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.
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
a green glow
slashes of red near my feet
the strong smell of urine at a spot somewhere between the franklin and lake st bridges
a big white tarp next the trash can near the WPA sign and the lake street bridge
a lone goose up in the sky, honking
an old car, puttering behind me, sounding like a rickity bike. I thought it was a bike, until it passed me
Mr. Unicycle! As I neared the franklin hill, I saw him powering up the hill on his one-wheeled bike
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
4 or 5 stones stacked on the ancient boulder. The top one bigger than the rest — nice balance!
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:
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
you who fly with them
you who are neither before nor after you who arrive with blue plums that have fallen through the night
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
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.
On stage rockin’, I’m stir crazy Coco flow like 1980s Come, let’s tell a drop lazy None of that maybe energy (nah) Energy Energy 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 Energy Energy 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 Energy (go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go) Energy Yeah, yeah
no maybe energy, vital, alive, extra, not frozen or stopped, less talk more action
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
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
running above the oak savanna, a green glow as the sun streamed through the leaves of the trees lining the trail
the ravine near the double bridge looked extra leafy and green
the river, viewed from the ford bridge on the downtown side, was a beautiful blue and empty
the sidewalk at the end of the bridge was under construction. Right now, it’s all dirt
a few kids skating at the new skate park on the land that was the site of the ford plant
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
the locks and dam no. 1 is closed — carp invasion, I think. I didn’t see/hear the gushing water down the conrete apron
no turkeys in turkey hollow
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.
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:
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.
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
a stinky sewer smell — not near the ravine, but down in the tunnel of trees
a tower of stacked stones on the ancient boulder
the coxswain instructing the rowers
a rushing sound — either the wind through the leaves or water sprinkling out of the seeps and springs and sewer pipes
so much goldenrod this year! golden yellow flowers everywhere. I wonder if that’s what’s causing Delia the dog’s itchiness?
the leaves are starting to turn, mostly yellow, a few streaks of red
park workers in their orange vests, their truck parked on the path — trimming trees?
such an intense smell of pot as I ran by the lake street bridge porta potty
the smell of cigarette smoke below the franklin st bridge
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.
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.
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
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:
10 Things I Remember From My Run
Reaching the bottom of the hill, the water was flat and still. No rowers or waves.
I startled a squirrel as I ran by their hiding place in the brush.
A group of women — I didn’t see them, only heard their voices — climbing the stone steps by the trestle.
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!
That same unicycle encountering a skateboarder heading down the hill.
A sewer smell, coming up from the ravine.
Sweat dripping off of my face in big drops.
The buzz of cicadas, the hum of the traffic on the I-94 bridge and the river road
Saying Good morning! in my head to the Welcoming Oaks and out loud to an older jogger.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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
the coxswains, both male and female, calling out to their rowers
a pack of runners taking over the paved path
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
2 male voice below me — were they on the water in a boat or by the shore? I never found out
the trickle of the sewer pipe at 44th
the blue river — did it sparkle? I can’t remember
hearing the rower below me and trying to find a spot in between trees to see their boats
a leaning tree before 38th
the dirt trail below the mesa is overgrown…at one point, the sunflowers have reclaimed the path
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?