april 5/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
54 degrees
wind: 5 mph

What a day! Took Delia out for a walk this morning. An hour later, sat on the deck and was inspired by the birds to write a beautiful little poem conjuring my mom. Then, around 12:30, went for a run by the gorge. Okay spring! The run wasn’t easy, but wasn’t hard either. My legs are sore from running every day since Tuesday. Tomorrow I’ll take a break.

Listened to birds running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist on the way back south. Wind songs heard today: “Ride Like the Wind” — fast? frantic? under pressure? and “You’re Only Human (Second Wind); — forgiving and resilient and a reprieve

I’m sure I looked at the river, but I don’t remember doing it, or what it looked like. I do remember that the floodplain forest looked open and brown and full of trees that had been through a flood or two. No roller skiers or rowers. No radios or impatient cars. Did hear a few unpleasant goose honks near the lake street bridge.

Beaufort Scale

The History of the Beaufort Scale

Before the run I reviewed the Beaufort Scale and rediscovered a Beaufort Scale poem by Alice Oswald. Gave myself the task of trying to describe the wind today:

running north: make your own wind — or breeze?
south: hair raising . . . leg hair raising . . . calf hair raising
east: no need to shield the microphone; a welcomed air-conditioning after a hard effort; still leaves still; the branches moving so slightly my cone-dead eyes cannot detect their movement — no trees waving to me today . . . rude; flag flapping but no wind chiming

Alice Oswald on wind:

Everything you write about the wind really has to be about something else, because the wind itself is so non-existent. I like the way the Beaufort Scale [a system used to estimate wind speed based on observation of its effects] categorizes something so abstract and undefinable. That is partly what drew me to the project. I regard the words as secondary to the silences in my poetry, so I’m drawn to write about things that will exist without the words. The poems are full of gaps and silences through which something that isn’t linguistic can be heard.

A Poem A Day

wind will exist without the words

Beaufort Poem Scale – Alice Oswald

As I speak (force 1) smoke rises vertically,
Plumed seeds fall in less than ten seconds
And gossamer, perhaps shaken from the soul’s hairbrush
Is seen in the air.

Oh yes (force 2) it’s lovely here,
One or two spiders take off
And there are willow seeds in clouds

But I keep feeling (force 3) a scintillation,
As if a southerly light breeze
Was blowing the tips of my thoughts
(force 4) and making my tongue taste strongly of italics

And when I pause it feels different
As if something had entered (force 5) whose hand is lifting my page

(force 6) So I want to tell you how a whole tree sways to the left
But even as I say so (force 7) a persistent howl is blowing my hair horizontal
And even as I speak (force 8) this speaking becomes difficult

And now my voice (force 9) like an umbrella shaken inside out
No longer shelters me from the fact (force 10)
There is suddenly a winged thing in the house,
Is it the wind?

march 22/SHOVELWALK

20 minutes
3? inches
28 degrees

3 or 4 inches for round 1 of winter. We might get more snow in last night’s snowfall, combined with expected snow on Sun/Mon/Tues, than in all of Jan and Feb. Of course, that’s not saying much because our total prior to today was 7.3 inches. I wonder if what we got today will be melted by Monday? Future Sara, let us know!

six hours later: The snow has already melted off of the deck, the sidewalks, the road. Will the snow on the grass be gone before Sunday? Still not sure.

the secret life of plants

sources:

Yesterday afternoon, driving back from picking FWA up for spring break, we were talking about trees and how they communicate and their underground networks and how much sentience they have, and I remembered, and tried (unsuccessfully) to explain, the 1970s talking-to-plants craze. I mentioned how Stevie Wonder did an album about it. Scott didn’t remember the album. This morning I looked it up and . . . jackpot! Stevie Wonder’s album: Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants. I’m listening to it right now — ah, 1979! It is the soundtrack for a documentary, The Secret Life of Plants, which may or may not be a reliable source of “accurate” information about plant science (botany?) discoveries in the 1970s — wikipedia doesn’t seem to think so. I dug a little deeper and found an article about the plant craze of the 1970s — The 1970s plant craze / Teresa Castro

In the early 1970s, a general plant craze caught on in visual and popular culture alike. Against the background of New Age spirituality and the flourishing of ecological thinking, the 1970s plant mania came as an eccentric blow to the belief that sentience and intelligence are a human prerogative. It also relied massively on the cybernetic paradigm: envisaged as self-regulating biological systems, plants were recognized as communication systems in themselves. In this essay, I sketch a brief portrait of this complex cultural moment, as visual culture, and in particular film, came to be permeated by references to plant communication, plant sentience and plant intelligence.

intro to 1970s plant craze

In the first line she mentions a 1972 video, Teaching a Plant the Alphabet. Love it!

In her discussion of “The Secret Life of Plants,” Castro describes the author as a “botanist and science vulgarizer” and places the work in the context of a large anti-science and anti-intellectual moment; a hippy desire to heal the crisis in human/nature relationships; and significantly for this article, the mediation of visual and other technologies, like the lie detector. The book takes up the “experiments” of Cleve Backster in 1966 in which he hooked a plant up to a lie detector and noticed a surge in electrical activity similar to a human’s emotional response when he watered the plant. Then, an even greater one when he imagined setting fire to the plant and watching it burn. His conclusion: This plant could think! It “could perceive and respond telepathically to human thoughts and emotions.”

Her conclusion about the book/documentary and its impact:

The Secret Life of Plants badly impacted serious scientific research on plants’ sensory and perceptual capacities. Widespread press coverage of Backster’s pseudo-experiments contributed to this backlash. Work on plant communication and plant signaling “was somewhat stigmatized, and the limited availability of funding and other resources constrained further progress.”

In our present dire ecological crisis, to acknowledge the richness and complexity of plant-life is an invitation to withdraw from a centric reason that separated humans from “nature,” situating human life outside and above it. In what constituted a striking ecological critique of Enlightenment science and its holy dualisms, “hippy times” attempted to tell a different kind of story about “Man” and “Nature” and grappled with a fundamental epistemological shift. Most of all, they experimented widely with alternative modes of engagement with what poet Gary Snyder described as “the most ruthlessly exploited classes”: “animals, trees, water, air, grasses.” As we emerge shell-shocked from a global pandemic, what are we to do now? Maybe we can learn from the past: instead of imagining that “plants are like people”, as suggested by “America’s Master Gardener” in 1971,57 we can focus instead on what it means to be human on a shared planet.

This discussion of plants and communication reminded me of a study I read during my mushroom month: April, 2022. Looked it up and found the entry: 10 april 2022

After a discussion of study about fungi language, I posted this quotation from Alice

Oswald:

I exert incredible amounts of energy trying to see things from their own points of view rather than the human point of view.

It’s a day long effort to get your mind into the right position to live and speak well.

citing Zizek: we can’t connect, be one with nature. It’s extraordinary, alien. It’s this terrifying otherness of nature that we need to grasp hold of and be more courageous in our ways of living with it and seeing it.

Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River

Instead of “plants are just like us; they can think and feel!” of the 70s plant craze, Oswald is holding onto the strange otherness of plants. I wonder what Oswald, a former professional gardener, thinks about the sentience of plants?

I googled the question, but before I could find an answer, I found her amazing lecture on the tradition of rhapsody, the litae women in the Iliad, back doors, and Marianne Moore. Wow!

Sidelong Glances: Oblique Commentary on the Poetry of Marianne Moore / Alice Oswald

I listened to the lecture, going back again and again to try and transcribe some of her brilliant words. Her “obliquely, slightly, slowly” approach to Moore with a description of rhapsody and the “squinting, limping old women” of the Iliad (litae) and the need for coming through the back door and repeated image (and sound) of iron bell resounding like the voices of dead poets that came before us was amazing. I’ll have to listen to it again, I think.

a few passages to remember

The poet, especially the female poet, must labor not only to hear the voices of the literate dead, but my leaning and hushing and listening beyond listening to hear the illiterate, anonymous, marginal voices of rhapsody.

Literature has a front door and a back door, and the labor of moving through poems, opening the back doors to let in the fresh air of the unwritten, if you do it for long enough, finally compels you to leave the house altogether, since the tradition inherited by the oral tradition goes right back into birdsong, windsong, heartbeats, footsteps, rivers, and thickets. Not to mention all the oscillating sounds of tides and seasons and waves and why shouldn’t rhapsody include the stitch work of plants?

Go in through the back door?! Love this idea and what it mean for how I understand doors being opened through poetry! And connecting it to birdsong and wind song and all those amazing sounds heard while running above the gorge! And plants!

[not nature poetry but] natural pattern which includes and aligns the poem making habits of the mind with the metrical structures of physics. That is what I mean by rhapsody and that is what I want you to listen for when you put your ear to a written-down poem: backwards and beyond male literature, as far as the first repetition of a leaf on the first repetition of a morning.

Aligning the poem-making habits of the mind with the metrical structures of physics: the biomechanics of running, the drip drip dripping of water due to gravity, air being forced out of and welcomed into the lungs. And the repetitions — the first repetition of a leaf on the first repetition of a morning — very cool.

And, where to place Robin Wall Kimmerer within this conversation? I think I have an answer, but I decided to read another section of Gathering Moss about the Standing Stones. After writing about scientific names for mosses and reflecting on the power in self-naming, she writes:

I think the task given to me is to carry out the message that mosses have their own names. Their way of being in the world cannot be told by data alone. They remind me to remember that there are mysteries for which a measuring tape has no meeaning, questions and answers that have no place in the truth about rocks and mosses.

Gathering Moss

As I typed up the title of RWK’s book, I just realized something great about the title: gathering moss can refer to us (readers) gathering up stories and lessons from the moss, but it can also mean moss gathering — an image of a complex community of mosses and the agency of moss to gather themselves, independent of us. Nice.

random: Last night I discovered that a cartwheel is named after the wheel of a cart. When you are doing a cartwheel, you are acting like a wheel of a cart. Duh — I guess it seems obvious, but I associated the words so strongly with my memories of gymnastics as a kid that I never thought about it referred to outside of that.

march 14/RUN

4 miles
beyond the trestle turn around
50 degrees

Another 50 degree day! The right number of layers: black shorts, blue t-shirt, orange sweatshirt. Some wind, but not too much. Noticed (probably not for the first time) that they removed the porta potty by the 35th street parking lot. Why? There aren’t any porta potties — for runners or bikers or anyone who needs one — on the Minneapolis side between ford and franklin. Did they remove the one near Annie Young Meadow too? I’ll have to check next time I run down into the flats.

A good run. More soft shadows, other runners, one walker in a bright orange sweatshirt — just like me.

Near the beginning thought about the ringing of a bell as the signal of a ceremony starting. Then ED’s lines popped into my head: As all the Heavens were a Bell/And being, but an Ear — In the earlier versions of my Haunts poem, I begin with a bell. I could return to that, or maybe that is the start of another poem?

I ran north without headphones. I can’t remember what I heard. Running south I put in my Windows playlist.

After I finished my run, I listened to a podcast about perimenopause as I walked home. On this log over the past seven years, I’ve mentioned moments of increased anxiety and ongoing constipation. Present Sara (me) really appreciates that past Sara documented these. It’s helping me to understand my body better as I move into perimenopause. Last week, I discovered a great podcast about perimenopause, menopause, and beyond for active women (runners, ultra runners, cyclists, etc) called: Hit Play Not Pause. So far, I’m on my second episode — the first one was about anxiety, this one is about symptoms of perimenopause other than loss of a regular period. So helpful, especially since it seems there’s so little known about perimenopause!

Lorine Niedecker and Lake Superior

I’ve decided I’d like to do a line-by-line read through of Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior.” Such a good poem, one that I appreciate more as I give more attention to poetry and the gorge.

Iron the common element of earth
in rocks and freighters

Sault Sainte Marie—big boats
coal-black and iron-ore-red
topped with what white castlework

The waters working together
internationally
Gulls playing both sides

This is the second verse? section? fragment? of the poem, with some blank space and an asterisk dividing each short section. I’ll get back to the first section a little later.

coal-black and iron-ore-red — I’d like to put some more color, my versions of color, into my lines — topped with what white castlework — I think I’m being dense, but what does she mean here? Like, (oh) what white castlework!

the waters working together — between Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron — internationally — Canada and the US

Gulls playing both sides — I love how she phrases this with such brevity, the idea of gulls not being subject to the lines/border humans have created. Reading through her notes for this poem, she writes about having to wait in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada until the banks opened in order to exchange money. Was she envious of the gulls who could freely travel between Canada and the US?

opening lines: Yesterday I posted the opening line of “Lake Superior.” Here’s the whole first section:

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock

Two other sources of inspiration for my place-based poem are Alice Oswald’s Dart and Susan Tichy’s North | Rock| Edge. Here are their opening lines:

Dart/ Alice Oswald

Who’s this moving alive over the moor?

An old man seeking and finding a difficulty.

North | Rock | Edge/ Susan Tichy

If you can, haul-to within

the terms of anguish :

this rough coast a gate

not map, no compass rose

sketched in a notebook

with certain positions

of uncertain objects

marked—

Reviewing the three sets of lines, I’m noticing how they move differently. LN offers brief, ordered chunks — little rocks? — that you travel between, while AO’s words wander and run into each other. Sometimes she has sentences, sometimes fragments — it flows like a river? ST shares similarities with AO, in terms of wandering and not stopping, but each word almost seems to have equal weight — is that the right way to put it?

In terms of distance, LN is far away, abstract; MO is closer, as we observe a man near the Dart; and with ST, we are right there, on the edge of the rock, moving beside the sea.

Is this helpful to me? To read these three poems closely and together? I’m not sure. Perhaps I should return to LN first. For today, just one more “chunk”:

Radisson:
a laborinth of pleasure”
this world of the Lake

Long hair, long gun

Fingernails pulled out
by Mohawks

I like how LN weaves in some of the “facts” that she discovered in her research — almost like notes, but carefully selected for effect. I think the contrast between Radisson’s pleasure comment and his fingernails being pulled out says a lot. How can I weave in facts? Do I want to?

The poem “Lake Superior” is in two books that I own: Lorine Niedecker Collected Works and Lake Superior. Lake Superior includes a journal with LN’s notes and some critical essays by others. It’s fascinating to read how she transformed her journal notes into these brief lines.

june 22/RUNSWIM

3.15 miles
2 trails
77 degrees
dew point: 61

So warm! Still glad I went out for a run, but it was hard. My knees are sore, my legs sluggish. Heard lots of birds, a roller skier’s clicking poles, talk radio blasting from someone’s car, faint voices from below, water trickling out of a sewer pipe. Encountered bugs — mosquitos? gnats? — near the ravine. Passed by a person on the folwell bench, reading. Was greeted by one walker: good morning! As I ran on the Winchell trail I thought about the importance of giving some gesture — a greeting, eye contact, a stepping over to make room — when nearing another person. Without it, you’re saying to them, to me you don’t exist.

When I finished my run, I pulled out my phone and recited Alice Oswald’s “A Short Story of Falling.” Only two mistakes: I gave it the wrong title and I said “in a seed head” instead of “on a seed head.”

“A Short Story of Falling” / 22 june 2023

wordle challenge

Bad luck with the wordle today. I almost had it in 3, but I had too many choices that could be correct. I had 4 tries but at least 5 options.

6 failed tries: slant / dates / waste/ haste / paste / baste
TASTE

Even though I failed the challenge, I decided to do something with words: find connections to Emily Dickinson!

slant: Tell all the truth but tell it Slant

dates: I do not know the date of mine/ It feels so old a pain

waste: Just Infinites of Nought/As far as it could see/So looked the face I looked upon/ So looked itself on Me (Like Eyes That Looked on Wastes)

haste: We slowly drove—He knew no haste (Because I could not stop for Death)

paste: We play at Paste/ Till qualified, for pearl (We play at paste)

baste and taste:
Now You Too Can Bake Like Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson: A Poet in the Kitchen

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
89 degrees

At the end of the swim another swimmer called out, these conditions are the best! (or something like that; I can’t quite remember). I agreed. Calm, pleasingly warm water, well-placed buoys. I could barely see the buoys, but I still swam to them without a problem. Lots of swans in the water, a few menacing sailboat — one with a bright orange and red sail.

I swam for a loop and a half then briefly stopped at the little beach for a quick rest. Swam another loop and a half and stopped at the big beach. Got out to go the bathroom, then one more loop. Taking a 5 or so minute break between loops 3 and 4 really helped. I should remember to do that more often.

I’m writing this swim summary the next morning. Can I remember 10 things?

10 Things

  1. at least one plane
  2. half a dozen swan boats lurking at the edges
  3. one swan stuck in the dead zone between buoys
  4. streaks below me — fish?
  5. irritating swimmers: 2 fast women that kept swimming past me, then stopping to get their bearings, then swimming again. With my slower, steadier stroke, I kept getting passed by them, then passing them when they stopped, then getting passed by them again when they restarted their swim
  6. both the orange and green buoys closest to the beaches (orange to the little beach, green to the big) were not that close to the shore
  7. no waves
  8. no ducks
  9. breathed every 5 strokes, sometimes every three, once or twice every six
  10. hardly ever saw one of my landmarks from the past few years: the overturned boat at the little beach

june 21/RUNSWIM

3.25 miles
2 trails
69 degrees

Ran earlier today, at 7:15. A little cooler, quieter. For the first few minutes, I recited Alice Oswald’s “A Short Story of Falling” which I memorized yesterday. Ran south on the grassy boulevard between edmund and the river road. Crossed over at Becketwood, then ran down to the southern entrance of the Winchell Trail.

Listened to the gentle whooshing of car wheels. the clicking and clacking of ski poles, and birds for most of the run. Put in a Bruno Mars playlist for the last mile.

After I finished my run, I recited Alice Oswald’s “A Short Story of Falling” into my phone. Only messed up one line (I think).

10 Things

  1. click clack click clack
  2. the rambling root spread across the dirt trail
  3. the steady dripping — more than a trickle, less than a rush — of the water falling from the sewer pipe
  4. the soft (not mushy) blanket of dead leaves on the winchell trail
  5. the sharp sparkle of the light on the water
  6. shhhhhh — the wind passing through the leaves on the trees
  7. the soft roar of the city underneath everything
  8. the leaning branches have been removed — thanks Minneapolis Parks People!
  9. an almost exchange of the You and I — me: right behind you, excuse me an older woman with a dog: mmhmm
  10. no bugs, no gnats, no geese

wordle challenge

3 tries: front / brine / crane

front runt stunt blunt hunt shunt grunt redundant
brine sign fine line shine dine design unwind spine twine
crane explain refrain detain rain insane

front

frontispiece:

1

a: the principal front of a building
b: a decorated pediment over a portico or window

2

an illustration preceding and usually facing the title page of a book or magazine

brine

Cliché/ V. Penelope Pelizzon

Its back and forth, ad nauseum,
ought to make the sea a bore. But walks along the shore
cure me. Salt wind’s the best solution for
dissolving my ennui in,
along with these protean
sadnesses that sometimes swim
invisibly
as comb-jelly
a glass or two of wine below my surface.
Some regrets
won’t untangle. Others loosen as I watch the waves
spreading their torn nets
of foam along the sand
to dry. I walk and walk and walk and walk, letting their haul
absorb me. One seal’s hull
scuttled to bone staves
gulls scream
wheeling above. And here… small, diabolical,
a skate’s egg case,
its horned purse nested on pods of bladderwort
that still squirt
BRINE by the eyeful. Some oily slabs of whale skin, or
—no, just an
edge of tire
flensed from a commoner leviathan.
Everywhere, plastic nurdles gleam
like pearls or caviar
for the avian gourmand
and bits of sponge dab the wounded wrack-line,
dried to froths of air
smelling of iodine.
Hours blow off down the beach like spindrift,
leaving me with an immense
less-solipsistic sense
of ruin, and, as if
it’s a gift, assurance
of ruin’s recurrence.

crane

The Crane Wife” parts 1, 2, and 3 from the Decemberists

swim: 1 small loop (1/2 big loop)
cedar lake open swim
88 degrees

First open swim with FWA at cedar lake! A great night for it: calm, clear, not too crowded. The buoys were up tonight. Hooray!

june 20/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
88 degrees

Yay for being able to bike without fear! The ride was hot but was fine. The key: don’t bike too fast. I noticed: no progress on the duck bridge that was removed a few months ago for repairs; hot pink tape or paint or something marking the cracks in the trail — the pink was very easy for me to see…nice! and a dude in an e-bike with a kid going way faster than the 10 mph speed limit.

swim: 3 loops (2.25 miles)
88 degrees
choppy

3 slightly choppy loops today. Definitely more difficult with the choppy water — how choppy was it? Not really that bad (compared to real chop in the ocean or a big lake), but it still made it harder to breathe. Saw 2 or 3 planes, some random woman floating in an inner tube in the middle of the lake (almost ran into her). Raced a swan boat, dodged flailing kids at the beach and breaststrokers mid-lake. Again this year, breaststrokers are my nemesis. Couldn’t see the green buoys at all; I used the glowing rooftop at the big beach as my guide. I couldn’t even see the green buoys when I was 20 feet away from them because of the bright sun. Didn’t bother me at all. I just kept swimming, only stopping to adjust my goggles and make sure my stiff left knee was okay. For just a flash, I thought about Tony Hoaglund’s poem (below) and the way water speaks. I thought about how, because I’m in the water and not standing on the shore, I can listen and understand (at least a little).

wordle challenge

3 tries:

water / inert / frost

a winter morning

water inert
frosted glass
slicked up streets
endless and empty

water inert on morning window: frost

a description by Alice Oswald in her reading of “A Short Story of Falling” that I listened to this morning as I memorized her beautiful poem:

What I love about water is that it spends its whole time falling. It’s always, apparently, trying to find the lowest place possible, and when it finds the lowest place possible, it lies there wide awake.

Alice Oswald

Water is never inert
always falling searching
for somewhere else to be
even in rest
as frost on winter’s window
it watches waits wants
to find the floor

The Social Life of Water/ Tony Hoaglund

All water is a part of other water
Cloud talks to lake; mist
speaks quietly to creek.

Lake says something back to cloud,
and cloud listens.
No water is lonely water.

All water is a part of other water.
River rushes to reunite with ocean;
tree drinks rain and sweats out dew;
dew takes elevator into cloud;
cloud marries puddle;

puddle

has long conversation with lake about fjord;
fog sneaks up and murmurs insinuations to swamp;
swamp makes needs known to marshland.

Thunderstorm throws itself on estuary;
waterspout laughs at joke of frog pond.
All water understands.

All water understands.
Reservervoir gathers information
for database of watershed.
Brook translates lake to waterfall.
Tide wrinkles its green forehead and then breaks through.
All water understands.

But you, you stand on the shore
of blue Lake Kieve in the evening
and listen, grieving
as something stirs and turns within you.

Not knowing why you linger in the dark.
Not able even to guess
from what you are excluded.

june 2/RUN

6 miles
bottom franklin hill and back
76 degrees / dew point: 64

Hot! I much prefer running in the cold to running in the heat. Still, today is my 12 year anniversary — my runniversary — and I had to get out there to celebrate it. 12 years ago today I went out for my first couch to 5K run.

Was able to say good morning to Mr. Morning! Noticed the river. Higher above, it burned white through the trees. Down below in the flats, it looked stagnant and brown and not refreshing at all. Heard some birds and a woman saying to her friend, during times of war they…, as I ran past. Smiled and waved at many walkers and runners. Thought I heard the rowers but I was wrong. Wondered if the roller skier I passed as I ran down the hill and she skated up it was using poles — I couldn’t tell because we were both moving too fast. Watched the red flash flash flash of a bike’s back light disappear into the distance. Felt the sweat dripping and trickling and seeping out of my skin.

Listened to the birds and the cars as I ran north. Recorded some thoughts into my phone as I walked up the hill. Put in a playlist — bday 2018 — as I ran back south.

Be Water My Friend

It’s the beginning of the month; time for a new challenge. For June 2023, more on water. I’d like to read Alice Oswald’s Nobody, but I need to read The Odyssey first. I started yesterday. I love Emily Wilson’s recent translation. Very fun. Anyway, I’ll finish The Odyssey, then read Oswald’s take on it in Nobody. At the same time, I’m thinking of reviewing some water poems I’ve already collected — maybe memorizing a few, then using them for inspiration. Maybe I’ll even do another cento? Today I started with Oswald’s Evaporations, partly because it came up as a poem I posted on june 2, 2021. I also watched a clip of Bruce Lee’s Be Water My Friend.

Empty your mind. Be
formless shapeless like
water now you
put water into a cup
it becomes the cup
you put water into a bottle
it becomes the bottle
you put it into a tea pot
it becomes the tea pot
now water can flow or
it can craaaaasshh
be water my friend

before the run

As I ran I hoped to think about water subjectivities and what it is to be water . I think this was also inspired by a quote from Oswald that I re-read yesterday:

I sometimes wonder whether I’m a very keen swimmer, and whether for me, poetry is equivalent to swimming. I’ve often noticed when I swim, the strangeness of the way the body literally turns into a fish, but the head remains human and rather cold, and looking around at this strange flat reflective surface. I’m often very piercingly aware of the difference between my head and my body when I’m swimming because I’m not necessarily someone who goes underwater, I love swimming along the surface of rivers. Perhaps, my poems do feel a need to convey that continued separation of the head remaining human and the body becoming animal, or plant, or mineral, or whatever it can be. In some way, I suppose I’m trying to find rhythms that will heal that divide.

*

I think that’s exactly it, that we seem to exist as bodies and minds. That’s always slightly troubled me that I can’t quite make them be the same thing. I always have two narratives going on and it’s extraordinary the way the mind is floating around seemingly quite untethered and yet the body has all these laws like gravity, and limit, and size, and hunger, that it’s obeying. How those two interact and how they come to define what it is to be human is again—I’m wary of using the verb think because I don’t think poetry is necessarily about thinking—but it gets hold of questions, and reveals them as questions, and then reveals what’s underneath them, and then what’s underneath that. I suppose each book tries to peel away a layer of that problem and present it again.

Between the Covers interview with Alice Oswald

during the run

Halfway through the run, I stopped to record my thoughts by speaking into my smart phone: Almost 3.5 miles in, just walking back up the franklin hill on a super hot, humid day. Before I started running, I was thinking about water and I read and then listened to Alice Oswald’s “Evaporations” and Bruce Lee’s “Be Water My Friend.” So I was thinking about how there’s a line in the Alice Oswald about how water prefers to be disorderly and slapdash —

 I notice
The Water doesn’t like it so orderly
What Water admires
Is the slapstick rush of things melting

I was thinking of this dog bark I heard across the road on Seabury and my thought was that this bark was slapdash. Then I was thinking of Bruce Lee’s “Be Water” and how I feel even more like water right now because I’m not just damp, I’m dripping sweat in this humidity. And I’m not sure why this happened but I started to think about — oh, I was thinking about how I had locked into this rhythm and I could really feel it in my glutes, which is great because I think that’s what you ideally want, and I was feeling that I was in a steady rhythm, not really thinking, more animal, and then I thought about how it feels more like a machine to me (than an animal). Then I was thinking about how when machines are being designed/engineered, they look to the bio-mechanics of various animals. Machines are really animals with a very strict routine. Animals and machines and Donna Haraway and cyborgs — the idea of us being both machines and animals. What part of us is the I, the animal, the machine, the — ?

[a few minutes later] I almost forgot, when I turned around at the 3 mile point and went on the lower trail right by the river, the river looked very still and un-refreshing. I looked at it, and because it was so still, the clouds were reflected in it, and I thought about Huidobro’s line, 8 glances to turn the sea into sky. I thought what I was doing was turning the river into sky….And now I’m thinking about these different subjectivities we inhabit — the I, the animal, the machine — when you recognize that you’re all of those things, that doesn’t mean you are free from subjectivity and your specific historical, material location; it just means that you’ve eliminated division, you’re immersed in the water where it’s all together. It all is entangled — a better word? [thinking of Ross Gay here]

after my run

A lot of thoughts on water and subjectivity and the I/animal/machine are reoccurring ideas that I’ve been writing about/wrestling with for years. I think it was last year that I started to imagine myself as less of a fish in the water, more of a boat. What does it look like, how might it feel to be all of these things — water, boat, fish, human/brain?

note: I added the second part of Evaporations to my list of poems to memorize.

A few days ago, I found some summer heat poems on the NYTimes Book Review. I thought I saved the link, but now I can’t find it. My favorite was this one:

Summer Studies/ Tony Hoagland

When Ellen told Mary about the secret lake
she swore her to silence

but Mary invited Jerome
who couldn’t even swim and Luanne

came with him and it was funny that summer
the way that scarce resources

collided with the whole system
of who was cool, or not

the old rule being that who was cool
would get to stay that way

by jumping into the lake
and who was not would have to stay

hot and dirty
by simple omission of information.

But that dry summer the rumors spread:
someone was giving out maps, someone

was giving tutorials in every twist and
bobby-pin turn

you had to take in the red dirt road
that got you there.

When you got near you could hear
through the trees

splashes and cries of people who
might not even be friends.

And the clear water, like the social milieu that summer
was quite frankly stirred up, confused

thanks to the leaky lips, Ellen said,
of certain persons

who would let anyone in.

august 9/RUNSWIM

run: 3.1 miles
2 trails
73 degrees
10:00 am

I recorded some notes by speaking into my phone after I finished the run. Warmer today. Ran mostly in the shade. Ran the 2 trails. Saw a firetruck — well, I heard its siren first — as I approached 42nd st. I wondered why rescue workers were here. Were they going down to the river to rescue someone? To recover a dead body? I never found out.

a thought about water: It’s nice to run beside or above or around water. It’s even nicer to be on water — in a boat, on a raft. But it’s nicest yet to be in water. Swimming, immersed. What a transformation it makes to be in water, the intensity of feeling about a space when you’re in it.

idea for a lecture for my podcast: I’d talk about these various ways that runners and writers try to hold onto thoughts while they are moving and the idea of thoughts and what happens to them while you’re moving. A lot of poems, possibly multiple lectures about this topic. At the end of the lecture, I could offer a few activities that I do to hold onto thoughts.

image: I had to stop and walk because a big tree had fallen over the lower trail. It was high enough that I could duck under it easily, but too low to do that quickly. It was forked with 2 branches, leaning from above, propped up by the fence. No leaves, just bark. It looked dead.

Returning to my idea for a lecture, or a series of lectures, on thoughts, I read some great lines from Alice Oswald in Nobody yesterday that involve thoughts and where they travel:

from Nobody/ Alice Oswald

As the mind flutters in a man who has travelled widely
and his quick-winged eyes land everywhere
I wish I was there or there he thinks and his mind

immediately

as if passing its beam through cables
flashes through all that water and lands
less than a second later on the horizon
and someone with a telescope can see his tiny thought-form
floating on the sea-surface wondering what next

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

Warm and crowded tonight. Lots of people on the beach, lots of boats in the water. A paddleboard and a group of kayaks paddling right through the swimming area. A menancing swan boat. This barely bothered me. What do I remember about the water? Heard some loud sloshing noises. Saw a lot of planes flying above me. Something hard bumped into me — not a person, also probably not a fish. A stick? The sun was blinding and it was impossible to see anything on the way back — no sighting the buoy or the beach. I breathed every 5 or 3 or 4. Felt strong and fast (even though I went the same speed I always do, about 1:45-1:50 per 100 yds).