August 2019

biking with cone dystrophy

The final stretch up the river road is always tricky at this time–so crowded. Bikers/runners/walkers spreading out over the path, disregarding the lines or the rules of which path to stay on. It makes it so much more dangerous for me. I’m fine biking in my lane, following the lines, but I can’t always see darting people or judge the amount of space I need to get around someone. Very frustrating.

i love lake nokomis

After I finished, met Scott at Sandcastle for a beer and watched a sailboat, with a brightly colored sail, slowly drift closer to us. What a great night! What a great lake!

After I stopped swimming, standing in the sand in the swimming area near the shore, it started drizzling. I almost went back out to swim some more, but I was too tired. …After the 6th loop, I stopped briefly and noticed the silence. So calm and peaceful! I love this lake.

trail and road surfaces

They put red gravel on the road just past the lake street bridge after patching it. Where did they quarry it, I wonder? Where do the materials for the asphalt trail come from? Are they local?

so much easier when I don’t worry about how I can’t see

It was hard to see the buoys, swimming into the sun on the way to the little beach, but there were enough people around and my stroke was straight so I made it without any problems. So much easier to swim when I don’t worry about how I can’t see.

do people with normal vision lose the orange too?

Noticed how, when the light shines just right on the bright orange buoy, it loses its color and becomes a dull gray hulking shape. I couldn’t see the orange until I was almost right next to it. Is that my vision or do people with normal vision lose the orange too?

top humidity: 87%

stepping into a sauna

feeling like stepping into a sauna or the bathroom after someone has taken a too long hot shower.

the little old lady (again)

For the third time, encountered the little old lady walking with her hiking poles listening to a radio show or an audio book or something. Today I heard, “which reminds us of why we are all here.” Decided that I should create a poem or some piece of writing around this phrase. This phrase could be the title or the ending line of the whole poem or a sentence or a refrain.

On the Dirt Path Near Folwell Avenue

Even if you try to time it just right, when you climb the steep, short hill up to the dirt packed path you cannot avoid the swarming swath of sex-crazed gnats or the little old lady slowly shuffling by, swinging her hiking poles, a voice TED-talking out of her phone’s speaker reminding you that this is why we are all here. Do not bother the WPA bench resting on the rim of the gorge to ask what this is. If looking through the thickly thatched oak leaves to gather glimpses of the silvery river sparkling in the morning sun doesn’t already answer everything, the bench certainly won’t be able to help.

Bugs and old ladies
wake early in August but
so does the river.

Why are we all here? Who is the we? the why? where’s here?
an expansive we = me + the body (cells, muscles, joints, ligaments, fluids, fibers) + trees (oaks, maples, cottonwoods, elms, basswood) + limestone + ancient boulders + gnats + mosquitos + etc.

This day! O, this day!

aug 19. Even the irritating chipmunk puffing its cheeks–cluckclucking like a drumstick stoking hollow wood–cannot spoil the jog of this bright beautiful day!

Cliffhanger 1 returns/continues

the tree trunk leaning over the path near the 38th street steps. It’s still there and still continuing to lean lower. Someone has yarn-bombed it–yarn in colors I can’t remember are dangling down as decoration or warning. Will anyone ever take this trunk away?

Looked a little closer and saw that the yarn hanging off the leaning tree trunk is yellow and pink.

The leaning tree trunk is still leaning near the 38th street steps (aug 15)

I think the tree trunk was still leaning by the 38th street steps, but I can’t quite remember. Surely I would have noticed if it were gone (aug 23)?

the dreaded middle-aged mom’s head shake returns!

No run-ins with jerks biking too fast or taking over the whole path or yelling at me. Can’t remember why now, but some cars or bikers did prompt me to shake my head disapprovingly. The dreaded middle-aged mom’s head shake!

swimming rhythms

every five

Catch pull push release
five times then a breath


strong shoulders and straight strokes
generous lungs stay filled


swimming little loops
well–not little loops but
loops that are smaller
than loops across the lake

“welcome!” says water
“join us!” cry out the fish
“hello!” calls the bird
perched on the white buoy

Form: Duplex

This morning I read an essay by Jericho Brown in which he describes his invention of the duplex form. He writes:

I decided to call the form a duplex because something about its repetition and its couplets made me feel like it was a house with two addresses. It is, indeed, a mutt of a form as so many of us in this nation are only now empowered to live fully in all of our identities. I wanted to highlight the trouble of a wall between us who live within a single structure. What happens when that wall is up and what happens when we tear it down? How will we live together? Will we kill each other? Can we be more careful?
At the end of the essay, he lists the rules of the form:

Write a ghazal that is also a sonnet that is also a blues poem of 14 lines, giving each line 9 to 11 syllables.

The first line is echoed in the last line.

The second line of the poem should change our impression of the first line in an unexpected way.

The second line is echoed and becomes the third line.

The fourth line of the poem should change our impression of the third line in an unexpected way.

This continues until the penultimate line becomes the first line of the couplet that leads to the final (and first) line.

For the variations of repeated lines, it is useful to think of the a a’ b scheme of the blues form.

uh oh

No open swim tonight (august 12) due to bad water quality. No!!! Hopefully the lake won’t be closed for the rest of the season. What a bummer.

I love Cedar Lake too

Finally decided to try out open swim at Cedar Lake. I’ve never been because it’s a lot farther from my house. Really wonderful. Not too many people there, which was great. Smaller loops–not sure, but I think a loop was 400-500 yards? (instead of 1200 at Lake Nokomis). I liked mixing it up with smaller loops. Easier to not get off track even when you couldn’t see, which I couldn’t on the way back because of the sun. Why are so many of the beaches east/west, with one way always being in the sun? No big, crazy beach filled with too many people. Found out after I finished swimming that the rest of lake nokomis open swims will be at cedar. It’s very sad to be done for the season at nokomis without being able to say goodbye to the lake but I’m glad I can still swim.

The attitude at the lake is more laid back than at Nokomis. Kayaks in the swimming area, a dog swimming out to greet the swimmers as they made their way to the first buoy, lifeguards sitting in camp chairs.

As I neared the buoys, it always felt like I was swimming in place or swimming away from the buoy. A bit disorienting. I think there was a current that was pushing both me and the buoy away from each other–is that possible?

New Sauconys

Brand new too white running shoes this morning. My favorites: Saucony Grid Cohesions. Started on version 4 (I think), am now on 11. Cheap and dependable. Thought about upgrading but I’m too frugal. Also, when I buy expensive shoes, I feel pressure for them to be perfect–they better be, if I spend $120 on them, I think. Usually this ends with me wearing shoes that don’t quite work for too long because I spent so much money on them. So inexpensive grid cohesions it is. They worked well today.

o, how the river glows

how bright and glowing the river was below me on the lower trail.

Crystal Williams’ definition of the Divine

the aggregation of the choruses of the natural world

Lizzo always helps

Sometimes, less often in the last year, when I wake up I feel regret or shame about some intangible thing that I didn’t actually do. This makes me uneasy until I’ve fully woken up and restored my sense of exuberance. Usually a run or a walk or just being outside helps. Today, running while listening to Lizzo, worked.

swimming into the void

Starting my swim, I couldn’t see at all. No landmarks–no roofs of big buildings or light poles. Only trees. Just swimming into the void of blueish gray water. Luckily I had lined up the buoys before I left so I was okay.

not gushing or rushing

Ran up above listening to another audio book, down below listening to a bird, my breathing and water gurgling out of the sewer–not gushing or rushing, falling?

Down below, on the way back north on the lower trail, I noticed how the first sewer drain I ran by vigorously trickled while the second one sporadically gushed.

that’s so bird

Heard a bird making the classic bird call through the trees, deep in the gorge, that I imagine when I think of a bird chirping in a forest. So bird.

O, to be so unabashed in my joy!

Heard a kid jubilantly call out, “I just saw a fish! A Northern Pike! Right there! Right there!” Such wonderful enthusiasm. O, to be so unabashed in my joy! A goal for this year. I’m tired of cynicism and swallowing the quirky joy I have for so many small and random things like garden gnomes and undulating waves and bright, glowing green running shoes!

the magic of seeing differently–out of focus, fuzz

Often, I like the strangeness of my sight; everything is more beautiful. I was mentioning to Scott the other day that I see things through a soft filter, like the one they used for filming Barbara Walters on The View. But even as I love the soft, generous way my vision enables me to see the world, sometimes, it’s exhausting, overwhelming. Walking around the Mall of America the other day, I was unable to see the hard edged outlines of peoples’ moving bodies. Difficult to navigate. Entering a store, I couldn’t immediately read the signs to orient myself, everything just out of focus.

what I (didn’t) notice

Didn’t look at the river even once. Barely noticed the lake street bridge or the overlook above the rowing club or the railroad trestle. I guess I was thinking too much about the run and how my legs were sore. I do remember looking to see if anyone was sleeping behind the bench, near the bridge. Sometimes people do in the summer. One time I saw someone sleeping on the hard, uneven paving stones under the bridge. Ouch.

I need rules

Played chicken with a woman running up by the lake street bridge. I was running to the right, furthest from zooming bikes that might be coming up the hill behind me, she was to the left, also hugging the rail. She wouldn’t move, probably because she was oblivious. I wouldn’t move either because I’m stubborn and need rules, like always stay to the right, because my eyes don’t always work and I can’t see if someone is coming. I was prepared to run into her if she didn’t move, which I recognize is somewhat ridiculous but I get really angry when people don’t pay attention in these simple ways. As someone who can’t always see, other people’s refusal to care can be dangerous.

I love Maggie Smith’s poem, “let’s not begin”

the focus on lists and their connection to and
lists of not quite grievances, lists of things loved
describing a fear of death as not wanting to be in the dirt
the desire for two parts bees humming to one part bee sting
idea of repetitions and a workout
rhyming hum with tongue
the flow of the couplets

fall is coming, then winter, then winter running!

Very sad to be done with open water swimming but ready for routines and kids in school and cooler weather and layers and colorful leaves and creepy Halloween yards and cold clear air and no more itchy dogs.


A term runners use for all the relentless repetitions of running so many unglamorous miles. Also can mean persistent.

Sometimes I wonder

If I’m selling myself short
Am I accepting
too easily that joy is just
the little things? The garden gnome
standing guard by a back fence?
An ugly bear carved out of the top
of a dead tree? A free
piano concert spilling out onto the sidewalk
in front of that beautiful house on Isabel Avenue?
I listen to the sparkle and snap
of the glittering keys
and I know
these small delights
are enough.

note from 12/21 as I revisit these details from notebook #4, august 1, 2019: I remember this walk with Delia the dog. We walked all around 7 oaks, then turned up Isabel Avenue. For weeks after hearing the piano, we would return to the spot, hoping for another concert. Also, I appreciate the conclusion of this little poem but I think I’m too easily resolving this doubt that haunts me. Am I not ambitious enough? Am I settling for too little? I’d like to find ways to express the rawness of these doubts and my struggles to ignore them–which is what I mostly believe I should do.

Creepy, Fabulous Mannequins!

After seeing all the creepy, wonderful mannequins at the state fair last week, I’ve decided I want to write about them.

Sassy No Arms

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Sassy No Arms.

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Similar to Face Blindness. Faces are lifeless, not just strangers but lifeless strangers. De-humanized, people become mannequins. Void. No I behind the eye. Absence. Lack of connection.

Haunting Helpless Disconnected
No Contact Trapped Isolated

from Survival Guide/Joy Ladin

break out a box of Crayolas

and draw your family
looking uncomfortably away
from the you you’ve exchanged

for the mannequin
they named.