august 17/RUNBIKE

run: 2.6 miles
lake harriet

Ran around Lake Harriet with Scott while our son was having his first behind-the-wheel driver’s ed lesson. Crowded. Lots of dogs and walkers and runners and cracks in the paved path.

bike: 14 miles
hidden falls/crosby farm/river road

Biked to Hidden Falls in St. Paul. So cool! Walked by the river first. Watched a kayak leisurely paddling until a motorboat roared by. Saw the dogs at the dog park across the river. Got bit by at least 4 mosquitos. Finally found the trail to the falls. A beautiful, small waterfall, lined with rocks. We timed it right so we were alone. Reminded me of Emerald Pools in Zion–one of my favorite places. Walked up the stone steps–definitely a WPA project. Thought about my grandfather who lived in West St. Paul and worked for the WPA. Did he help stack these stones? 110 steps up–Scott counted. I wonder if any of the men making these steps thought about how long they would still be here and who might be walking over them in the future?

august 14/BIKERUN

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A great ride early in the morning before it was too crowded. Thing I remember most: not once but twice some dumb squirrel darted out right in front of my bike, forcing me to use my brakes. I hate squirrels.

run: 2.7 miles
two trails

Such a beautiful morning! Not too hot or windy or humid. Decided to do a quick run even though I’d already biked to the lake and walked around it. Up above, encountered at least one roller skier, some bikers, a dog and their human, a few other runners. Down below, an unleashed dog running ahead of its owners, a few solitary walkers. Watched the river out of the corner of my eye. Avoided muddy, mucky leaves. Ran cautiously under the leaning, yarn-bombed tree trunk.

swim: 1 mile
cedar lake

Finally decided to try out open swim at Cedar Lake. I’ve never been because it’s a lot farther from my house. Really wonderful. Not too many people there, which was great. Smaller loops–not sure, but I think a loop was 400-500 yards? (instead of 1200 at Lake Nokomis). I liked mixing it up with smaller loops. Easier to not get off track even when you couldn’t see, which I couldn’t on the way back because of the sun. Why are so many of the beaches east/west, with one way always being in the sun? No big, crazy beach filled with too many people. Found out after I finished swimming that the rest of lake nokomis open swims will be at cedar. It’s very sad to be done for the season at nokomis without being able to say goodbye to the lake but I’m glad I can still swim–if I can make it over to Cedar. It’s about a 16-18 mile bike ride round trip. Breathed every five strokes. Felt strong and fast and free.

Lake Water
By David Ferry July 16, 2007/ The New Yorker


It is a summer afternoon in October.
I am sitting on a wooden bench, looking out
At the lake through a tall screen of evergreens,
Or rather, looking out across the plane of the lake,
Seeing the light shaking upon the water
As if it were a shimmering of heat.
Yesterday, when I sat here, it was the same,
The same displaced out-of-season effect.
Seen twice it seemed a truth was being told.
Some of the trees I can see across the lake
Have begun to change, but it is as if the air
Had entirely given itself over to summer,
With the intention of denying its own proper nature.
There is a breeze perfectly steady and persistent
Blowing in toward shore from the other side
Or from the world beyond the other side.
The mild sound of the little tapping waves
The breeze has caused—there’s something infantile
About it, a baby at the breast. The light
Is moving and not moving upon the water.
The breeze picks up slightly but still steadily,
The increase in the breeze becomes the mild
Dominant event, compelling with sweet oblivious
Authority alterations in light and shadow,
Alterations in the light of the sun on the water,
Which becomes at once denser and more quietly
Excited, like a concentration of emotions
That had been dispersed and scattered and now were not.
Then there’s the mitigation of the shadow of a cloud,
Phrases and even sentences are written,
But because of the breeze, and the turning of the year,
And the sense that this lake water, as it is being
Experienced on a particular day, comes from
Some source somewhere, beneath, within, itself,
Or from somewhere else, nearby, a spring, a brook,
Its pure origination somewhere else,
It is like an idea for a poem not yet written
And maybe never to be completed, because
The surface of the page is like lake water,
That takes back what is written on its surface,
And all my language about the lake and its
Emotions or its sweet obliviousness,
Or even its being like an origination,
Is all erased with the changing of the breeze
Or because of the heedless passing of a cloud. When, moments after she died, I looked into
Her face, it was as untelling as something natural,
A lake, say, the surface of it unreadable,
Its sources of meaning unrndable anymore.
Her mouth was open as if she had something to say;
But maybe my saying so is a figure of speech.

I’d like to read this poem several more times. Wow, that ending!

august 12/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Biking to the river, it was strange to see smoke coming out of the sewers; they’re testing for leaks. Not too crowded on the bike path. Just past 44th street, I encountered a bike surrey, about to cause a traffic jam in the double bridge. Later on the way home, I think I passed 5 or 6 surreys. So many today!

swim: 1.3 miles
lake nokomis

Swam 8 little loops off the big beach. Wonderful! The lake was nearly empty, only a swimming class in the shallow area. A few paddle boarders out in the middle. Overcast, looking like rain any second. Not too windy or warm. Nice. Swam for 40 minutes. Smooth, strong, steady. Realized that the swimming breathing stroke poems I’m working on aren’t quite right. The rhythm is not 5/6/3/5 like I’ve been doing but 5/6/3, 5/6/3. Maybe I’ll work on some 5/6/3 or 5/6/3/5/6/3 verses today. After I stopped swimming, standing in the sand in the swimming area near the shore, it started drizzling. I almost went back out to swim some more, but I was too tired. …After the 6th loop, I stopped briefly and noticed the silence. So calm and peaceful! I love this lake.

august 9/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

I never plan it, but according to my workout app, I’ve been averaging 12.7 mph for almost every bike ride I’ve done to the lake for the past month. 12.7 mph is not fast but it’s fast enough for me. And it never feels slow. No run-ins with jerks biking too fast or taking over the whole path or yelling at me. Can’t remember why now, but some cars or bikers did prompt me to shake my head disapprovingly. The dreaded middle-aged mom’s head shake!

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Swam little loops off the big beach today–4, or was it 5? I can’t remember. All I know is that I swam for about 25 minutes. The water was great. Smooth. Not too cold. A couple bright yellow paddle boats hovered just off the swimming area–actually, they weren’t that close but with my depth perception they looked like they were right on top of the white buoys. The water looked yellowish brownish green. There was another swimmer swimming loops. Spent a lot of my sighting time making sure I didn’t run into him. Breathed every five for most of it, occasionally 3/6/3/6 or 5/6/5/6. Felt so powerful and fast slicing through the water and easily rounding the buoys. What a wonderful feeling! Almost convinced myself that it was too much of a hassle to swim today. So glad I didn’t.

every five
Catch pull push release
five times then a breath

three/six/three/six
powerful
strong shoulders and straight strokes
jubilant
generous lungs stay filled

five/six/five/six
swimming little loops
well–not little loops but
loops that are smaller
than loops across the lake

“welcome!” says water
“join us!” cry out the fish
“hello!” calls the bird
perched on the white buoy

Boy Crazy/Carmen Giméndez Smith

The echoes of sirens and cicadas,
and the drunk boys who howl
into the trees at 2 a.m. infect
my window while I sleep,
and I’m pulled into a girl I once was,
calling for love into a sky transected
by power lines until sunset when the town
tightened into itself. I prayed for a boy’s
wolf life, the dream of skulking along
streets with hunger and immunity.
I wanted to cup the moon’s curve
in my hand like it belonged to me,
that was how young I was.

Love the unexpected meaning of the title here and so many of the phrases–infect my window/pulled into a girl I once was/when the town tightened into itself/a boy’s wolf life/skulking/hunger and immunity.


august 1/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.2 miles
two trails
69 degrees
dew point: 62

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

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

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull?

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head?

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

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

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Great weather for a bike ride. Especially fun after the swim, on the way home, when it was almost twilight. The final stretch up the river road is always tricky at this time–so crowded. Bikers/runners/walkers spreading out over the path, disregarding the lines or the rules of which path to stay on. It makes it so much more dangerous for me. I’m fine biking in my lane, following the lines, but I can’t always see darting people or judge the amount of space I need to get around someone. Very frustrating.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

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

july 31/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

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

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis

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

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

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

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

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

july 30/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3 miles
trestle turn around
59! degrees

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

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

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

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

july 28/BIKERUN

bike: 5.7 miles
to lake nokomis/1/2 way back

Biked to the lake for open swim. As I arrived, it thundered and I heard the lifeguard call out, “Open Swim is delayed for 30 minutes.” Bummer. Then, after waiting for a few minutes, the sky unzipped and it began to pour. Waited under the overhang of the building with Scott until it stopped. Thundered again. 30 more minute wait. So we left. Double bummer. At least I got to see a rafter of wild turkeys in a field across from Locks and Dam #1 as I biked to the lake. Pretty cool!

run: 2.4 miles
river road path, north/south
75 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 70

I am currently on day 62 of filling all three rings on my apple watch. Decided to run so I could keep up the streak. So hot and humid! For the first time this year, I saw haze hovering around the tunnel of trees. It was raining as I ran. Not too hard and offering no relief. Encountered some idiot teenagers playing catch on the running path under the bridge. Two of them almost threw a ball over my head as I ran by them. I gave them one of my vigorous disapproving head shakes which my daughter says are very effective in shaming. Why did she say that? Have I given her one before?

What Lights Up…?
BY KEKI DARUWALLA
excerpt

what lights up
the lightbulb filaments
of your recall Old Man
this streak of fire
through the thin wire
of memory and mind
what line
from which poet?

I love this opening stanza! Definitely one to memorize.

july 25/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

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

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

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

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

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

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

july 23/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3.1 miles
two trails
66 degrees

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

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

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

A Kind of Meadow
BY CARL PHILLIPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

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

july 20/YOGABIKERUN

bike: 5.2 miles
torchlight 5k packet pick-up and back

Biked on the river road, over the ford bridge, up the hills in highland park to the packet pick-up for the july tradition: torchlight 5k. So hilly in St. Paul! Biking over the ford bridge is always beautiful–after the rain, the river was a calm, steel blue and the air was much cooler. Still not shifting into different gears when climbing. Speaking of climbing, thought about today’s stage of le tour de france and the brutal final climb while Scott and I biked. Those bikers are such bad asses.

run: 3 miles
trestle turn around
69 degrees
dew point: 59

Thunderstorms this morning, so I ran in the afternoon. Listened to my birthday playlist from last year and tried to stay relaxed. Ran all 3 miles without stopping, which was harder towards the end–my legs were sore, but I think it was more mental. Too easy to stop and walk. I didn’t today. Maybe it was because I got so mad at the two walkers that were hogging the entire path, cluelessly spreading out over the entire thing instead of sticking to one side? Felt pretty good. Ran each mile faster than the last. Kept running, but payed attention as I ran by the part of the tunnel of trees that I’m writing about. I’ve been thinking about it as a wide open, spacious room, but it’s more of just a break in the trees. A pause. I recorded some thoughts into my phone when I was done:

Only, just a brief pause. No room for rumination. Only breathing and being before the leaves lock? the leaves thatch? the leaves lattice? the vines envelop the forest again.

Found this great poem via twitter the other day:

Sixteen Theses on Walking and Poetry
by Mátyás Dunajcsik
translated by Timea Balogh1.

  1. Walking is the poetry of the urban space.
  2. Just as a poet uses the same language as everyone else, only for other things and in other ways, a walker walks the same city as other pedestrians, only with a different purpose and perspective.
  3. Walks, much like poems, are composed via selection and arrangement.
  4. Just as a poet sometimes uses strange, obsolete words, a walker often comes across seldom visited places.
  5. Just as poetry can sometimes cleanse trite words, calling them back to their original meanings, a walker can only really see a city if he keeps in mind the original purpose of the places and buildings in it, even if they serve new purposes now.
  6. Just as the poet has the power to give entirely new meanings to certain words, the walker sometimes also uses certain places for things other than they were originally designed for.
  7. The poet is always ambivalent about the grammatical rules of her native language. A good walk is always a little illegal.
  8. Important poems change the language in which they are written. A truly important walk leaves lasting marks on a city.
  9. Both walking and poetry are forms of catastrophe tourism: just as poetry begins where everyday conversation ends, likewise the walker looks for those places where the fabric of the city unravels.
  10. The empty spaces left behind by buildings demolished or never built are as sweet to the walker as the unsaid and the indescribable are to the poet.
  11. Poetry is a language’s living memory and conscience, just as walking is to a city.
  12. A reader most enjoys poems written in his native language. The most exciting walks are always the ones we take in our hometowns.
  13. But actually, all poems speak in their own mother tongues, just as every walk reveals a new city.
  14. The foundation of both walking and poetry is the breath. Its rhythm is determined either by words or by steps.
  15. Just as there are one-word poems, so can one step be considered a walk.
  16. Poets and walkers look up more often than other people.

Love all of this, especially the idea of poets using language differently, walkers walking differently; walking and poetry as forms of catastrophe tourism–looking for places where the city unravels; breath as the foundation for poetry and walking; poets and walkers looking up more than other people. Cool. I’m really interested in the connections between writing and movement, especially in terms of walking, running, swimming and biking.

july 18/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.5 miles
two trails
77 degrees
dew point: 70

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

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

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

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

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

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

july 16/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

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

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

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

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

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

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

Springing
Marie Ponsot – 1921-2019

In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

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

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

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

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

july 14/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

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

Out of Water
BY MARIE PONSOT

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

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

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

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

july 11/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
two trails
67 degrees

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

Our Valley
by Philip Levine

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

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

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

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis
water: 80 degrees

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

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

Breathing
BY MARK O’BRIEN

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

                                                                                                                    July, 1988

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

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

july 7/BIKESWIM

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

Sunday mornings are always hard to sight with the sun in my eyes as I swim towards the smaller beach. It was supposed to be cloudy but instead there was bright sun. I swam without really seeing anything and I didn’t panic. Strange to be getting so used to swimming blind. My breathing pattern: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left. I like staying under the water longer. Oh, to be a fish for a few minutes!

bike: 12 miles
twins’ stadium and back

Biked to the game. Didn’t feel too bad. I am still not changing gears, even on the big hills. Why not? Not sure, but it seems to be working. It doesn’t make it too hard.

july 4/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 9 miles
to downtown race and back

run: 3.1 miles
red, white and boom 5K: 27:30

For the first time, Scott and I biked over to the race instead of driving. 5 miles on the river road. It would have been less but one road was closed and we had to backtrack. Not too bad. Much less stressful than driving. The race was hot and humid. I wimped out and walked a few times but finished strong, so that was okay. Gradually, I’m working to stop caring about time and not feeling bad about how much slower I am these days. Don’t remember much about the race. Started at the back so I did a lot of passing people. Weaving through the crowd doesn’t bother me most of the time. It’s a good distraction. Anything else I remember? No interesting conversations even though I wasn’t listening to headphones. Had a popsicle and a beer after the race and then slowly walked back to my bike. I’d like to try biking to a race again. Oh–saw some rowers down in the flats–that was cool. And, biked up several hills without ever changing my gear. Marveled at the beauty of the city on the 3rd Ave/Central Ave Bridge as I walked across with Scott after the race.

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My city.

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Here’s a poem I’ve tried to write about (so far, not quite successfully) for a couple of years now. So much I love about it. Today, I noticed the line, “…Raise your/heads, pals, look high,/you may see more than/you ever thought possible,” I love her use of pals here. I read it as an almost exasperated, “look pal” which I appreciate. Much better than friend.

Woman Waving to Trees
Dorothea Tanning – 1910-2012

Not that anyone would
notice it at first.
I have taken to marveling
at the trees in our park.
One thing I can tell you:
they are beautiful
and they know it.
They are also tired,
hundreds of years
stuck in one spot—
beautiful paralytics.
When I am under them,
they feel my gaze,
watch me wave my foolish
hand, and envy the joy
of being a moving target.

Loungers on the benches
begin to notice.
One to another,
“Well, you see all kinds…”
Most of them sit looking
down at nothing as if there
was truly nothing else to
look at until there is
that woman waving up
to the branching boughs
of these old trees. Raise your
heads, pals, look high,
you may see more than
you ever thought possible,
up where something might
be waving back, to tell her
she has seen the marvelous.

june 26/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
74 degrees

Overcast on the way there, sunny on the way back. Hardly any wind. Not too many other bikers. A few annoying surreys on the way back. I’m very happy that I’m not having trouble seeing things–like curbs or other bikers.

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis
7 loops around the white buoys

What a wonderful day for a swim! The water was so calm and I had it all to myself. Every year I intend to swim at the lake as many mornings as I can. Then I find reasons not to do it. I’m hopeful that I can remember how great this swim was today and commit to more morning swims in July. My right shoulder hurt a little but otherwise it was a peaceful, relaxing swim. Just me and the water–and a steady stream of planes in the air. Again, lots of counting: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left. No deep thoughts. Mostly, I kept thinking: sight the buoy, stay straight. Or, is that the tree line I’m seeing or a kayaker? Or, are there any fish beneath me? Or, what distance have I gone? Lots of questions, I guess. When I got out, I felt strong and sore and satisfied. Swimming in the lake is the best. I prefer swimming across the lake the most–it’s more interesting and challenging–but swimming off the big beach is cool too.

Theory of Writing
Souvankham Thammavongsa

We all know two plus two equals four
And we begin with that. We learn to add
Before we learn how to take away, to lose.
It’s a great way to learn how to write. To
Have a formula, a line to follow. Before
We know what adding means, we have to
Know what two means. What two and two
Mean together. There are many ways to get to
Four. Five subtract one is equal to four.
One times four is equal to four. The square
Root of sixteen is four. A square root
Is a number that looks exactly like it, multiplied
By itself. Four divided by one also equals
Four. Four to the power of one is equal to four too.
We can get there through a derivative, if
That’s how you want it. The square of the
Hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares
Of the other two sides can also get you to four.
There are so many ways to get to four.
Once all these other ways of getting
To four is understood, it’s not really four
You’re after. Anyone can get to four. And
You know this. Maybe it’s the certainty of
Four. That you can always get to it. That it will
Always turn out the same. Maybe that’s what
You want. The certainty of four. Or maybe
It’s the ways in which you know how
To get to four that is the point of writing.
What you had to learn and build, the time it took
To hold open the possibility for yourself.

june 25/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
river road, south/lower path, north
68 degrees

Sun! Breeze! Low humidity! Strong legs and a good attitude. A nice run. Listened to my playlist for the first half, running on the river road path next to the road and another split rail fence. Next time I run this, I should count how many times the walking and biking paths diverge. Ran to the 44th street parking lot, just before the double bridge, and then turned down to the lower path. Took off my headphones and heard some trickling water and the rowers. I tried to look quickly at the river but I couldn’t see the rowers. I only heard the coxswain calmly directing them. Don’t remember much else about the run except encountering a bunch of dogs and their humans in the tunnel of trees. Oh–and so many cars on the road this morning! Was there a road closure? Was it the time that I was running? Something else?

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: .5 miles
lake nokomis

Open Swim was cancelled tonight because of high wind, which was very strange. They’ve never cancelled due to high wind before. I am trying not to worry too much about it all, but this is the third session in a row that has had problems–last Tuesday it was cancelled because of the threat of rain even though their policy has always been that you can swim in the rain, just not thunder, and Sunday started 30 minutes late. Open Swim is one of my favorite things and I would very upset if it stopped happening.

june 24/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 4.25 miles
to lake nokomis

Biked over early to open swim. Wasn’t sure when (or if) the thunderstorms would start. As I began, it began drizzling (or spitting as I like to say to my daughter). Not too many people biking on the trail. More runners trying to beat the storms. A nice, easy ride with no vision problems even though it was really gray and my sunglasses made it look even grayer.

swim: 1.6 miles
lake nokomis
68 degrees/drizzling

Wore my wetsuit which was much harder to get on with all the humidity. Spent a few minutes trying to get it zipped up before I finally managed it. Got in early and did 4 loops (.75 miles) off the big beach. The lifeguards were 30 minutes late setting up the course. Once the course was open, I did a loop + an extra trip around the first buoy. The water was wonderfully smooth. The buoys were easier than usual to see. A great swim. I was wiped out when I was done, which felt good. Thought about doing another loop but I wasn’t sure when it might start storming and I still had to bike home–of course, 1 1/2 hours later it still hasn’t stormed. I don’t remember thinking about much while I swam. Mostly I counted: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left, or 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left. I like counting. It’s relaxing and distracting. Didn’t see any fish but I did see one duck. No boats. I didn’t hear any planes. Didn’t run into anyone. No kayaks off course. Saw some bright pink, bright yellow, glowing green buoys tethered to swimmers. Most swimmers were wearing wetsuits.

bike: 4.25 miles
back home from lake nokomis

Couldn’t stop smiling on my bike ride back. Happy to have missed the thunder/rain. Happy to have had a good workout. To be in the wonderful water. To see the buoys and not get off course. To bike without the fear of running into someone or the curb.

Right before I started swimming, it began to rain. Soft, slow, steady drops for only a few minutes. I love rain on the lake–what it does to the air hovering above the water, what it does to the water hovering below the air. I searched for “rain on the lake” at the Poetry Foundation site and found this lovely poem:

Song
BY LLOYD SCHWARTZ

rain on the lake
room at the lodge
alone in a room
in the lazy light

loons on the lake
geese in the air
moose in the woods
aware    awake

a cry dislodged
from the musty woods
the gamy musk
of the one aroused

the roaming moose
the rooms lit up
the woods awake
in the loony light

the moon dislodged
the lake aflame
the Muse amazed
amused     aroused

june 18/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

The bike ride to the lake is only 4.25 miles and only takes 20 minutes but it seems much longer. I think it’s because of all the different places I bike by: south on the river road, through the crowded minnehaha falls, by the Dairy Queen, over the mustache bridge, on the creek path, close to lake hiawatha, up the hill, then around lake nokomis. I didn’t have any problems with my vision today as I biked. Nice! I should make sure to bike more this summer while I can still see. The bike ride back, after my swim, was good too. I just barely missed getting stuck in the narrow bike part of the double bridge at 44th street with a surrey.

swim: 2 miles/3 loops
lake nokomis
75 degrees

What a great night for a swim! Not too much wind so the water was calm. The buoys were positioned well. I could barely see them on the way back but there were enough people around to see the way and I could always see the top of the building at the big beach. My sighting is good this year, which is such a relief. Lot of swimmers because it was free night–first timers preparing for their first triathlons. Heard lots of people calling out, “I can do this” or “I’m swimming in 3-2-1….I mean it this time…3-2-1….okay, here I go.” Didn’t have too many run-ins (or swim-ins?) with other swimmers–I fear I might have routed a few. I was tired by the end. Breathed every five or five on the right side, 3 on the left. Or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or ducks. One sailboat before open swim started. Heard lots of planes roaring overhead. Got to the lake almost an hour early so I sat on the beach and listened. Heard people talking, dogs barking, and a swing rhythmically creaking. As it went up it sounded like Rs rolling. On the way down: mmmwwwooowww. Over and over again.

Just looked at my notes and saw that I wrote down swarming bugs. Little gnats dancing around, flying in my face. A few years ago, Scott looked it up and discovered that they’re not swarming but mating.

Just read that Joy Harjo will be the next US Poet Laureate. So cool! In honor of her, here’s one of her poems:

Ah, Ah
BY JOY HARJO
for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

june 13/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 2.25 miles
river road up above, south/down below, north
63 degrees

So beautiful this morning! Sunny, calm, cool, low humidity. Decided to do a quick, easy run. Stayed up above, next to the road running south and took the lower, rougher trail on the way back, running north. Noticed the boulders and the split trail fence that stretched alongside the walking path up above. Heard some yelling, laughing kids at a school. Running back, on the lower path, I payed attention to the wrought iron fence and how bushes and vines and wildflowers were reaching through the bars. Will this be trimmed back anytime soon and who will do it, volunteers or the parks department?

bike: 4.3 miles
lake nokomis

Biking by Minnehaha Falls park the parkway was so crowded. Very happy to be on a bike and not in a car! Also, noticed as I turned onto the lake biking path that the flooding is over and the walking path is open again. All that’s left is a mucky mess.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis
70 degrees (air and water)

A great second open swim at lake nokomis. Decided that 2 loops with one extra trip around the first buoy (an extra 200 yards) was enough. Cold in the water without a wetsuit. The water felt very thick and slow at the beginning–extra dense, which is strange because I think that’s supposed to happen when the water is warmer. Couldn’t really see the buoys at all on the way back because of the sun but it didn’t matter because I could see the tops of the building at the big beach. Saw several swimmers swimming way off course and realized that I swim straighter than a lot of people who can see much better than me. Coolest thing I remember: watching the bubbles from my hand slicing into the water make funky shapes and lines.

Looking for a poem about lakes, I found this one. I like the idea of wind and the sound of wind being two separate things and the soft, simple way this poem reveals itself–oh and the line: “these creatures robed/in your parents’ skins.”

At the Lake House
BY JON LOOMIS

Wind and the sound of wind—
across the bay a chainsaw revs
and stalls. I’ve come here to write,

but instead I’ve been thinking
about my father, who, in his last year,
after his surgery, told my mother

he wasn’t sorry—that he’d cried
when the other woman left him,
that his time with her

had made him happier than anything
he’d ever done. And my mother,
who’d cooked and cleaned for him

all those years, cared for him
after his heart attack, could not
understand why he liked the other

woman more than her,
but he did. And she told me
that after he died she never went

to visit his grave—not once.
You think you know them,
these creatures robed

in your parents’ skins. Well,
you don’t. Any more than you know
what the pines want from the wind,

if the lake’s content with this pale
smear of sunset, if the loon calls
for its mate, or for another.

june 5/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 1050 yards/.6 miles
lake nokomis

Back again at the beach today. Only one small, puffy cloud, the rest of the sky was a bright, blameless blue. Lots of people at the lake but not many in the water. I didn’t think it was too cold–I wonder what the temperature is right now? Whatever it is, I didn’t need a wetsuit and I wasn’t freezing after I got out of the water. Did 3 big loops without stopping and then, after a quick break, one more loop. Maybe a mile is only 6 loops?

The water was turgid and light brown with several shafts of paler brown light beaming down from above. A cool effect. A few times I saw some silver flashes below me. Big fish? Every swim right outside the big beach is tinged with mide trepidation–what’s below me? and what if it decides to surface? Planes heading to MSP Airport roared overhead. Was able to mostly spot the smallish, vertical white buoys. I think I’ll practice more sighting (and not panicking when I can’t sight) tomorrow. Feels good to be in the water again. Hopefully I can keep up my goal of swimming almost every day.

In honor of the fish I may or may not have seen but certainly swam above, here’s Elizabeth Bishop’s classic and marvelous poem:

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop – 1911-1979

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

june 4/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
to lake nokomis and back
swim: 1000 yards/.57 miles
lake nokomis main beach

Yes! Summer is here. My first real swim of the year at Lake Nokomis. Thought about doing a mile but since I haven’t swam since October, I thought I’d better take it easy. I did 5 loops in my wetsuit which I don’t like wearing because it feels tight and too constricting. But today it was nice in the cold water. The water was not clear at all and a bit choppy. Noticed a few kayaks just outside the swim area. Was able to see the white buoys some of the time. The real test will be when I try to sight the orange buoy a week from today. I’d like to go swimming as many as I can before that. My goal is to regularly do at least 10 loops.

Don’t remember thinking about much except for whether or not my legs were cramping up or if water was getting in my ear or if there were any fish below me or boats approaching or how my yellow backpack was doing propped up against the big light post. A few times the waves in the water looked like other swimmers.

Swimming/Sarah Arvio

“Our relationship to you is the same as
that between abstraction and metaphor,
between the idea of a clear lake

and the citing of the lake to describe
the clear idea,” one said with a laugh.
Oh, I said then, what a fine idea

and now what lake will embody its fact?
And this: Aren’t we tired of comparisons
to the natural world? Then this: “And what

world isn’t natural?” “Only the world
of the mind is unnatural.” And this:
“It defies nature and defines nature

and won’t be defined. The life of the mind.”
“But its death“ one punned: “Perish the thought.”
“In the deep all these questions sink away,

and only the swimming matters: water
sliding around the head and heart and hip,
arms cresting and curving, with not against;

carried along on the roll and the rush,
a good swimming knows water won’t resist,
swift or even slow but yes, effortless.”

“Are these words merely pretty? No, my dear.
Water is the principle of pleasure
and of pain, the receiver of the touch,

for the cells and tissues are waterbound.”
With the splash of a smile one turned to me:
“What bodies do we choose? A glacial lake,

cold as ice, aqua-blue and vaporing,
on which one red leaf is a gash of joy,
a sultry southern sea warm as a bath

and carrying its weight in liquid salt.
We covet water through which light will ride
and you, my dear…” Here his words drifted off.

may 31/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 100 yards?
lake nokomis

Yes! Open water swimming is here! Well, not officially until June 11th when open swim club starts, but I briefly swam in the lake today so I’ll count it. Water temperature was probably 65 or 70 degrees. It was pretty cold and my goggles were fogging up so I only did a quick swim out to the white buoy and back. Unlike last year, the water was not clear at all. Guess it must be because of all of the rain and flooding? I was hoping to get freaked out by seeing everything. Oh well. When I got out I felt a bit dizzy. Was it because of the cold? Not enough food? I hope it’s nothing to worry about. I’m hoping to swim a lot more this summer. 4 or 5 times a week.

Still thinking about prose poems. Here’s another one. Wow, does it get dark.

She Spent a Year Hallucinating Birds
BY JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM

They perched on roofs and fences and sills. They posed statue-still on catenary lines. They aligned along cables like prayer beads on rope. They amassed en masse on the cemetery lawn and marauded the broad, yawning fields like cattle. Their cackles were black. Each shadow dove and pecked. They nested in chimneys and chirped at the chime of the church bell. They worked in shifts. Clocked out at odd hours. They laid their eggs in the Vs of trees. They teemed on the dry-baked banks of creek beds, streams the sun had overseen. They teetered on the bed-knob tops of flagpoles. They pitched like pennies into founts. They pitched like babies into wells. They thumped at doors then skulked away like hoodlum teens. They jabbed her. When she cried they did it faster. Everyone knows what happened next. Some grew big as sunflower stalks, others tall like bonfire flames. Or moving vans. Or the sick, brick houses people die inside of every night. Their hatchlings canopied the sky. Was it her fault, then, when they pinned her to the ground and thrust their feathers down her throat? Or wormed between her legs in bad-man ways? Or rattled plumes and whooped and beat her body with their wings? Or locked their talons to her thighs and tra-la-la-ed that ditty from the old-time music box? Or forced their whiskies past her lips? Or put her in the pillory? This was foreplay, in a way. They rolled in rabid packs and woofed like dogs. She couldn’t throw a bone. The meat was gone. They chased her and they named her and they boiled her tears and bathed her. Then they ate her.

may 9/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.2 miles
basement, bike stand/treadmill
raining and 25 mph wind

Cold and windy today. There was a possibility of snow, but thankfully it never happened. 2.5 hours north in Duluth they got 8.5 inches. Glad to have the treadmill and my bike in the basement. Soon the bike will be liberated and we will travel to lake nokomis–open swim starts in a month!!–but not today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mississippi River and my running routes along it, wanting to create a collection of poems highlighting landmarks on my run. Here’s a poem about the Mississippi River Gorge for inspiration (I don’t think I’ve posted this before.) Did you know that the Mississippi River Gorge, 4 blocks from my house, is a National Park? So cool.

And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal
Wang Ping, 1957

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradise
A turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river’s weight, color, smell, touch?
How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bones
Bulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I’m a baby of
River Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffs
Headwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agates
Each tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shell
To greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees…a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfish
Sickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye…in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort Snelling
Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic womb
A reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to live
Lock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living things
Would you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?

We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heart
Pulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradise
Already in us, in each cell of being that is paradise

april 10/BIKE

28 minutes, bike stand
basement

After running four days in a row, decided to bike in the basement. Watched another Father Brown episode and had fun pedaling faster as Father Brown chased the murderer on a train. Before biking, took the dog for a walk on the Winchell trail. Before we got there, I looked up in the sky and saw a huge bird soaring high in the sky. After studying the Birds of the Mississippi River Gorge, I’m pretty sure it was a turkey vulture. Close-up this bird would probably not enchant me, but I loved seeing it’s wing span way above me. I stopped walking, looked up and stared until my neck hurt. Of course I briefly wondered what others might think of me, looking up so intently into the sky.

It is snowing right now. All the sun’s hard work, melting the snow for weeks, undone. No one is quite sure how much we will get. 3 inches? 5? A foot? Will it stay snow or turn into rain?

I’ve been working on a series of eye chart poems. Today I had a revelation. Sometimes images don’t make sense to me. They’re unformed. But how to explain what this feels like? Then it hit me. Sometimes images are only a cluster of dots, like standing too close to an impressionist painting–a Monet or Renoir. This sort of thing usually happens when I’m trying to make sense of a billboard image.

I love this poem by Jane Yeh. The overzealous/Cockatoo of her impatience/Flap flap. So great!

Bel Canto
BY JANE YEH

The opera
In her head

Runs with no interval,
A lot of people singing tunelessly

About the same things.
An overheard

Comment like
A rotting peach.

The overzealous
Cockatoo of her impatience,

Flap flap. The slab
Of blue behind her

Is a sea of
Her doubts. The squirrel

In her stomach
Trying to get out—

They say you have to be
Twice as good. They say

There are pills
For everything now. Enamel

Eyes to see all
The better with, my

Dear. Fur coat
For your tongue—

And, since it’s snowing in April, I decided to find a “snow in April” poem. There are many. Here’s one from 1941 that I like:

Snow in April/Leonora Speyer

I watched the blind attack,
The white invade the green,
I saw the green strike back,
A bough shake off the foe,
While on the ground below
The sharp young blades of grass,
A million strong,
Surged up and through . . .

The battle was not long:
I seemed to hear a shout,
And all the flags were out!

april 4/BIKE

basement, bike stand
30 minutes

I wanted to run today but decided to rest my back and bike in the basement. I suppose I could have biked outside but its only 42 and windy and I’m not ready to take my bike off of its stand yet. I was planning to write about how I’m struggling today, worrying about my back and what might be wrong with it, but then I remembered: Taking a walk with Delia, I heard a wedge of geese (more on wedge in a moment) flying above me. Dozens or more. So high in the overcast sky. Then I heard another, smaller, group. So cool to watch. So exciting to see because they signal warmer weather.

About wedge: I was wondering what to call the group of geese so I googled it and found this wonderful answer:

If you come upon geese on land, you would refer to them as a gaggle. Gaggle, as we learned last time, was also recorded by Juliana Berners in the Book of Saint Albans to describe a group of swans. This is much the same as we would use ‘herd’ for a group of cows or deer. We can also refer to a group of geese on the ground as a herd and a corps.

If the geese are on water, they are a plump.

If in flight, geese are referred to as a skein. The online resource Dictionary.com defines skein as: a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.

A skein of geese would be a random in pattern in the sky – perhaps small clusters. If geese are in flight, and flying in a V formation, you would refer to them as a wedge, probably inspired by the shape.

Collective Nouns for Birds Near and Far

This small moment of beauty/joy/distraction/wonder reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

Dust of Snow
BY ROBERT FROST

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

And, this idea of small delights, reminds me of Ross Gay’s new book of essays (which I just requested from the library): The Book of Delights. Thinking about of all of this has made me feel so much better–less anxious, energized–and I have decided that finding ways to avoid darker thoughts by marking and meditating on the joys is what works for me. Maybe I should buy the Ross Gay book so I don’t have to wait a month or two for it to be returned? While I try to decide, I’ll read his essay in the The Paris Review, Loitering is Delightful.

jan 15/BIKE

biking on stand, 26 minutes
basement

No running today, but indoor biking and 2 walks with the dog. Began reviewing year one of my log. Thinking about writing some sort of summary of it. Was planning to do this anyway, but now that I’m planning to run the marathon again in October 2019, I’m even more interested in revisiting what I wrote and thought about running in 2017. How much has my thinking changed? Were there any hints that I would get injured and be unable to race? So far, the entries are optimistic about the power of running slower for preventing injuries and maybe even running faster. This time around, as I think ahead, I have one goal: to make it to the starting line. I’m thinking that a lot of my writing this year might explore my complicated relationship to my body, especially my fear of it falling apart.