A little cooler today. I opened the windows and let in some fresh air before I went out for my run. Ran north on the river road trail. Was thinking about taking the Franklin loop, but then I saw a roller skier at the top of the hill and decided to go to the bottom of the hill and back up it again. I was imagining that I’d meet the roller skier again on the hill somewhere. Halfway down I realized they weren’t coming. I was a little disappointed because I never got to hear the clicking and the clacking of their poles. Oh well, they got me to run down this hill, closer to the river, so it worked out. When I reached the bottom of the hill, I decided to turn around and walk back up it. Then I pulled out my phone and made note of something I just heard: the voice of a male coxswain! Rowers! A few miles earlier, I had heard the female coxswain instructing some rowers. 2 groups of rowers and a roller skier. So many of my favorite things to encounter!
a new experiment
Speaking into my phone at the bottom of the hill gave me an idea for an experiment that I might want to try again. Run to the bottom of the hill. Turn around and as you walk back up it, pay attention. What do you notice? How many different sounds can you hear? What do you see? Speak some of your observations into your phone. Here’s my recording for today:
transcript, a series of recordings:
one: June 22nd again. Walking up from the bottom of the franklin hill. First interruption was the coxswain’s voice, a female voice, giving instructions, first calmly, and then more enthusiastically, trying to pump them up for a hard effort. And then, later, running down the franklin hill, getting to the I-94 bridge, underneath it, hearing another coxswain, this time a male voice, talking to rowers. I could hear the smooth, soft entering of the oars. Nothing awkward or clunky about this one, but it might have been that I was too far away, and there were too many noises. [this is a reference to a description from a few weeks ago of the awkward sound oars breaking the surface of the water.]
two: 2 sounds mixing together. First, the soft rustling of the wind through the trees, almost a shimmering. And then a bike passing and the whirr of the wheel, sounding just like the wind.
three: Listening to the wind some more, it sounds somewhat like a waterfall or water trickling down gently, or a soft shower.
four: I can hear the grit under my shoes as I walk, especially under the Franklin Bridge where it’s amplified. Also, rustling off to the side in the bushes — a squirrel or a bird or a chipmunk or something else? [the rhythmic footsteps of a runner passing] A runner passing me. I like watching their feet rhythmically moving. It’s mesmerizing to watch, especially when it’s a good steady runner like this one. Just the bottom of their feet, their shoes are black, and to me, as they get farther away it just looks like a black ball, a circle, that’s bouncing from side to side. Maybe with my fuzzy vision I can’t even tell that there’s a shoe or a leg connected to it. It just looks like a black ball bouncing back and forth, steady, which is quite impressive because they’re running up a decent hill.
five: [the sound of chirping birds]
After I almost reached the top of the hill, I put in my headphones and listened to a shuffle of Taylor Swift’s Lover. First up: “ME!”. This song helped me lock into a fast, steady cadence. I ran faster for most of the way back — stopping for a few quick breaks. I remember waving to Mr. Morning! and passing a few runners. Oh — and I heard the female coxswain’s voice again. I pulled out a headphone and listened for a few seconds.
fill in the blank
About a mile and a half into my run, I overheard one woman walker say to another: “I mean, I wasn’t arrogant or anything, I just said ______.” I was past them before I could hear what she said. What did she say? I’ll never know, but I can imagine. This reminds me of a poem I wrote last fall:
Eavesdrop on the words scattered by wind and careless voices. Not concerned with manners, no need to be nice. Feel the disconnect between you, the path, other people. Free, off the hook, unseen, able to listen in, to overhear and not be judged, to invent dialogue, give it another ending, turn it all into a better story.
run: 2.25 miles river road trail, north/south 73 degrees humidity: 87% / dew point: 73! 7:45 am
I ran north on the river road to the top of the hill just past the lake street bridge. Stopped for a minute, then turned around and headed back. Sunny, but with lots of shade. Forgot to look at the river.
73 for the dew point? That’s bad, or “extremely uncomfortable,” according to Runner’s World. Yes, it was. Do I remember anything other than being uncomfortably warm?
10 Things I Noticed
rower’s voices from down below!
3 stones stacked on the boulder
a man fully covered in black sweatpants and a black jacket, with a white towel around his neck. Aren’t you hot, I thought as I passed him
dark in the tunnel of trees, difficult to see if other people were there
the pedestrian part of the double-bridge between 33rd and 32nd streets is overgrown with vines and bushes and leaves. Makes it harder to see if someone’s coming the other way, and narrower, making it harder to pass. Thankfully, no collisions today
the small stretch of dirt trail that I take as the path nears the lake street bridge is wet — I think there was a brief, strong storm last night, or was that a dream?
a group of 3 fast bikers riding on the road, a cautious car following behind
a darting squirrel
a flash of movement of the leaves beside the trail – was the flash from the sun hitting the leaves just right, or a critter — a bird or chipmunk or squirrel?
later in my run, encountered Mr. black sweatsuit with white towel again. He said a soft, “morning,” and I nodded my head as a reply
Wow. Finding 10 things today took some thinking and remembering and getting past my overriding feelings of heat and discomfort. Such a great exercise in noticing!
Oh — I almost completely forgot: I also chanted in triple berries. Lots of strawberry/blueberry/raspberry and gooseberry/blackberry/red berry to keep my feet striking steadily. Added in a few mystery/history/mystery, which didn’t quite work, and butterscotch/chocolate sauce/caramel, and please don’t stop. Now I wish I had done more of them. I love the triple berry chants.
At the end of my run, as I was walking back, I listened to my first lecture for the class I’m teaching. I’m asking the students to listen to it on their first walk or run outside. I’m doing this partly because I’d like to make outside be the classroom space as much as possible, and partly because I think listening while moving can help you hear/process the words differently than when you’re inside, sitting still. One thought about the lecture: will my voice put them to sleep?
Mostly I don’t use headphones, but I do like to listen to podcasts or music sometimes. It’s strange how ideas or stories I’ve heard while running get imprinted on where I was on the trail. Even now, years later, as I run below the lake street bridge, I often think of the first season of Serial. Running from downtown to the Bohemian Flats, I think about an episode of “On Being” with Eula Biss. Listening to music or podcasts while moving might seem like a distraction from giving attention to a place, and it can be. But it can also be a chance to create a map of a place, connecting ideas that matter to you with locations that you move through regularly. Does that make sense?
Many people have strong opinions about whether or not you should be listening to anything while you’re moving. Although I do move much more without headphones, I like wearing them too. In my first year of doing this running project, I wrote a series of four acrostic poems exploring this no headphones/playlist debate: Playlist/No Headphones, some reflections
note: I’m typing this paragraph an hour later. When I was writing about headphones and listening, I thought there was something else I wanted to say, but it had drifted from my mind. It came back, in the midst of thinking about podcasts.
When I listen to podcasts, I always wear headphones, not broadcasting them to anyone else on the trail. For the most part, I prefer that others listen with headphones too. Yet, even as I write this, I’m reminded of how hearing someone’s irritating TEDtalk inspired a poem, and how I find some delight in hearing a song blasting from a bike speaker, especially if it’s accompanied by the Doppler effect.
Found this Anne Carson poem on twitter this morning:
If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that. To tell how things go for you. Candor is like a skein being produced inside the belly day after day, it has to get itself woven out somewhere. You could whisper down a well. You could write a letter and keep it in a drawer. You could inscribe a curse on a ribbon of lead and bury it in the ground to be unread for thousands of years. The point is not to find a reader, the point is the telling itself. Consider a person standing alone in a room. The house is silent. She is looking down at a piece of paper. Nothing else exists. All her veins go down into this paper. She takes her pen and writes on it some marks no one else will ever see, she bestows on it a kind of surplus, she tops it off with a gesture as private and accurate as her own name.
(added this later in the day):
bike: 8.5 miles lake nokomis and back 87 degrees 4:30 pm (there) / 6:00 (back)
Biked without any problems. 2 distinctive memories, one of the way to the lake, one on the way back.
to the lake: Coasting down the hill between the double bridge and Locks and Dam No. 1, in the hot sun, I passed someone pushing a canoe on wheels. It looked awkward and like they were struggling. I tried to imagine the scenario where you would be pushing a canoe at this spot.
from the lake: Biking under the echo bridge, I heard 2 flutes playing a duet under the bridge, on the other side. It sounded very nice. I imagined calling out, “that sounds great” or “you’re awesome” but I didn’t.
This is the first time I’ve witnessed a canoe being pushed on the paved path or 2 flutes playing a duet under a bridge.
swim: 2 loops 87 degrees windy
So much wind again. I’m getting used to it. I stayed on course. There was one point where I oriented myself in relation to another swimmer who was off course, so I got a little too close to the buoy, but otherwise, no problem. Again, I seem to swim straight towards the buoys even when I don’t see them, or think I see them. My googles leaked a little, and when I got out of the water there was a film over my eyes. Everything looked like it was fogged up, even thought I wasn’t wearing glasses.
One memorable thing: Rounding the last green buoy, parallel to the big beach, I suddenly hit something hard with my hand. Huh? A green plastic bucket. As I flinched and lifted my head out of the water in surprise, I heard a woman laugh. Was she laughing at me? I doubt it. How did the bucket make it out this far?
I breathed every 5 strokes and had fun punching the water when it was extra choppy. Noticed a few planes and clouds above. An occasional flash below, and nothing else but brown, opaque water. Oh — a menancing sailboat, off to my left side. The first one this year!
addendum, june 22: I remembered 2 more memorable things that I don’t want to forget. One while I was swimming, the other while biking.
swimming: I kept seeing another swimmer out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked back again, they were gone. It was strange, because it happened more than once and felt very real, like they were there, and then they weren’t. Maybe it was the yellow buoy tethered to my waist?
biking: Biking back home on the river road trail, I passed a runner, running smoothly and quickly, snapping their fingers repeatedly. Why where they snapping? Not sure. In all the times I’ve passed a runner while biking (or while running), I don’t think I’ve ever heard them snapping!
bike: 8.5 miles lake nokomis and back 80 degrees 9:00 am (there) / 10:40 am (back)
My first bike ride to the lake by myself this year. Everything was a bit fuzzy, but I wasn’t scared to bike and I didn’t have any problems almost running into things or hitting a big pothole. Hooray! I’m always grateful to still be able to bike. My most distinctive memory of the ride was on the way there, right after I entered the Minnehaha Creek path, past what we (me, my husband, and our kids who named it 10 or 12 years ago) call the duck bridge. A very irritating sound. A person walking with ski poles, scraping then clicking them on the asphalt with every foot strike. Ssscrape. Click. Ssscrape. Click. Over and over. I wondered if the runner right ahead of this walker couldn’t wait to get away from the sound.
swim: 2 very choppy loops lake nokomis 80 degrees (air) / 75 degrees (water) 9:30 am
I checked the weather earlier in the day and knew it was going to be very windy. And it was. 25-30 mph gusts, I think. It’s hard for me to tell, but this felt like one of the choppier swims I’ve done ever. And I did a lot of choppy swims last year. I wasn’t scared, just tired out by it. My chest burned a little as I tried to get oxygen to it. Hard to think about much else, other than: where’s the buoy? is that the buoy? breathe away from the wave. is my neck getting too sore? am I almost to the big beach? Nearing the final green buoy, at a part that was extra choppy, a big wave washed over me as I tried to breathe. I didn’t inhale any of the water, I guess because I’m a strong, experienced swimmer, but I imagined if I had, how that might have been very bad. And when I say imagined, I mean I literally imagined the scenario, or a vague, dreamy approximation of it, in my head. Swallowing the water, panicking, flailing, drowning. I wasn’t feeling this, but almost watching it like a movie. I often daydream alternate scenarios in my head right after something has happened. Everybody does, right?
10 Things I Noticed
the orange buoys, at least 2 of the 3, were in a neat row, cutting diagonally across the lake
the bottom of the overturned lifeguard boat at the little beach was hard to spot through the waves — no sparkling silver streak to follow
water visibility: I could see my hands in front of me and the bubbles they made with each stroke, but not much else
the final green buoy was drifting in the wind, the rope attached to a weight that anchored it was close to the surface, I barely cleared it as I rounded the buoy
my bright yellow buoy, tethered to my waist, was pushed into me by the wind several times
a few female voices near the orange buoy closest to the little beach, a few swimmers resting and comparing notes before heading back to the big beach
the water felt heavier or slower or like some part of it was trying to drag me down, harder to float
off to the side, I noticed another swimmer swmming very far from the buoys — was this on purpose, or were they way off course?
no vines wrapping around my head or big branches floating in front of me
one seagull flying towards me
Overheard, right before starting, near the lifeguard stand:
Swimmer One: I see you’re wearing the wrong colored cap. The lifeguards will make you get out if your cap’s not the right color. Swimmer Two: I know. I talked to a lifeguard about it. It’s okay. Swimmer One: Okay. My daughter’s a lifeguard and she’s always saying how awful it is to make someone have to get out because their cap is wrong. You might have to get out on the opposite side and then walk around.
Was there anymore to this exchange? Was the second swimmer irritated by the first swimmer? Why did she have on the wrong colored cap? Was she confronted by a lifeguard in the water? That would be very irritating to be a lifeguard having to confront someone about the wrong colored cap. I don’t like disciplining people or enforcing rules.
This swim and bike was wonderful, and made me feel so relaxed and happy after I was done. Lake Nokomis swimming is the best.
I found this poem via twitter this morning. So great, so perfect for one of the weeks of my summer class!
I pass the feeder and yell, Grackle party! And then an hour later I yell, Mourning dove afterparty! (I call the feeder the party and the seed on the ground the afterparty.) I am getting so good at watching that I’ve even dug out the binoculars an old poet gave me back when I was young and heading to the Cape with so much future ahead of me it was like my own ocean. I yell, Tufted titmouse! and Lucas laughs and says, Thought so. But he is humoring me, he didn’t think so at all. My father does this same thing. Shouts out at the feeder announcing the party attendees. He throws out a whole peanut or two to the Steller’s jay who visits on a low oak branch in the morning. To think there was a time I thought birds were kind of boring. Brown bird. Gray bird. Black bird. Blah blah blah bird. Then, I started to learn their names by the ocean and the person I was dating said, That’s the problem with you, Limón, you’re all fauna and no flora. And I began to learn the names of trees. I like to call things as they are. Before, the only thing I was interested in was love, how it grips you, how it terrifies you, how it annihilates you, and resuscitates you. I didn’t know then that it wasn’t even love that I was interested in, but my own suffering. I thought suffering kept things interesting. How funny that I called it love and the whole time it was pain.
I need to start getting up earlier for these runs. It’s too hot by 9:30. Sunny and windy. Lots of shade, which is one reason to love the green, even if it does block my view of the river. Did one of my most regular routes: the trestle turn around. Saw and greeted Mr. Morning!, then later, on my walk with Delia the dog, Dave the Daily Walker. I remember thinking about something, and wanting to remember it — 2 things actually — but now I can’t remember them. I almost stopped to record them into my phone, but I didn’t. Maybe if I keep typing, I’ll remember them?
10 Things I Noticed
above the tunnel of trees: light green, dark green, green air. Felt like I was flying above the trees
before the tunnel: 3 stones stacked on the ancient boulder. I wonder, are they same stones every time — they fall off and someone picks them up and stacks them again?
2 runners with a running stroller, a kid in it crying, one of the adults saying, “we’ll be home soon”
voices drifting up from the Winchell Trail right by the railroad trestle
the smell of pot by the ravine
a few others bits of conversation — I think I was able to hear a word or two, but I can’t remember the words now
starting out my run in the neighborhood, hearing some talking, not able to identify any words. I knew they were words, but no idea what the words were. I was reminded of these lines from a Jane Hirshfield poem I encountered a few weeks ago: “An almost readable language./ Like the radio heard while traveling in a foreign country—/You know that something important has happened, but not what.”
the whooshing of car wheels mixing with the wind
yes! I just remembered one thing I’d forgotten! a car blasting “Renegade” by Styx as I neared the double bridge just north of the old stone steps and longfellow flats
surfaces: west dirt, dry dusty dirt, concrete, asphalt, grass
Back to “Renegade.” I started singing along in my head after the car passed:
The jig is up the news is out they finally found me
A renegade who had it made in ???? county
I couldn’t remember the last line, no matter how hard I tried, I decided I would look it up when I got back from my run. Here’s what I found:
The jig is up, the news is out They’ve finally found me The renegade who had it made Retrieved for a bounty Nevermore to go astray This will be the end today of the wanted man
Wow, not sure I ever knew exactly what Dennis DeYoung sang there. Retrieved for a bounty? Nice.
Found these little poems from Charles Simic in a recent New Yorker:
A Tree of Dignified Appearance/ Charles Simic
Fed up with its noisy leaves And its chirping little birds, Plus that young woodpecker Drilling himself a new home.
For Rent/ Charles Simic
A large clean room With plenty of sunlight And one cockroach To tell your troubles to.
What a wonderful morning for a swim! Sunny and not too windy. The orange buoys were backlit so it was almost impossible to see them. Disorienting. I had to stop a few times to make sure I was headed in the right direction. I didn’t panic.
My thoughts wandered from a few complaints from my body, my left hip hurts, my hands are turning numb, my back is sore, to lyrics from Soundheim’s “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” — Here’s to the ladies who lunch and the dinosaurs surviving the crunch and I’ll drink to that — to there’s a dragonly!, to blue empty sky with only one cloud, to is that a buoy or a boat?, to I’m all alone out here (and it’s wonderful), to it’s so much less windy today! I was tired when I was finished. I only did 2 loops (about 1.5 miles), but this is only my third swim since last September, so I’m okay with that.
Getting out of the water and drying off in the sun, I felt the slight breeze and the warm sun and thought: What a life! or This is the life!, I can’t quite remember. The point: I love swimming at lake nokomis and being by the water and feeling the warmth of worked muscles.
A few other things I just remembered: minnows near thes shore, parting for my feet; opaque water — could I even see my hand in front of me? not sure…it was brownish green down below, blue above
run: 2.9 miles 2 trails 82! degrees 3:40 pm
Hot, so hot! Bright sun with a little shade. Listened to a playlist on the upper trail, the gorge below. Difficult to relax and notice anything but heat and the sweat dripping down my back. I’m going to try:
10 Things I Noticed
in the parking lot above the oak savanna: 2 adults standing on the edge of the walking path doing some weird dance — it almost looked like tai chi — were they doing some tiktok dance?
someone on an old school skateboard
lots of bikes, zooming past me, too close
a niceride or some other rental bike parked in the middle of the part of the Winchell Trail right before some old stone steps up to the 44th st parking lot
the sewer pipe at 42nd was flowing
voices above me on the paved trail
some cool, shaded spots on the winchell trail
hardly any bugs, except for the one that flew in my mouth that I had to spit out. Yuck!
climbing the small hill near winchell, I noticed a runner on the paved path. I wonder if she was hot as I was?
the sewer pipe at the ravine between 36t st parking lot and the overlook was trickling steadily, making it sound cooler
4 miles marshall loop 74 degrees wind: 20 mph / gusts: 26 mph 9:30 am
Sunny, warm, windy! Very windy. Luckily, I never seemed to be running straight into it. My visor stayed on, even when I crossed the bridge! I used to really dislike the wind, now it doesn’t bother me that much when I’m running. I like the sounds it makes. Today it russshhhed through the gorge, shaking the trees. I was going to write that it roared, but it had more of a shshshsh sound than an oar sound. No rowers on the river (I don’t blame them in this wind). No roller skiers or geese or blue jays.
10 Things I Noticed
river, 1: white sparkles on the surface
river, 2: more brown than blue
river, 3: empty
the crane on the east side is still there. I wondered where they were working. Later, as I reached the turnoff from cretin to the east river road I saw a “road work ahead” sign and thought that the crane might be near summit avenue
the wind was at my back as I crossed over the bridge to the east side of the river
smell: bacon, or pork of some kind, coming from the BBQ place next to Blacks
was able to run mostly in the shade, some full, some dappled
everything is green
a man sitting in the back of a truck, waiting to begin work on the road or the sidewalk or something that they have blocked off at this intersection
people over at the St. Thomas track, running laps
2.5 miles in, I stopped to walk up the steps to the lake street bridge and record a few thoughts I was having about my class and this running/writing project. The recording is not very good, too much wind and traffic, so I’ll only include the transcript of part of it:
In the middle of a windy run, and I was thinking that this project is so many things at once. It’s a compex mess of layers of things I’m trying to achieve, things I’m experimenting with, and the fundamental thing that keeps it all together is to have this little structure, this little bit of discipline: I go out and move for roughly the same amount of time and then I write about it. And in the log I have just a little bit of structure so that it gives, maybe not an anchor but, a tether to the world and to some purpose and intent.
I had a few more thoughts but I’m not including them here. When I spoke them into my phone, they sounded great, but listening back, they don’t quite make sense.
swim: 2 loops / 1.5 miles lake nokomis wind: 20 mph 5:30 pm
Windy again. Swimming from the big beach to the little beach wasn’t too bad, although a few of the swells behind me made it difficult to get in a stroke, or to breathe. From the little beach back to the big beach was harder. But, it didn’t bother me, in fact I loved it. The main thing I remember about the swim was how amazed I am in my ability to trust the flash that I see, maybe only once or twice, and that doesn’t look like anything but a smudge — to trust my belief that that flash is the buoy and that that is the right way to swim to stay on course. Even when I didn’t think I could see where the buoys were, I swam straight towards them and stayed on course. Wow. I love open swimming, and I’m so grateful that I can continue to do it. In other good news, my other nose plug stayed on while I swam, and I am not stuffed up at all. Hooray!
Ran with Scott. North on the river road to the trestle, then left and up to the greenwood trail, through Brackett Park, and over to Dogwood Coffee on lake street for an iced latte. Overcast. It was supposed to rain all day, but something shifted and it’s missing Minneapolis. Nice. Without the sun, everything was a deep, dark green. I remember noticing how green and mysterious and calm it was in the tunnel of trees. I think I heard some rowers down below, or maybe it was a few hikers? I don’t recall ever seeing the river, or much of what Scott and I talked about, other than complaining about some changes to apple pay that make it impossible to transfer money to our 16 year old. Heard some blue jays and thought, again, about how I used to think “crow” everytime I heard their screeching.
Sitting here, trying to remember things that happened, or that I thought about, on the run, I’m…not amazed or suprised…struck by how much I don’t remember, how lost I was for those minutes. I don’t mind getting lost. Sometimes I wish it would happen more.
Things I Don’t Remember
if there were any stones stacked on the ancient boulder
the welcoming oaks
above the rowing club
if anyone was sitting on a bench
Writing the list above, I suddenly remembered something, which might explain why I don’t remember noticing the welcoming oaks because I think it was near them that this happened: a chipmunk darted in front of both of us and we had to jump to avoid stepping on it. Dumb chipmunk! I’m glad that neither of us injured our feet or ankles or knees trying to avoid it. Of course, the chipmunk was fine. I recounted the story to Scott of when RJP and I had been biking to Fort Snelling and a chipmunk darted across the trail and ran right into my wheel. It was stunned or dead, I’m not sure which one.
Thinking about Simone Weil for my class this morning. I like this paraphrasing of her in a lithub article:
To attend means not to seek, but to wait; not to concentrate, but instead to dilate our minds. We do not gain insights, Weil claims, by going in search of them, but instead by waiting for them.
Thinking about being open, patient, willing to wait, letting go, trying to relax.
Open swim! Open swim! Hooray for the first open swim! It was hot and crowded and very windy. And wonderful, even though my nose plug fell off during my swim across to the little beach. I developed an allergy 6 or 7 years ago and have been wearing a nose plug ever since. I’ve often wondered if I still really needed it. Yep. Stuffed up nose last night. Oh well, I survived and now I know: always wear a nose plug.
10 Things I Noticed
the water was mostly smooth swimming from the big beach to the little beach
lots of silver streaks or flashes below me: big fish, I think
breathed every 5, except for in the choppiest parts
only got quick flashes of orange and green buoys
from the little beach back to the big beach the water was very choppy, lots of waves
when I stopped to get my bearing, or to adjust my goggles, I could hear the loud din from the big beach — so many people!
I hardly ever encountered any other swimmers out in the lake, although I know there were many more people swimming with me
glimpse 1: a swimmer, not too far from me, between the first and second buoys. All I could see was the bright yellow swim buoy tethered to their waist
glimpse 2: 2 women treading water near the 3rd orange buoy/little beach — at least, I think there were 2 of them. I couldn’t see them, just heard their voices. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, just that they were talking. I think it might have been about how difficult the swimming was today
I passed by several lifeguards on kayaks — a few of them moved back to give me space, one of them seemed to paddle alongside me for a few strokes
A great first swim. I couldn’t sight the buoys very well, and couldn’t really see that I was going the right way. I just knew I was. Maybe because my eyes were giving my brain visual data that I wasn’t consciously aware of. Maybe because I use other modes than seeing to navigate. And maybe because my body has memorized this route, having done so many loops, every summer since 2013.
*variation = south on paved river road trail/turn around under ford bridge/north on paved trail until I reached the parking lot at 44th and the entrance to the Winchell Trail/up the 38th st steps/north on the river road paved trail/back into the neighborhood at 36th
A run between raindrops. Rain, earlier this morning. Rain expected this afternoon. Everything was green and wet and sticky. By the end of the run, my skin felt like one of those damp pads you use for moistening stamps. Yuck! The dew point didn’t bother too much while I was running because I stopped a few times to speak my thoughts into my phone. Not too many people out on the trails. Quiet, except for the birds, a few kids, an occasional jackhammer.
a noise as a clue
I’ve been thinking a lot about my senses and my brain and how they alert me to what’s around me in the world. Today’s small example: walking up the 38th steps, unable to see what was above me because of all the vegetation. I heard the flash of a distinctive sound: the jingling of a dog collar. The jingling sound was quick, quiet, easy to ignore, but somehow I noticed, and it prepared me for not being surprised when I encountered the dog and their human at the top of the steps.
a new experiment
Still working on my class. Today is about attention, especially passive attention. Before I headed out I listened to a recording of a draft of my lecture so far, then I ran. About 10 minutes in, I started having interesting thoughts about attention and my class and noticing in unexpected and/or passive ways. I decided to stop and record my thoughts. About 4 or 5 minutes later, I stopped again to record more thoughts. Here’s the recording and a transcript:
Wow, I had no idea I said this much!
June 13th, a little over a mile and a half into a run in humid, muggy weather. Between raindrops, I’ve stopped to walk and record this. I’m working this morning on how to describe passive attention or soft attention or being available to seeing or attending to. I was thinking about how moving helps that and that it’s really hard to hold onto a thought. Concentration and will are a difficult thing to do, so it can help train you to do better, to be more effective, in that passive absorption. Because you don’t have a choice, you can’t really pay attention to things.
The other thing I was thinking about, just ’cause this is all jumbled, associated thoughts — I was thinking about how one of the problems with attention is the idea that we have a limited amount, and that we need to use it wisely. It’s a commodity that we spend and that we pay and therefore it’s a limited resource. But, if you think about attention differently, as not paying but giving, and you think about not holding onto or hoarding attention, but growing it or having it epand or letting go or letting it pass through you, it is no longer a commodity or limited resource. It’s something that we can expand and give in more ways than we are.
So, another thing I was thinking about was the connection between passive attention and peripheral sight and how you’re looking to the edges of what you can see. If you’re looking straight ahead, you’re thinking or noticing more what’s happening below you or above you or off to the side, even while you’re looking forward. And I was thinking about how one of the first things the opthalmologist said to me was I’d need to learn to see people by looking at their shoulders [note: to see them through my peripheral vision]. So how does that change what we see and what we can do with that sight?
I stopped recording and started running again.
Okay, I’m about 1/2 a mile, 3/4 of a mile further. I’m by the ravine where the water gushes, or does more than trickle. And that’s because..I think it’s by more houses, and also because it has rained an hour ago. Anyway, I wanted to stop so I wouldn’t forget this. So I was thinking, as I started the Winchell Trail, about how I’m talking a lot about moving and how it can help us tap into that passive attention or these different forms of giving attention, but I’m not talking about being outside, what outside does. I was thinking, if nothing else — and there’s much more — if offers more interruptions, potentially more interesting interruptions, to any focused concentration we might be having. There’s more to be distracted by, or be interrupted by, to listen to….Then I was thinking about how these interruptions and these different modes of paying attention and having all of them, also how it can be beneficial to our work to be outside moving. But it’s also good for our health, and it helps us with our lives, being able to pay attention in different ways. This is not multi-tasking in the way that it’s understood, where we’re expected to do more and more things all at once and be responsible. It’s not multi-tasking, it’s some other way, because we’re not holding onto this attention. I had a word for it when I was running and I’ve forgotten it already.
Okay, I just thought of one more thing: It’s the idea of what I’m doing right now where I’ve kind of in some ways spontaneously deciding I will run and walk then stop and talk and record these thoughts. In some ways, that’s experimenting and spontaneous, but it’s built off of all this training and showing up and building up that endurance and the ability to do that. It makes me think of how in running if you’re wanting to run longer distances, you need to have a base layer. You need to do slow, long, steady miles and build up your body so that it’s able to handle that. But that’s an important part of the process, is building up that base layer, and we can try to translate that into what’s happening with attention and these experiments.
It’s funny how some of what I was saying made much more sense when I was saying it then it does now that I’m listening and transcribing it. Regardless, recording these thoughts was helpful — and thinking about passive attention was too!
Spending time reviewing my thoughts, I’m remembering more. I remember running in a bit of a fog, partly because of the thick air, the gray sky, the deep green, and feeling present on the path, then being interrupted by a kid’s cry, or a bird’s chirp, or the rumble of a jackhammer. I’m also thinking about part of the long poem I wrote this past fall (Haunts) and my description of this space of passive attention:
5k trestle turn around 71 degrees humidity: 73% / dew point: 62 11 am
A wonderful run! Another day where it isn’t really cloudy, but CLOUD. The sky, almost white. The air, thick (or thicker than yesterday). Ran north on the river road trail past the welcoming oaks — good morning! And past the big boulder with no stones stacked. Through the tunnel of trees, above the old stone steps, under the lake street bridge, all the way to the trestle. I stopped to walk for a few seconds, turned around, and ran back. Worked on increasing my cadence while trying not to run faster and use more effort. That’s hard. I felt tired by the time I reached the trestle — and warm. The dew point is in the uncomfortable range.
10 Things I Noticed
one of the welcoming oaks is very close to the paved trail, just a few inches away
right before reaching the oaks, above the ravine, a tree that fell last week — or the week before? — is still there, leaning over the edge, split in a few places
a honk or two
2 bikers and a roller blader, moving and chatting together on the bike path
comiing up behind me, I heard a voice saying to someone else, “there’s 5 of us coming up behind you,” then one biker with a trailer passing me, then moving over to the side while 5 bikers in bright yellow shirts biked past
another, fast biker, approaching a few seconds later. I tried to listen to hear if they said, “on your left,” I don’t think so
rowers on the river! the evidence: the coxswain’s voice gently offering guidance through a bullhorn
a walker, listening to some funk music through their phone in the tunnel of trees
all (almost all?) of the benches were empty
Nearing the end of my run, when I heard the rowers, I had a moment of clarity. I decided to cross over to the grass betwen the river road and edmund and record my thoughts. Here’s a recording of it, and a transcript, with a few additional remarks:
june 12th, 2.5 miles run (note: I ran another 1/2 mile after I recorded this, also: I had only finished my run 20-30 seconds prior to recording this so my heartrate was still high and my breathing was more labored). Try to be open to being interrupted. Take notice of the sounds that interrupt you, that call out to you, almost insisting, “listen!,” as opposed to just trying as hard as you can to notice everything and to constantly be vigilant about the listening, trying to return to it again and again. While this can be useful sometimes, we also need the interruptions, the time to just be, to slow down and let the world speak to us.
Here, I try to remember the name of a poem that I think fits. I decided it was titled “Lost.” It is!
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you. If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.
Also, another example of this is the time I was really focused on running, not paying attention, to the point that I didn’t even notice the geese that were on the other side of the road, congregating in someone’s front yard. All of a sudden, one of them gobbled, not ferociously but loudly, almost yelling at me to listen and to notice.
Three things to note here: First, I wrote about this moment in my running log, under the heading “delight of the day” on march 2, 2022.
Secone, it was not geese who interrupted me, but turkeys (hence, the gobble reference). I think I mis-said geese because I was thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese and the lines:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Third, this recording was inspired by a moment on today’s run when I was interrupted by something. I forgot to say what that something was in the recording and I’m already struggling to remember it. I think it was the voice of the rower?
And, that’s…to get to that point..ooo! And then I think about how Mary Oliver has that poem where she talks about how some people can just get there right away. They just open up and stuff pours in. Others of us need a lot more practice. It’s a constant struggle…This would be..the exercise is kind of passive insofar as you’re not doing anything to make it happen, you’re just letting it happen and be around and aware when it does.
Mary Oliver doesn’t exactly write, “stuff pours in,”she writes:
from “The Book of Time” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver
For some souls it’s easy; they lie down on the sand and are soon asleep. For others, the mind shivers in its glacial palace, and won’t come. Yes, the mind takes a long time, is otherwise occupied than by hapiness, and deep breathing. Now, in the distance, some bird is singing. And now I have gathered six or seven deep red, half-opened cups of petals betwen my hands, and now I have put my face against them and now I am moving my face back and forth, slowly, against them. The body is not much more than two feet and a tongue. Come to me, says the blue sky, and say the word. And finally even the mind comes running, like a wild thing, and lies down on the sand. Eternity is not later, or in any unfindable place. Roses, roses, roses.
Having this moment of clarity was so great. Before heading out for my run, I was struggling to describe the different forms of attention that we’ll be working on in my class. I have too many ideas, too many sources, too many things that I want to share. I was feeling overwhelmed. On the run, I wasn’t thinking about how to work through this problem, but this idea of interruptions and being open to them found me. This “finding” is an excellent example of what I’m trying to teach about the value of moving outside! It’s not all that we can do while moving, and it doesn’t always happen, but it’s part of why I show up almost every day beside the gorge, moving and breathing and trying to be present.
As I thought about attention before I went out for a run, and the types of attention I want to describe in my lecture recording (I’m doing it like a podcast), I thought about Mary Oliver’s poem “Luke” as a good example of being open to attention. After typing up those bits from MO’s The Leaf and the Cloud above, I see some strong connections between it and “Luke.”
Luke/ Mary Oliver
I had a dog who loved flowers. Briskly she went through the fields,
yet paused for the honeysuckle or the rose, her dark head
and her wet nose touching the face of every one
with its petals of silk, with its fragrance rising
into the air where the bees, their bodies heavy with pollen,
hovered— and easily she adored every blossom,
not in the serious, careful way that we choose this blossom or that blossom—
the way we praise or don’t praise— the way we love or don’t love— but the way
we long to be— that happy in the heaven of earth— that wild, that loving.
Thank you running and the gorge and my feet for making it possible for me to move so that I could untangle this knot in my thinking and be with the birds and the rowers and the river!
bike: about 12 miles* around lake nokomis and back
*my very outdated, over-the-hill apple watch crashed again while we were biking, so I don’t know the exact distance. Somewhere between 11.5 and 12 miles. I finally decided that I need a new watch. It’s coming on Tuesday: an early birthday present!
Biked with FWA over to the lake to pick up our swim caps! Tuesday is the first open swim! Hooray!! Several memorable things happened, which I want to remember for me and for FWA:
At Sandcastle, they had entertainment: a singer with a guitar. He sang John Denver’s “Country Roads,” but changed some of the words to fit Minneapolis. Instead of Almost heaven, West Virginia he sang, Almost heaven, South Minneapolis, which was awkward. He kept in Shenandoah River in Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River when, as FWA suggested, he could have sang, Mississippi River
Picking up our caps, a lifeguard asked FWA if he goes to Gustavus (he was wearing a Gustavus t-shirt). When he said yes, she added: “My friend and I just transferred from there to St. Olaf.” Anyone who goes/went to either Gustavus or St. Olaf and knows about their rivalry and might find this remark funny
Biking to lake nokomis on the minnehaha creek path, rounding a hidden corner, we heard a bell ringing repeatedly. It came from a double-recumbant bike, just letting us know they were there. Tne franctic ringing and the sight of a recumbant bike with 2 people on it seemed surreal and strange and funny