrees
Very warm at the lake tonight. The air was warm, the water too. When I started swimming, I went through a few cold spots. Nice. Mostly breathed every 5. The water was much smoother, less choppy. Still had trouble seeing the buoys, but no trouble staying on course. Another great swim. I love how much time I’m spending in the lake this summer.
I have seen this commercial several times in the last few days, while watching the Olympics, especially the swimming events:
Are our hearts really made up of 73% water? Checked it, and yes, according to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158:
the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.
If you have ever seen the ocean throwing cold waves from her hand pulling shells from mighty depths tossing each upon wet sand, you can understand how sound waves move like water through dry air. One-by-one, vibrations follow pressing sounds from here-to-there. Sounds can pass through liquids. Through gases. Solids too. But sounds waves moving through the air are sound waves meant for you. Violin or thunderstorm — each will reach your waiting ear to play upon a tiny drum. This is how you hear.
…underwater sound waves pass directly into your head, bypassing your ears altogether. That’s because body tissues contain such a large amount of water. Try plugging your ears underwater and listening for another splash of someone jumping in. It will be just as loud as the last splash when your ears were not plugged.
2.25 miles cedar lake open swim 85 degrees / windy / choppy
A little chaotic the first loop. Because of the wind and the waves, the buoy closest to the starting beach (point beach) was too far out to swim around. Swimmers were swimming all across the course–the right, the left, the middle. By my second loop it had settled down and both buoys were in place. I loved swimming in the waves. No white caps, but it seemed pretty choppy to me. I wonder how it compares to Lake Superior or the ocean. I’m sure still calmer, but by how much?
Earlier in the day I watched a video with tips for swimming in choppy water: breathe more often; when you can’t see the buoy, use something higher to sight; leave a little air in your lungs in case a wave makes it hard to get in more air when you turn to breathe; focus on your pull and glide for strong, straight strokes; stay relaxed and positive; and take breaks by flipping on your back when needed. Thought about these tips as I swam through the roughest water, which was on the second half of the loop. Mostly, I focused on more breathes and stronger strokes. It was fun. I enjoy swimming in rough water and I had no problem swimming straight. I used the break in the trees as my guide. The only trouble I experienced: a sore neck and left shoulder. Lifting my head higher to see and breathe is tiring for my neck muscles. And punching or stabbing or slicing into the rough water, which is really fun to do, is hard on my shoulder.
Thought about waves, literally and metaphorically:
Literal: The sensation of swimming in rough water, with waves crashing into me or rocking me or pushing me along. Currents that move me off course. Tall waves that disorient. Swells that make it harder to stroke in the water and breathe. All the spray. Feeling powerful as I use my shoulders to lift higher out of the water and slice through it. The initial panic I feel as I adjust to breathing and stroking differently. The enjoyment I get out of wrestling with the water. The satisfaction, from staying on course. The way time disappears as I focus on breathing and not swallowing too much water–no before or after, only now.
Metaphorical: Waves of emotion–grief, joy, worry, anxiety–washing over me. Often unanticipated, invisible at first, like the lake from the shore looking deceptively calm. Learning to handle the intensity/overwhelmingness: fighting the waves, surrendering to them, learning to adapt and adjust, relenting to the water or moving with instead of against it. Water as cleansing, scouring, washing away memories. Flowing, erasing, saturating.
3 miles/ 3 loops lake nokomis open swim 84 degrees
Very sunny and difficult to see this morning. Even though I’m treating my goggles with baby shampoo before each swim, they seem to be foggin up. Do I need to tighten them, or have they just lost all of their anti-fog coating? The fogginess with the bright sun made it harder to see, but it didn’t matter. Stayed on course. As usual, the buoys were in a different place–especially the green ones. I don’t mind, and I don’t blame the lifeguards. I’m sure it’s difficult to set the course. I like the challenge of figuring out how to navigate a new course every time. My priority: avoiding other people + getting as much extra distance as I can. This strategy is the opposite of what you’d want to do in a race, but I’m not in a race, and I don’t want the loop to be as short as possible. For each of my three loops, I tried to adjust and correct for the mistakes I had made in the last loop. Mostly, I did. I fear I might have routed a few swimmers as I passed them.
I’m pretty sure my central vision is a bit worse. I am definitely finding it harder to see the buoys straight on, even when they’re not backlit or I’m not blinded by the sun. By seeing the buoys, I mean seeing anything, any flash of color, any evidence that there’s something out there other than boats and trees and water.
When I do see the buoys, they often look like something else, usually a boat. On my first loop, nearing the little beach, I wondered why there was a boat hovering off the shore, directly in line with where I wanted to swim. When I got closer, I realized it was the first green buoy. I partly mistook the buoy for a boat because it was much closer to the beach and shore than it ever has been before, but I also mistook it because my brain guessed wrong. It had to decide, with the limited visual data it was getting, boat, lifeguard, or buoy. Sara-brain went with boat.
Reading the book, Leap In, the author discusses how the biggest challenge for her in learning to swim freestyle was exhaling. She had no problem taking in air, but she struggled to let it out. For a few minutes, I thought about my exhales under the water. I also tried to work on being flatter and higher up in the water. Reaching, stretching, bending my elbows, sweeping them under my torso.
For a few moments–probably seconds–I wasn’t think about where I was going, or if I was too close to someone else. I was just swimming. Nice. I’d like to have more of these moments in the water. It’s hard to stop thinking when I feel like I need to be constantly sighting. What would happen if I tried sighting less? That sounds like an interesting experiment for this week.
water thoughts for today
On Friday at open swim, I noticed an older woman exiting the water with a limp. She looked very fit and strong but also like something was wrong with her leg. I could tell she was a great swimmer. I thought about Lord Byron and how I recently read that he was born with a clubfoot and walked awkwardly on land. In the water, this didn’t matter; no one could see his foot. Some of us are better in the water.
Last week, when the water was extremely rough, I overheard someone lament to a fellow swimmer, “I’m going to be drinking a lot of dirty water on the way back.” There is a myth, among some, that city lakes are dirty and polluted. This incorrect assumption angers me. Lake Nokomis, almost always, is a wonderful place to swim. Talking with STA about what I was posting here and he mentioned how the lake does have sediment that gets stirred up by the waves, which is true. The lake isn’t pristine.
he said breathe like you read your poems what the hell does that mean then suddenly I’m breathing it look at our hands baked into being by a fleeting magic bark with dogs to let the neighborhood know you can go to the address knock all you want no one is there now where the exit signs are burned out the preexisting condition is not cancer but the glass of polluted drinking water
Due to a worsening drought across the state, Minneapolis and St. Paul residents are being asked to water their lawns on an even-odd water schedule and to limit watering to mornings and evenings.
run: 2 miles tunnel of trees + river road trail + extra 90! degrees
Earlier in the day, STA mentioned that the even though it was hot today, the dew point was relatively low, so 90 might not feel so bad. Somehow I got this stuck in my head and decided to go out for a quick run around 3:30. STA did too, but not at the same time as me. I listened to my song of the spring–Leave the Door Open–and summer–Solar Power. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad, especially in the shade. I didn’t really start sweating until about one and half miles in. I think I saw at least one other runner and a few walkers. Lots of people sitting in the shade on benches. As I ran by them I wondered what they thought of me running in this heat.
This morning, water meant: cool, refreshing, gentle rocking in 81 degree lake water, abundance, enveloped. This afternoon, water meant: lack, absent, thirst, delayed arrival, dripping, damp, soaked.
No swimming today. First time since last Saturday. It’s already warm at 8 am. 90s in the afternoon. Ran the marshall loop. No stopping at the top of the hill–ran past Real Wicker and Black Coffee and Waffles. Is it called that because they only serve black coffee, no lattes? Never thought about that before. Chanted some triple berries: strawberry/blackberry/raspberry. Don’t remember noticing much. Looked down at the river as I crossed it–no rowers, a few logs near the shore. Don’t remember feeling any bugs or hearing any birds. No planes or trains. I might have heard a roller skier’s clicking poles. No music blasting from a radio or a bike speaker.
Water Thoughts: Fish
It’s still July, so I’m still finding water poems, which is getting harder, at least with my amateur approach to researching them. Anyway, here’s a few fragments about fishes. An entire poem, some parts of others, a poem of mine, a few fish sounds, and an excerpt from a commencement speech.
Look at them flit Lickety-split Wiggling Swiggling Swerving Curving Hurrying Scurrying Chasing Racing Whizzing Whisking Flying Frisking Tearing around With a leap and a bound But none of them making the tiniest tiniest tiniest tiniest tiniest sound
There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.
from The Nude Swim/ Anne Sexton
All the fish in us had escaped for a minute. The real fish did not mind. We did not disturb their personal life. We calmly trailed over them and under them, shedding air bubbles
Imposter/ Sara Lynne Puotinen
Part of me wants to be a fish forever submerged in the middle of the lake but most of me wants to stay human and crawl back to shore.
With each loop I wonder if a transformation will occur before the beach is reached. Will I sprout scales gain gills lose lungs?
Yet as the loop ends and my feet touch sand I always remain the same— a human only pretending to be a fish.
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.”
“This is water.”
It’s fun to put together these fragments around a theme. I used to love doing it when constructing a syllabus–maybe one of my favorite parts of teaching and syllabus writing: creating a conversation between different voices that might lead to more conversations in a class. I might do more of these…
No big problems biking on the trail. Ran into a white bike cone checked to make sure that cars were stopping for me at the stop sign like they’re supposed to. No big deal–I was going slow, the cone was plastic. Was that my vision? Maybe, but that spot is tricky–a temporary stop sign for cars while they do sewer work at the creek. They’re almost done, after over a year. Looking forward to the trail going back to normal here again.
swim: 2.75 miles/ 3 loops (orange buoys only) lake nokomois open swim 83 degrees
Not quite as choppy as yesterday, but still a lot of rocking and fighting with the water. Today I wore my safety buoy. It’s leaking a little air, not sure why, which makes it harder to stay high on the water. My neck hurt from breathing on one side so much and having to lift my head higher to breathe and see. By the end of the 3rd loop, I was tired. Even so, I enjoyed the challenge of choppy water. They didn’t have enough lifeguards to do a full course, so we just swam around the orange buoys today.
moment I remember:
Swimming back, between the first and second buoys from the little beach, I saw the flash of waving arms and a bright cap. A swimmer, heading towards me. I’m not sure, but I think they were waving their arms to let me know they were there so I wouldn’t run into them? I was surprised because I had deliberately moved way over to avoid getting close to other swimmers. They were off course. Even as I knew this to be the case, I still stewed over it for a few minutes, wondering if the other swimmer thought I was off course. Were they angry with me? Why does this bother me and why do I spend any time thinking about it? Is it that I always want others to think/know I’m doing the right thing? I hope not. Luckily, after a few more waves, I had forgotten about it.
I had a few other encounters with swimmers. At least 2 swimmers drifting further out, routing me. When this happens, I stop and swim around them from behind. Do they notice, and do they wonder where I’ve gone?
I stopped a few times mid-lake to recover from a big wave or see where I was or enjoy the view from the middle. During one stop, I noticed a dragonfly hovering just above the water. Often when I see a dragonfly I think about my dead mom. She loved dragonflies. I like to imagine that this dragonfly is my mom coming to say hi. But lately I’ve been noticing how much dragonflies look like helicopters. So I googled it: “are helicopters modeled after dragonflies?” I discovered that at least one type is/was, designed by Sikorsky in the late 40s. Also found this interesting bit of info about dragonflies and flight:
The mechanics of dragonfly flight are unique: dragonflies can manoeuvre in all directions, glidwithout having to beat their wings and hover in the air. Their ability to move their two pairs of wings independently enables them to slow down and turn abruptly, to accelerate swiftly and even to fly backwards.
Also learned that dragonflies have very good vision. I found this bit of info particularly interesting:
The quality and nature of vision in animals is related to the diversity of opsin proteins that they have in their eyes. We humans like to think that our eyesight is pretty good, and thanks to our large brains it is, but we rely on just three opsin genes, which means that we have three photoreceptors (cones), sensitive to blue, green and red light. So we can see across a colour spectrum from red to violet, but not ultraviolet (UV). If I now mention that dragonflies have between fifteen and 33 opsin genes, that gives some idea of just how good their vision may be! Some of these opsins may be non-visual proteins, but they still have large numbers of visual opsins, including ones for for short-wavelength (SW), long wavelength (LW) and UV light.
Dragonflies were as common as sunlight hovering in their own days backward forward and sideways as though they were memory now there are grown-ups hurrying who never saw one and do not know what they are not seeing the veins in a dragonfly’s wings were made of light the veins in the leaves knew them and the flowing rivers the dragonflies came out of the color of water knowing their own way when we appeared in their eyes we were strangers they took their light with them when they went there will be no one to remember us
and here’s a poem about water and waves:
BY THE SEA/ EMILY DICKINSON
I started early, took my dog, And visited the sea; The mermaids in the basement Came out to look at me.
And frigates in the upper floor Extended hempen hands, Presuming me to be a mouse Aground, upon the sands.
But no man moved me till the tide Went past my simple shoe, And past my apron and my belt, And past my bodice too,
And made as he would eat me up As wholly as a dew Upon a dandelion’s sleeve – And then I started too.
And he – he followed close behind; I felt his silver heel Upon my ankle, – then my shoes Would overflow with pearl.
Until we met the solid town, No man he seemed to know; And bowing with a mighty look At me, the sea withdrew.
What a wild swim! I think these are the roughest waves I’ve ever swam in. I don’t remember seeing any whitecaps, just big swells. The first part of the loop, right after the big beach, was the toughest. I felt a little panic as I adjusted to all the waves and the difficulty breathing. Not sure it got easier, but I got better. By the time I rounded the orange buoy near the little beach, I was almost enjoying it. And when I neared the big beach again, I loved it. Very cool. My favorite part: slashing through the waves–not quite punching them–as I swam into a wall of water. Least favorite part: when a swell hit me from behind. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like the water was being sucked down. Hard to swim, hard to breathe. I don’t think I’d like to swim in such rough water every time, but it was fun today.
To Swim, To Believe/ Maxine Kumin
The beautiful excess of Jesus on the waters is with me now in the Boles Natatorium. This bud of me exults, giving witness: these flippers that rose up to be arms. These strings drawn to be fingers. Legs plumped to make my useful fork. Each time I tear this seam to enter, all that I carry is taken from me, shucked in the dive. Lovers, children, even words go under. Matters of dogma spin off in the freestyle earning that mid-pool spurt, like faith. Where have I come from? Where am I going? What do I translate, gliding back and forth erasing my own stitch marks in this lane? Christ on the lake was not thinking where the next heel-toe went. God did him a dangerous favor whereas Peter, the thinker, sank. The secret is in the relenting, the partnership. I let my body work accepting the dangerous favor from the king-size pool of waters. Together I am supplicant. I am bride.
There are some things I don’t like about this poem–the last line; the way it could too easily be read as overly religious, where religion = christianity. But there are more things I like–tearing the seam and erasing the stitch marks; he who thinks sinks; the value of belief and relenting to that which is greater than you; a shucking off of the need to know where you’re from and where you’re going; the connection of all of this to the act of swimming. I like the line about thinking and sinking–maybe not he who thinks sinks, but the thinker’s the sinker? Hmm…anyway, I’m not opposed to thinking–I love doing it all the time and it is very necessary and important–but lately I’ve been very interested in ideas/understandings/poems/new ways of being that come to be or occur to us through methods other than concentration and directing our minds on objects or problems, which is how thinking is often defined. What can come to us when we’re not studying it directly? When we don’t have a specific objective, or need to be in control? Is this a different way of thinking about thinking?
Oliver Sacks, whose expertise ranges across many scientific and humanistic disciplines, has described in a sweet autobiographical essay, “Water Babies,” the joy that comes from playing in and with the buoyant medium that supports the swimmer. More important, he describes how the mind-altering properties of swimming can get thinking going as nothing else can. “Ecstasy,” he calls it—a word whose origin in Greek refers to standing outside of oneself: “There was a total engagement in the act of swimming, in each stroke, and at the same time the mind could float free, become spellbound, in a state like a trance.” In such trances one dreams, one composes— poems, songs, lectures, it hardly matters what.
Buoyancy/ Williard Spiegelman
In other reading, here are 2 ideas from the book, Leap In, about wild swimming. The first, speaks to my above discussion about giving up control, the second about what we see when we’re in the water.
‘What’s worth remembering about open-water swimming is that there are no irrational fears,’ said Patrick. I frowned. This doesn’t sound like great news. ‘After all, you can never entirely know what’s beneath you at any given time when you’re in the ocean. You can have a pretty good idea, and you can be careful with where you swim, and what the tides are up to. But you can’t ever know for sure. There is just . . . too much ocean, and too little human.’
Leap In/ Alexandra Heminsley
Where a runner sees the world in close-up, with time to view each passing tree’s leaves as they fall, each yellow raod marking as it fades through the seasons, each dog truffling treats from the roadside, I realised that a swimmer sees the long shot. A ball thrown across a beach, a seagull swooping for an unwatched doughnut half a mile away, a rumbling lorry meandering by as if being pushed by a four-year-old.
run: 3.55 miles 2 trails 68 degrees air quality warning, smoke from fires in canada
The air didn’t feel too smoky this morning, not hard to breathe. Overcast. A dark green. For a few minutes, heard a roller skier approaching from behind, their ski poles click click click clicking. Encountered more runners than walkers, a few bikers. Turned down at 44th to the start of the Winchell Trail. A wonderful dark, mysterious green. Heard the steady dripping of the sewer pipe. Also heard the rowers on the river. 2 coxswains, 1 male and 1 female, instructing the rowers: “Make sure you use your legs in the first half of your stroke. It should be mostly legs.”
Last week I mentioned to STA that there was some asphalt on the part of the dirt trail between 38th and the savanna. He didn’t think so. Today, running, I noticed that it was almost all dirt, but that there were a few chunks of asphalt–at least it looked like asphalt to me as I ran by it. Was it? I think so. How long ago was this trail abandoned to the dirt–the glacial till? The chain link fence beside it is in rough shape–this is the spot where there’s a tree trunk growing through the fence and a fence growing out of the tree limbs. Was it in the last century–the 1980s or 90s–that they repaired the fence or repaved the trail here?
Ran by the ravine up the steep gravel hill. Past the overlook and the ancient boulder–no stacked stones today. Down through the tunnel of trees, voices floating up from below. Rowers on the river, or hikers on the trail?
First forget what time it is for an hour do it regularly every day
then forget what day of the week it is do this regularly for a week then forget what country you are in and practise doing it in company for a week then do them together for a week with as few breaks as possible
follow these by forgetting how to add or to subtract it makes no difference you can change them around after a week both will help you later to forget how to count
forget how to count starting with your own age starting with how to count backward starting with even numbers starting with Roman numerals starting with the old calendar going on to the old alphabet going on to the alphabet until everything is continuous again go on to forgetting elements starting with water proceeding to earth rising in fire
swim: 2.25 miles / 6 loops cedar lake open swim 85 degrees
Another wonderful swim! Windy. The water wasn’t choppy, but it was moving. Pushing everything off course, including the buoy. I didn’t notice it in my first loop until I realized I was way off course–far into the other side, almost swimming parallel to the shore instead of towards it. In other years, this would have bothered me. Not today. No panic or fear or frustration. Just getting back on course. This year, I am enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to adjust. Tonight the solution: swim hard at an angle into the current. At times, it felt like I was swimming in place. I wonder how many others swimmers enjoy this like I do?
The milfoil or whatever aquatic vegetation it is (I couldn’t find any more information), felt feathery today as it brushed past my arm and shoulder. The vegetation is thicker, growing up from below, at Hidden/East Beach, but in the middle of the lake, there were only a few stray plants being carried by the current.
Anything else I can remember? My left (OG) knee felt a little sore, so did my back. I don’t recall hear any strange sounds. No music or snippets of conversation. At one point, I thought I saw some big and dark hulk off to the side. Was something there? I never checked. In my first loop, I thought I saw the lifeguard on a kayak marking the edge of the course so I swam slightly away from them. Realized it was the buoy. Later, thought I was swimming towards the far buoy, realized it was a lifeguard. My skin felt itchy after I exited the water, on the drive home.
2 loops/2 miles lake nokomis open swim 88 degrees air quality warning: smoke from canada
A strange night. Very hazy from the wildfires in Canada. Choppy water. Right as we were about to start, the lifeguards cleared the beach. I couldn’t see it, but I think someone had to be rescued. I’m assuming they’re okay because there was no ambulance and we were able to get in the water just a few minutes late. So crowded! Lots of people at the beach because of the heat, tons of open water swimmers. They’re must be a triathlon soon that people are training for.
The far green buoy, the one closest to the little beach, was not close at all. As far out to the left as I’ve seen it. Every week it’s different. I am so happy to know that this doesn’t bother me at all. I’m not worried about getting off course or needing to stop and check where the buoy is. I’m confident I’ll eventually find it and I won’t get lost in the middle–how could I? I know this lake very well by now. Instead of scaring me, when I can’t find the buoy, I enjoy the challenge. I look for the splash of an arm, or keep swimming in the direction I think it is, knowing that it will show up…eventually. Building up this confidence in the water, makes me believe that I can be okay on land too, even when I can’t see.
The moment of the night
I’ve just rounded the ridiculously far out green buoy for the first time. It’s so far that it’s right by all of the sailboats. Later I joked with STA that I was swimming in the shipping lane. The air is very hazy from smoke. The water is choppy. No whitecaps, just rough water that throws you around a bit. Suddenly, a line of military planes flies over the lake, low and loud. What the hell is going on? I felt like I was in a scene from Apocalypse Now. Surreal.
I only swam 2 loops which I was think was the right call. Too smoky. Too hard to breathe. Hopefully this smoke will have cleared by Thursday.
Looked up “smoke water poem” and found this great one by the wonderful poet, Jane Kenyon:
A fly wounds the water but the wound soon heals. Swallows tilt and twitter overhead, dropping now and then toward the outward-radiating evidence of food.
The green haze on the trees changes into leaves, and what looks like smoke floating over the neighbor’s barn is only apple blossoms.
But sometimes what looks like disaster is disaster: the day comes at last, and the men struggle with the casket just clearing the pews.
Wow. Earlier today, I was thinking and writing about how we don’t leave a trace/evidence in the water. No footprints or trampled down grass. The first bit of this poem reminded me of that–the fly that wounds the water but that wound soon heals. I love the idea of a tree’s green haze turning into leaves. Often when I look at trees, they’re just a blur of soft green–fuzzy, hazy. And both the smoke that wasn’t smoke and the disaster that was a disaster. What an ending!
Cool but humid. Ran through Austin with Scott. We were in town, but parts of it felt like running through the country, especially the parts with narrow, windy roads and no sidewalks. Reminded me of rural North Carolina where I lived from ages 4-9, and where I would, on the rare occasion, “run” with my mom. A fuzzy memory: asking to run with her, becoming separated when I couldn’t keep up, getting trapped for a few minutes by a loose, barking dog (no leash laws in rural early 1980s North Carolina). How much did the Austin landscape really resemble Hickory, NC? Probably not that much, but enough to trigger this memory and make me look around for any loose dogs that might be about to attack.
swim: 2 miles / 5 cedar lake loops cedar lake open swim 85 degrees
Back in Minneapolis in the late afternoon. Went to open swim at Cedar Lake. Wow, the water was warm near the shore. Almost too warm. Wore my new suit, my birthday suit–the one I bought with birthday money from Scott’s parents. The “birthday suit” joke never gets old for me. I remember turning 7 or 8 or 9 and getting a bathing suit for my birthday. I ran around the neighborhood, wrapped in a towel, looking like that was all I was wearing, and calling out to anyone nearby: “Want to see my birthday suit?” I’d open the towel, show them my suit, and laugh at their surprise–and relief, I’m sure, to see that I wasn’t naked. I was one of those irritating kids.
I think my central vision is getting a little worse. It’s harder to sight the orange buoys, even when the water is calm, the sun hidden. It doesn’t matter too much because I don’t really need the buoys to know where I’m going. I love my brain and whatever else in my body that’s allowing me to gradually adjust to this loss so that by the time it gets worse, I’ve already adapted enough that it doesn’t matter. Do most people have this experience when they’re losing something?
The swim was great. Earlier in the season, I was criticizing this lake, writing about how I wasn’t chill enough for it, but now I love it again. It feels more like a lake up north than one at the edge of Minneapolis. Gravel trails, no buildings, canoes and kayaks everywhere. What a great night for a swim! I felt buoyant and fast and confident. No planes flying overhead, circling like sharks. Only water and a clear landmark to sight: the split in the trees at the beach. Couldn’t see below me–at its deepest point, the lake is 51 feet down. I wonder if that’s anywhere near where I swim? Had a few encounters with vegetation. Scratchy.
Here’s a poem by Ellen Bass that I found on twitter. I’m posting it for the water image, but the idea of loving the world, in spite of its awfulness, resonates for me too.
to love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs; when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think, How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violent eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you I will you love you, again.
Thinking about the image of water as heavy, making the air harder to breathe. When I’m running, and it’s hot, the wet air feels heavy and thick on my skin. Oppressive. But when I’m in the lake, swimming, the water feels light, free. Breathing is much easier for me. Somehow, I don’t need to do it as much, even while I’m wearing a nose plug and can only breathe through my mouth. The more I swim, the less I need to breathe. Every five strokes, then every six or seven. To love life, I don’t want to hold it in my hands and look at it, I want to swim in it. What to do with this image/metaphor?
2 miles/ 2 loops lake nokomis open swim 77 degrees
Another wonderful morning for open swim. It was bright and warm and calm. So bright I could barely keep my eyes open, but once I was in the water, it didn’t matter. I could still see the flash of silver from the bottom of the rowboat at the little beach. I felt strong and confident and happy. I didn’t feel like a fish today, but a boat–a kayak or a small shell, my feet as rudders.
Didn’t see any fish, but several vines entangled me, and when I took my suit off after the swim, I saw that I had taken some of them with me. More than sand and silt under my suit today–leaves and vines too.
Noticed a bird flying above me, and then a few planes. They all looked the same size. Thought about how much perspective changes in the water. Big buoys look tiny, planes look like birds, dragonflies look like planes. Very cool.
Here’s a lovely poem that might fit better with water and stone then just water:
Balance is everything, is the only way to hold on. I’ve weighed the alternatives, the hold as harbor: It isn’t safe to let go. But consider the hover, choices made, the moment between later and too late. Hesitation is later, regret too late. You can’t keep turning and turning, or expecting to return. This earth
is not a wheel, it is a rock that erodes, mountain by mountain. And I have been too soft, like sandstone, but there is a point where I stand without a story, immutable and moved, solid as a breath in winter air.
I have seen my death and I know it is my neighbor, my brother, my keeper. In my life I am going to keep trying for the balance,
remembering the risks and the value of extremes, and that experience teaches the length of allowable lean; that it is easier — and wiser — to balance a stone as if on one toe though it weigh a hundred pounds
than to push it back against the curve of its own world.
A shell with a single rower, from above on the marshall bridge. I wondered if they saw me too until I remembered, and then saw, rowers row with their backs leading.
No stones stacked on the ancient boulder.
The river was calm, blue. Saw a small log from high above on the bridge; it looked so tiny and far away.
2 young (younger than me, at least) runners passed, running much faster. A snippet of their conversation–R1: That was when you just started running again…. R2: Yes, after I recovered from the blood clots in my leg. Not 1, but 2 blood clots.
Brown, dead leaves covering the path for a brief stretch. It looked like they had been dragged from the brush. Why?
The loud buzz, crackle of a cicada.
My right knee feeling a bit strange, almost like the kneecap wasn’t quite in the groove. Almost, but not quite.
A kid approaching me on his bike as I ran over the bridge, doing a great job of staying to his side. Almost wanted to call out and tell their parent what a great job he was doing.
Hearing a beeping sound down in the river, wondering if it was the start of a rowing race, never figuring out what it was.
Running through the Minneahaha Academy parking lot, hearing someone on the field, wondered if they were playing golf
A great morning for a bike ride! I love that there’s open swim at lake nokomis on friday mornings. It was an easy bike ride, mostly because I didn’t have to pass anyone and I didn’t encounter any unexpected obstacles. I noticed that I always look for traffic when I’m crossing, but more often I’m listening for it. This works for most cars, but not for bikes. I need to remember that and try to look and listen extra carefully for the whirr of wheels.
swim: 2 miles/2 loops lake nokomis open swim 77 degrees
Such a great swim! It was bright and impossible to see the buoys on the way to the little beach, but I could see the little overturned rowboat, shining in the sun on the shore. Rounding the white buoy, I could see both of the green buoys on the way back. Not always, but enough to know where I was going. The water wasn’t too warm or too cold, although I recall swimming through pockets of both much warmer and much colder. The water was also smooth and easy and fast. I felt strong and steady, gliding through the water, pretending to be a fish. There were several dozen other swimmers, but mostly I felt like I was the only one in the water. No worries or expectations or responsibilities, just me and water–and a few strands of vegetation that kept wrapping themselves around my shoulder.
sighting a green buoy
If I stop at the white buoy near the little beach to look for the green buoys and I’m able to see them, I can usually see little triangles sitting on the surface. Once I start swimming, the most I can see is a green dot. As I get closer, the green dot often loses its color and begins to look like a hulking shape–a boat? a person? some strange thing floating in the water. Even when I’m not too far way, the buoy looks tiny. Only when I’m right next to it, can I see it fully–its green color, large size, triangular shape. Is this how normally sighted people see the green buoys? One day, I’ll ask someone else in open swim–maybe I’ll post a message on facebook and ask other swimmers if they’d be willing to talk to me about what they see? That might be cool.
Ah, what a run! Slightly cooler, relaxed. On the Winchell Trail, about halfway done, heard water dripping out of the sewer and got lost in the sound and the words I could use for it: sprinkling, tinkling, shimmering, twinkling…not sputtering. A steady, pleasing rhythm of drips and drops.
At some point, it looks like most of the Winchell Trail was asphalt. Now, some of that asphalt has surrendered to the dirt, especially in the stretch between the start of the trail at 44th to 42nd and also north of the 38th street steps. As I ran past 38th, heading towards the oak savanna, I wondered: How long does it take for asphalt to crumble? To revert to dirt? How many foot steps? How many rain drops? Spring seeps? Sewer drips? Wheel ruts?
Ran up the hill past the ravine with the concrete then limestone ledges. Loose gravel. Difficult to ascend. On other paved hills, I ran up steep slopes on the tips of my toes. Running down, I could hear my left foot slap the asphalt. Heard lots of birds–not specific birds, just birds. Also heard a roller skier and a large group of kids–a summer camp?–yelling and laughing and rushing down the hill between Edmund and the river road. Encountered a series of pairs of walkers, two by two by two. Felt strong and steady and wonderfully lost in the acts of moving and breathing and being outside.
Returning to the question of how long it takes for asphalt to surrender to dirt, I’m reminded of Eamon Grennan’s wonderful poem about erosion in which he laments never having seen that moment, after countless years of slow, relentless erosion, when water and stone, flux and solidity, sea-roar and land-groan meet. Such a great poem! Asphalt erosion involves the clashing–or coming together–of water and stone, but not with such a dramatic conclusion, at least not on the trail. Just a slow, steady sink into the dirt as groundwater seeps down from above. Grennan’s poem also reminds me of the name the Ojibwe gave for the falls at St. Anthony: Gakaabika or severed rock. And, the idea of never witnessing these big moments and/or the slow, steady break down or build up of something reminds me of a poem I wrote for my collection of poems about seeing and swimming. I want to work on all of these poems for the rest of the summer. Revise them, rethink them, reshape them:
DETRITUS/ Sara Lynne Puotinen
No matter how hard I try to concentrate I can’t seem to see the slimy sand seeping inside, settling on my skin but it’s always there when I take off my suit.
I marvel at the unnoticed murk I have carried with me streaks on my stomach, half moons under my breasts then wash it off before my skin turns red and my mood too dark.
Even as the murk dissolves down the drain the lake never leaves I smell it in my suit days later feel it in my dreams all winter.
With some more work, I think this poem has potential. update, 12/28/21: Yes, it does. I added more, and turned it into a poem titled, “Haunting”.
swim: 3 miles lake nokomis open swim 82 degrees
What a swim! A perfect night for swimming and then meeting STA for a beer at Sandcastle. Swam three loops and felt strong and fast. The first green buoy, on the way back to the big beach, was as far to the right, close to the sailboats, as it has ever been. At first I was irritated by how far out it was, but then I was glad. A challenge! A chance to test my sighting skills and an opportunity to swim farther into the lake. Yes!
3.25 miles trestle turn around 73 degrees humidity: 80%/ dew point: 67
It is supposed to rain for most of the day, starting in the late morning. Decided to run before it started. Hot and thick. Sweaty. Listened to my playlist, starting with my song of the summer: Lorde’s Solar Power. Felt strong. I think all the swimming is strengthening my hips and legs and back. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker twice. Heard the rowers when I stopped briefly at the trestle. Avoided a group of runners near the spot above the Minneapolis Rowing Club. I can’t remember any of my thoughts. Got lost for 30 minutes.
Here’s a great poem that fits better with June’s theme of water and stone, but I’m posting it anyway. It’s from her new collection, out at the end of this month, Goldenrod!
Wife for Scale/ Maggie Smith
This is a tender age––and in geologic time, hardly an age at all. But a golden band
of rock, pressed paper-thin, will stand for these years, a kind of scientific
shorthand. Once I had a professor whose wife was in every photo he took
of rock formations. He’d click through slide after slide, saying: My wife for scale.
Isn’t there always a woman in the picture and isn’t she always small in comparison?
Forgive me: that was my grief talking. Tell me: how do I teach myself to be alone?
The strata for this age will not be the first to reveal what salt does to stone, as if
a sea had been here and not sadness only. Tell me: with God a question, where
is solace but in the earth? The soul I’m standing on in this moment–––
even as it shifts beneath my feet, as it gives and cannot hold me—will be rock.
Warm this morning, sunny too. Decided to try and run as slowly and steadily as I could using my heart rate. I soon realized that I couldn’t see the heart rate on my watch because it’s in red. My cone dystrophy and my struggle with colors and low contrast, makes red on a dark background especially hard to see. All this time, I’ve been looking at my cadence, which is in white. Why can’t the heart rate be in white too? I need more contrast. Looking through the accessibility options, there’s no way to change the color of the heart rate in a running workout.* Later, walking Delia, I noticed that the heart rate is white in the walk workout. Should I try running with the walk workout on? Yes. Another hack for how to make my eyes work in new ways.
*update: Was telling my 15 year old daughter RJP how I was planning to hack the watch. She told me that I can just twist the crown on the side of the watch to make the bpms white instead of red–when something is red that means it’s highlighted. I don’t think I ever would have figured this one out without her help. Such a apple genius. She should get a job at an apple store.
It was a good run. Everything felt fuzzy and dreamy, like I was swimming in air, not quite there. A great feeling. I don’t remember much. I was sweating a lot and I think I swallowed a bug. I remember hearing some birds, but not how their songs sounded. I saw the river–very blue. I put some effort into loving the world and everyone I encountered–not getting irritated by approaching runners, or trail hogging bikers. Mostly, it worked. I heard some trickling through the sewer pipes. I don’t remember smelling anything. No spazzy squirrels, but one darting chipmunk. Not too many bugs–just the one I might have swallowed. Oh–I saw a peleton on the road, not tightly packed but strung out in a long-ish line. Also heard the rowers just as I was leaving the river trail.
a few delightful verses by Lorine Niedecker
We are what the seas have made us longing immense the very veery on the fence
The eye of the leaf into leaf and all parts spine into spine neverending head
For best work you ought to put forth some effort to stand in north woods among birch
We must pull the curtains— we haven’t any leaves
bike: 8.6 miles lake nokomis and back 88 degrees
Very happy that biking is not too bad this year. Not really scary at all. No feeling of panic, no moments where I can’t quite see what’s in front of me.
swim: 3 miles/3 loops lake nokomis open swim 88 degrees/ windy choppy, wavy water
Yes! Big swells today. At least, big for this lake. I don’t mind the choppy water. I like the challenge and the feeling of being pushed around by the water. The buoys (even more) often disappeared in the waves; swimmers did too. I had no problem staying on course. When I could hardly see anything, which was most of the time–due to the waves and the haze from fires in Ontario–I could always see the hovering, shimmering roof at the big beach.
Ran downtown with STA during FWA’s clarinet lesson. Only 3 more and he’s done. He’s been taking them since 5th grade. 8 years. Wow.
Hot and bright sun, but we ran slow and steady so it was fine. Running over the Plymouth Ave bridge, saw a boat below. 1/2 mile later, saw the same boat just ahead. Anything else? Running on Nicollet Island, right in front of The Nicollet Island Inn, smelled something foul, like horse poop. Do they have carriage rides again at the Inn? Encountered lots of lyft scooters, some bikers, runners, walkers. A nice, easy, sweaty run.
Biked with STA over to open swim. Biking doesn’t seem overwhelming this year. I think it helps that I’m biking on very familiar trails and, that when STA and I are biking together, I go first. You would think it would be best to have the person with better sight first, but I’ve realized that when someone’s ahead of me, I can’t use my peripheral to spot upcoming obstacles/hazards–approaching bikers, potholes, etc. Biking first makes it much easier for me to use my remaining central vision.
swim: 3 miles/ 4 loops* lake nokomis open swim 75 degrees/sunny
*the course was a little shorter today, so 1 loop did not equal a mile
I just realized that this is my first Sunday swim of the season. Wow. They didn’t have enough life guards so they left out the green buoys and shortened the course. Not a problem. It was a shorter course, but almost as wide. I loved being able to swim far from the orange buoys, and far from most other people.
things I noticed in the lake
the little bubbles my hands made as they entered the water in front of me
at least one dragonfly hovering above the water’s surface
the air felt heavy and harder to inhale during this first loop, the water felt thick
I listened to water lapping over my head and the word, “sloshing” came to mind, then the question: what’s another word for sloshing? splishing or splashing or flowing over or overflowing?
at least one plane above me, taking off or coming in for a landing
as is often the case, there is no standard route between a swimmer’s start at a beach and the first buoy. Often this leads to confusion and near misses. I almost ran into a few rogue swimmers. My rule: if the course is on the left, stay as far to the left as you can when heading to the first buoy. I am bothered that this doesn’t seem to make sense or matter to some other swimmers, and I am bothered that this bothers me
Crowded–is Sunday the biggest day for open swim?
As I neared the far right white buoy at the little beach–the one I like to swim around before I head back to the big beach, I could see the muck on it just below the surface. This muck didn’t look that different than what ends up on my skin, under my suit, after a long swim. Gross
I stopped to go to the bathroom between loops 3 and 4. Many swimmers just pee in the lake as they’re swimming, especially if they have a wetsuit on (at least I think they do), but even if I wanted to–and there have been a few desperate times when I’ve really wanted to–I can’t. My body won’t do it. Is it just because I find peeing in the lake gross? Not sure. Anyway, it’s a big hassle to go to the bathroom. You have to get out of the water, walk several hundred yards to the bathrooms, possibly wait in line at the bathroom, pee, wash your hands, then walk all the way back. When I got back in the water and started to swim, everything felt strange. I was sore, but also more buoyant. Floating
The water was smooth and there were no pockets of extra cold or extra warmth
I think my safety buoy is leaking air which would explain why it feels more like I’m being weighed down then lifted up by it
As is more often the case, my apple watch died mid swim. It’s old. I’m thinking of not getting a new one and trying to exercise without a watch. Not sure if this is a good or bad idea
Fog-thick morning/ Lorine Niedecker
Fog-thick morning— I see only where I now walk. I carry my clarity with me.
This poems doesn’t quite fit with the theme of water, but it’s how I feel when I’m swimming–in a fog or dream or daze, nothing clear or easy to see. I sight using my past knowledge of the course or my shoulders and the strong, straight, sure strokes they produce. My shoulders, I think, are my clarity.
swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops lake nokomis open swim 70 degrees
Maybe because of the breeze and the cloud cover, 70 degrees felt cold this morning. Not too bad in the water, although my right thumb started feeling numb by the end. A great swim. The buoys were way off course. The first orange buoy is usually in a diagonal line from the white buoy at the main beach to the overturned rowboat at the little beach. Today it was in line with the four white buoys at the big beach and far off to the left. The second and third buoys were even farther out–so much closer to the far shore than usual. I have decided that this doesn’t bother me. It adds distance to the loop and it’s a good challenge for my vision. Since it was morning and somewhat sunny, the orange buoys were backlit and invisible. Reaching the little beach for the first time, I thought about a game I created for myself during my senior year of high school. It involved seeing how long I could procrastinate on writing a paper (usually 4-5 pages in high school AP Lit class) and still finish it/get a decent grade on it. I can’t remember, but I think I started a paper as late as the night before–or the early morning the day of? Anyway, it seems now I like playing, How little visual data do I need to still keep swimming, to not panic or swim way off course? The answer, so far: the very rare sighting of a buoy, the feeling of a hulking shape in the distance, the quick flash of something white that looks like it might be a buoy or the bottom of a rowboat, the quick flash of a splash from another swimmer’s arm. Playing this game, which is not really a game because I don’t really have a choice about how much I can or can’t see, takes up most of my attention. It’s hard to get lost in the water when I’m swimming non-stop and trying to stay on course. It’s hard for me to slow down, but I’d really like to try doing an easy loop–where I stop in the middle of the lake occasionally to look around, and where I devote more attention to how the water feels and sounds.
run: 3.5 miles trestle turn around 72 degrees
After returning home from the lake, feeling cold,I decided to warm up by running. I was inspired by STA’s approach to keeping a lower heart rate by walking and running. Run until your bpms get too high, walk until they get too low. For STA too high = 150, too low = 130. My heart rate is much higher than that; if I used his numbers, I’d never run. I decided to try: high = 170, low = 150. For some reason, my pulse went above 170 after only 2 minutes of running. I stopped and walked and when it reached 150, started running again. I managed to keep my bpms at 164/165 for the rest of the run. Excellent. I felt very relaxed and even though my pace was slower, it wasn’t that slow. I felt great when I finished.
things, other than my heart rate, I noticed
no small stones stacked on the ancient boulder
the tunnel of trees felt extra green and airy
lots of biking groups
the rowers were on the river–heard both a male and a female coxswain
an abandoned shopping cart was hiding behind a rock below the lake street bridge
a quick glimpse of the blue river
lots of sweat, dripping down my forehead
almost stepped on a chipmunk–their fault, not mine. Stupid chippies!
I used a birthday gift card to buy the collected works of Lorine Niedecker. So good! I love her words:
Smile/ Lorine Niedecker
Smile to see the lake lay the still sky And out for an easy make the dragonfly
2.5 miles/ 2.5 loops lake nokomis open swim 70 degrees
A great swim! As always, I’m amazed by how I can keep swimming when I can’t see the buoys. Part of that is straight, confident strokes and part of that is using other ways to sight–the over-turned rowboat at the little beach, the glimmering rooftop at the big beach. After swimming 2 loops, I didn’t feel up to a whole extra loop, but I didn’t want to stop at 2 so I cut a 3rd loop short by rounding the final buoy instead of swimming all the way to the little beach. Very nice. So cool to swim in so much of the lake. Amazing. The thing I noticed the most: swimming through the pockets of cold water–I can’t remember if there were pockets of warm too. Also: the planes in the sky and how the swim caps look pink to me in the water–I think they’re orange. I am trying to work on not seeing other people as problems–routing me, getting in my way, wanting to swim faster than me. I want to remember that all of these people are awesome because they’re at open swim and they love the lake like I do.
Today I looked at long poems. I’m thinking of trying to turn all of my swimming writing/open swim experience into an book-length poem–not poems, but one poem.
addendum, 9 july:I forgot to add a noise I heard: some part of my right arm–my elbow, I think–was cracking as I swam. The loud crack/pop was amplified by the water. Such a cool sound.
5.5 miles franklin loop 56 degrees humdity: 88%/ dew point 55
Much cooler this morning. Overcast, excessively green, quiet. The sky was a light gray, almost white. The river, grayish blue–not quite livid, which I discovered is the name for a blueish-gray color. I could tell the dew point was close to the temperature because I was sweating a lot and felt hot. I ran north on the river road, past the railroad trestle and the steps leading to the Winchell Trail that were just redone earlier this year. Ran over the Franklin Bridge, looking for rowers on the river. None. Noticed the big ancient boulder, wedged between the walking and biking trails on the east side of the river. After running up the hill just past the Meeker Dam Dog Park, I tried to slow my heart rate down by chanting, “I/need to go/slower/so/that my pulse/will lower.” Not sure if it lowered my pulse, but it helped me to lock into a steady rhythm and recover from the hill. I should start doing chants again; I haven’t done them for awhile. Also haven’t done triple berry chants. What have I been doing instead? Not sure.
It does no good to trick and weave and lose the other ghosts, to shove the buried deeper into the sandy loam, the riverine silt, still you come, my faithful one, the sound of a body so persistent in water I cannot tell if it is a wave or you moving through waves. A month before you died you wrote a letter to old friends saying you swam with a pod of dolphins in open water, saying goodbye, but what you told me most about was the eye. That enormous reckoning eye of an unknown fish that passed you during that last-ditch defiant swim. On the shore, you described the fish as nothing you’d seen before, a blue-gray behemoth moving slowly and enduringly through its deep fathomless North Pacific waters. That night, I heard more about that fish and that eye than anything else. I don’t know why it has come to me this morning. Warm rain and landlocked, I don’t deserve the image. But I keep thinking how something saw you, something was bearing witness to you out there in the ocean where you were no one’s mother, and no one’s wife, but you in your original skin, right before you died, you were beheld, and today in my kitchen with you now ten years gone, I was so happy for you.
Oh, that fish’s eye! “something saw you, something/was bearing witness to you out there in the ocean”…”you were beheld”. Wow. Makes me think about all of the recent talk of beholding/beholden (my introduction: the wonderful work of Ross Gay). It also makes me think of Jaws 2, a movie I watched repeatedly on cable when I was kid. Chief Brody looking at a photograph of something dark and sinister in the water. It could be nothing, or it could be another great white shark. That eye haunted/haunts me. Someone mentioned on twitter–where I found this poem–that it reminded them of Elizabeth Bishop’s The Fish. Rereading The Fish, I see the connection, but the witnessing (in Limón’s poem, by the big fish of the mother/ in Bishop’s, by the narrator (I) of the fish) seems different in terms of who is the subject/who is the object, and how their subjectivity is represented. I really like both of these poems, but I think I like the subjectivity of the fish in Limón’s poem better.
swim: 1.7 miles/4 loops cedar lake open swim 69 degrees
Much cooler today. Brr, on the shore. Wore my wetsuit for the first time. I prefer swimming without a wetsuit, but it was nice to keep warmer and more buoyant. I’m sure I went faster too. Yesterday I asked the Open Swim page on facebook for clarification on which way we should be swimming and they answered: keep the buoy on your right shoulder. It helps me to know. Everybody seemed to know now too; almost all of us were going the same way. Tonight I was attacked by the lake. At least, by the vegetation in the lake. Vines wrapping around my wrist and shoulder, scratching my face. I didn’t care. It was a great swim!
run: 1.5 miles river road trail, north/south 76 degrees humidity: 80%/ dew point: 70
Before it started raining again, STA and I went out for a quick run. Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. Amazing. Everything felt hot and wet and thick, but I enjoyed it, especially running through the tunnel of trees.
swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops lake nokomis open swim 70 degrees overcast, then light rain
I love open swims when it’s overcast and rainy. No one else at the beach. The buoys easy to sight. The rain drops fascinating to watch from underwater. Tonight’s swim was wonderful. I might have done more if my watch hadn’t died and I didn’t have STA and Delia the dog waiting for me in the parking lot. Just like last night at Cedar, I was able to look through the water a few feet in front of me. Tonight I watched my hand as I stretched it out, noticing the bubbles it generated. I felt strong, especially my shoulders, as I plunged my hands into the water. I mostly breathed every 5, but in the first loop I did some every 3, then every 4. And, in the last loop, I did some every 5, then 6. At one point in the middle of the lake I had a scary thought: what if my kneecap displaced mid-lake? How would I push it back in place? Quickly, I realized this was unlikely and returned to happier thoughts about powering through the water and being able to see the buoys and the Indian takeout STA and I were planning to eat after the lake.
1.7 miles/4 loops cedar lake open swim 100 degrees
Two Saras, One Who Loves Cedar Lake, One Who Doesn’t
Calm water, blue sky. No problems sighting the buoys, or, when I couldn’t see them, knowing which direction the beach was. Used my trick for cedar lake: look for the break in the trees. Talked to a few people, who were very nice and happy to be there. When I turned my head to breathe–every 5 strokes, as usual–I noticed the streaks of fluffy clouds in the sky. A blanket of thin, shredded fluff. A tattered veil. Feathery streaks. These clouds (I looked it up) are high-level clouds called cirrocumulus. Underwater, I liked lifting my forehead to look at the water in front of me. I could see about 4 feet, then nothing. Noticed some silvery flashes below me–my fish friends!
Cedar Lake has loud music, people on inner tubes and rafts, smoking at the beach. I am not chill enough for it. I didn’t mind the music, but several times, rafts were blocking the buoy at the far beach. Someone’s smoke made it hard for me to breathe on shore. And half of the swimmers were swimming in one direction, and half, the other. I asked the lifeguard which way we were supposed to swim–with the buoy on our left side, or our right, but he didn’t know. I stewed as I swam, wondering why this bothered me so much. The lack of order? The greater chance of swimming into someone? The feeling of always being wrong? I long for order, and to not care when there isn’t any.
On the southwest side of Capri we found a little unknown grotto where no people were and we entered it completely and let our bodies lose all their loneliness.
All the fish in us had escaped for a minute. The real fish did not mind. We did not disturb their personal life. We calmly trailed over them and under them, shedding air bubbles, little white balloons that drifted up into the sun by the boat where the Italian boatman slept with his hat over his face.
Water so clear you could read a book through it. Water so buoyant you could float on your elbow. I lay on it as on a divan. I lay on it just like Matisse’s Red Odalisque. Water was my strange flower, one must picture a woman without a toga or a scarf on a couch as deep as a tomb.
The walls of that grotto were everycolor blue and you said, “Look! Your eyes are seacolor. Look! Your eyes are skycolor.” And my eyes shut down as if they were suddenly ashamed.
5 miles austin, mn Hog Jog 5 mile race route 72 degrees 80% humidity/ dew point: 66
Out the door by 7. Still hot. We ran the route for the 5 mile race they usually have for the 4th here in Austin. Stopped for a few walk breaks. In the shade it was fine, in the sun it was not. Very hot. We started at east side lake and ran, mostly on a trail, to Todd Park.
things I remember
STA talking a lot, which was nice; I’m usually the one having to talk
The sound of the boards on the bridge banging as we ran over them
Trying to quicken my cadence to match STA’s. Not to go faster, just to lift my feet more
A runner greeting us as we passed–“Good morning! It sure is getting hot”
STA telling me a story about a pedestrian bridge that collapsed a few years ago in london
Hearing a few firecrackers (already, at 7 in the morning) and joking that someone was pre-partying before the parade. Then we talked about how rarely we have had a drink before noon
Remembering past years of running in the race on this trail, especially the people–the heavy breather, the girl who stopped to puke near the end, the guy who ran fast, then stopped, then ran fast, then stopped repeatedly, all the women wearing shorts/skirt combos
Crowded on the upper trail. Lots of bikers, runners, walker, often in pairs or packs. Running on a shared part of the trail, moving over to give an approaching runner some room, a passing biker called out repeatedly, “you’re fine. you’re fine.” At first I thought he meant I didn’t need to worry about running into him, but then I wondered, was that his way of saying, “stay where you are, you’re fine there, don’t move over anymore?” Descending the 4 stone steps to the start of the Winchell Trail, I heard a bullhorn call out, “Women’s quads start in 4 minutes.” “Yes!”–I called out. A rowing race! I heard the start, but couldn’t see any rowers through the thick trees. I thought I heard some sloshing as I ran north and imagined it was the racing rowers below me. Maybe they weren’t, but in my world, they were. Kept on the Winchell Trail past 38th, onto the dirt leading to the Oak Savanna. Ran past the ravine, over the metal grate, up the gravel. Thought: running up a somewhat steep, loose gravel hill is the worst! Greeted an older jogger, doing a half walk, half run–“Good morning!” He greeted me back then wished me a happy fourth. “You too!” A good run. Nice to be out with other people, early-ish on a Saturday morning.
Last night, walking Delia the dog with FWA, my kneecap slipped out of place. I wasn’t doing anything strange–no turns, or curbs, or quick stops then starts. I stopped, slid it back in place, and we kept walking. It felt a little sore, so I iced it. No big deal. It is still unsettling to have no warning, just a sudden slip, a sharp pain, a strange feeling that something isn’t quite right. But, it’s also not strange, but familiar, no big deal. The capacity of the human body/mind to adapt and adjust always amazes me!
swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops lake nokomis open swim 78 degrees
A wonderful open swim morning. I couldn’t see the backlit orange buoys at all, but that didn’t matter. No swimming off course today, or stopping. Powerful strokes cutting through smooth, calm, fast water. Excellent. Thought about how it’s hard to daydream while swimming across the lake because I need to focus on making sure I’m still going the right way. Will this change the more I swim? I could hear the water sloshing over me as I breathed every 5 strokes. I worked on pushing down more with my left hand as it cut in under my body. Noticed lots of splashing from other people and felt smug about how little splash I create. I am not proud of my smugness, just wanted to make note of it. I might have seen some fish. Noticed at least 3 different paddle boarders crossing the path just before I got there. What an amazing way to spend a Friday morning!
bike: 8.6 miles lake nokomis 85 degrees
STA came with me for open swim and we are so pleased to be by the lake on this summer morning that we drove home to get our work and then biked back for the afternoon. We sat at the same picnic table we had the night before, drank some beer, ate some fries, watched 3 cute french bulldogs at a nearby table, and did a little work (STA, emails to clients/ me, reviewing notes, writing in my plague notebook). What a day! Lots of paddle boarders, sail boats, swimmers, bikers, and runners.
Morning Swim/ Maxine Kumin
Into my empty head there come a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom
I set out, oily and nude through mist, in chilly solitude.
There was no line, no roof or floor to tell the water from the air.
Night fog thick as terry cloth closed me in its fuzzy growth.
I hung my bathrobe on two pegs. I took the lake between my legs.
Invaded and invader, I went overhand on that flat sky.
Fish twitched beneath me, quick and tame. In their green zone they sang my name
and in the rhythm of the swim I hummed a two-four-time slow hymn.
I hummed “Abide With Me.” The beat rose in the fine thrash of my feet,
rose in the bubbles I put out slantwise, trailing through my mouth.
My bones drank water; water fell through all my doors. I was the well
that fed the lake that met my sea in which I sang “Abide With Me.”