august 28/RUN

3.15 miles
marshall loop
69 degrees / dew point: 69
10:00 am

Last night it stormed. Thunder, heavy rain, wind. This morning everything wet with branches littering the path. A gray sky. Too humid. I ran north on the river road through the tunnel of trees up to and over the lake street bridge. Heard the deep voice of a coxswain, then saw a few rowing boats in the distance, closer to the ford bridge. Climbed the marshall hill, across Cretin, then down the river road on the east side. I stopped on the lake street bridge to study the river. Just below me, I saw something in the water — a sandbar just below the surface? Yes! The sandbar stretched northeast. Only a trace, a slight lightening of the water.

Checked my phone and noticed Scott was less than a mile away. Ran back over the bridge to St. Paul to meet him at the end of his run. We stopped briefly at a bench overlooking the river and I took a picture of this plaque embedded in concrete beside it:

a plaque embedded in the sidewalk with the inscription: In memory of Dr. Lidia Gilburd Eichenholz 1924-2008 Physician Mother Friend Lidia was a holocaust survivor who suffered great loss and often found pleace walking by this great river.
plaque, just north of the lake street bridge

Earlier this morning, I wrote a draft of a poem about the giant pedal boat swans at Lake Nokomis:

untitled/ sara puotinen*

Too big for this small
lake, half a dozen
giant white swans are
spread out across the
far shore in a slow
processional of
magic & menace.
Each time I breathe to
my left they appear.
Sometimes I ignore
them, sometimes I race
them, and sometimes I
believe they’re not boats.

*a few years back I decided my writing name would be Sara Lynne Puotinen, but last month, when someone in a facebook comment referred to me as Sara Lynne, I started rethinking this decision. I like Sara or Sara Lynne Puotinen (the way I say lynne and puWATTinen rhymes), but I really do not like Sara Lynne!

august 27/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow loop
69 degrees / humidity: 86%
10:00 am

Windy and warm this late morning. As I started the run, I recited Christina Rosetti’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?”:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has the seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Then Richard Siken’s “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/tremble but I am invisible” from “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.”

It might be fun to have a few favorite lines for each type of weather so I could recite them as I ran. What could I do for heat and humidity?

Ran south on the river road trail. Crowded with too many pairs of bikers not moving over enough. Unlike yesterday, my attitude/mood, wasn’t the problem; it was the narrow trail and bikers’ unwillingness to bike single file in these narrow spots. I decided to cross over to Edmund and do the turkey hollow loop instead of staying on the trail. Before I crossed, I think I heard the rowers down below.

No turkeys in turkey hollow. Later, near Becketwood, I thought I saw a turkey, but it was only some dark plastic wrapped around a tree, protecting its trunk. I’ve thought these wraps were turkeys before, many times.

I don’t remember the river at all. Did I forgot to look? Was it still too veiled?

Disputed Tread/ Hazel Hall

Where she steps a whir,
Like dust about her feet,
Follows after her
Down the dustless street.

Something struggles there:
The forces that contend
Violently as to where
Her pathway is to end.

Issues, like great hands, grip
And wrestle for her tread;
One would strive to trip,
And one would go ahead.

Conflicting strengths in her 
Grapple to guide her feet,
Raising an unclean whir,
Like dust, upon the street.

Here’s the About This Poem description:

“Disputed Tread” first appeared in Walkers (Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1922). The poem, composed of rhyming quatrains in a loose trimeter, likens the blur, or “whir,” of the movement of one’s feet to the cloud of dust it would otherwise rouse on a dusty road. Regarding the poem, poet Margery Swett Mansfield remarks, in her review of Hall’s Walkers published in Poetry vol. 22, no. 5 (August 1923), titled “Beyond Sight and Hearing,” that “[s]urely no one has ever wrung more meaning from a footfall! Feet tell her the truth even when her mind would prefer the more comforting conclusions of philosophy.”

Feet tell her the truth even when her mind would prefer the more comforting conclusions of philosophy. I like this idea of the truth of our striking feet.

Before I ran this morning, I found this interview with Victoria Chang: The Arc Moves a Little Upwards: A Conversation with Victoria Chang Curated by Lisa Olstein. Here are a few bits I’d like to remember:

I use many different types of syllabics such as tankas, katautas, chokas.

Later, I’ll look these up. I’m always looking for new forms!

LO: “Form sets the thought free,” says Anne Carson, and I believe her. How did form and thought co-evolve in the unfolding of this work?

VC: I love this quote. I have heard similar things said in different ways. I myself sometimes say form is like putting the guard rails up while bowling–what freedom that gives to the process of bowling (one feels more free while releasing the ball) and then there’s a better chance of getting a strike. But of course, Anne Carson is more elegant than I am with her quote. 

For The Trees Witness Everything book, form was the main constraint (and freedom) of the poems. I had to rewrite lines, phrases, in some cases, entire poems because the syllables didn’t work. The constraints truly freed up my mind to go wherever the poem needed/wanted to go.

august 26/RUN

5.15 miles
franklin loop
64 degrees / humidity: 85%
8:40 am

Wow, what a wonderful late summer morning! Sunny, but cool. Noisy (with cicadas), but calm. I was hoping to run nice and slow, and I did, until I started creeping up on a runner ahead of me. I was running just faster than them and slowly gaining. As I neared, I noticed the runner slowed their pace to let me pass (I do that too — unlike some other runners who speed up as you near — very annoying). So, I picked up the pace to pass and never slowed down again. Oops. So much for a slow run!

In the first miles of the run, lots of people seemed to be getting in my way. Running too close, or walking on the wrong side. When I noticed it was almost everyone, I realized it probably wasn’t them, but me. I must be in a bad mood. So I let go, stopped feeling hostility towards everyone else, and within a few minutes no one was getting in my way. Funny how that works.

10 Things I Heard

  1. the electric buzz of cicadas*
  2. a few fragments of conversation that I can’t remember
  3. an old van, bouncing around on the road, sounding like broken springs on an old mattress
  4. the radio in that same van, playing some music I couldn’t recognize
  5. a chipmunk** chucking or clucking (I like chuck better than cluck)
  6. water sprinkling out of the seeps in the limestone on the eastern side of the gorge, sounding almost like wind through the trees
  7. the rumble of a garbage truck in the alley at the beginning of my run as I made my way to the river
  8. the rowers down below
  9. the quick foot strikes of a runner behind, then beside, then way in front of me
  10. walking back, nearing my block, a mailman speaking to someone in his mail truck: Open the door and then look out to check for cars. Was he training another mailman? That’s my guess

*Speaking of cicadas, I recorded their loud buzz right after I finished my run:

august cicadas / 9:30 am on 26 august 2022

**Found this Ogden Nash poem about the chipmunk:

The Chipmunk/ Ogden Nash

My friends all know that I am shy,
But the chipmunk is twice and shy and I.
He moves with flickering indecision
Like stripes across the television.
He’s like the shadow of a cloud,
Or Emily Dickinson read aloud.

Emily Dickinson read aloud? Reactions to this line: Huh? No. Maybe. The maybe came when I remembered Susan Howe’s description of ED’s poetics of humility and hesitation in her book, My Emily Dickinson (I bought this book earlier this summer. Is this a sign that I should read it now?).

Emily Dickinson took the scraps from the separate “higher” female education many bright women of her time were increasingly resenting, combined them with voracious and “unladylike” outside reading, and used the combination. She built a new poetic form from her fractured sense of being eternally on inteIlectual borders, where confident masculine voices buzzed an alluring and inaccessible discourse, backward through history into aboriginal anagogy. Pulling pieces of geometry, geology, alchemy, philosophy, politics, biography, biology, mythology, and philology from alien territory, a “sheltered” woman audaciously invented a new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation. HESITATE from the Latin, meaning to stick. Stammer. To hold back in doubt, have difficulty speaking. “He may pause but he must not hesitate”-Ruskin. Hesitation circled back and surrounded everyone in that confident age of aggressive industrial expansion and brutal Empire building. Hesitation and Separation. The Civil War had split American in two. He might pause, She hesitated. Sexual, racial, and geographical separation are at the heart of Definition.

My Emily Dickinson/ Susan Howe

One more thing about the chipmunk. I find them irritating and loud and their hesitations (when crossing my path) or frantic scurrying after confounding my dog by hiding in the gutter, are annoying. Scott and I refer to them as chippies, like when we yell in exasperation at their incessant chucking or scurrying or darting, Chippies!

august 25/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees
5:00 / 7:00 pm

Biked to Lake Nokomis for the last open swim of the season. Hooray for being able to see enough to bike safely! Hooray for having a trail for the whole way, and never having to ride in the road! Saw at least one surrey, a roller skier, some high school cross country runners, a little girl biking on her own (I thought about asking if she was okay, but she looked fine and I’m sure she was), a person on a blanket — or were they wrapped in a blanket? I couldn’t tell as I biked past — napping at the corner where you turn away from Hiawatha and towards the creek. This seemed like a strange place to stop and hang out. When I returned 2 hours later, they were still there. I mentioned this to Scott and he said he has seen a person at that spot too. He mentioned they were possible unhoused (which I learned from Scott is the term used now instead of homeless).

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees
5:30 pm


The final open swim of the year. I thought there would be one tomorrow — the calendar says there is — but the lifeguards announced that tonight was it. Glad I was able to make it. All season (and in seasons past, too), I’ve wanted to swim later, until the sun was lower on the water. Usually, I swim for an hour than I’m done. Tonight I stayed later (and the sun dropped sooner). I imagined the beautiful glow of a softening sun on the water as I neared the big beach. Instead, it was a harsh, overwhelmingly bright sun concealing all my sighting landmarks. I still knew where to go, but this time I was completely blind. When I looked up, all I saw was shine. No worries. I still made it with no problem (and no panic).

I tried to absorb as much of the swim as I could for the long winter and the spring, especially the image I’ve chosen to haunt me: rounding the second green buoy, swimming parallel to the beach, reaching for the small orange dot of a buoy far off in the distance. Tonight I noticed how the lake was empty in front of me until I reached a certain point, then the orange dot appeared, disappeared, then appeared again. So far, until suddenly it wasn’t.

10 Things to Remember When the Water is Iced Over

  1. finishing a loop, swimming parallel to the big beach: a row of giant swans (boats) stretching across the lake
  2. how the water darkens right under the buoy as I round it
  3. the silver flashes below
  4. a vee of geese just above the water
  5. before entering the water: standing on the shore, lining up the orange buoys — 1 2 3 in a row
  6. starting my workout out, waiting a few seconds, then diving down into the water as I start my strokes
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left
  8. the confidence (and complete lack of doubt) over where the buoy is — knowing even when I can’t see it, I’m swimming straight to it
  9. the gentle rocking of the choppy water
  10. on the rare day without wind when the water is still and quiet and I feel like I’m out there almost alone — just me, the fish, and the water

9 months until I get to do this again. As I stood in the shallow water at the end of my swim, I overheard one swimmer say to another: “I’m thinking of joining a pool for the off-season, but it’s not the same.” It isn’t the same, but I’m thinking of doing that too. I feel this urge to swim all winter. It’s harder. More expensive, difficult to get to a pool (especially when you can’t drive, like me), too many flip turns, harsh chlorine, crowded lanes.

Anything else I noticed? A swimming duck, a roaring military plane, 2 paddle boarders crossing right in front of me, the (too) straight arms of a stroking swimmer as they neared the first orange buoy, the completely opaque water — almost yellow. I tried to see my hand in front of me as it entered the water, but I couldn’t, how the far white buoy kept getting farther and farther away as I swam towards it.

It was a great season. Lots of loops. Felt strong and confident and happy. Was able to share some of it with my son. Could still see well enough to bike. Only missed a few days. Reached my goal of 100 loops. Only lost one nose plug (and a swim cap).

about buoys

 buoys are liminal. Both immersed in the water and bobbing in air. They are both warning and protection. Buoys indicate boundaries which are dynamic rather than fixed—boundaries comprised of light and imagination and mutual agreement. No hard lines, no barriers, no fence of barbwire and concrete…

Bright Buoy, Dark Sea/ Lauren K. Carlson

august 24/RUNSWIM

run: 3 miles
2 trails
75 degrees
10:10 am

Up above, a playlist: Harry Styles, Queen, Foo Fighters. Down below, the river gorge. An easy run.

surfaces run on: concrete, asphalt, dirt, grass, gravel, partly crushed acorns, decomposing leaves

Lots of chipmunks darting across the path. Lots of squirrels rustling in the dry brush. Busy, preparing for winter.

Turkeys! 6 or 7 of them just off the trail near the WPA steps at the 44th street parking lot. The one closest to the trail opened its wings in warning. Keep your distance! I did. I’m not messing with any wild turkeys!

Dripping sewer pipes. Light blue river. Fuzzy green vegetation, air. I couldn’t tell if it was my bad vision or some haze, but everything was soft and out of focus. I felt removed from the world, floating above the path in a bubble.

Down in the oak savanna, they haven’t trimmed back the wildflowers and tall grass in months. I ran through a tall line of sunflowers. Hello friends!

Smelled the sewer, almost tripped on a root. Powered up the damp gravel to the beat of a gulping chipmunk — what would you call that sound they make, almost like the hitting of a woodblock?

Noticed several leaning trees. Will they fall during the next heavy storm?

Thought about a few lines I just read while reviewing a newspaper article about the farmer who sold the last plot of land to Minneapolis for Lake Nokomis. The farmer’s name? Ebenezer Hodson. An interesting guy. The lines?

In the 1850s, his aging uncle Isaac — who fought in the Revolutionary War — urged him to seek his fortune in the Minnesota Territory. Treaties with the Dakota people had opened up land for white settlers west of the Mississippi

Treaties with the Dakota people had opened up land for white settlers? I imagined writing an erasure poem using this article that focused on how the land was stolen, the treaties illegal. Now, after looking at that phrase again, I’m struck by its passivity, as if the land just opened up, or the treaty did the work and not the settler colonizers who crafted their dubious/illegal/violent treaties and then failed to honor them. It reminds me of a poem I posted on nov 13, 2021.

Passive Voice/ LAURA DA’

I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.

Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.

Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.

I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village—

Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter. 
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.

Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
stripped hands
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.

swim: 1 small loop / .5 big loop
cedar lake open swim
84 degrees
5:30 pm

The last Cedar Lake swim of the season. FWA came along and we did a loop together — he swam breaststroke, I swam freestyle, with some butterfly and backstroke mixed in. FWA ended up going to 4 or 5 open swims this season, and swam a loop at Lake Nokomis once. It was fun to share it with him, and good for me to have a few swims where I didn’t just swim as fast and as hard as I could.

Cedar Lake was on brand tonight, for sure. No lifeguards around, no buoys, loud music blasting across the lake, open water swimmers swimming even without the lifeguards and wherever they wanted — way off to the side, stopping in the middle. In the past this probably would have bothered me, but not now. Am I mellowing out? I hope so.

There was no wind, no waves, a warming light from the setting sun. A beautiful night! So happy I was able to spend these moments with FWA!

august 23/RUNSWIM

run: 4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
66 degrees / humidity: 79%
8:30 am

As (almost) always, another good run. Was lulled into a dreamy state by the gentle whooshing of the cars as I ran south on the river road trail without headphones. Then ran a minute faster per mile while listening to Taylor Swift on the way back. Do I remember any of my thoughts? Not really.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a metal shovel scraping the bare pavement
  2. a regular I haven’t seen in a while: the woman in a skirt and sandals that I used to see when I ran south last year. Not sure if I ever gave her a name
  3. an older couple with a dog, spread out across the entire walking path
  4. Mr. Morning! — Good morning!
  5. the loud crash of an acorn falling to the ground, then the crack of another as a squirrel opened it
  6. the falls, rushing over the limestone ledge
  7. my shadow, below me in the trees, getting a closer look of the creek below the falls. At one point, she waved to me
  8. the bugs! Just past the south end of the ford bridge, after Locks and Dam no 1, thee’s a field with tall grass and lots of bugs: crickets, cicadas…maybe some frogs too?
  9. no surreys out yet at the falls
  10. a roller skier in the parking lot of locks and dam no 1

Have I posted this poem before? I don’t think so, but I definitely read it and thought about the idea of being of use. I like the water/swimming metaphors throughout.

to be of use :: marge piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

I’m not sure how I feel about it, or how often I manage to achieve, but I am drawn to the idea of being useful, doing something useful. A problem: I am also drawn to things that might not immediately seem useful (or practical), but are essential and necessary. What does that mean? I’ll have to think about that some more.

addendum, 25 august: Thinking more about what is useful and useless, partly inspired by Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing (among others) and her critique of productivity and who it serves. The version of useful that Odell and others are critiquing is about being used/exploited and serving/feeding the interests of the most powerful. That it not what Marge Piercy is talking about, and yet, the terms work and usefulness are so tethered to capitalism, sometimes it’s hard for me to read them otherwise. My efforts to do so, and to rethink/reclaim work, is another one of my ongoing projects.

Today I started reading Julie Otsuka’s The Swimmers. I LOVED the first chapter (which is as far as I’ve gotten) and her description of the various types of people who are drawn to swimming regularly in a basement pool. I could really relate to her descriptions of the different types of people and their quirks.

I love this description of why swimming matters:

And for a brief interlude we are at home in the world. Bad moods lift, tics disappear, memories reawaken, migraines dissolve, and slowly, slowly the chatter in our minds begins to subside as stroke after stroke, length after length, we swim. And when we are finished with our laps we hoist outselves up out of the pool, dripping and refreshed, our equilibrium restored, ready to face another day on land.

I also enjoy her description of how people are categorized “down below.” Up above, in their “real lives,” people have a variety of jobs, character quirks, relationship struggles, illnesses, “but down below, at the pool, we are only one of three things: fast-lane people, medium-lane people or the slow.”

I feel like I could type up this entire chapter; there are so many details that resonate. Since that would be too much, I think I’ll just make a list of the various lists she has (which in the book aren’t in list form, but in descriptive paragraphs):

Lists in Julie Otsuka’s Chapter, “The Underground Pool”

  • the reasons why regular swimmers come to the underground pool
  • how the swimmers leave their troubles behind in the pool
  • what the swimmers are escaping “up above”
  • the rules at the pool
  • hobbies/mistakes/conditions/occupations up above, in the “real world”
  • the three types down below
  • how swimming restores the aging swimmers
  • people to watch out for
  • the locker room regulars who don’t swim
  • the rotating lifeguards
  • what the swimmers dream about when they dream about swimming (which is every night)
  • the various rituals the swimmers must complete as part of the swimming
  • things found at the bottom of the pool

Oh, I’m so happy I found this book! I checked it out of the library, but I might need to buy it.

updated, 23 september: If you’ve read this book, you know I’m in for a shock, and I was. Honestly, I will need to come back to the rest of the chapters, which never return to swimming again, sometime in the future. As I read about the main character being admitted to a care facility, I was dealing with my beloved mother-in-law being hospitalized and then needing a nursing home (and now in hospice and days? weeks? from dying).

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
83 degrees
5:30 pm

Made it to my 100th loop tonight! It was too crowded — on the beach and in the water, but it was a great swim. If I had had time, I could have done a loop or two more. Maybe on Thursday? The water was warm and a little choppy. I couldn’t see where I was going on the way back from the little beach, but it didn’t matter because I knew where to swim. A few menancing swans.

favorite thing about tonight’s swim? the light, especially what the light did to the water. A late summer light, softer, making the water look soft too. I could tell the sun would be setting earlier than it had in July.

an image I’ll remember in February: rounding the green buoy, swimming parallel to the big beach, heading towards the first orange buoy to start another loop. I see the orange buoy way off in the distance, looking impossibly far away and small. Such a strange vision: the buoy so far away, this part of the loop looking extra long. I imagine myself visualizing that stretch of water with the far off orange dot sometime this winter when I’m missing the water.

august 22/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill turn around
67 degrees
9:00 am

What a beautiful morning! No bugs, not much wind, shade. Ran to a little past the bottom of the franklin hill, turned around, then ran until I reached the franklin bridge. Stopped to walk for a few minutes. Recorded some thoughts. Put on a playlist.

Noticed the tree that looks like a tuning fork, but forgot to count the stones stacked on the cairn. Also noticed the spot at the bottom of the tunnel of bridges where there’s green air. Heard some rowers and at least one roller skier.

As I ran north on the river road trail, 3 different bikers passed me, a few minutes apart. They all looked the same: white woman in black shorts and black tank top. Were they, and if not, did they look the same to people with better vision? I looked at their shoes, all different. Woman 1: black biking shoes, white socks. Woman 2: running shoes. Woman 3: sandals. For me, looking at feet can be helpful. Why?

Chanted a few triple berries — strawberry/blueberry/blackberry — but then became distracted.

Listened to the birds, including the black-capped chickadee’s feebee song.

At the bottom of the hill, the river was flat and brown and still.

Noticed a bench facing a wall of green, no view of the river. A man was standing behind the bench, looking at the wall? Or maybe finding a way through to the river?

Speaking of a way through, I caught a glimpse of shimmering white light through the trees. The river on fire from the sun!

Lately I’ve been thinking that I feel more like a boat than a fish in the water. Today’s thought: although we often think that a fish is a living thing and a boat is not, is that true? I thought about how boats decay — wood decomposes, metal rusts. What lives on a boat that makes it die? Where am I going with this? Not sure. I am interested in the idea of rust and rot and decay and its relationship to change, transformation, and breathing/air. Also the idea of things like boats, that we might imagine only as objects that are dead, as living things that breathe.

Water and Stone/ Frances Boyle

“When viewed in deep time, things come alive that seemed inert. … Ice breathes. Rock has tides. Mountains ebb and flow. Stone pulses. We live on a restless Earth.”
—Robert Macfarlane in Underlands

Inside your house, the radiator ticks, floors
shift and mutter. The skeleton of struts
and beams is clad with plaster and paint.

You’ve adorned the walls with more paint
—on canvas, on paper. A visiting friend
admires the art, the book-crammed shelves.

Talk turns to what she’s read, what
you haven’t. Excuses for uncracked spines.

Your dog’s steps are halting now, nail-
clack on hardwood more syncopated
than staccato. You hear him sigh.

In the driveway, a crunch as tires compress
the snow. A squirrel traverses wire and bare
branches. The tremble at leafless ends.

You feel the slow flow of tidal rock
how the current supports you, carries you.

august 21/SWIM

5.5 loops (5 big + 3 little)
lake nokomis open swim
68 degrees
9:45 am

Mission accomplished! Today, I was the last one off of the course. I had been planning to swim the entire 2 hours, but the lifeguards started late (staffing problems), so I didn’t get going across the lake until almost 10. Before the buoys were out, I swam 3 little loops around the white buoys. The water! So wonderful: calm, buoyant, not too hot or cold. Perfect conditions for swimming for 110 minutes.

This swim was a highlight of the summer. I felt strong and fast and confident. I never doubted myself — what I was doing or where I was going. I think I wrote about this last year (or a few years ago?). When I am swimming I don’t question what I’m doing, or wonder whether I should be doing it some other way. I don’t feel judged, by me or anyone else. I mostly feel this way when I’m running too, but not as intensely as when I’m in the water swimming. I would like to find this feeling in other things, but right now, swimming is enough.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. swans (boats), off to my right, 2 or 3 in a line, going the same speed as me
  2. later, a lone swan (boat) to my left, right by the far green buoy
  3. a few vines, passing over my arm
  4. the middle green buoy was flopping over to one side — did they forget to inflate it all the way, or does it have a leak?
  5. blue sky with a few streaks of clouds, bright sun
  6. a few birds — seagulls? geese? — above me, their wings spread wide
  7. a military plane, rumbling
  8. extremely cold pockets of water — so cold! It felt like swimming through ice water. Instant goosebumps
  9. felt extra buoyant and high on the water — no problems breathing to my left
  10. on the last loop (I started it at 11:10), I felt like I was the only one in the water. I stopped briefly to check: silence. Such a cool feeling to be out there alone

a few things to put in a poem, or poems

  • the joy of swimming fast, past other swimmers
  • the irritation of another swimmer pushing me off course
  • the image of pink disembodied heads bobbing in the water
  • feeling slightly competitive, wanting to be one of the fastest (I usually am), but also wanting faster swimmers to hurry up and get past me so I can be alone in the water again
  • the dreamy state I felt after getting out to go to the bathroom and returning to the water — almost like my body had dissolved into the lake
  • my feet, acting as rudders
  • when a green buoy lines up just right with the white sails of the boats just beyond it (which seems to happen a lot), I lose the color — the green is gone

I found this poem on twitter yesterday:

A Drink of Water/ Jeffrey Harrison

When my nineteen-year-old son turns on the kitchen tap
and leans down over the sink and tilts his head sideways
to drink directly from the stream of cool water,
I think of my older brother, now almost ten years gone,
who used to do the same thing at that age;

And when he lifts his head back up and, satisfied,
wipes the water dripping from his cheek
with his shirtsleeve, it’s the same casual gesture
my brother used to make; and I don’t tell him
to use a glass, the way our father told my brother,

because I like remembering my brother
when he was young, decades before anything
went wrong, and I like the way my son
becomes a little more my brother for a moment
through this small habit born of a simple need,

which, natural and unprompted, ties them together
across the bounds of death, and across time . . .
as if the clear stream flowed between two worlds
and entered this one through the kitchen faucet,
my son and brother drinking the same water.

I love this poem and the idea of gestures/acts/habits getting passed on, serving as reminders and connections.

august 20/RUN

5.1 miles
ford loop
65 degrees / humidity: 85%
9:15 am

A good run. I stopped after 3.5 miles. Partly to check out the view at the overlook, and partly because I sped up too much between miles 2 and 3 (I went a minute faster than mile 2 on mile 3) and needed a break. A beautiful morning. No rowers or roller skiers or radios blasting. A few big packs of runners. Mostly cloudless sky, bright, blue river.

favorite view

Take the steps down from the lake st/marshall ave bridge and head up the hill on the east river road trail. Near the top, enjoy the view on your right side of the wide open river, stretching out below you. The best part of this view: the openness! nothing between you and the river, except for air.

overheard conversation fragment

Two women walkers. One said this to the other: “It’s time for them to go back to school!” Agreed. But, who is them? Their kids? Somebody else’s kids? Their grandkids? And, why do they need to be back in school? Are they bored? Annoying? Causing problems? Wanting to learn?

an interview I’m reading

Writing a Grove: A Conversation with Poet Laureate Ada Limón

Ada: Absolutely. I worked on it over several months while meeting with this wonderful writing group. We have to bring in something each time we meet, and I just kept writing about trees. Week after week, it kept happening and happening. I couldn’t stop. But they were so supportive and wonderful. They became a sort of an anchor for the project. And it just kept growing. I didn’t expect it to be so long, but I also felt like it could go on forever.

Camille: Some of the obsessions are never going to leave you, and to me, that was part of what I loved. With each page I thought, Oh, I’ve seen this before, but how is she going to manage it differently? It reminded me of the Miles Davis quote about John Coltrane that was a guiding force for me as I was writing my first book, when I was really worried that I was doing the same thing over and over and over again. And I read the liner notes where Davis wrote about Coltrane’s first solo album. He said, “I don’t understand why people don’t get John Coltrane’s music. All he is trying to do is play the same note as many ways as he possibly can.”

I love this quote from Miles Davis and this idea of doing something over and over again but in different ways and the idea of obsessions. Some of my obsessions: open views (running) and staying on course (open swimming). It’s interesting to notice how I return again and again to these two things in this online log. I’d like to play around with variations on this theme: Even though I can barely or hardly ever see the buoys, I manage to stay on course. This never stops astonishing me.

Scrolling through my reading list, I found another interview with Ada Limón (she’s very busy these days!) over at The Rumpus: Resurrection On A Daily Basis: Exploring The Hurting Kind with Ada Limón. Here’s a bit about deep looking:

The Rumpus: You write, “I am getting so good at watching.” What is the role of close observation in poetry, and how as poets can we better cultivate the skill?

Ada Limón: I think that’s a great place to start. Really watching, noticing, and deep looking—not the distracted looking, but really curious looking—that’s a way of loving and a way of valuing, and I don’t think I knew that before. I think that I thought watching was part of life, and I thought it was part of the creative work of being a poet. And I always thought observation was important, but I didn’t know it was also the thing that connected you to the world on a larger scale, not just in the way of making poems and making art, but in the way of making your life feel connected and whole and complete.

When I’m feeling blue, which I often do, just watching even for five minutes, the birds, or even just looking at my plant in the window, just the smallest thing, or looking at my dog, I’m reminded of what it is to be a living thing amidst this living world. In some ways it takes me out of myself. If I were to offer that to other people, what it is to look without the foregone conclusion, without the narrative, without the—What am I going to turn this into?—but instead to look with a real curiosity and to de-center themselves a little bit in that looking.

Resurrection On A Daily Basis: Exploring The Hurting Kind with Ada Limón.

Deep looking is without judgment or expectation or a pre-formed narrative. It involves de-centering ourselves. She describes it as watching or looking or staring? Does this looking always mean close scrutiny? Limón suggests that this watching connects us to the world.

Now I’m thinking about another passage on looking/observing/noticing that I recently encountered (via BrainPickings/the Marginalia) from the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne:

The best way to get a vivid impression and feeling of a landscape, is to sit down before it and read, or become otherwise absorbed in thought; for then, when your eyes happen to be attracted to the landscape, you seem to catch Nature unawares, and see her before she has time to change her aspect. The effect lasts but for a single instant, and passes away almost as soon as you are conscious of it; but it is real, for that moment. It is as if you could overhear and understand what the trees are whispering to one another; as if you caught a glimpse of a face unveiled, which veils itself from every willful glance. The mystery is revealed, and after a breath or two, becomes just as great a mystery as before.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

I like the idea of not focusing on (or closely watching) something, but letting it find you. As I read this again though, I don’t like the language he uses — “overhear, catch Nature unawares, catching a glimpse of a face unveiled.” I don’t like the idea of spying on nature (or being a peeping Tom!).

One more thing I found in my Safari Reading List that fits (loosely) with my discussion so far. In the first interview with Limón mentioned in this entry, Camille Dunghy names Ada Limón’s collection of small essays a grove. Here’s a wonderful poem I found on twitter a few days ago, with the same name:

The Grove/ Jay Hopler

Like unborn suns in bunches hung from branches bent by
years spent holding up such pulp-plump fruit,
Gorgeous and corpulent, their green rinds tight
And shining, sheened with rain, the season’s first blood
Oranges are on the trees.

How beautiful they would look against a blue
Sky! How weary they look against this black
One–––.

To be born tired and to live tired and to die tired.
To die of tiredness. Not as hard to imagine as it used to be.
Was ever there a sky this low?
No, and still there’s not.
It’s just a flock of black-

Birds shrouding out above the trees. The moon
Is up there…somewhere.
And the stars.

august 19/SWIM

2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
65 degrees
10:00 am

Again this morning, I thought open swim would be cancelled because of thunderstorms. Only delayed! I did a fast two loops while Scott ran around the lake. The water was cooler, but I liked that.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the cry of a seagull
  2. then, a bunch of seagulls* congregating on the beach
  3. a grayish white sky
  4. the green buoy looked white from a distance and like a sail from a sailboat
  5. setting up the course, the lifeguard directing the other lifeguards on where to place the buoys used the following as points of orientation: the 50th street beach (the little beach), cedar bridge, and wheels of fun. Wheels of fun? I delightedly thought this might be some inside joke until I mentioned it to Scott and he said it was a reference to the bike rental place. I prefer to think of it as an inside joke between lifeguards referring to some place or thing or memory about the lake or guarding it
  6. a few silver flashes below
  7. a vine crossing over my arm
  8. a menancing swan pedal boat in the middle of the course**
  9. feeling buoyant and strong, floating on top of the water
  10. breathing every 5 strokes

*some names for a collection of seagulls: a flock (and I ran, I ran so far away), colony, squabble, flotilla, scavenging, gullery

**some names for a collection of swans: wedge, ballet, lamentation, whiteness, regatta. I think I prefer, a menace of swans.

Here’s a useful article about collective names for birds: Popular Names for Flocks of Birds and How They Fly Together

Sometimes when I’m in the water, swimming fast and with strong strokes, I remember my much younger self: Sara, age 8. Strong, brave, sturdy, solid, a force to be reckoned with. This poem makes me think of her:

Girl in the Woods/ Alice White

I get glimpses of her in pictures, in
a t-shirt and no underwear, before
she cared, or bareback on a horse before
the branch. Before boobs, before boys. Before
school she was everywhere, that much is sure —
before the world condensed into a shape
to fit into. Some days I can sense her:
I disappeard from a girl scout campout
to comandeer a wooden raft I found,
looking. My counsellor shook her head, just said
I wouldn’t have expected this of you.
Whever I think I’ve got hold of her,
she kicks my shin and wriggles from my grasp,
runs for the trees, calls back, Try and catch me —