sept 16/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
66 degrees / drizzle

Checked the weather app on my watch: 0% chance of rain. Ha! A few minutes in, a few drops, then a soft, steady drizzle for the rest of the run. Who cares? I barely felt it, or could barely tell the difference between drops of rain and drops of sweat.

Ran to the falls. No roar or rush, just a trickle. I doubt this short rain will help.

Stopped to look at the falls at my favorite spot, near the former fountain where Longellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” is etched into the stone wall. The falls were hidden behind green. Instead, I noticed a few dartig birds. I think they were blue — blue is a very difficult color for me to see.

Started running again while listening to Renaissance.

quick life update for future Sara to remember: with very little warning, trying to figure out nursing homes and finances for elderly parents. A kid who is struggling with anxiety and depression and high school (which are connected but not necessarily in a causal way) — not wanting to go to school, but also not wanting to miss out.

sept 14/RUN

5.6 miles
the flats and back
62 degrees / humidity: 80%

Fall running. Still wearing my summer attire — shorts and a tank top — but it felt cooler, easier. I ran 3 miles, all the way down the franklin hill and into the flats, then turned around at the steps. Ran below, right by the river, on the uneven path until I reached 3.3 miles. Walked up about half of the hill. Put in Beyoncé’s Renaissance and ran most of the way back.

Fairly early into the run, I realized that my eyes were drawn to things in the bottom of my periphery. All things on the ground: changing leaves, bright blue tarps, wildflowers.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a green glow
  2. slashes of red near my feet
  3. the strong smell of urine at a spot somewhere between the franklin and lake st bridges
  4. a big white tarp next the trash can near the WPA sign and the lake street bridge
  5. more goldenrod
  6. a lone goose up in the sky, honking
  7. an old car, puttering behind me, sounding like a rickity bike. I thought it was a bike, until it passed me
  8. Mr. Unicycle! As I neared the franklin hill, I saw him powering up the hill on his one-wheeled bike
  9. a runner ahead of me, running on the white line that divides the bike and walking paths. 2 fast bikers, speeding down the hill, swerving wide to avoid him
  10. 4 or 5 stones stacked on the ancient boulder. The top one bigger than the rest — nice balance!
a big boulder with several small stones stacked on it. The top stone, much bigger than the one just beneath it.
5, or is just 4?, stones stacked on the ancient boulder.

It’s not that much cooler than some summer days. And, I’m wearing my summer running stuff. Yet, you can tell fall is almost here (or is already here?). How? What makes the difference? I love this poem by W.S. Merwin that I first posted a few years ago for giving some answers:

To the Light of September/ W.S. Merwin

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew

Looked up mullein. It grows in Minnesota. Have I seen it? Possibly, I can’t quite tell.

a possible exercise: Go out for a run in early fall, when it still seems like summer. How do you know fall is coming/here?

  • quality of the light, a softer glow
  • slashes of red
  • kids biking to school
  • goldenrod
  • busy squirrels
  • geese

I feel a little stuck on the poem about my love of choppy water and the fun of punching the waves that I’ve been working on, without much progress, for the last week. Why do I like doing this? It’s not out of agression or frustration or grief. I’m not trying to hurt myself or break something. It’s about using/working my body, testing my strength, spending some energy. During the run, I had a thought: it’s not an expression of power, but of belief — belief in strong shoulders and my ability to hit a wall and not fall. Later, after I turned on the music, the song “Energy,” came on. Listening to the lyrics, I thought about how energy fits in with punching waves. I decided that when I got back from my run, I’d look up the lyrics and think about them some more. Beyoncé’s energy is a bit different than mine, but it is helping me to think more broadly about what the term could mean.

Energy/ Beyoncé

On stage rockin’, I’m stir crazy
Coco flow like 1980s
Come, let’s tell a drop lazy
None of that maybe energy (nah)
Just vibe
Votin’ out forty-five
Don’t get outta line (yeah)
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Pick a side
Only double lines we cross is dollar signs (yeah)
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh (hold up)
Wait, I hear you just got paid
Make it rain energy
She more Cancun, he more St. Tropez
Big wave in the room, the crowd gon’ move
Look around everybody on mute
Look around it’s me and my crew
Big energy
He was on stop mode, got froze
Froze front page Vogue, no pose
Chat too much, full clip unload
That’s that Kodak energy
Yeah, yeah
Gold links, raw denim
You know that we do it grande
You know that I’m gon’ be extra
When that camera go pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop
Keep ’em waitin’ like dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot
Ooh, la, la, la
That’s the way them boys sound when I walk through the block-block-block
Then I Uzi that doozy, shot-shot-shot
We was chillin’, mindin’ our business
Poppin’ our pain and champagne through the ceiling
Sippin’ it up, flickin’ it up
All this good energy got you all in your feelings, feelings
I’m crazy, I’m swearin’
I’m darin’, your man starin’
I just entered the country with Derringers
‘Cause them Karens just turned into terrorists
You was on stop mode, got froze
Froze front page Vogue, no pose
Chat too much, full clip unload
That’s that Kodak energy (go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go)
Energy (go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go)
Yeah, yeah

no maybe energy, vital, alive, extra, not frozen or stopped, less talk more action

sept 12/RUN

4.25 miles
ford bridge + turkey hollow
57 degrees

A fine fall morning. For most of the run, I didn’t listen to anything — not sure I remember any sounds from the gorge. For the last mile, I put in headphones and listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989. My knees ache a little, not like they’re injured, just sore from use. Could it partly be because of slightly cooler weather?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 2 bikers on the road near the start of my run — 1 adult, 1 kid. My guess: a kid biking to Dowling Elementary School with his dad
  2. running above the oak savanna, a green glow as the sun streamed through the leaves of the trees lining the trail
  3. the ravine near the double bridge looked extra leafy and green
  4. the river, viewed from the ford bridge on the downtown side, was a beautiful blue and empty
  5. the sidewalk at the end of the bridge was under construction. Right now, it’s all dirt
  6. a few kids skating at the new skate park on the land that was the site of the ford plant
  7. the river, viewed from the ford bridge on the locks and dam no. 1 side, was still and high? — I couldn’t quite tell, but it looked like it had partly flooded the small island in the middle
  8. the locks and dam no. 1 is closed — carp invasion, I think. I didn’t see/hear the gushing water down the conrete apron
  9. no turkeys in turkey hollow
  10. no roller skiers or loud birds or darting squirrels or rowers or fat tires

a new regular

For a few months, I’ve noticed an older white man with white hair and a white beard (at least, I think he has a beard), using a walker when I run south on the river road. Sometimes he’s using the walker to help him walk pretty swiftly along the trail, and sometimes he’s using it as a chair. Today, we was sitting. We greeted each other as I ran by. He’s a friendly guy. It makes me happy to see him out there, continuing to walk with a walker, enjoying the beautiful trail. I think I’ll call him Mr. Walker.

I tried to think about my latest poem, but I got too distracted, I guess. No new words or ideas.

Here’s another poem from Tanis Rideout’s Arguments with the Lake. O, her last verse!

excerpt from Shirley As Drowned Ophelia/ Tanis Rideout

Though in the Lake are visions — submerged forests
of blossoming myriophyllum. I was cuaght
half-remembered in early morning darkness and a web of pondweed
that withered all when fathers died.

O, the Lake. The only thing that kept me afloat
was what I thought was on the other side.

sept 11/RUN

3 miles
marshall loop
53 degrees

Perfect running weather! Cooler, calmer, sunny. Ran through the neighborhood, over the lake street bridge, up marshall, across Cretin, then down the east river road. As I entered the river road, a never-ending line of bikes. 50? 100? They weren’t tightly packed, like in a peleton, just stretched out all the way down the hill.

As I ran, I thought about my latest poem. I’m still trying to find the right words to express why I sometimes like punching waves during open swim. At some point during the run, I came up with some lines — something about a wave crashing over my head, being emptied of air, my thoughts shattered then scattered. (emptied of air, the thoughts knocked out of me.) These lines about thoughts being shattered got me thinking about the pure physicality of swimming straight into the waves and how I’m always trying to find ways to stop thinking and theorizing and worrying. When I was done with my run, I recorded some thoughts:

running notes / 11 sept

When I got home, I thought more about the last bit of my recording, when I talked about swimming without thinking, knowing innately how best to stroke, and I wrote in by Plague Notebook: doing, not being. Pure verb or all verb or (just?) Verb. I want to bring in this idea of becoming verb somewhere in the poem.

I think my love of punching water has something to do with reconciling, or navigating, the split between mind and body, which is something I’ve thought about (and lived) throughout my life. How to be both a mind and a body, finding ways to rethink the relationship between them.

Here are 2 related passages from Alice Oswald in her Between the Covers interview that are inspiring me right now:

I sometimes wonder whether I’m a very keen swimmer, and whether for me, poetry is equivalent to swimming. I’ve often noticed when I swim, the strangeness of the way the body literally turns into a fish, but the head remains human and rather cold, and looking around at this strange flat reflective surface. I’m often very piercingly aware of the difference between my head and my body when I’m swimming because I’m not necessarily someone who goes underwater, I love swimming along the surface of rivers. Perhaps, my poems do feel a need to convey that continued separation of the head remaining human and the body becoming animal, or plant, or mineral, or whatever it can be. In some way, I suppose I’m trying to find rhythms that will heal that divide.

I think that’s exactly it, that we seem to exist as bodies and minds. That’s always slightly troubled me that I can’t quite make them be the same thing. I always have two narratives going on and it’s extraordinary the way the mind is floating around seemingly quite untethered and yet the body has all these laws like gravity, and limit, and size, and hunger, that it’s obeying. How those two interact and how they come to define what it is to be human is again—I’m wary of using the verb think because I don’t think poetry is necessarily about thinking—but it gets hold of questions, and reveals them as questions, and then reveals what’s underneath them, and then what’s underneath that. I suppose each book tries to peel away a layer of that problem and present it again.

Between the Covers interview with Alice Oswald

sept 9/RUN

5.25 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
64 degrees / drizzle

Rain today. On and off. When I started, it wasn’t raining, but in the middle of my run, drizzle. It was hard to tell because I was sweating and wearing a baseball cap. A good run. I was overdressed, with my pink jacket on. When I got to the bottom of the Franklin hill, I took it off and wrapped it around my waist.

Running down the hill I chanted,

Here I go
down the hill
Here I go
down the hill
Here I go
down the hill
Watch me fly!

Listened to all the sounds in the gorge running north, a Bruno Mars Apple Essential playlist on the return trip south.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a stinky sewer smell — not near the ravine, but down in the tunnel of trees
  2. a tower of stacked stones on the ancient boulder
  3. the coxswain instructing the rowers
  4. a rushing sound — either the wind through the leaves or water sprinkling out of the seeps and springs and sewer pipes
  5. so much goldenrod this year! golden yellow flowers everywhere. I wonder if that’s what’s causing Delia the dog’s itchiness?
  6. the leaves are starting to turn, mostly yellow, a few streaks of red
  7. park workers in their orange vests, their truck parked on the path — trimming trees?
  8. such an intense smell of pot as I ran by the lake street bridge porta potty
  9. the smell of cigarette smoke below the franklin st bridge
  10. I think the river was more brown than blue and it was gently moving

In the fall of 2018 (thanks past Sara for writing the date in the front of the book!), I bought Tanis Rideout’s book of poems, Arguments with the Lake. Working on my latest poem, about fighting with the lake, I decided to revisit it. Here’s one of the poems:

Shirley, Midlake/ Tanis Rideout

Hearts are bred to beat one billion times in an elephant
or in a mouse — mathematically simple difference of beats
per minute. Unlucky us with two billion more, slowed
by the hibernetic slumber of escape or blessedly sped by panic,
pain, a six a.m. jog around the block turning, always turning,
clockwise. By love, by sex. By want. So simple to be a fish.

I’m always giving it away. With each stroke, flutter, catch, kick
and the surging need to inhale, inhale, inhale, like I’ve never
taken a breath before.

The lake tries to soothe and slow, creeps cold into core, slips
into the sheltered bays of lungs, the hidden rivers around the heart.
It’s a fair exchange — beats per pleasure. For pain. Each of us is allotted
the strikes of the heart. I’m using mine, arguing with the Lake.

sept 8/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
80 degrees / wind gusts, 26 mph
11:00 am

Too windy for a swim at the lake, so I ran instead. Who has seen the wind?/ Neither I nor you:/ But when the leaves hang trembling/the leaves are pasing through. Hot! Heard a few black capped chickadees singing the feebee song and was reminded of the creepy theme from The Shining. Listening to the theme later, I don’t quite hear the connection. What I remember most from the run was feeling warm. I also remember thinking about the latest poem I’m working on and trying to work through where to go next. I stopped at the dirt trail near Folwell, after the short, steep hill and before the paved trail returns below, to record some thoughts. And I remember that when I stopped, I noticed a very small, square plaque at the bottom of the bench.

a small plaque at the bottom of a bench. The inscription reads: "WWDD - contemplation station for the fearless and free"
close-up of plaque on bench near Folwell
a bench facing trees and the river with a small plaque on it, near the ground
Rachel Dow Memorial Bench

I have run by this bench hundreds of times, stopped and sat once or twice, even wrote about it, but I’ve never noticed this small plaque on it. How did I see it today? I love these little surprises, just waiting to be found! I had no idea what this plaque meant — WWDD? I looked it up and found a facebook page for the Rachel Dow Memorial. Wow. She was loved by so many. I read a little about her life — a passionate, social justice minded, free-spirit — and her death — she fell through the ice at the river and died of hypothermia. Maybe I’ll write a poem about her and the others I’ve found through their plaques. All of them share with me a deep love for this river. And maybe one day, I’ll have a plaque there too.

Here’s a draft of the poem I’m working on right now. The inspiration for it: a few entries in which I describe how I love choppy water and punching the waves; the idea that lake swimming differs from sea, river, and pool swimming; and the line about two story rollers in the poem, Wave After Wave.

Untitled Poem About Punching Waves/ Sara Puotinen

Listen pal, this isn’t
the sea. Hell, this isn’t
even a proper
lake. Just a dredged out
cranberry marsh with
an average depth of
fifteen feet. And those
aren’t waves. No big rollers.
No white horses
thundering to shore.
Nothing pulling you
under, dragging you
down. Still, people drown
here and when water
meets a strong wind, which
happens more often
these days, it’s ready
for a fight. Me too.
Neither of us hard
with anger but
restless overfilled
with energy and
the need to spend it
somewhere. I square my
shoulders and head straight
into a small swell

That’s what I have right now.

sept 7/RUN

5.9 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
70 degrees / humidity: 95%
8:45 am

Back to warmer, more humid, mornings. Did my new regular routine with this route: run just beyond the bottom of the franklin hill, turn around, walk up the hill, put on a playlist, begin running again, much faster, at the top.

I don’t remember what I thought about as I ran. I started noticing my breathing pattern: 1 2 3 4 breathe. Then near the top of Franklin, I started chanting, 54321/54321/54321/123. And then, I changed the rhythm slightly and came up with words:

Here I go down the hill
Here I go down the hill
Here I go down the hill
Watch me fly.

To remember it, I decided to pull out my phone and recite it mid-flight down the hill:

chant, 7 sept

10 Things I Remember From My Run

  1. Reaching the bottom of the hill, the water was flat and still. No rowers or waves.
  2. I startled a squirrel as I ran by their hiding place in the brush.
  3. A group of women — I didn’t see them, only heard their voices — climbing the stone steps by the trestle.
  4. A unicycle biking up the steep Franklin hill! I noticed them after the turn-off to go above, so they might have only started there, but I like to imagined this biker biked all the way from the bottom on a unicycle. What a feat!
  5. That same unicycle encountering a skateboarder heading down the hill.
  6. A sewer smell, coming up from the ravine.
  7. Sweat dripping off of my face in big drops.
  8. The buzz of cicadas, the hum of the traffic on the I-94 bridge and the river road
  9. Saying Good morning! in my head to the Welcoming Oaks and out loud to an older jogger.
  10. Noticing the goldenrod lining the path as I walked up the hill.

Speaking of goldenrod, as I noticed the golden flowers on the edge of the trail and wondered if they were goldenrod or something else, I remembered Maggie Smith’s poem “Goldenrod” and decided I should memorize it. I also thought about Robin Wall Kimmerer and her chapter on Asters and Goldenrod.

Goldenrod/ Maggie Smith

I’m no botanist. If you’re the color of sulfur
and growing at the roadside, you’re goldenrod. 

You don’t care what I call you, whatever
you were born as. You don’t know your own name. 

But driving near Peoria, the sky pink-orange,
the sun bobbing at the horizon, I see everything

is what it is, exactly, in spite of the words I use:
black cows, barns falling in on themselves, you.

Dear flowers born with a highway view, 
forgive me if I’ve mistaken you. Goldenrod, 

whatever your name is, you are with your own kind. 
Look–the meadow is a mirror, full of you,

your reflection repeating. Whatever you are,
I see you, wild yellow, and I would let you name me.


bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
73 degrees
11:00 am / 12:30 pm

So windy on my ride over to lake nokomis! I could hear it rushing past my ears. Looking down at the trail on the river road and the creek path, I noticed orange spray paint everywhere, marking the cracks. Will they fix those spots before the orange paint wears off? Probably not. As I biked, I thought about how wonderful it is to be able to bike to the lake to swim and how much I’ll miss it over the winter. The answer is not too much; I love biking to the lake and the trail is great, but I do get burned out on it by August. On the bike trail at the lake, they were patching cracks.

swim: 1.5 loops
main beach white buoys
75 degrees
11:30 am

Hooray! The buoys were still up. When will they take them down? Happy to have been able to swim today, even though it was windy, the water choppy. The water was also light brown and opaque. The only thing I could underwater were the bubbles coming off of my hands as they break though the surface. No silver flashes of fish, no hairbands at the bottom. Looking out above the surface, all I could see was the beach to one side, endless treeline to the other, white buoys in front of me, and strange, jagged clouds up above. There were a few people at the beach: 2 guys then later, 2 girls, and one metal detectorist. The metal detectorist was at the far edge of the wading area, near the orange-faded-to-pink circular buoys. When I swam nearer him, I think I could hear the vibrations of his detector underwater. The water didn’t feel cold when I first stepped in it but later, after a few laps, I felt chilled.

I stopped a few times near the far white buoys to be in the deeper water and to look out over the lake. I was drawn to one of my favorite, and most helpful, images: the bottom of the lifeguard boat at the little beach. It stood out clearly to me, making the little beach look closer than it was. I’m hoping to conjure that boat bottom as I drift off to sleep this winter. Today, with less sun, the bottom was white and flat. On the sunniest days this summer, it was silver and shiny.

paying versus giving attention

The other week, Scott and I were discussing the difference between paying and giving attention. I can’t remember everything we said, but here are some things I do remember:

Paying attention seems to be a demand, obligation, requirement. An annoyed teacher tells you sternly, Pay Attention! and might add, This will be on the test! It also suggests staring, focusing, closely concentrating, exercising your will, which indicates that attention is (only) a mental activity.

Giving attention is something given freely. To give attention to something is to turn to it, to notice it, but not necessarily to scrutinize, categorize, or classify it. You’re offering something, not because you have to, or because you want something in return. note: I want to read more about giving in Braiding Sweetgrass.

Found this poem on twitter from one of the poetry people:

To the Person Who Marked Up This Book of Poetry/ Amy Miller

I had forgotten about you
until this morning at Denny’s
when I didn’t have enough quarters
for a newspaper and pulled,
instead, this book from my purse,
laid in for such emergencies.

And there you were,
asserting your opinions in black ballpoint,
two stars next to the titles
you obviously liked,
crossed-out lines
you seemed to think superfluous—
scratched-off Wasatch,
penned-in mountains.

And then the waitress frowned
when I told her no hashbrowns.
She asked again—no potatoes?
No grits?—as if to correct
this error in the book
of my morning. She scrawled a note
in her own book, lips tight.

But she brought me the eggs
and you finally left the poet alone
as he went on to talk
of farmers, as his horse changed leads
on command, and sometimes not.
And it’s hard to tell
whether you simply tired
of the old, old game—
this singular shaping, this lonely work
for the betterment of us all—
or whether the poet won you over,
maybe with those lines on page 40
about chickens and the little
swaybacked shed he can’t
bring himself to knock down,
beautiful it its disrepair.

sept 5/RUN

4.4 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
60 degrees
9:00 am

Fall is coming. The air, a little cooler. The trees, a little more yellow. I’m still sad about swimming ending, but I’m happy to have more time to run. Ran north on the river road trail all the way to the bottom of the franklin hill and then turned around. Ran up it all the way to the top, then stopped for a few minutes to walk and put it in my headphones (listened to Beyoncé’s Renaissance).

Heading north, I heard the rowers and the mid-range voice of a coxswain — not a low voice, and not a high one either. Not sure if I’ve heard this coxswain before. Also heard the clicking of a roller skier’s poles and the awkward shifting of a bike’s gears.

Passed a runner in black with a white sweatshirt tied around their waist. Something about the sweatshirt transfixed me. It seemed to take forever to pass them as I stared blankly at the white of their sweatshirt.

The river down in the flats was moving in the breeze. The sun was frequently behind the clouds.

Encountered a few lunging dogs, a darting squirrel.

Overheard 2 bikers talking. Tried to listen, but all I could make out was, that must have been 300 minutes! Huh?

Here’s the latest version of my poem about the light and the waves in the lake. I’m happy with it, but as I listened to a recording of myself reciting it I thought, so many of my poems are serious and somber! It made me think that I should try writing about this experience from a more playful perspective. Can I, or am I too serious of a person? Here’s the draft:

Love (tentative title)/ Sara Puotinen

Hands slice through water
ripples catch light
sun surface swimmers
converge into chorus.
Listen, their notes of
shimmer & shine sing
to you. Each point of
contact between lake
and finger and light
an over here, this
way, you’re not alone
As your body breaks
surface stroke after
stroke, it sings along.

Walking back, after the run, I started thinking about the little girl, with the same name (and spirit) as my daughter, that I encountered at the end of an open swim one day. The image that lingers: her mischevious look after calling out a made-up Help! I’d like to write about her and a few of the other women I encountered in the water this summer. I wish I could remember more of these women. Maybe I’ll try?

sept 3/RUN

2.8 miles
2 trails
65 degrees
8:30 am

Writing this about 8 hours after my run. I wonder what I remember? 2 trips to the state fair + 2 trips to Rochester (70 minute drive) made it difficult to run a lot this week.

10 Things I Remember

  1. the coxswains, both male and female, calling out to their rowers
  2. a pack of runners taking over the paved path
  3. a dog somewhere down below, near where I was entering the Winchell Trail — I didn’t see them, but heard the pounding of their paws, the jingling of their collar
  4. 2 male voice below me — were they on the water in a boat or by the shore? I never found out
  5. the trickle of the sewer pipe at 44th
  6. the blue river — did it sparkle? I can’t remember
  7. hearing the rower below me and trying to find a spot in between trees to see their boats
  8. a leaning tree before 38th
  9. the dirt trail below the mesa is overgrown…at one point, the sunflowers have reclaimed the path
  10. 2 people standing by the information sign in the oak savanna, both wearing shorts, looking like they were planning to hike or run

Still playing around with a poem about the sparkle a swimmer’s body makes on the water. Here’s a draft that I haven’t broken into lines yet. I feel like I’m getting closer, but I’m not quite there:

Hands slice through water, ripples catch light, sun surface swimmers converge into chorus. See how their notes of shimmer & shine greet and guide you. Every point of contact between shoulder and lake and light, an over here, this way, you are not alone. Can you feel how your body sings this same song to others?