sept 1/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
71 degrees

A great day for a bike ride. I haven’t rode my bike since August 3rd (wow), and it took a few minutes for my brain to get used to it again. Much harder to see at the beginning. No panic. Pretty soon, it was a little easier. I’m hoping to bike more during September and October before it gets too cold and I have to bring the bike inside to the basement. I never know if this will be the last season I can see well enough to bike.

swim: 2 miles / 10 loops
main beach
73 degrees

Windier and choppier today. Still a wonderful swim. Sunny, sparkling water, some sailboats, blue sky, fuzzy green trees. The first loop was harder than the rest. Difficult to get into a rhythm. Once I did, I was able to stop thinking about sighting or stroking and let my mind wander.

An idea occurred to me: when I think about how much I love swimming in the lake, it’s rarely (if ever) about being fully and completely immersed, deep under the water. It’s about being just below the surface, or at the surface but under the water, with an occasional raising of my eyes to see the air or a boat or the world beyond the water. I was thinking about this partly because I’ve become increasingly interested in surfaces and depths (sinking and floating), but mostly because I’m editing a poem I wrote a few years ago titled, “submerged.” Here’s my latest version of it:

submerged

Every 5 strokes a breath
twist left lift up mouth opens
twist right lift up air enters
quick intake above then
5 full beats below this
exhale a chance to dream
a little longer a
way to forget one thing
remember something else
a thought: could above be
the dream below what’s real?
Are hard surfaces the
Illusion fluid edges
the truth? Is belief in
a separate self false? Yes.
My body is not mine
but ours together — fish
water swimmers — all lake
all longing to stay submerged
5 strokes at a time I
am not I but we joined
freed from gravity’s pull
hungry lungs’ demands. Home.

After I finished my swim and was sitting on the sand, I recorded a voice memo with some thoughts:


after swim sept 1

According to the dictionary, submerged means under water–not necessarily deep under water or at the bottom, just fully under water. I want to think more about this word and if it is the right title for my poem. Do I want to be submerged, or something else?

Today is the first day of September. Time for a new theme. Approximate. I wrote about it on August 20:

not quite knowing or roughly/approximately knowing. Not exactly but mostly, almost but never completely. Part of the picture, but never the whole thing. I’ve been writing a lot about bewilderment and unknowingness. This not quite knowing is not bewilderment but something else. Not wild, not lost, but not found either. 

Here’s today poem on the theme:

Approximate Poem/ Paul Hall (1977)

The things that I habitually say
are obvious. Why repeat them? Besides,
they are never what I meant to say.
The things that I want to say are like the book
next to the book that you took from the library
shelf. Now you’re disappointed, aren’t you. Now you’re
dozing with that book sunk into your chest
like a gravemarker, and from now on, that book
keeps your place in death, wherever it is.
But that has nothing to do with what I
want say in this poem. And even if
you had picked the right book, what I would like to say
would be beneath your thumb as you turn the page,
(In the margin, actually, and would
that make me a marginal type? marginally
human?) What I want to say is always
peripheral. What I really have to say
limps. What I want to say causes people
to dial our number by mistake. Your
abruptness with them gags me. The man
across the street is idly swinging
a golf club. What I would really like to say
is disintegrating from wind divots.
What I’d like to say loses traction
along my larynx and comes out “uh.”

However, clearing my throat accordions
what I intend to say into an
unintelligible grunt. An important
oration that I had in mind was
sky written in sparrow farts. I suppose
you missed it. I have a sore throat. It is
the pass over of intended statements.
My dentist says that I eat too much sugar.
I say that my cavities are the
terrorist bombings of a frustrated
authority. Consequently, important
clues to what I have always wanted to say
are buried under my fillings. Much of
what I’d still like to say gets in the way
of breathing. I had to quit smoking. What I
meant to say was escaping under
a smoke screen. What I would like to say is
every word that you have ever regretted
saying. So the next time you think you’re about
to make a fool of yourself, don’t stop.
Say it. You can always defend yourself
by saying that you didn’t mean to say
that. You can even blame it on me.
And I will know what I had in mind
and everybody will be satisfied.
That is to say. . .

july 29/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3.25 miles
2 trails
77 degrees

Hot. Sweaty. Too many bikes biking in pairs beside each other, taking over the path. Still, a good run. Just before starting, I listened to a recording of myself reciting 2 poems I’m working on. Thoughts about them came and went as I ran above the river. On the Winchell Trail, right before running up the short, steep hill near Folwell, I thought about how I don’t always notice the river when I’m running next to it. Sometimes I’m distracted by other thoughts or an approaching person. Sometimes the river is hidden behind a veil of green. And sometimes I’m too lost in the dream world. Then David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech with the refrain, “This is water” popped into my head. I decided to stop at the top of the hill and record my thoughts:

thoughts will running/ 29 july

Okay, I’m running and I had an idea. Thinking about how when I’m running on the Winchell Trail above the river, sometimes I don’t remember to look at the river, to acknowledge the river, behold it, recognize that it’s there. And I started thinking about David Foster Wallace and “this is water” and how sometimes it’s important to notice and behold and say, “this is water.” To say, “this is water,” is to stand outside of it, to have some sort of distance, to be beside it. Sometimes we want to be immersed in the water. We want to be immersed in a dream world or a now that is not outside, not as distant, not beside. That means we don’t notice that this is water because we’re in it, and that’s a good thing too.

I reread the transcript of Wallace’s speech. I like many of his ideas about the value of a liberal arts education for giving us the tools to think critically, to be aware, to notice a wider range of realities beyond our limited, selfish one, to move past our unconscious “default” settings. Much of it is based on choice and will and our ability, which we must cultivate through education/practice/habits, to be open to understanding situations in new, potentially more generous, ways.

I like these lines:

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

In his speech, Wallace’s primary default setting is that we are selfish–everything is centered on us–and that we passively and consistently frame the world in this way. His solution: actively and deliberately think about the world in other ways. Seriously consider others’ perspectives, their struggles. Be actively critical, not passively uncritical. But, as I’m learning through poetry and various other things I’m reading about attention, sometimes letting go, being vulnerable and not in control, not trying to see things more generously but just being out in the world, moving and breathing and attending to it, sharing space in it with others (and not claiming it as yours) enables us to transform our experiences of it. I feel like I’m not quite making sense here, but I’m trying to get to the point that there are different forms of caring and giving attention, and some of them don’t involve deliberate, controlled focus on something. I’m thinking of soft fascination and being beside/entangled and the periphery.

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees
wildfire smoke from Canada

No problem biking to the lake even though it was very smoky. They finished the sewer work they were doing by the mustache bridge so the bike trail was finally open again. Hooray! So much easier and safer not having to bike on the road and cross back and forth so many times. Very happy to feel mostly comfortable on my bike, able to see most things and not feel scared all the time.

swim: 2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim

Dark tonight. Strange, unsettling. Eerie on the lake with the sun covered with smoke. My googles fogged up again, even though I treated them, making it harder to see. I think Johnson’s Baby Shampoo doesn’t work, only Johnson’s baby wash does. Heard lots of sloshing and splashing. Enjoyed the swim, but felt less buoyant. At one point, it almost seemed like my foot was about to cramp up so I briefly stopped to stretch it. I’m getting better at stopping, taking my time. Another military plane flew low above me, roaring in the sky. That, with the waves and the smoke, make it feel almost apocalyptic. Noticed a bird flying in the sky too, near the plane. From my perspective in the lake, looking up from the side as I breathed, they looked the same size and shape. Funny how being the lake makes everything seem the same. Because of the smoke, I tried to take it easier, so I only swam 2 loops.

A few days ago (july 26) I foolishly asked how much choppier it is in Lake Superior than it was at cedar lake while I was swimming. Here’s one answer by the poet laureate of the UP (poet laureate? very cool!):

WAVE AFTER WAVE/ M. Bartley Seigel

Dawn, a lit fuse. The radioman says
“bombogenesis,” like agates tumbling
from a jar—system as meteorite
off Whitefish Point. In other words, water

lynx, Mishipeshu, lathered up in red.
In a heartbeat, rollers mass two stories
trough to insatiate tempest, unquelled
by prayer nor cigarette, careless, mean,

a cold-blooded indifference so pure,
a strong swimmer won’t last ten wet minutes.
At the Keweenaw, surf pummels the stamp
sands with ochre fists, ore boats stack up lee

of the stone, and entire beaches stand up
to walk away. At Marquette, two lovers
walk onto Black Rocks, sacrificial lambs—
their bodies will never be recovered.

july 23/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
83 degrees

No big problems biking on the trail. Ran into a white bike cone checked to make sure that cars were stopping for me at the stop sign like they’re supposed to. No big deal–I was going slow, the cone was plastic. Was that my vision? Maybe, but that spot is tricky–a temporary stop sign for cars while they do sewer work at the creek. They’re almost done, after over a year. Looking forward to the trail going back to normal here again.

swim: 2.75 miles/ 3 loops (orange buoys only)
lake nokomois open swim
83 degrees

Not quite as choppy as yesterday, but still a lot of rocking and fighting with the water. Today I wore my safety buoy. It’s leaking a little air, not sure why, which makes it harder to stay high on the water. My neck hurt from breathing on one side so much and having to lift my head higher to breathe and see. By the end of the 3rd loop, I was tired. Even so, I enjoyed the challenge of choppy water. They didn’t have enough lifeguards to do a full course, so we just swam around the orange buoys today.

moment I remember:

Swimming back, between the first and second buoys from the little beach, I saw the flash of waving arms and a bright cap. A swimmer, heading towards me. I’m not sure, but I think they were waving their arms to let me know they were there so I wouldn’t run into them? I was surprised because I had deliberately moved way over to avoid getting close to other swimmers. They were off course. Even as I knew this to be the case, I still stewed over it for a few minutes, wondering if the other swimmer thought I was off course. Were they angry with me? Why does this bother me and why do I spend any time thinking about it? Is it that I always want others to think/know I’m doing the right thing? I hope not. Luckily, after a few more waves, I had forgotten about it.

I had a few other encounters with swimmers. At least 2 swimmers drifting further out, routing me. When this happens, I stop and swim around them from behind. Do they notice, and do they wonder where I’ve gone?

I stopped a few times mid-lake to recover from a big wave or see where I was or enjoy the view from the middle. During one stop, I noticed a dragonfly hovering just above the water. Often when I see a dragonfly I think about my dead mom. She loved dragonflies. I like to imagine that this dragonfly is my mom coming to say hi. But lately I’ve been noticing how much dragonflies look like helicopters. So I googled it: “are helicopters modeled after dragonflies?” I discovered that at least one type is/was, designed by Sikorsky in the late 40s. Also found this interesting bit of info about dragonflies and flight:

 The mechanics of dragonfly flight are unique: dragonflies can manoeuvre in all directions, glidwithout having to beat their wings and hover in the air. Their ability to move their two pairs of wings independently enables them to slow down and turn abruptly, to accelerate swiftly and even to fly backwards.

Source

Also learned that dragonflies have very good vision. I found this bit of info particularly interesting:

The quality and nature of vision in animals is related to the diversity of opsin proteins that they have in their eyes. We humans like to think that our eyesight is pretty good, and thanks to our large brains it is, but we rely on just three opsin genes, which means that we have three photoreceptors (cones), sensitive to blue, green and red light. So we can see across a colour spectrum from red to violet, but not ultraviolet (UV). If I now mention that dragonflies have between fifteen and 33 opsin genes, that gives some idea of just how good their vision may be! Some of these opsins may be non-visual proteins, but they still have large numbers of visual opsins, including ones for for short-wavelength (SW), long wavelength (LW) and UV light.

Dragonfly eyes/ Ray Cannon’s nature notes

Also see this article from a 2015 New Scientist: Dragonfly eyes see the world in ultra-multicolour

Here’s a poem about dragonflies:

After the Dragonflies/ W.S. Merwin

Dragonflies were as common as sunlight
hovering in their own days
backward forward and sideways
as though they were memory
now there are grown-ups hurrying
who never saw one
and do not know what they
are not seeing
the veins in a dragonfly’s wings
were made of light
the veins in the leaves knew them
and the flowing rivers
the dragonflies came out of the color of water
knowing their own way
when we appeared in their eyes
we were strangers
they took their light with them when they went
there will be no one to remember us

and here’s a poem about water and waves:

BY THE SEA/ EMILY DICKINSON

I started early, took my dog,
And visited the sea;
The mermaids in the basement
Came out to look at me.

And frigates in the upper floor
Extended hempen hands,
Presuming me to be a mouse
Aground, upon the sands.

But no man moved me till the tide
Went past my simple shoe,
And past my apron and my belt,
And past my bodice too,

And made as he would eat me up
As wholly as a dew
Upon a dandelion’s sleeve –
And then I started too.

And he – he followed close behind;
I felt his silver heel
Upon my ankle, – then my shoes
Would overflow with pearl.

Until we met the solid town,
No man he seemed to know;
And bowing with a mighty look
At me, the sea withdrew.

july 16/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
77 degrees

A great morning for a bike ride! I love that there’s open swim at lake nokomis on friday mornings. It was an easy bike ride, mostly because I didn’t have to pass anyone and I didn’t encounter any unexpected obstacles. I noticed that I always look for traffic when I’m crossing, but more often I’m listening for it. This works for most cars, but not for bikes. I need to remember that and try to look and listen extra carefully for the whirr of wheels.

swim: 2 miles/2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
77 degrees

Such a great swim! It was bright and impossible to see the buoys on the way to the little beach, but I could see the little overturned rowboat, shining in the sun on the shore. Rounding the white buoy, I could see both of the green buoys on the way back. Not always, but enough to know where I was going. The water wasn’t too warm or too cold, although I recall swimming through pockets of both much warmer and much colder. The water was also smooth and easy and fast. I felt strong and steady, gliding through the water, pretending to be a fish. There were several dozen other swimmers, but mostly I felt like I was the only one in the water. No worries or expectations or responsibilities, just me and water–and a few strands of vegetation that kept wrapping themselves around my shoulder.

sighting a green buoy

If I stop at the white buoy near the little beach to look for the green buoys and I’m able to see them, I can usually see little triangles sitting on the surface. Once I start swimming, the most I can see is a green dot. As I get closer, the green dot often loses its color and begins to look like a hulking shape–a boat? a person? some strange thing floating in the water. Even when I’m not too far way, the buoy looks tiny. Only when I’m right next to it, can I see it fully–its green color, large size, triangular shape. Is this how normally sighted people see the green buoys? One day, I’ll ask someone else in open swim–maybe I’ll post a message on facebook and ask other swimmers if they’d be willing to talk to me about what they see? That might be cool.

july 11/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees

Biked with STA over to open swim. Biking doesn’t seem overwhelming this year. I think it helps that I’m biking on very familiar trails and, that when STA and I are biking together, I go first. You would think it would be best to have the person with better sight first, but I’ve realized that when someone’s ahead of me, I can’t use my peripheral to spot upcoming obstacles/hazards–approaching bikers, potholes, etc. Biking first makes it much easier for me to use my remaining central vision.

swim: 3 miles/ 4 loops*
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees/sunny

*the course was a little shorter today, so 1 loop did not equal a mile

I just realized that this is my first Sunday swim of the season. Wow. They didn’t have enough life guards so they left out the green buoys and shortened the course. Not a problem. It was a shorter course, but almost as wide. I loved being able to swim far from the orange buoys, and far from most other people.

things I noticed in the lake

  • the little bubbles my hands made as they entered the water in front of me
  • at least one dragonfly hovering above the water’s surface
  • the air felt heavy and harder to inhale during this first loop, the water felt thick
  • I listened to water lapping over my head and the word, “sloshing” came to mind, then the question: what’s another word for sloshing? splishing or splashing or flowing over or overflowing?
  • at least one plane above me, taking off or coming in for a landing
  • as is often the case, there is no standard route between a swimmer’s start at a beach and the first buoy. Often this leads to confusion and near misses. I almost ran into a few rogue swimmers. My rule: if the course is on the left, stay as far to the left as you can when heading to the first buoy. I am bothered that this doesn’t seem to make sense or matter to some other swimmers, and I am bothered that this bothers me
  • Crowded–is Sunday the biggest day for open swim?
  • As I neared the far right white buoy at the little beach–the one I like to swim around before I head back to the big beach, I could see the muck on it just below the surface. This muck didn’t look that different than what ends up on my skin, under my suit, after a long swim. Gross
  • I stopped to go to the bathroom between loops 3 and 4. Many swimmers just pee in the lake as they’re swimming, especially if they have a wetsuit on (at least I think they do), but even if I wanted to–and there have been a few desperate times when I’ve really wanted to–I can’t. My body won’t do it. Is it just because I find peeing in the lake gross? Not sure. Anyway, it’s a big hassle to go to the bathroom. You have to get out of the water, walk several hundred yards to the bathrooms, possibly wait in line at the bathroom, pee, wash your hands, then walk all the way back. When I got back in the water and started to swim, everything felt strange. I was sore, but also more buoyant. Floating
  • The water was smooth and there were no pockets of extra cold or extra warmth
  • I think my safety buoy is leaking air which would explain why it feels more like I’m being weighed down then lifted up by it
  • As is more often the case, my apple watch died mid swim. It’s old. I’m thinking of not getting a new one and trying to exercise without a watch. Not sure if this is a good or bad idea

Fog-thick morning/ Lorine Niedecker

Fog-thick morning—
I see only
where I now walk. I carry
my clarity
with me.

This poems doesn’t quite fit with the theme of water, but it’s how I feel when I’m swimming–in a fog or dream or daze, nothing clear or easy to see. I sight using my past knowledge of the course or my shoulders and the strong, straight, sure strokes they produce. My shoulders, I think, are my clarity.

july 2/SWIMBIKE

swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
78 degrees

A wonderful open swim morning. I couldn’t see the backlit orange buoys at all, but that didn’t matter. No swimming off course today, or stopping. Powerful strokes cutting through smooth, calm, fast water. Excellent. Thought about how it’s hard to daydream while swimming across the lake because I need to focus on making sure I’m still going the right way. Will this change the more I swim? I could hear the water sloshing over me as I breathed every 5 strokes. I worked on pushing down more with my left hand as it cut in under my body. Noticed lots of splashing from other people and felt smug about how little splash I create. I am not proud of my smugness, just wanted to make not of it. I might have seen some fish. Noticed at least 3 different paddle boarders crossing the path just before I got there. What an amazing way to spend a Friday morning!

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis
85 degrees

STA came with me for open swim and we are so pleased to be by the lake on this summer morning that we drove home to get our work and then biked back for the afternoon. We sat at the same picnic table we had the night before, drank some beer, ate some fries, watched 3 cute french bulldogs at a nearby table, and did a little work (STA, emails to clients/ me, reviewing notes, writing in my plague notebook). What a day! Lots of paddle boarders, sail boats, swimmers, bikers, and runners.

Morning Swim/ Maxine Kumin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maxine Kumin from Selected Poems 1960-1

june 30/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees

Such a beautiful day! I’m getting used to biking again, and it’s not too bad. My biggest worries: having to pass other bikers and unexpected cracks or potholes. I’m able to bike when it’s not too crowded, so that helps. Averaged about 11.5 mph. That’s probably as fast as I should safely go. As I biked, I thought about how grateful I am still to be able to bike. Maybe I’ll always be able to bike, but probably, if/when I lose all of my central vision, it will be too difficult and unsafe.

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis, big beach
80 degrees/ sunny/ calm

Another great swim. Pleased with myself for pushing through my inertia and biking over to swim again today. In “sara miles” (1 mile = 30 minutes), I swam 1.5 miles. I’m starting to think that I might actually be swimming more than 1 mile in 30 minutes. Trying to decide if I should recalibrate–1 mile = 25 minutes? Yes. So, I actually swam 1.7 miles. The water was smooth and not too warm or too cold. Actually, I don’t remember feeling the temperature of the water, so it must been just right.

Things I Remember From My Swim

  • Heard and saw at least one more military plane roaring overhead
  • Breathed every 5 strokes
  • Concentrated on trying to shut my mouth as I went under–I don’t ever swallow the water, but I often have it in my mouth in-between breaths
  • My goggles were slightly fogged up for the first 20 minutes
  • I saw several flashes beneath me. Fish, I think. Not sure what kind or how big. It’s better I don’t know
  • Had trouble keeping track of which loop I was on–was it 3 or 4, 5 or 6? I used to have this problem a lot swimming laps in a pool. I’d always think I had done more than I had. Today, as I tried to remember, I thought about how often I am thinking too far ahead. I was losing track of my loops because I kept thinking about the next one. I’m sure this is a common problem, or at least, losing track is a common problem. Do more people lose track because their mind is wandering, or because, like me they’re thinking too much about the laps and jump ahead to the next one in their mind?
  • Listened to the water and the sounds it made as I moved through it–sloshing, not quite an echo–what words do people use for describing underwater sounds?
  • Near the end of the swim, I suddenly noticed some spray, like someone/something was there. Had a fish jumped out of the water? Was it a shift in the wind? I’m not sure
  • Was briefly freaked out by a piece of milfoil that crossed my path
  • About 30 minutes in, I felt warmed up and stronger
  • Thought about what it might feel like to try and swim across a bigger lake or a channel–how would my body feel being in the water moving for hours? I like the idea of the challenge of swimming a far distance in open water, but I don’t like what it might do to my body–especially calf cramps. I hate calf cramps

Found this poem on a cool open water swimmer’s blog (Swimming at Dawn):

SWIMMER (FEMALE)*/ Concha Méndez

My arms:
the oars.

The keel: 
my body.

Helm:
my thought.

(If I were a mermaid,
my songs
would be my verses.)

*Translation by Nancy FreyIncluded in the poetry collection of Concha Méndez titled Inquietudes(Concerns) from 1926. 

oct 26/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

The first time biking since last April. Left my bike on the stand all summer, didn’t bike outside at all, partly because of the pandemic, partly because of my vision. My tires were totally flat. Started watching Enola Holmes. Not sure yet if I like it.

run: 1.75 miles
treadmill, basement

It wasn’t too cold or icy or windy outside but I felt like staying inside so I ran downstairs. Listened to a time capsule playlist on Spotify: She Don’t Use Jelly; Sabotage; Kiss; Freedom. If I would have kept going I could have also heard Cake’s I will Survive and Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart. Oh well. Next time. I don’t remember thinking about much as I ran. My mind was shut off. I enjoyed the repetition and the movement and the absence of everything else.

For some reason, I’m feeling tired and unmotivated today. Maybe it’s because I’ve finished five mood ring poems and I’m not sure if I want to write anymore. I’m very happy with them. Sometime soon I’d like to write about the process of creating them.

may 17/BIKERUN

bike: 27 minutes, stand, basement
run: 1.75 miles, treadmill, basement
raining and windy all day

No break in the rain today so I biked and ran in the basement. Decided to try reciting the 2 green poems I learned this week while biking, and then again while running. A fun challenge. I messed up a few lines but did surprisingly well speaking the lines while my heart rate was up–about 120 BPMs while biking, 165 BPMs while running. I need to work on getting the phone closer to my mouth and speaking louder while running. It would probably be easier to record while running on the road where I can vary my pace, instead of on the treadmill where I had to keep my pace steady.

The Trees/Phillip Larkin

biking, 120 BPM
running, 165 BPM

Instructions on Not Giving Up/ Ada Limón

biking, 120 BPM
running, 165 BPM

Next week, I’ll start on my third green poem. After all this rain, it will be extra green! Speaking of green, I continue to work on a poem inspired by Rita Dove’s alliteration in “Ode to My Right Knee.” It’s about the excess of green and how it hides my beautiful view of the river and its other side every year, from May to October.

Here’s my latest version:

Ode to Green/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Greedy gorge gobbler grifting
vistas. Vanishing views.
Overruning overlooks. Orchestrating
take-overs–trees tressed,
scenes stolen, senses smothered. Stop.
Yield your yearly
domination. Dress demurely. Decide
against always
exuding excess.
O, overabundant obstruction,
we want windows, ways
out, openings, other
perspectives, possibilities. Please
share some space. Surely
room remains
for faithful friends?


april 28/BIKERUN

bike/bike stand: 30 minutes
run/treadmill: 1.5 miles
rain
Deaths from COVID-19: 301 (MN)/ 57,533 (US)

Rain all day. In a few days, everything green. Green green green. I like the green but it always comes too much too soon. Biked in the basement while watching more of the Agatha Christie movie. Enjoying it. Then, ran on the treadmill. Listened to a playlist, fell into a trance.

I didn’t recite my memorized poem today, but decided to recite and record it during my cool down, walking on the treadmill. Realized, before my workout, that I had not memorized the first stanza. Somehow I had left it off my log post. Oops. I’ll have to practice it a lot: “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly” “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly”

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/28

I stumbled over a few words, and it sounds like I said “pawny” instead of “pony” but I recited the whole thing. Nice. I don’t quite own these words yet, but I will soon.

use better words || use words better

Yesterday, while trying to figure out some succinct ways to describe the creative experiments I’m doing in my run project, I came up with this concept. I want to find and use better words–words that allow for new understandings, that more effectively communicate my experiences, that make me/others feel things, that foster curiosity. And, I want to use words better–to be more deliberate and precise and thoughtful in my choices so that my words generate movement and encourage others to think and be curious.

the Subway/Eat Fresh birds

A few days ago, inspired by 2 birds chatting, I imagined what they might be saying–including: bird 1: Subway/ bird 2: Eat Fresh. Scott was inspired by another similar bird conversation this morning. He recorded them, figured out what notes they were singing and then played around on his keyboard with them. Very cool.

birds singing in the rain, april 28
Birdsong in the rain, Room 34

I’m hoping we can collaborate on a sound/poetry project about these birds–probably one that doesn’t involve referring to the birds as Subway and Eat Fresh, but who knows? Anyway, as a starting point, I wrote down a list of 2 syllable calls and responses:

Be here
Not here
Beside
Be Safe
Deep Down
Lost Ones
Release
Slow down
Rethink
Listen
Sink in
Undo
Nothing
Delight
Been there
Terror
Old ways
New ways
Broke down
How to

Not there
Not there
Beyond
Steer clear
We knew
Stay gone
Forget
Down size
Reprise
Loosen
Retreat
Rebuild
To do
Sorrow
Done that
Wonder
Destroyed
Unfurl
Remade
Be now?

april 16/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes, bike stand
run: 1.45 miles, treadmill
Deaths from COVID-19: 94 (MN)/ 31,628 (US)

It’s not too cold or windy outside today but I decided to workout in the basement anyway. Watched more of the Agatha Christie movie on Netflix. I’m really enjoying it so far. Then ran for about 10 minutes on the treadmill while I listened to a playlist.

Right now I’m working on a poem tentatively titled, “How to Sink.” It’s inspired by all the sinking and keeping and dripping I’ve noticed running beside the gorge and by the current need to retreat/withdraw/go deep inside.

How to Sink/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft 1)

Think
of that time
when your young son
was so mad all he
could do was turn to goo

and
slowly ooze
down the couch in
surrender to the
floor. Not giving in
but giving up control,

a
puddle of
body parts pooled
at your feet. Go to the

gorge.
Let your bones
dissolve, your legs
liquefy, submit
to gravity sliding

down
reaching ground
seeping deeper
through layers of loam,
sandstone, limestone, shale.

Drop
lower and
lower burrow
through cracks and fissures
carve out a way in

and
follow it
further inside
so far that outside is
another idea.

note: “follow it further inside so far that outside is another idea” is taken from a Paul Tran poem, The Cave.

Read it to Scott and he mentioned that “goo” stood out too much. I’m having trouble thinking of another word that fits the idea and the syllable count of the line so I’m keeping it in for now.

april 12/BIKERUNSHOVEL

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.6 miles
treadmill, basement
shovel: 15 minutes
deck, back yard
Deaths from COVID-19: 70 (MN)/ 21,692 (US)

Woke up to snow. Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog in it. At first, walking south, it was great. No wind. Snow gently coming down. I thought about running outside. But, then we turned the corner. Wind, snow blowing in our faces. No running outside for me. So I worked out in the basement instead. Started watching “Agatha and the Truth of Murder” on Netflix while I biked. Listened to a playlist while I ran. Coming out of the basement, glancing outside, I was overwhelmed by white. 5 or 6 inches, I think. Hopefully it will stop soon. Decided to quickly shovel the deck. Such heavy, wet snow.

April Snow

Snow in April is not surprising. Last year on the 11th and 12th of April it snowed. On April 16th, 2018, we got over 20 inches! No snow in 2017 but I found a video I did from April 11th, 2013 when it snowed. It snowed a lot in April 2013.

april 9/BIKERUN

bike: 28 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.8 miles
treadmill, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 50 (MN), 15,774 (US)

11 deaths in MN reported for today. Up from 39 yesterday. A big jump. The peak here is supposed to hit at the end of April. We’re expected to have almost 600 deaths.

Very windy today. Decided to bike and run in the basement. Before heading down there, I sat at my desk upstairs, looked out at the small pellets of snow coming down–looking like little styrofoam balls–and memorized the beautiful poem, And Swept All Visible Signs Away/ Carl Phillips. I was drawn to it back in September because of Phillip’s discussion of seeing the face and connection and the line about wanting less for company than for compassion.

What’s a face, to a willow?

Thinking about my difficulty in seeing faces, I wondered (and still do): What’s a face, to me? Is a face–having it, recognizing it, expressing with it–necessary for connection?

If a willow had a face, it would be a song. I think.

I like the idea of the willow’s face (does face = Oliver Sack’s definition in his essay about face blindness: that which “bears the stamp of our experiences, our character”?) being a song, this song: “I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I am a wind-stirred thing.” What is my song? What might the songs of those I love–Scott, my kids–be? Fun to think about.

For the first 5 minutes of my bike ride, I recited the poem out loud. I can’t remember if I recited it when I started my run.

Speaking of not seeing faces, this morning my daughter was talking to me. I was sitting at my desk, she was on the couch, in the shadows. Looking at her for several minutes as she told me about her homework, I couldn’t see her facial features at all. Her head was a shadowy blob with hair. I could, however, see her hand gestures. Her small, graceful hands waved and pointed and flexed and reached out as she discussed her assignment. I did not need to see her face or her eyes to understand her.

april 4/WALKBIKERUN

walk 1: 2 miles
Edmund Bvld
30 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 24 (MN)/ 8,407 (US)

Walked with Scott, Delia the Dog, and my daughter this morning. Nice, crisp air. Sunny. Hardly any wind. A perfect morning for a run, but I decided to only walk. Trying not to push it too much with the running. They’ve turned the river parkway into a one-way and created a lane for walkers. Will this help enable people to get more distance from each other? Not sure. I’ll check it out tomorrow when I run. Felt great to be outside and moving. Heard at least one cardinal, several crows, a woodpecker. Anything else? There were traces of the snow from yesterday still settled around the trees in the grass by Edmund. Walked by the Cyclops Baby on the garage door again. Enjoyed walking with my daughter–only her second time outside in almost a month.

bike: 27 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.1 miles
treadmill, basement

Gave myself another easy day in the basement today. Watched some of a Joan Didion documentary–The Center Will Not Hold–and listened to Harry Styles as I ran. Don’t remember thinking about much. Happy to be able to move and breathe and not always be worrying.

Poem/ Charles Bernstein – 1950-

here. Forget.
There are simply tones
cloudy, breezy
birds & so on.
Sit down with it.
It’s time now.
There is no more natural sight.
Anyway transform everything
silence, trees
commitment, hope
this thing inside you
flow, this movement of eyes
set of words
all turns, all grains.
At night, shift
comets, “twirling planets,
suns, bits of illuminated pumice”
pointing out, in harsh tones
cancers & careers.
“Newer Limoges please.”
Pick some value
mood, idea, type or smell of paper
iridescent, lackluster
&, “borne in peach vessels,”
just think
“flutter & cling”
with even heavier sweep
unassuaged
which are the things
of a form, etc
that inhere.
Fair adjustment
becomes space between
crusts of people
strange, rending:
as sound of some importance
diffuses
“as dark red circles”
digress, reverberate
connect, unhook.
Your clothes, for example
face, style
radiate mediocrity
coyly, slipping
& in how many minutes
body & consciousness
deflect, “flame on flare”
missed purpose.
Your eyes
glaze
thought stumbles, blinded
speck upon speck
ruffling edges.
“But do not be delighted yet.”
The distance positively entrances.
Take out pad & pen
crystal cups, velvet ashtray
with the gentility of easy movement
evasive, unaccountable
& puffing signs
detach, unhinge
beyond weeds, chill
with enthusiastic smile
& new shoes
“by a crude rotation”
hang
a bulk of person
“ascending,” “embodied.”

I want to spend some time with this poem, thinking about it. Check out the erasure I did of it on April 6th.

april 3/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 22 (MN)/ 6,605 (US)

Biking in the basement this afternoon. When I went down there, everything was brown. When I came back up, most of it was white. A dusting of snow. Classic April in Minnesota. Finished the documentary about Merrily We Roll Along while I biked. Lots of great reflections on what we do/fail to do with our lives.

Decided not to run today. Time to give my legs a break. It’s difficult not running. It really helps with stress over rising body counts and expected surges in cases. But it would be worse to run and get injured so I didn’t run.

Found out last night that they have cancelled all summer parks activities. No open swim this year. No open beaches at all. So sad, but necessary. I can’t imagine swimming this summer. It will be hard to wait another year–will all of my central vision be gone by then? Will I even be able to see the buoys to swim?

BREATH/ Lee Potts

We can only carry so much breath with us
and I learned then that it may not be enough.
 

Every summer morning, we rushed
to be the first body to break
the pool surface, still
and cold as a bare marble altar
long stripped of cloth and candle.

Diving from the deep end’s edge
I followed my open, empty hands
into what was once
mist or cloud or untidy ocean
before being bleached
and boxed in for us.

Down toward the drain,
a starless night sky
just beyond its iron grate.

A thin current pulled past.
Ghost tide needing no moon,
that never turned, that kept
whatever it washed away.

Love this line: “what was once/ mist or cloud or untidy ocean/ before being bleached/ and boxed in for us.” Also the idea of a starless night sky by the drain and a thin current.

april 1/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north
45 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 17 (MN)/ 4.749 (US)

bike: 26 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk this morning. We discovered that there is a trail that connects Edmund at 42nd with Edmund farther south. Hooray! I’m excited to try it out tomorrow. I should be able to run over 4 miles that way. As we walked near Becketwood, across from the double bridge, I noticed 2 big birds soaring above us. Bald eagles, we both decided. One was close, the other much higher in the sky, both circling. Riding a thermal? So cool.

In the afternoon, I biked in the basement to get my exercise minutes (a 72 minutes, 3.5 mile walked didn’t earn me a single minute of exercise on my apple watch). Watched more of the S Soundheim/Hal Prince documentary about the failed 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along. Finished by running 1.2 miles on the treadmill.

Starting off national poetry month with one of my favorite poets, Maggie Smith.

Rain, New Year’s Eve/ Maggie Smith (from Good Bones)

The rain is a broken piano,
playing the same note over and over.

My five-year-old said that.
Already she knows loving the world

means loving the wobbles
you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t

oil silent–the jerry-rigged parts,
MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.

Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love

my your son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,

but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.

Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.

Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.

march 28/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 1.5 miles
longfellow neighborhood
bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.3 miles
treadmill, basement
441 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Started the day with a walk around the neighborhood with Scott and Delia the dog. Lots of birds, hardly any people. We meandered, often turning when we saw people approaching. Ended up walking by one of my favorite garages–so awesomely weird.

We also walked by the creepy, completely shrouded in towering trees, house across from Sanford Middle School. Scott noticed a few windows on one side but they were concealed with thick awnings. Even the side entrance is fenced over, with the railing poking through fence boards. What happened here? I can’t believe my kids haven’t passed on any ghost stories from other Sanford kids about this place.

Later, after it began raining, I decided to workout in the basement. Started watching a documentary on Netflix about a failed Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince musical, Merrily We Roll Along: The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened. So far, I’m enjoying it. I love musicals. Another version of me, in a different universe, would have loved to be in musicals. In this universe, I’ll just have to appreciate my niece Isabel and her amazing talent as an actor.

Finished off my workout with a short run. I’m growing to like these quick, fast-feeling treadmill runs. No 6 feet of distance needed! As much as I enjoy them occasionally, I hope we don’t get to a point where we can’t go outside and this is the only way I can run.


Right now, I’m working on creating an unabridged list of writing experiments (tried or to be tried), inspired by my runs beside the gorge. I’ve thought of turning some of them into an autobiographical poem. This poem is very different from what I imagine writing, but it’s helpful as an example–and so powerful.

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)/ Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home. 
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle, 
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.  

march 1/WALKBIKE

walk: 3 miles
longfellow + normandale lake district
bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

Walked Delia the dog twice today, both times with Scott. Feels like spring. Lots of melting and dripping and sunshine. Love the sunshine, dislike the mess this warmer weather makes. Spring in Minnesota is always complicated. Saw a funny meme the other day called “The Many Seasons of Minnesota”:

  • Winter
  • Sucker’s Spring
  • Second Winter
  • Fake Spring
  • Third Winter
  • Actual Spring
  • Summer
  • Fool’s Fall
  • Summer Again
  • Real Fall
  • Winter is Coming

As one of my friend’s posted on facebook, today (and the upcoming week) is sucker’s spring.

Finished up The Ring this afternoon while biking. Creepy. Looked it up and there is The Ring Two, but it’s not available on Netflix or Hulu. Bummer. I’ll have to find something else to watch.

feb 28/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Wanted to watch more of The Ring and to not run too much so I worked out in the basement today. The Ring was still creepy–and fun to watch. Only a few scenes were too dark to see and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read the words that were probably important; I’ve already seen this movie. Listened to my playlist while I ran. Got into a rhythm and felt like I was barely touching the belt. I’m getting used to running on the treadmill.

I was okay running inside because I had already gone for a walk earlier with Delia the dog. Brr. It felt cold outside. Walked around the neighborhood and finished the podcast I started yesterday with Victoria Chang. I’m looking forward to reading her book Obit. As I listened to her and the host Rachel Zucker discuss their grief over the loss of their mothers, my mind started wandering and I started thinking about my current project. I decided to record my thoughts:

So I’m thinking as I was walking–I’m thinking about how I’d like this workbook to kind of be some of the exercises I’ve already done and practiced (or am practicing) but also the ideas that I’ve put in that I’d like to try. Just make a list of all of those things and not worry so much about whether or not it can be done but whether I’d like to try it. The other thing I was thinking about was with listening to Victoria Chang about Obit and grief and thinking about how my mom’s death has changed me and how this project really comes out of that. Or does it come out of that? Where does it come from? Does it have a clear origin? Wanting to discuss what it’s origins are.

Speaking of Obit, here’s one of Chang’s poems from it. The book is a series of obituaries for all the things that died after her mom died. Such a powerful idea!

OBIT [Memory]/ Victoria Chang

Memory—died August 3, 2015.  The
death was not sudden but slowly over a
decade.  I wonder if, when people die,
they  hear  a  bell.   Or  if  they  taste
something sweet, or if they feel a knife
cutting them in half, dragging through
the flesh like sheet cake.  The caretaker
who witnessed my mother’s death quit. 
She holds the memory and images and
now they are gone.  For the rest of her
life, the memories are hers.  She said
my mother couldn’t breathe, then took
her last breath 20 seconds later.  The
way I have imagined a kiss with many
men I have never kissed.  My memory
of  my  mother’s  death  can’t  be  a
memory but is an imagination, each
time the wind blows, leaves unfurl
a little differently.

I woke up this morning thinking of the line about the knife dragging through flesh like sheet cake. Intense.

feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to bike and run in the basement today even though it wasn’t too cold (20 degrees) and the path was clear. Always trying to make sure I’m not running too much. Watched The Ring while I was biking. I think this movie, which is about 17 years old, holds up. Creepy. Extra creepy when you watch it on an iPad with headphones in a dark unfinished basement. Listened to my new (Sara 2020) playlist while I ran: Nur-d, Beck, Prince. Nice combination! At one point, felt like I was in a trance, my feet barely touching the moving floor.

Right now I’m reading Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about macular degeneration and being blind and the over privileging of vision. She has 3 chapters on the phenomenology of blindness, which she describes as “attempts to capture in words the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight.” So helpful! I don’t have the exact same thing that she does (and not as severe…yet), but it is very similar: damaged macula, loss of central vision, still intact peripheral vision. In the chapter, “the mind’s eye,” she writes about the blind spot her damaged macula creates in the center of her visual field. She describes how she can, with effort, see it when she stares at a blank wall.

I decided to try finding my blind spot. I stood about a foot away from a bare white door and stared into the center of it. After a few minutes, a darkish (dark gray?) circle–or was it an oval?–appeared in front of me. In its center was another circle which was white. This inner circle was a little less than a quarter the size of the darker circle. This darker circle is my blind spot; the much smaller inner circle is what is left of my combined (left and right eyes) central vision. Pretty wild.

Found this great PBS video with Kleege.

feb 18/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Snowed 2 super slippery inches last night. That, combined with my slightly sore ankle, meant I needed to bike in the basement today. No sun. No gorge. No birds chirping, although I can hear them outside of my window. Also, no wind. No frozen fingers. No falling on slick ice. Finished the last 20 minutes of the final episode of Cheer. Time to find another show.

Notes on Un-Apology/ Erin Slaughter

once I owned a wooden door
& a field of ice & I was big-hearted, gentle, prefaced
my friends’ names with sweet & kissed them
on the cheeks. once a man called me brilliant & all I wanted
was to be his little wife. for him to trap me
in a wooden home, to zip me up pretty, kiss
me in the kitchen while mushrooms screamed & withered
on the stove. I am beginning to think of the color green
as a last chance that has already passed & I’m sorry
to be so full of raining. but if I could carve a notch
into the lampposts of this city for every person who said home
like it was a promise. we are fools & monsters, all of us, cobweb-headed
& waiting for rupture. once I met a man & his words
unearthed a softness that only comes from loam, from tilling
gently at a gravesite. sometimes we talk about weather
& sometimes we talk about feelings. sometimes
I worry I’m not looking for love, that I’m looking
for a religion to have sex with. in my mouth lives a bitterness
that could draw blood, & I’m sorry but two years I searched
for the river & when I finally found it, it was dead with its palms up.
I dipped my hands in its broken jaw & called it sister. I haven’t spoken
to my sister in two years, a nurse in Texas
with a daughter & a cruelty that jingles
like silver on a charm bracelet. I want to tell you starfish, I want
to tell you dark orchids climbing the windowpane.
the moon would drown trying to drink up
all the things I want. I’m sorry you never learned
the recipe to my mornings. I still think of you when the sky shudders
& floorboards hush themselves to listen.

Wow. I remember reading this poem a year ago and really liking the last line: “& floorboards hush themselves to listen.” Why didn’t I post it? Reading it again a year later, I love it even more. “sometimes we talk about weather & sometimes we talk about feelings.” I think I want to make that a title for a poem. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about inner and outer weather and the dis/connections between the weather I’m running in and my mood.

feb 14/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Slightly warmer. Only felt like -26, not -29. But the wind was blowing. So blustery! Tomorrow it should be much warmer. In the 20s, I think. Decided to workout in the basement again. Watched almost all of the final episode of Cheer. I can’t believe I made it to the end without the ending being spoiled. I can’t imagine competing under such pressure. I have never enjoyed the intensity of performing when it counts or the high you might get from putting yourself under such pressure and then achieving greatness. Is this a bad thing? Do I fail to push myself enough? Are there other ways to understand how we might push and stretch and challenge ourselves outside of this model of performed greatness? Do these questions make any sense?

I listened to my playlist again as I ran. At one point, I stared at the reflection of a big round lightbulb in a dark window. Last month I mentioned that it looked like the moon on lake superior. Today I noticed something at the top of the reflected globe of light that looked like clouds. Then I thought about how I usually imagine or see clouds at the bottom of the moon, not the top. Is that accurate? Suddenly, I imagined that the moon was upside down, or the world in the window was right side up and the world in the basement, on the treadmill, was upside down. Strange. Even stranger while running in place on a treadmill matching my foot strikes to the beat of the music.

What Kindergarten and Partial Hospitalization Have in Common/ IZZY CASEY

Assigned: seats, affirmations, adults with anorexia nervosa.

Breakfast, supervised.

Crying all day long because small things feel like big things.

Drumming drums in a circle, droning, “don’t be so hard on yourself,” disappearing the ability to desire.

Every body’s invited, every “cloud” has a silver “lining.”

Flushing a chocolate chip cookie down the toilet and taking a huge dump on it, fear of growing.

Growing

Hairs in weird places.

“I’m telling on you.”

“Just let someone know if you go to the bathroom. Don’t go alone.”

Knowing there’s a chance you’ll need to come back and do it all over.

Lunch, supervised.

Mental math, milk monitors, mindfulness of breath.

Nurse Eye Patch haunts your wake.

Ordering onion rings at the Olive Garden Field Trip, since the overseers claim opera cake isn’t in budget.

Perishing into fits over whether you get your second cookie, third, or fourth.

“Quit running, quit shouting ‘where are the fucking cups,’ question your definition of ‘friend.’”

Refusing to get up off the floor and participate in Dance Circle with the other girls and boy.

Singing “Let It Be” with the boy during music hour, then all together.

Taking turns: with the triangle, talking with your mouth full.

Unaccompanied dinner.

Validation that you are one of the biggest losers.

Withholding from weeping in public on the long walk home.

Xeroxed handouts of Dr. Phil’s “On Choosing Forgiveness” equals confetti.

“You’re the child not the parent.”

Zookeeper’s Nightmare.

I love Abecedarians and this is a great one. Powerful in this form. Abecedarians are fun to write. My only problem: the dreaded x. There are only so many x words to use. Maybe I should make a list or find a list. Just searched, “good x words for abecedarian poems” and this was the first entry: What About X? Writing the Abecedarian. Yes!

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 30 min
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Hello Arctic Hellscape! This morning it is 12 below, feels like 29 below. Not quite as cold as the end of January last year (-49), but still cold enough to stay inside. I was tempted momentarily to go to the gorge, just to see if I could tough it out or so I could say that I ran when it was almost 30 below, but I didn’t. Instead I worked out in the basement, watching Cheer while I biked, listening to Nur-D and others on my running playlist while I ran. I have one episode of Cheer left to watch. What am I going to watch while I bike when it is over? Back to race replays?

I did take a brief (15 or 20 minutes) walk at 11 this morning. It didn’t feel that cold. Sunny. Bright. Not too much wind. Then I turned a corner and felt the full force of the arctic chill on my face and got a brain freeze. The kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast. In college in Southern Minnesota in the 90s, out on the tundra, I would usually get one of these cold weather induced brain freezes every winter. Fun. It’s strange to have a familiar sensation (the brain freeze) but out of context (not from eating ice cream). Is there a name for that phenomenon? The other example that I often think about is the few times I’ve been in earthquakes, when it feels like turbulence but you’re not on a plane. It feels familiar even when it isn’t. I tried searching for this. No luck. I tried “a familiar sensation felt strangely” and got a lot of hits for deja vu. For the first time ever, I tweeted at Merriam Webster and asked them: “Is there a word for feeling familiar sensation but out of normal context, like feeling brain freeze but from cold wind, not eating ice cream too fast? You know the feeling but experience it strangely.”

What a nice surprise to randomly find this little poem:

Five Flights Up/ Elizabeth Bishop

Still dark.
The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
The little dog next door barks in his sleep
inquiringly, just once.
Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
once or twice, quavering.
Questions—if that is what they are—
answered directly, simply,
by day itself.

Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
gray light streaking each bare branch,
each single twig, along one side,
making another tree, of glassy veins . . .
The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

The little black dog runs in his yard.
His owner’s voice arises, stern,
“You ought to be ashamed!”
What has he done?
He bounces cheerfully up and down;
he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
He and the bird know everything is answered,
all taken care of,
no need to ask again.
—Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
(A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

The dog barking in its sleep–only once; questions being answered simply by day itself; the enormous, ponderous, meticulous morning; the dog and bird feeling no sense of shame; “yesterday brought to today so lightly!”. Such lovely lines.

feb 7/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to do a workout in the basement today. Partly because of the dusting of snow we got last night, partly because I wanted to watch more Cheer, which I did while I biked. Then, while I ran, I listened to Jad Abumrad’s podcast about Dolly Parton called Dolly Parton’s America. So good. Right now, I’m listening to episode 4–or is it 5? I have loved Dolly Parton ever since she yelled at her boss in 9 to 5, calling him “evil to the core.” I loved that movie when I was kid. I even taught it in the spring of 2007 in my Pop Culture Women course.

A Study in Eventuality/ Cristina Correa

Funny, isn’t it, how hard to describe
a good man? In the shower, I let
the water run hot as my blood filtering
a mirror of loss. The messenger arrived
flustered as feathers falling to the place
where feathers go to find each other. Who
is the man who makes you remark, “I have
been lucky”? How does the faucet instruct
forgiveness? Our voices spiral to meet
with too much space between. My cuticles
shine like chrome under the moment’s remains.
A demand for nakedness pools somewhere
down the drain. For what we’ve been able to
let go, and know it happens to us all.

I was struggling to understand this poem until I read her description, which really helped (find it on the poets.org link). “How does the faucet instruct forgiveness?” What a line!

jan 24/WALKBIKE

walk: 3 miles
Winchell Trail
29 degrees
snow-packed

Walked with my wonderful sister this morning by the gorge. Checked out the Oak Savanna and the mesa at above the river. The water was gray with the feeling of warm blue. It looked still and heavy until you got closer and noticed it was moving fast. Trudging on the trail, we noticed ski tracks and snow shoe tracks. Any animal tracks? I don’t think so. We talked about fences and eroding asphalt and the gorge reclaiming the trails and illness and vision and kids and careers and aging bodies and the cost of college.

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Finished another episode of Cheer while I biked. This one was about “making mat” and Jerry (I think that’s his name?) and his loving spirit and how his mom died from lung cancer. A moving story–not sad, just powerful and beautiful. Of course, it made me cry which is an amazing thing to do while you’re working out. So many emotions and endorphins. A great release.

Thinking about blue in winter and why I wrote about it as warm. What is it about blue? The blue hued views in early morning and twilight? Blue snow? The blue gray river? I’ve skimmed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets–maybe I should check it out again? Didn’t Anne Carson write something about blue? I looked it up and found this amazing book: The Blue of Distance.

Blue/ ROBERT L. JONES

I have seen enough blue-green 
for one day. My eyes are tired 
of peering at the busy speckled lines 
the lasered surface throws back. 
Outside, the light falls 
in jagged needles through raveled air. 
The world is gray. 

From up there, it’s blue, 
the tiny water world, where life 
climbed into the air and turned green, 
maybe from envy that it’s not 
somewhere else. It’s not easy, being 
this way. It’s impossible to rest 
with that great light going on 
and off always in the same place, 
knowing that it’s necessary, 
unless you want to turn 
white, in icy quiet, 
against the black still motion 
of the tattered specks of stars. 
It’s enough to send you running 
ragged, back to the sea. 

Down there it’s blue, too, 
the color of deep water 
when at eighty feet there’s no bottom 
and no sides to choose. Suspended, 
up-ended, you have no sense 
of proportion, lose perspective. 
There’s only drifting with the flow, 
until your bubbles rip a seam 
upward showing you where 
you have to go—back to the green, 
and then the yellow and the red, 
measured out in time for you 
to find, until you reach 
white, and you’ve got it all. 

All is too much to see. 
We must have shades. 
The separation of the light 
exists somewhere in particles, 
torn into fragmentary bits to play, 
scattered like the fall leaves, 
but moving in waves—hello, goodbye— 
on a collision course with white, 
and black, and gray. 

The green of life requires blue, 
not too deep or too intense, 
just a line of blue-green held in mind, 
to knit tatters of shrouded days, 
tint the darkness, 
and relieve the time of glare. 

Once in a while 
you know where it belongs, 
in the order of the sharp-edged 
double bow I saw this morning, 
cutting its way into gray memory 
to even up the edges 
of the ragged clouds. 

jan 18/SHOVELBIKE

Shovel: 30 minutes
Bike: 25 minutes

Winter cross training often involves shoveling. No big storm this time. Maybe 5 or 6 inches? Tried to use my legs a lot instead of arms and back. Heavy snow with a icy crust. I’m hoping that they’ve already cleared the path by the river. Usually they do. I’ll see tomorrow morning if it isn’t too cold. Just heard the weather forecast as I was writing this: a high of 5 tomorrow. Watched part of the second episode of Cheer in the basement while I biked. The time went by really fast. Don’t remember much except for how much better I felt after I exercised.

What a poem! I want to spend some time with it to decipher all the uses of pine. So cool. This might be a good form for another running route Unigrid brochure? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Pine
Susan Stewart – 1952-

a homely word:
a plosive, a long cry, a quiet stop, a silent letter
like a storm and the end of a storm,
the kind brewing
at the top of a pine,
(torn hair, bowed spirits, and,
later, straightened shoulders)
who’s who of the stirred and stirred up:
musicians, revolutionaries, pines.

A coniferous tree with needle-shaped leaves.
Suffering or trouble; there’s a pin inside.

The aphoristic seamstress was putting up a hem, a shelf of pins at her
pursed mouth.
“needles and pins / needles and pins / when a man marries / his trouble begins.”
A red pincushion with a twisted string, and a little pinecone tassel, at the
ready.

That particular smell, bracing,
exact as a sharpened point.

The Christmas tree, nude and fragrant,
propped as pure potential in
the corner with no nostalgia for
ornament or angels.

“Pine-Sol,” nauseating, earnest, imitation—
one means of knowing the real thing is the fake you find in school.
Pent up inside on a winter day, the steaming closeness from the radiators.

At the bell, running down the hillside. You wore a pinafore.
The air had a nip: pine
was traveling in the opposite direction.

Sunlight streaming through a stand of pines,
dancing backward through the A’s and T’s.

Is it fern or willow that’s the opposite of pine?

An alphabet made of trees.

In the clearing vanished hunters
left their arrowheads
and deep cuts in the boulder wall:
petroglyphs, repeating triangles.

Grandmothers wearing pinnies trimmed in rickrack.
One family branch lived in a square of oak forest, the other in a circle of
pines;
the oak line: solid, reliable, comic; the piney one capable of pain
and surprise.

W-H-I-T-E: the white pine’s five-frond sets spell its name. (Orthography of
other pines I don’t yet know.)

The weight of snow on boughs, lethargic, then rocked by the thump of a
settling crow.

Pinecones at the Villa Borghese: Fibonacci increments,
heart-shaped veins, shadowing the inner
edges of the petals.
Like variations at the margins of a bird feather.
Graffiti tattooing the broken
water clock, a handful
of pine nuts, pried out, for lunch.

Pining away like Respighi with your pencil.

For a coffin, you’d pick a plain
pine box suspended in a weedy sea.

No undergrowth, though, in a pine forest.

Unlike the noisy wash
of dry deciduous leaves,
the needles blanket the earth

pliant beneath a bare foot,
stealthy,
floating,
a walk through the pines.

Silence in the forest comes from books.

jan 16/RUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand, basement

run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Didn’t want to run too much today, so decided to go down to the basement. Of course, the -10/ feels like -25 also influenced my decision. But if I hadn’t already run twice yesterday, I might have tried going outside because I’m crazy that way. Finished the first episode of Cheer! that I started last week. From the teacher who was very committed to her right to bear arms, “hell yeah! I’m packing right now!”, to the 2 concussions suffered in one pyramid rehearsal–those sounds of loud smacks on the floor as the girls fell!–to the male cheerleader who was kneed in the face and had to put a tampon up his nose to stop the bleeding, this was an intense 20 minutes. Wow.

TEN YEARS LATER MY HUSBAND WALKS OUT OF THE WOODS/ Emily Pérez

after “Hans My Hedgehog”

In one version you remove your coat
of quills at dusk, drape it by the hearthside.

My father’s bravest men then burst
into our room and net the carapace, fling

it in the waiting blaze, burn the thorns
that stippled you. The hollow spires

in the fire sing like copper smelted,
the slag amassing on the flagstones

cooling to a twisted fist of all that had you
hinged. Unmasked at last you stand

before me, born anew: not a monster, not
a man, but a fledgling flayed. Oh husband,

what soulbrave bargain have you made
that leaves you so tender, and how

am I to salvage you?— just wife, not
witch, not doctor.

Author’s Note

I’ve been obsessed with the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hans My Hedgehog” for years. In addition to featuring a hedgehog who plays bagpipes and rides a rooster, it provides some crazy inroads for thinking about parenting and marriage. As in many fairy tales, a father promises his daughter to the hero, who, in this case is a hedgehog. Later, the hedgehog decides to permanently take on human form for his wife’s sake, which involves shedding his coat of quills and having it burned by his wife’s father’s men. The rebirth chars him. In the years that I tinkered with this story as a source for poems, my husband made a major life change that felt both morally brave and (perhaps) personally foolish. As his partner, I felt compelled to be supportive but also inadequate to the task. This poem gets at my ambivalence.

I loved reading the explanation of this poem and then reading the poem again. Powerful. I also like the idea of taking a favorite fairytale and re-imaging it.

jan 10/ BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

The weather isn’t too cold (at least for me) this morning or too blustery, but I decided to stay inside and do more biking, less running to rest my sore legs. Now as I write this I feel a little regret. Winter runs in the cold are the best. Why didn’t I run outside?

While biking, I watched part of the first episode of the netflix doc series: Cheer. It’s fascinating and freaking me out. They take so many risks with their bodies. I wonder what the long term effects of these risks and the injuries they get are? Will the series address this at some point?

When I was younger, I never thought about my body. But after I had 2 kids, my mom died too young, and I started running and open water swimming, I became more aware of its fragility and developed a need to protect it and be careful with it.

Living in the Body/ Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

I’m mostly okay with my body. Together we’ve done some great things. I guess sometimes I wish my kneecaps would stay in their grooves and not temporarily displace or my central vision wasn’t almost completely destroyed or my legs didn’t get unbearably restless when I wake up in the middle of the night, which happens a lot. But I think I feel less like Joyce Sutphen and her body as (treasured) burden, and more like Linda Hogan in Rapture: “Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.”

jan 7/BIKE

35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Having run everyday since Dec 12th, I thought I’d better take a break and just bike today. Watched a few races on my iPad and forgot about everything but how hot it was in Tokyo and how Flora Duffy was doing in her comeback race and whether or not Katie Zaferes’s crash was season-ending.

Although I didn’t run, I did take Delia the dog on a walk. We almost made it to the river but stopped a block short and walked along Edmund Boulevard. Colder today with a few icy patches on the sidewalk. Looked over at the gorge–it was gray and inviting. I wanted to run but had to remind myself to take a break.

Passed several houses with memorable dogs:

  • the house with the huge dog who was so excited to see Delia walk by one time that they almost broke through the big picture window in the front room
  • the extremely neat house with the meticulously maintained yard and patio and the big white dog that mimics the movements of his owner who has, over the last few years, slowed down a lot–at first, he only shuffled, now he uses a walker
  • the house with the fenced in backyard and the little dog that spazzes out and tries to chase Delia every time we walk by–she’s not always out but Delia always remembers the yard and anticipates the encounter
  • the big fancy house that almost looks like it’s abandoned because the yard is never raked, the sidewalk never shoveled, but has a big dog that has a 2 part bark–first low then high: ruff ruff arr arr
  • the even bigger and fancier house with the white picket fence and the snobby sign on the boulevard about not peeing in the mulch that has a pack of vicious sounding dogs that we (me and Delia) can’t ever see over the fence but sound like they’re saying–“go away! you’re not fancy enough to be walking on the sidewalk beside our house!”