jan 25/RUN

5.4 miles
bottom of the franklin hill and back
30 degrees / snowing
100% soft snow-covered

What a wonderful run! Even the soft, slippery snow couldn’t bother me. So difficult to move through, nothing solid or stable. Who cares? I got to run outside by the gorge when it was snowing! A soft, steady snow. A winter wonderland. The sky was a light gray, almost white. The river was a grayish brownish blue. I liked watching the headlights from the cars as they approached. The bright lights cutting through the gray — not gloomy, but monotonous.

At the start of my run, I smelled smoke from someone’s chimney.
I heard the birds chattering.
I felt my feet slipping on the soft, uneven ground.
I saw a walker up ahead on the road, waving their arms in an awkward rhythm.
Did I taste anything — a snowflake, maybe?

No fat tires or cross country skiers. A few sets of runners — or was it the same set seen twice? No honking horns from cars. Although I did hear some geese honking under the trestle. And I also heard the steady rush of cars moving across the 1-94 bridge.

At the end of my run, I heard the irritating screech of a blue jay. I wondered (and hope) that once I passed and the danger was over, I might hear the sharp, tin-whistle sound of a blue jay’s song. Nope.

In the middle of my run, after turning around at the bottom of the franklin hill and then running until I reached the bridge, I stopped to pull out my phone and record some thoughts and sounds:

jan 25 / halfway point

It’s difficult to pick up, but in the middle, when I stop talking and stop walking, you can hear the soft tinkle-tinkle of the snow hitting my jacket. In the moment, standing there, the sound was much louder and so delightful! Hearing it, then looking down at the still river and up at quiet gray sky and the bare branches, was magical.

I found this poem on twitter this morning. I decided to add it to my collection of dirt/dust/earth poems that I started during my monthly challenge last April. I also decided to add it here:

Return to Sender/ Matthew Olzman

To the topsoil and subsoil: returned.
To hums and blistered rock: returned.

To the kingdom of the masked chafer beetle,
the nematode and the root maggot: returned.

To the darkness were a solitary star-nosed mole
arranger her possessions and pulses

through a slow hallway, and to the vastness
where twenty-thousand garden ants compose

a tangled metropolis: returned.
it was summer, and they lowered

a body into the ground. I did not say
they lowered you into the ground.

It seemed like you were elsewhere, but the preacher
insisted: And now, he returns to the One who made him.

Most likely, he meant: God. But I thought
he meant the Earth, that immensity

where everything changes, buzzes, is alive again and —

The poetry person who tweeted about this poem especially liked the twenty-thousand garden ants and the italics from the preacher. I like the possessions and pulses, the tangled metropolis, the separation between body and You, and the idea that the maker we return to (and are reborn in) is the Earth.

jan 24/WALKRUN

walk: 20 minutes
neighborhood with Delia the dog

Went out for a brief walk through the neighborhood and listened to the birds. I love the sounds of birds, especially in the winter. Lots of chattering, making it feel warmer than it was. Then I heard the rapid knocking of the woodpecker. It echoed down the block. Passing under a tree, I heard a strange sound. Was it a bird, or a squirrel? I’m not sure. Did I see any of the birds that I heard? I don’t think so.

3 miles
ywca track

Ran at the track in the afternoon with Scott. We didn’t run together, but at the same time. I intended to listen to music, but I forgot the extra dongle I need for my headphones. Oh well, running without music was fine. In fact, I liked it. Hearing my feet striking the track, the basketball shoes down below squeaking on the gym floor, the battle ropes forcefully striking the ground. Did I think about anything? I can’t remember much. I do recall thinking about my form — keeping my shoulders relaxed — and noticing the time every few laps. Can i think of 10 other things?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a man boxing in the corner — I could hear him hit the punching back, see it swinging back and forth
  2. when I first got there a tall man in a blue shirt was running. Later, he stopped running and was walking
  3. a man in dark sweatpants and a tan shirt, or was it a dark shirt and tan sweatpants?, was running and working hard. As I passed him, I could hear his jagged breathing
  4. a blur below — a guy sprinting on the track
  5. a woman in black, walking and veering into the middle
  6. 2 different sets of walkers, talking and slowly traveling around the track
  7. someone on a spin bike in corner
  8. a man sitting on a bench by the door –were they watching me as I ran by?
  9. a runner in a white t-shirt and black running tights, looking relaxed
  10. near the end of the run, someone was pushing the heavy sled in the corner

While drinking my coffee this morning, I found this video abut Ice Swimming. I’m not interested in trying it out, although I wouldn’t mind swimming in an outdoor pool in the winter.

note: I’m adding this poem in a few days later because it fits with the video.

Cold Shock Response/Anna Swanson

Note: All words (with the exception of title) transcribed from garbage found in the Cape Broyle swimming hole, NL.

mouthfuls. No skill or aim,

only appetite in gloves of slush.
Gasp, we grab at the air

before asking, Is there air?
Alight with cold, classroom 

potassium dropped in water. 
Blood, punching. Our old code

calling. We gasp, cold bells
that cannot stop ringing.

Love that line about being cold bells that can’t stop ringing! A few months ago, I put together a page on my “How to Be” project over at Undisciplined. It was “How to be…a bell.” I included several poems and songs and passages about bells. Unfortunately that page was erased and I haven’t tried to recreate it. If I do, I’ll add this poem to it.

jan 23/RUN

4.1 miles
river road path, north/south
24 degrees
90% snow and ice-covered

More of the same very poor path conditions. Hard, rutted, uneven ice and snow. So hard to move through! My legs are sore again. Sore like I worked them, not like I injured them.Two days ago, it was one of the muscles in my right quads — looked it up and I think it was the rectus femoris. Today it’s my calves. I looked at the river — open, brown, cold. Ran north with no headphones, listening to the crunching of my yak trax on the crusty snow. Listened to Beyoncé’s Renaissance on the way back. Smelled fried food wafting down from Longfellow Grill. Ran past the port-a-potty under the lake street bridge, the door was wide open. Noticed a walker hiking up the road that leads down to the rowing club. Encountered 2 different runners with their dogs. One of the runners was extra cautious, stopping and holding their dog as I ran by. Anything else? Smelled some cigarette smoke.

Almost forget: it was snowing at the beginning of my run. I remember thinking the falling flakes looked like something flashing — what? I can’t remember now. All I remember was that the sky was falling and it was beautiful.

This morning, I found an amazing poetry project by Anna Swanson called “The Garbage Poems.” It’s a series of found poems composed of words taken from the trash she found at swimming holes. She has an interactive site for the poems where you can create your own garbage poems. You can also read her poems and click on each word to find which garbage it came from. How amazing! I’m very excited to have encountered her work. Not only are these poems amazing, but she has also written many others about wild swimming!

The Garbage Poems


walk: 25 minutes
winchell trail between 44th and 42nd
17 degrees / snow flurries

I needed some pictures for my class, so Scott, Delia, and I took a walk by the gorge. Because of the slippery conditions we drove to the parking lot, then slowly walked around. Scott took some great pictures, Delia had fun romping around in the snow, and I loved breathing in all the cold, crisp air!

Here’s one of my favorite shots:

bare trees, snow, a person in a green jacket with a small white dog in a cute sweater
Sara and Delia, the Winchell Trail

A beautiful walk. Near the end of it, we noticed it was snowing. Saw lots of walkers and runners out there this morning.

bike: 25 minutes

Felt like I wanted to work my legs a little more this afternoon — thanks, restlessness — so I decided to do a short bike ride in the basement. Watched new videos from the 2 running YouTubers I follow. Didn’t bike that fast, but it felt good to move some more after sitting and reading most of the afternoon. Current book: Mornings with Rosemary, which is the American title for the British book, The Lido. I prefer the British title, especially since the book is all about the lido. American audiences can figure out what a lido is, I think. If they grew up in the late 70s and 80s like me, they should know what a lido is from The Love Boat and its lido deck!

jan 21/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
21 degrees
99% snow and ice-covered

A common refrain: if only the path hadn’t been so icy and snowy, this would have been a near-perfect run. Loved the temperature and the grayish-white sky. Loved feeling strong and capable. Loved being outside moving and not stuck in the house. The only problem was the path. Terrible. Uneven, hard, rutted, slippery. Wearing my yaktrax helped a little, but it was still difficult. About a mile in, my right thigh was sore — I think from the extra effort of picking it up off of the slippery path. Thought about turning around, but decided to keep going to the falls and back.

Was able to Good Morning! Mr. Morning! Also gave some directions to the falls — up the hill. Passed a lot of runners and walkers. Can’t remember in there were any bikers — oh, I saw someone biking ahead me on the road, both of us on our way to the river.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the cry of a pileated woodpecker
  2. a fine mist — was it barely snowing?
  3. a quick glance at the oak savanna — the split rail fence is sagging in one spot. I couldn’t tell for sure but I think the top 2 railings might have split
  4. a person standing in the snow near the part of the Winchell Trail that climbs out of the gorge for a few seconds near Folwell before dropping down again
  5. a woman walking a dog near the falls in a long light gray puffer coat that almost reached her ankles
  6. voices below — I stopped to look and saw someone walking closer to the bottom of the frozen falls
  7. 2 people standing above the falls, holding a phone high in front of them, taking a selfie
  8. off to my side, a leaning tree covered in white on one side
  9. at the start of the run, hearing a nail gun off in the distance — probably roofers
  10. 2 different times I encountered a walker wearing an orange backpack — 2 different times, 2 different walkers, 2 different backpacks, both orange

Did I see those orange backpacks? I believe I did, but I’ve been seeing a lot of orange lately. It’s one of the only colors that I notice these days. Strange.

Forgot to look at the river. I bet it was still brown.

jan 20/RUN

4.35 miles
river road trail, north/south
27 degrees
99% ice and snow-covered path, slick

Very slick outside today. A lot of ice covered with an inch or two of snow. That part of it wasn’t fun, but the rest of it — the cold air, the open river, the gray sky — was wonderful. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. Passed Daddy Long Legs. Noticed all of the rusty orange leaves still on the trees near the tunnel of trees. Heard goose honks under the lake street bridge. Later, also heard some runner coughing as he crossed the bridge then turned down to enter the river road. No! Every few seconds, a deep cough, full of gunk. I sped up to try and stay ahead of him and his germs. It worked. For a few minutes, I kept hearing the jagged coughs, then it stopped.

Anything else? The river was brownish-gray, the sky sunless.
No headphones for most of the run. During the last mile, I put in an old coming-back-from-injury playlist: I heard “Upside Down” and “Fantastic Voyage.”

FWA is on band tour in Spain and France right now. 29 years ago, Scott and I were on our European band tour. 29 years ago? Wow. Very excited for FWA.

Sitting at my desk, writing this, I’m also looking outside my window at the robins running around on the snow and rooting in the hydrangea bushes for twigs? seeds? Quietly, they scamper then fly low right in front of me. What are they looking for?

Encountered a beautiful poem on twitter this morning that I thought I had already posted on my log but hadn’t.

A Stranger/ Saeed Jones

I wonder if my dead mother still thinks of me.
I know I don’t know her new name. I don’t know  

her, not now. I don’t know if “her” is the word
burning in a stranger’s mind when he sees my dead  

mother walking down the street in her bright black dress.
I wonder if he inhales the cigarette smoke  

that will eventually kill him and thinks “I wish I knew
a woman who was both the light and every shadow  

the light pierces.” I wonder if a passing glance at my dead
mother is enough to make a poet out of anyone. I wonder  

if I’m the song she hums as she waits for the light to change
or if I’m just the traffic signal holding her up.

This poem was posted as part of a thread. I want to post the next one, which is by Todd Dillard (one of my favorite poetry people). I like his introduction of the poem in a tweet:

I have so many poems also grieving my dead mother by giving her a kind of life after life.

Mom Hires a Stunt Double/ Todd Dillard

Sick of all the impossible I ask of her
in these my griefiest poems,

Mom hires a stunt double: same white hair,
same laugh, same false teeth, same dead.

Now when I write “Mom curls like rinds in a bowl”
it’s her stunt double twisting herself into pithy canoes.

When I write “At night my mother sheds
the skin of my mother revealing more mother”

it’s her stunt double that unzips her body,
stands there all shiver and muscle and tendon,

waiting for the next line. “What’s in it for you?”
I ask, and Mom’s stunt double shrugs,

lighting one of those familiar Turkish Silvers
as behind her my mother mounts a Harley

and barrels into the margins. “You’re a good kid,”
the double says. But she doesn’t touch my hair.

This close to her, her eyes are all pupil,
all ink. Her smell: paper and snow.

When she exhales smoke spills from her lips
and unfolds into horses.

Oh, I love both of these poems!

jan 19/SWIM

1.6 miles
ywca pool
outside: snowing (2+ inches)
31 degrees

Hooray for another swim. Such a good feeling to be moving through the water. Maybe it was because it was still snowing, but the pool was almost empty. Excellent. Mostly, I swam continuous 200s, breathing 3/4/5/6 by 50s. Starting the second mile, I tried something new, partly as a way to stretch my legs/bend my knees without stopping: I added in an occasional 25 of breaststroke. It seemed to work well.

dancing shadows

About 1000 yards in, I noticed the pool floor was moving slightly. I think it was the faint shadows of the snowflakes falling* on the other side of the big windows that stretch across the one side of the building. It made everything feel magical and dreamy and strange.

*Actually, when I was swimming, I thought the shadows were from the trees. It wasn’t until I was writing this entry, right now, that I realized it was probably the falling snow making the dancing shadows. Very cool. I think if I had realized that it was the snow, the whole experience of swimming would have felt even stranger and dreamier.

In addition to the moving shadows, I saw one solid shadow line stretching the length of the pool — a shadow of the lane line. Where was that shadow coming from? The bright ceiling light or the light from the snowy sky?

Seeing these shadows and continuing to pay attention to them, shifted me into a different state of being, one that was dreamier and surreal, and where I rethought what was possible or impossible. I imagined the water as air that I was swimming through. When I reached the deep end and looked down at the pool floor below me, I imagined that I was flying high above the ground through empty space. How fun and distracting. I forgot how many flip turns I had done, how many laps I still wanted to do.

Some other things I noticed:

  1. the sloshing of the water (below)
  2. the loud voices of some women talking and joking (above)
  3. the water running guy, doing running drills in the shallow end, then pushing off and vigorously kicking in the deep end, then finishing with some freestyle
  4. everything seemed blue below
  5. everything orange above
  6. the water was not completely clear, but wasn’t that cloudy either
  7. no harsh chlorine feeling
  8. I swam in lane 2, no one ever swam in lane 3, running dude was in lane 5
  9. nothing floating in the water, only random bits of something on the pool floor
  10. little bubbles in front of me as I sliced through the water and a slight spray as I lifted my elbow up into the air

Remembered reading a description of swim practice and the pool early in the morning, thick with a chlorine haze, in Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Lessons. Thought it might be nice to collect a few pool descriptions. Also thought about composing some more swimming breathing poems, where syllables match my breaths: 3/4/5/6.

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allen Poe (b. Jan 19, 1809)

I randomly searched, “Edgar Allen Poe swimming” and discovered that he was a swimmer! I had no idea. I founded a promising article, “Edgar Allen Poe — Exercise Enthusiast,” but it was beyond a paywall so I couldn’t read it. Then I found this bit of information on a listicle about him:

Poe was a big fan of the long walk. He took many solitary strolls over High Bridge in the Bronx in 1847, after his wife Virginia died. There, staring up at the stars, he would conceive his lengthy cosmic prose poem, Eureka. But he also liked rowing and swimming: as a young lad, he was renowned among his friends for swimming six miles upriver in the Charles River in Virginia, and when he moved to New York City (for the second time) in 1844, one of his first acts was to row a skiff up the East River, all the way up past Roosevelt Island.

sidenote: I want to write a poem titled, “Edgar Allen Poe — Exercise Enthusiast”!

jan 17/RUN

2.2 miles
ywca track

Went to the y in the early evening, before community band rehearsal. Too crowded to swim, so I ran. Not as nice as running outside, but better than the treadmill. Listened to a playlist and forgot to count laps or notice the time. The track was crowded but not too crowded and not filled with oblivious people spread across the three lanes.

People I Encountered

  1. a woman who walked in the closest lane to the railing but often drifted over
  2. a guy, dressed in black shorts, a black shirt, and black running shoes, sprinting around the track then stopping to do battle ropes
  3. a tall guy with a blue shirt with the words “event staff” printed on it, watching over 2 young boys, shirtless, shoeless, and in sweat pants. Sometimes he held one of their hands as they carefully ran around the track. Sometimes he lifted them up at the far end so they could do pull-ups. As I left the track, I heard him say to one of the kids: you just ran a mile!
  4. 2 runners — a woman and a 10? year-old boy. Moving effortlessly around the track, their feet rhythmically rising and falling
  5. a guy in brown — not tan, but not dark either — shorts, running in a way that resembled speed walking
  6. an older woman in a white sweatshirt and dark pants, walking
  7. basketball practice below, in the gym — loud, exuberant players running up and down the court
  8. a man off in the corner doing burpees — his long torso and tall arms stretched high as he jumped up at the end of each one
  9. 2 men walking — the younger one looking out for the older one, making sure he didn’t veer out in front of any runner passing by
  10. a guy in a white shirt stretching before his run, doing leg swings

Other things I remember:

There was a white bucket for collecting drips set up in the middle lane on one side of the track. Scott peered into it and noticed that the bucket was dry. Why, he wondered, was it there?

Running the short end at the top, near the double doors, I saw a double shadow — 2 of me. At first I thought someone was about to pass me, but I was alone. Must have passed in front of the light just right. Strange and cool.

It was very dry on the track. My throat burned after a few laps.

As I turned the corners, I unintentionally tilted my head to the side. Corners are irritating.

At the far end, near where the man was doing the burpees and the kids were doing pull-ups, a banner was spread above the railing, blocking my view of the corner as I neared it. I imagined running straight into a group of walkers who might be hiding there

Did I think about anything? Did I look outside at the lights? I don’t think so.

After the run, Scott and I changed and met at the hot tub. The Otters swim team was having a practice. RJP’s and FWA’s old coach was still there, joking with the kids and calling out sets.

later: That night, I had a dream that I was swimming in a pool — the Y pool? Not sure — and a swim team coach — was it Whitney, FWA/RJP’s old coach? — said, Congratulations! You’ve made the team in the 100 free!

jan 16/RUN

4.5 miles
river road trail and edmund, north/seabury and river road path, south
35 degrees / steady rain
path conditions: a cold lake

Decided that I would go out for a run even though it was raining. It didn’t seem too slippery, so why not? I don’t regret the run, it was mostly fun and felt good, but the trail was almost completely lake, with a side strip of sheer ice. My shoes and socks were soaked after a mile. At first I didn’t care, but I started worrying (because as I get older, I do that more — sigh) that my toes/feet might go numb or worse. Nothing to do but just keep sludging through it. After I was done, my left ring toe seemed a little numb, but otherwise I was okay.

What a mess out there! The build-up of snow means there’s nowhere for the water to go. Lots of flooding in the streets and on the trail. Will this freeze overnight? I hope not.

In addition to soaking my socks and shoes, the water splashed up on my running tights. A gross grit. Because it was raining, my jacket was wet too.

It might sound like I didn’t like this run. Mostly, I did. My legs felt strong, so did my back. My arm swing was even and synced up with my feet. The rain helped me to not overheat. There was hardly anyone else out there. One other runner, 2 bikes — I noticed that at least one of them was a fat tire. Were there any walkers? I can’t remember.

I noticed the river! Almost completely open. Black, with one or two ice floes.

Anything else? Lots of cars. It was gloomy enough that most of them had their headlights on. Heard some splashing as they drove by, but never felt it.

I don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any dogs. No skiers or sirens. No big groups of people.

As I’m writing this, I suddenly remembered that as I ran north on Edmund, down a hill, I could tell where the cracks and uneven parts of the pavement were by where the puddles were. Looking at this same road when it’s dry, I don’t think I would have been able to see. The puddles were very good pointer-outers. Look! Watch out! Here’s a bump, there’s a crack!

Wanted to find a puddle poem to add here. It took a while but I found “The Puddle” by Wisława Szymborska. As a kid, I never feared being swallowed up by a puddle. I imagine if I had any fears about puddles, it would have been that Jaws or a pirhana would have leaped out of the puddle to eat me. Okay, I don’t think I was actually afraid of that, but I could have been. Having watched Jaws and Piranha too much as a kid they were always appearing in my anxieties in the strangest ways.

The Puddle/ Wisława Szymborska 

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

I remember well this childhood fear of mine. 
I’d step around puddles,
especially the fresh ones, just after it rained. 
For one of them might be bottomless,
even if it looked like all the rest.

One step and it would swallow me whole,
I would start ascending downward 
and even deeper down,
toward the reflected clouds 
and maybe even farther.

Then the puddle would dry, 
closing over me,
trapping me forever—but where—
and with a scream that cannot reach the surface.

Only later did I come to understand: 
not all misadventures
fit within the rules of nature 
and even if they wanted to, 
they could not happen.

jan 15/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
35 degrees
clear roads / 50% snow-covered trails / puddles

Another warmer day. The sidewalks on my block and on the way to the river are still covered in ice and slick snow. Hopefully the warm temperature today will melt more of it?! A wonderful run. Ran on the road until edmund ended, then on the trail to the falls. I don’t remember hearing the falls at all. Maybe it was because I was distracted by trying to avoid people. Didn’t look at the river again today. Why do I keep forgetting? I felt good and strong and relaxed, although my right kneecap was shifting around again.

At some point, I decided that I — my brain and my feet — find it more interesting to run on a trail with a little bit of grit or snow or something more than just flat, hard asphalt.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Near 42nd, right after I crossed over from edmund, I saw the blur of a runner moving fast down the Winchell Trail. I hope they had yaktrak on because I bet it was super slippery down there!
  2. crossing over at 42nd involved scaling a wall of slippery snow — the crosswalk on the side I choose was blocked with snow and ice
  3. Heard the scrape scrape scrape of a shovel on a driveway or a sidewalk — rough, loud. A stubborn stretch of ice?
  4. A cross-country skier skiing on the snowy boulevard between edmund and the river road
  5. Smelled smoke from a chimney, but not at the usual spot. The smoke I smelled today was farther south
  6. the falls were crowded! A big bunch (10-15) of people were spread across the sidewalk
  7. running above the giant sledding hill I heard a kid sledding down. I could tell the hill was bumpy because their yell, which they kept going the entire way, was jagged and cut in and out
  8. a runner in black tights and a white jacket stopped near the double bridge in the middle of the trail
  9. Passing a very tall runner in a blue jacket — me: good morning! them: morning
  10. my shadow beside me and ahead of me — dark, well-defined on this bright blue day

My favorite things about the run were spotting the cross-country skier and hearing the kid yell as they sped down the hill. That yell — so joyful and comical to hear it break up, bump after bump. I started thinking about how you can use your other senses to get to know a place. In this case, hearing helped me to notice that the path was bumpy and steep (the kid’s yell went on for a while). I think I’ll mention this in my class. It also reminded me of a walk I took with Scott one fall. We were walking on the Winchell Trail under a lot of trees. Without even looking we could tell when the trees still had their leaves because the air suddenly became cooler.