august 6/RUNSWIM

run: 2.5 miles
two trails

Writing this a few days late, so I don’t remember much. Listened to my audio book up above, nothing down below. Was hoping to encounter the woman with the radio for another writing prompt. I did, but I passed her from behind and couldn’t hear anything. Bummer. Looked a little closer and saw that the yarn hanging off the leaning tree trunk is yellow and pink.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Swam a few little loops, then one big loop. A great swim. Absolutely couldn’t see the buoys until they were right next to me on the way back, but I could occasionally see a lifeguard on their kayak and the sparkling roof of the changing room building so I managed to stay on course the whole time. Felt strong and relaxed and happy to be swimming.

august 1/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.2 miles
two trails
69 degrees
dew point: 62

It’s hot again. Ran the two trails. Listened to an audio book (Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage) on the upper trail. Nothing on the lower–excerpt for an older woman’s radio (the same woman I passed last week). Instead of taking the steps up at 38th, I kept running on the dirt trail to the savana. Sometimes this trail is muddy, today it was not. I think I quickly glanced at the river only once or twice. Mostly, I don’t remember what I saw or heard. No interesting smells or sounds.

Let us for a moment call this pain by other words/Dominik Parisien

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull?

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head?

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

This poem is so great. Immediately reminds me of Eula Biss’s The Pain Scale essay. I don’t think I have a favorite line, they’re all beautiful. Maybe, “which constellations light the sky behind your eyes?”

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Great weather for a bike ride. Especially fun after the swim, on the way home, when it was almost twilight. 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.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Did a little loop before open swim started, then 2 big loops. Might have been able to do more, but my brain got tired of not being able to see much. Still, a great swim. The water felt nice–not too warm or cold–and the waves weren’t bad. For the first time, I ran into someone. Not hard, just a tap on their leg before I veered off. The buoys were too far off the main beach but in a straight line. Easy to follow. The sun was blinding heading back from the little beach. I wonder, does it get better or worse the longer you stay in the water? I can’t remember because I usually stop swimming by 6:30. Next time, I should stay until 7:30. Heard some clangs underwater, roaring planes in the sky. Several sailboats. Breathed every five strokes for the first loop. Second loop: every five to the little beach, every 6 to the right on the way back to the main beach. 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!

july 31/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A wonderful morning for a bike ride! No altercations with assholes! Noticed, as I biked over a bridge, how much the creek was rushing. Sometime soon, I’d like to bike along the creek to Lake Harriet.

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis

Swam a mile this morning off the big beach. It was windier than I expected. And chillier. Just 70 degrees. I had goose bumps as I entered the water. Swam 6 little loops/38 minutes. Swimming into the wind and the waves, I breathed every 6 on my right side. Swimming away from it, every 5. The water was yellowish, greenish, brownish and opaque. Couldn’t see anything below me, no streaks or flashes or shafts of light. Had no problem seeing the vertical white buoys–well, I couldn’t see them through my central vision until I spotted them with my peripheral vision. I think I saw one kayak out there. No other swimmers. Just me. Very relaxing and mechanical, steady. 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left. Metronomic. Maybe a little less than a quarter note = 60? Not sure. I like turning into a machine, gliding through the water. About 30 minutes in, I felt like I could swim for a few more hours. I liked how the wind rocked me.

Last year, I discovered Roger Deakin’s fabulous book, Waterlog. I finally bought it this summer, using a birthday gift card. Here’s a passage I’d like to think/write about:

…swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries: the line of the shore, the bank of the river, the edge of the pool, the surface itself. When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim. …You are in nature, part and parcel of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land, and your sense of the present is overwhelming.

I like the idea of the water world being a reverse, almost an upending. I’ve played around with that in some poems already. I’d like to push it some more. I’m particularly interested in the lack of gravity and weightlessness. Deakin’s also writes:

In water, all possibilities seemed infinitely extended. Free of the tyranny of gravity and the weight of atmosphere…

july 30/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3 miles
trestle turn around
59! degrees

Ran much earlier this morning–at 6:45. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to be out so early. I love summer mornings. I’d like to try and get up early more often in August. Ran without headphones. Made sure I noticed the river, slivers of sparkle in the sun. Difficult to see through all of the trees. Running past the Welcoming Oaks noticed a new stump, almost level with the ground. Oh no! Which one of my friends has been chopped down? I fear it might be my favorite: the tree that leans, arching its back, almost as if to say, “Heyyyyyyy” or “Watch out!” I hope not. I’ll have to go back and take a closer look. A motorcycle rumbled by, blasting the news on their radio. Saw other runners, walkers, roller skiers, bikers and 3 in-sync rollerbladers. Noticed in the tunnel of trees that, in addition to the clearing I’ve been writing about, there’s another one, created by the stone wall that Delia the dog likes to jump up on. Could really smell the sewer this morning, especially above the rowing club. Yuck! Heard some birds. Whooshing cars. Ran the 3 miles straight without stopping, even though my left leg felt tight. Wish it wasn’t so difficult.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Mostly, biking isn’t too bad, except for when someone is going really slow and I need to pass them. It’s so hard to pass with my vision. I can’t trust that I’m actually seeing if a bike is coming. Today I didn’t see the bike coming, tried to pass, and almost got in the way of another biker. He was so mean about it, his yell still echoing in my head. At first, I was devastated, feeling so bad about my vision and my mistake. But then I remembered how many bikers I had encountered who did the same thing I did and I didn’t scream at them. My conclusion: this guy was a big asshole.

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis

Made it to the lake early and did three little loops. They were late setting up the buoys so it was a wetsuit rebellion. People just started swimming, not waiting for the lifeguards to announce the start. I joined them and did only one loop. So many swimmers! So many swimmers unable to swim straight, almost routing me! But who cares? The water was wonderful. Warmish and calm. Clear. Smooth. I felt strong and powerful and relaxed. Did a lot of breathing every 5 and sometimes 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right. There is something special about swimming loops outside at a lake. One of my top 5 all-time favorite things to do.

MORNING SWIM
(from Where I Live – New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, W.W. Norton, 2010)

Into my empty head there come
a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom

I set out, oily and nude
through mist, in chilly solitude.

There was no line, no roof or floor
to tell the water from the air.

Night fog thick as terry cloth
closed me in its fuzzy growth.

I hung my bathrobe on two pegs.
I took the lake between my legs.

Invaded and invader, I
went overhand on that flat sky.

Fish twitched beneath me, quick and tame.
In their green zone they sang my name

and in the rhythm of the swim
I hummed a two-four- time slow hymn.

I hummed “Abide With Me.” The beat
rose in the fine thrash of my feet,

rose in the bubbles I put out
slantwise, trailing through my mouth.

My bones drank water; water fell
through all my doors. I was the well

that fed the lake that met my sea
in which I sang “Abide With Me.”

Love the line in this poem about there being no line or roof or floor to tell the water from the air. And the fish! I almost forgot about the tiny little minnows I saw at the big beach. Swimming in the shallow water. Pretty cool.

july 25/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

So windy! Gusts up to 23 mph. Biking the last stretch around the lake to the big beach, I could feel the wind wanting to blow me off my bike.

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Got to the lake early. The plan was to swim small loops until open swim started then do one big loop, but it was so windy and choppy–even white caps!–that it was difficult. Going one direction, I was swimming straight into the waves. Tough. Almost stopped after one loop, but decided to keep going and did a few more. Watched the lifeguards trying to set up the orange buoys on the choppy, wavy, windy water. It was taking so long that I didn’t have time to stay. As I biked up the hill, 15 minutes later, I could still hear them trying to line up the buoys. Oh well, I still swam some. It would have been fun to swim in the choppy water. I like swimming in choppy water. A fun challenge. Plus, it’s a cool experience to be gently (or vigorously) rocked. Last fall I wrote a lot of lines about waves. Here’s a few that I especially liked and that I’m hoping to put into a poem:

In the summer I swim across the lake.
When the wind is just right it makes the water into a cradle.

And when the wind is wrong
the waves become a washing machine.

I swim through a spin cycle
and reach the far shore scrubbed clean.

july 23/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3.1 miles
two trails
66 degrees

Cooler this morning. Listened to a playlist running above, some rowers running below. Noticed that the dirt path at the beginning of the lower trail is more old asphalt than I realized. How long ago did they stop paving this trail? Could see the river sparkling serenely beneath me. Heard the rowers. Encountered some walkers who had no idea I was there. When I called out, “excuse me,” one of them dramatically flinched. Never know how to handle these situations. Sometimes I find it funny, their frantic gestures. Other times, it’s annoying that they’re blocking the whole path and I can’t get past them without startling them. Encountered another walker, an older woman with hiking poles, listening loudly to a speech. The women speaking was calling out, “we’re not the problem, we’re the solution!” What is she referring to? Who is the we? What is the problem and what is the solution?

Cliffhanger update: the leaning tree trunk near the 38th street steps seems to be leaning more. I almost had to duck as I ran under it. Is it lower, or am I just forgetting how lean-y it already was? Will it lean even more or fall or be removed soon?

Ended my run right past the small clearing in the tunnel of trees. I’m stuck in my writing about it. Is it because it’s more magical in the early spring before the trees have filled in? When I look at it now, it’s still a clearing but it doesn’t make me feel dizzy or like I’m floating as I run past it. Maybe I should look at earlier entries about it?

A Kind of Meadow
BY CARL PHILLIPS

—shored
by trees at its far ending,
as is the way in moral tales:

whether trees as trees actually,
for their shadow and what
inside of it

hides, threatens, calls to;
or as ever-wavering conscience,
cloaked now, and called Chorus;

or, between these, whatever
falls upon the rippling and measurable,
but none to measure it, thin

fabric of this stands for.
A kind of meadow, and then
trees—many, assembled, a wood

therefore. Through the wood
the worn
path, emblematic of Much

Trespass: Halt. Who goes there?
A kind of meadow, where it ends
begin trees, from whose twinning

of late light and the already underway
darkness you were expecting perhaps
the stag to step forward, to make

of its twelve-pointed antlers
the branching foreground to a backdrop
all branches;

or you wanted the usual
bird to break cover at that angle
at which wings catch entirely

what light’s left,
so that for once the bird isn’t miracle
at all, but the simplicity of patience

and a good hand assembling: first
the thin bones, now in careful
rows the feathers, like fretwork,

now the brush, for the laying-on
of sheen…. As is always the way,
you tell yourself, in

poems—Yes, always,
until you have gone there,
and gone there, “into the

field,” vowing Only until
there’s nothing more
I want—thinking it, wrongly,

a thing attainable, any real end
to wanting, and that it is close, and that
it is likely, how will you not

this time catch hold of it: flashing,
flesh at once

lit and lightless, a way
out, the one dappled way, back—

I like how this poem demands many readings, some of them out loud, for me to begin to understand it. I have not yet read it enough. So far, here’s what I’m drawn to: trees and moral tales; trees as hiding/threatening/calling to; trees as Chorus; the double-meaning of stands (represents + a group of trees); the worn path as emblem; trees whose twinning of late light and the already underway darkness.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Today’s open swim was so crowded! Hundreds of swimmers. Too hard to see them all in the sun. So I only swam 2 loops and an extra mini loop off the big beach. The water was choppy but I didn’t care. Couldn’t see much but I kept swimming. I felt strong for most of the swim until suddenly my right shoulder hurt. Now, a few hours later, I am very tired. Swimming in the lake is the best. What joy to still be able to see enough to swim and bike!

july 18/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.5 miles
two trails
77 degrees
dew point: 70

Hot! Thick air. Sluggish legs. Listened to an Agatha Christie audiobook on the upper trail, the gorge on the lower trail. Also heard some kids up above somewhere. The lower trail was a little muddy from the recent rain, especially the mulch-y leaves. Writing this a day later so I don’t remember much. Ran for two miles before stopping to take a quick walk break up the stairs. Pretty soon I’ll have all the ups and downs and turns of this short trail memorized.

Cliffhanger: a fallen tree leans across the path, near the steps up to 38th street, held up by the trunk of another tree. Will it fall soon and hit someone walking under? Will the parks department remove it? Will it stay here all summer?

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

On the way to the lake muttered “jerk” under my breath at one idiot driver. On the way back muttered to another clueless driver, “ass.” Aside from that, was hot and happy to be able to see well enough to bike. At one point I wondered, has my brain just memorized the path? I’ve biked it 100s of times and have carefully noticed all the curves and curbs and craters. At the last scan of my central vision, it was almost gone. How can I see anything? Brains are fascinating.

Cliffhanger: There’s a short stretch of trail, right before and after 28th, that’s “officially” closed for construction. Even though signs are blocking the trail, you can still get by them and the trail/road are still bike-able. When will they start construction? How many more times can I bike on this part of the trail? Will it take the rest of the summer? What path/trail/road/sidewalk will I bike on instead? Update as of 4/3.20: still closed!

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

Another wonderful open swim. The water was too warm, almost like bath water. At times it felt heavy and slow, like swimming in place or through simple syrup. Other times, it felt fast and smooth. I stayed on course the whole time. Swimming to the little beach, I could see the buoys enough to know I was swimming straight. On the way back, I could only see them when they were right next to me. Instead of sighting with buoys, I used the kayaks to line up the path. The third time I was swimming back, my goggles fogged up and I really couldn’t see anything. I didn’t panic but I still don’t like swimming without being able to see something–the roof of the building, the light pole, other swimmers, buoys. Glad I only swam 3 loops. After biking home, I was exhausted!

Achingly Beautiful How the Sky Blooms Umber at the End of the Day, Through the Canopy
Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Summers spent practicing in the apartment
stairwell: hand on the bannister, one foot after
another. Did I ever tell you I couldn’t walk

until I was three and then sort of dragged
myself up and downstairs until I was seven
or eight? That burgundy carpet.

I’d stop to breathe and look out the window,
over brick tenements, toward the Capitol
building. Oak leaves so full of late summer

sun even I thought, “Obscene” and stood stunned
for a moment. My God. The urge to rest like the birds
on the phone wires, chatting like barristers

at the end of the day. Myself the useless
Ambassador from the third floor. I was the last one
up so the door was left open. I can still see it gaping

from two stories down. Sometimes music played.
Sometimes I’d smell supper. Neighbors stopped
to say hello. Achingly beautiful how the sky

looked as I stood after they left. Nicer somehow
in the middle. All the trees tucking blackbirds
into their darkness. It really did take this long.

What a beautiful poem! I love the oak leaves so full of summer that they were obscene–so true!–and birds chatting like barristers and blackbirds being tucked into the darkness by trees.

july 16/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 83%
dew point: 66

Hot and harder today than yesterday even though the dew point was lower. Ran 2 miles without stopping then walked then ran again. Listened to headphones. Someone has placed another small stone on top of the ancient boulder. Noticed that at one spot in the tunnel of trees my view filled with a green canopy except for at the very top. I could see a thin line of sky. It looked like air at the surface with me under green water. Cool. Faintly heard the rowers on the river. By the end, felt slow and tired but happy to be outside and moving.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

Started my bike ride in a soft, steady rain. Ended it in sunshine. Didn’t mind biking in the rain at all. Less bikers on the trail. No chaos by the falls. The creek was high as I biked by my favorite part of the path, but not over its banks yet. By the time I reached the lake, it was much warmer and brighter and the buoys were already out.

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

An hour before open swim it was pouring rain and thundering so I wasn’t sure if it would happen. But it was clear by 5:30. I could see the buoys without any problems on the way to the little beach but hardly at all on the way back. Almost ran into the lifeguards on kayaks a few times–well not almost. I saw them in time, but I was headed straight for them. I blame the lifeguards. Too close to the buoys. I heard someone else complaining about how close they were. One lifeguard was almost on top of the final buoy. The water was warm. Too warm. I can’t imagine how hot it would have been swimming in a wetsuit. The water was also calm. No waves today. It felt thick and heavy at times. Breathed every 5 and sometimes every 6. Since it was the free night it was more crowded with lots of slower swimmers stopping and floating. I didn’t run into a single one which was amazing because I didn’t notice some of them until I was almost on top of them. Saw some planes in the sky. No sailboats or fish or ducks. Felt strong and straight and joyful. What a wonderful way to spend a Tuesday evening!

Springing
Marie Ponsot – 1921-2019

In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

Swimming aimlessly is luxury just as walking
loudly up a shallow stream is.

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air;
strangers meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.

What wd it be to be water, one body of water
(what water is is another mystery) (We are
water divided.) It wd be a self without walls,
with surface tension, specific gravity a local
exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising,
rising to fall, falling to rise.

july 14/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

Open swim! A wonderful morning for a swim, even if it was too warm and sunny and windy. The water was the choppiest it’s been this year, which didn’t bother me at all. The buoys were way off to the side but since they were in line, I didn’t mind. I swam strong and straight and steady. Mostly breathed every 6 strokes. The rough water gently rocked me. Sometimes the waves were off to one side, sometimes it was like swimming into a wall. At one point, near one of the buoys, I felt like I was swimming in one of those forever pools where you swim in place–is that what they’re called? Loved the swim today. Love being in the water. Always have.

Out of Water
BY MARIE PONSOT

A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
dots the grass already dotty
with aster-white and clover.

I warn, “They won’t last, out of water.”
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of  water
children don’t last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of  what’s next
and what was yesterday
they pick today.

july 11/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
two trails
67 degrees

Just a few degrees cooler and an hour earlier makes a difference. An easier run. No walking. No headphones either. Lots of cars on the road, lots of bikers on the path. Heard the rowers but didn’t see them. Greeted some runners and walkers. Listened to water dripping out of the sewer pipe. Don’t remember thinking about anything except how, even with all the sun, the tunnel of trees seemed dark and thick and beautiful today.

Our Valley
by Philip Levine

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis
water: 80 degrees

A great night for a swim! Mostly breathed every six to my right, but switched it up a little with some 5s on right and left. I need to write some more poetry inspired by these breathing patterns. The buoys were lined up very oddly–too far off the big beach, angled too sharply near the little beach–which made it difficult to sight, but I didn’t panic and swam without seeing. Well, I could see the first two buoys but not the third one closest to the little beach. Don’t remember hearing any planes or seeing any fish. Noticed a sailboat in my peripheral vision most of the time. Felt strong and a little sore in my right calf. Was really tired at the end of today. So much exercise!

Almost forgot about the water temperature. So strange: pockets of freezing cold water mixed with warmer water. The water was extra cold just off the little beach. I like swimming through this really cold water–a sudden surprise, very brief, then warmish water again. The water is 80 degrees, which is more than warm enough for me. I still hear people complaining about how cold it is. I can’t help myself from thinking, wimps!

Breathing
BY MARK O’BRIEN

Grasping for straws is easier;
You can see the straws.
“This most excellent canopy, the air, look you,”
Presses down upon me
At fifteen pounds per square inch,
A dense, heavy, blue-glowing ocean,
Supporting the weight of condors
That swim its churning currents.
All I get is a thin stream of it,
A finger’s width of the rope that ties me to life
As I labor like a stevedore to keep the connection.
Water wouldn’t be so circumspect;
Water would crash in like a drunken sailor,
But air is prissy and genteel,
Teasing me with its nearness and pervading immensity.
The vast, circumambient atmosphere
Allows me but ninety cubic centimeters
Of its billions of gallons and miles of sky.
I inhale it anyway,
Knowing that it will hurt
In the weary ends of my crumpled paper bag lungs.

                                                                                                                    July, 1988

Mark O’Brien, “Breathing” from The Man in the Iron Lung.

I like the connections drawn between air and water here. I often think about that while I’m swimming, imagining worlds reversed, where the air is water, water air. Writing this, I’m wondering: how much oxygen is in the lake? I looked it up and found an article about dissolved oxygen and how fish need it for breathing. Air typically has an oxygen concentration of around 21%, while water has less than 1%.