june 30/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.5 miles
2 trails
73 degrees
9:30 am

Was planning to swim with FWA at the lake, but when that didn’t work out, I went for a quick run. Too warm. I listened to a playlist on the upper, paved path, and the gorge on the lower, dirt trail.

a distinctive sound

When I reached the Winchell Trail, I took my headphones out and stopped to walk for a minute. I could hear the strong buzz or hum of bugs — cicadas? isn’t it too early for them? Whatever the bugs were, I imagined hundreds (thousands?) of tiny wings flapping fast, making this not very pleasing sound. I wondered how long it would last as I kept walking. In a few minutes it faded, replaced by the whooshing of car wheels from above. Hearing this sound reminds me of the poem Babel by Kimberly Johnson:

Babel/ Kimberly Johnson

My God, it’s loud down here, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whine loudly to the shocked air? O who
can think of heaven in such squall, shrill wind
of trees, magpie wings, and throats in fracas,

the bluebottle static, the air stupid
with the shrieks of devils,— of angels,—
who in such squall can think of anything

but heaven?

The bluebottle (flies) static. I don’t think I was hearing flies, but it did sound like a sort of static.

bike: 11 miles
lake nokomis and back + extra
90 degrees
5:00 pm (there) / 6:15 pm (back)

Do I remember anything about my bike, other than it was hot and very windy. So windy, and right in my face, both ways! The only other thing I remember is feeling comfortable and not nervous about whether or not I could see. Either my brain has adjusted by tweaking the visual, or it has adjusted by making me feel less anxious about not totally seeing everything. It’s probably a bit of both. Oh, one more thing: the sky looked a bit ominous — some spots of dark gray. At some point, it started raining, barely.

swim: 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
90 degrees
5:20 pm

It wasn’t too choppy in the water. Hooray! I didn’t have any problem sighting, or any problems keeping swimming when I couldn’t sight the buoys, which was most of the time. It’s getting harder to see color, I think. I rarely saw the orange or lime green until it was right in front of me. The final green buoy was lined up right in front of 3 white sailboats. I saw a few silver flashes below me — fish? Some wetsuit ran into me. I don’t think it was my fault, because I was keep my straight line, but who knows?

june 28/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back
70 degrees
9:00 am

Biked over to the lake with both of my kids. I don’t think we’ve done that in 10 years. Very nice. At the lake, we were passed by 2 kids on electric bikes. So many more electric bikes on the trails these days (which doesn’t bother me). A bird (moving too fast for me to tell what it was) flew right in front of me, across the path. Also: the irritating screech of a blue jay.

swim: 500 yards
lake nokomis, big beach
75 degrees
10:00 am

FWA and I had another swim session. Slowly, he’s building up his endurance. Today he did a full loop around the white buoys, which was probably at least (?) 20 minutes of either swimming or treading water — no wall to lean on or tiled floor to step down on. He’s not ready to swim across the lake yet, but he will be. So exciting! The water was much calmer than it has been, hardly any waves. I mentioned that to FWA and he said, “it’s still pretty wavy to me.” I remember how rough the water felt when I was first starting to do open water swim. Noticed at least one kayak just off the white buoys. Two little boys were playing in the water. One of them kept ending every sentence with a “bruh.” His friend called out, “Stop swearing at me!” Little kids at the lake are entertaining, especially when you can observe them from a distance.

Read this tweet the other day. I might want to read this entire book:

I like this idea of asking a place/landscape, “Who are you? How do I say your name?”

june 23/BIKESWIMBIKE x 2

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back
85 degrees
8:00 am

A slow bike ride through the neighborhood with my 19 year old son, FWA. We talked a lot about “The Walking Dead,” which he is currently watching, and I’ve never seen. From video games to tv shows, I always appreciate his insights when he’s describing them to me.

swim: testing out the water
water temp: 78 degrees

I’m trying to be as chill as I can about FWA agreeing to swim across the lake with me this summer so I don’t overwhelm him, but it makes me so happy to get to share this thing I love with him. He did 5 years of swim team before high school, but he hasn’t been in any water for 6 years. This first time in the lake went pretty well. He has a long way to go to build up the stamina to make it across (600 yards) and back again, but I think he’ll be able to do it. Hooray!

bike: 8.5
lake nokomis and back
94 degrees
4:45 pm (there) / 6:30 (back)

Biked to open swim club. So hot! I really felt the heat on the way over. I can’t remember anything but feeling hot and happy that I could see well enough to bike. On the way back, I didn’t feel as hot, but I still don’t remember much about the bike ride. It’s hard for me to be open to noticing while I’m biking. I have to devote so much energy to staying alert and concentrating on the path. It can be tiring.

swim: 2 very choppy loops
lake nokomis open swim
94 degrees
5:30 pm

So choppy today. Very big swells and waves. Lots of breathing to one side. In the middle of my first loop, feeling very tired from the waves which seemed to want to drag me under, I remember thinking, “I’m only doing 1 loop today.” But, rounding the final buoy and swimming parallel to the big beach, I decided I could try one more.

I was going to do a list of 10 things I noticed, but instead here’s one image that I want to remember: finishing up my swim, standing in the shallow water and recovering from my effort, I heard so much noise from the beach and the swimming area — not individual voices as much a din of voices. A loud roar. I wonder what the decibal level of the beach was tonight? This loud noise was a sharp contrast to the absence of sound out in the middle of the lake. Out there, all I could hear was the sloshing of water.

june 21/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 2.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
73 degrees
humidity: 87% / dew point: 73!
7:45 am

I ran north on the river road to the top of the hill just past the lake street bridge. Stopped for a minute, then turned around and headed back. Sunny, but with lots of shade. Forgot to look at the river.

73 for the dew point? That’s bad, or “extremely uncomfortable,” according to Runner’s World. Yes, it was. Do I remember anything other than being uncomfortably warm?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. rower’s voices from down below!
  2. 3 stones stacked on the boulder
  3. a man fully covered in black sweatpants and a black jacket, with a white towel around his neck. Aren’t you hot, I thought as I passed him
  4. dark in the tunnel of trees, difficult to see if other people were there
  5. the pedestrian part of the double-bridge between 33rd and 32nd streets is overgrown with vines and bushes and leaves. Makes it harder to see if someone’s coming the other way, and narrower, making it harder to pass. Thankfully, no collisions today
  6. the small stretch of dirt trail that I take as the path nears the lake street bridge is wet — I think there was a brief, strong storm last night, or was that a dream?
  7. a group of 3 fast bikers riding on the road, a cautious car following behind
  8. a darting squirrel
  9. a flash of movement of the leaves beside the trail – was the flash from the sun hitting the leaves just right, or a critter — a bird or chipmunk or squirrel?
  10. later in my run, encountered Mr. black sweatsuit with white towel again. He said a soft, “morning,” and I nodded my head as a reply

Wow. Finding 10 things today took some thinking and remembering and getting past my overriding feelings of heat and discomfort. Such a great exercise in noticing!

Oh — I almost completely forgot: I also chanted in triple berries. Lots of strawberry/blueberry/raspberry and gooseberry/blackberry/red berry to keep my feet striking steadily. Added in a few mystery/history/mystery, which didn’t quite work, and butterscotch/chocolate sauce/caramel, and please don’t stop. Now I wish I had done more of them. I love the triple berry chants.

At the end of my run, as I was walking back, I listened to my first lecture for the class I’m teaching. I’m asking the students to listen to it on their first walk or run outside. I’m doing this partly because I’d like to make outside be the classroom space as much as possible, and partly because I think listening while moving can help you hear/process the words differently than when you’re inside, sitting still. One thought about the lecture: will my voice put them to sleep?

Mostly I don’t use headphones, but I do like to listen to podcasts or music sometimes. It’s strange how ideas or stories I’ve heard while running get imprinted on where I was on the trail. Even now, years later, as I run below the lake street bridge, I often think of the first season of Serial. Running from downtown to the Bohemian Flats, I think about an episode of “On Being” with Eula Biss. Listening to music or podcasts while moving might seem like a distraction from giving attention to a place, and it can be. But it can also be a chance to create a map of a place, connecting ideas that matter to you with locations that you move through regularly. Does that make sense?

Many people have strong opinions about whether or not you should be listening to anything while you’re moving. Although I do move much more without headphones, I like wearing them too. In my first year of doing this running project, I wrote a series of four acrostic poems exploring this no headphones/playlist debate: Playlist/No Headphones, some reflections

note: I’m typing this paragraph an hour later. When I was writing about headphones and listening, I thought there was something else I wanted to say, but it had drifted from my mind. It came back, in the midst of thinking about podcasts.

When I listen to podcasts, I always wear headphones, not broadcasting them to anyone else on the trail. For the most part, I prefer that others listen with headphones too. Yet, even as I write this, I’m reminded of how hearing someone’s irritating TEDtalk inspired a poem, and how I find some delight in hearing a song blasting from a bike speaker, especially if it’s accompanied by the Doppler effect.

Found this Anne Carson poem on twitter this morning:

Could I/ Anne Carson

If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that. To tell how things go for you. Candor is like a skein being produced inside the belly day after day, it has to get itself woven out somewhere. You could whisper down a well. You could write a letter and keep it in a drawer. You could inscribe a curse on a ribbon of lead and bury it in the ground to be unread for thousands of years. The point is not to find a reader, the point is the telling itself. Consider a person standing alone in a room. The house is silent. She is looking down at a piece of paper. Nothing else exists. All her veins go down into this paper. She takes her pen and writes on it some marks no one else will ever see, she bestows on it a kind of surplus, she tops it off with a gesture as private and accurate as her own name.

(added this later in the day):

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
87 degrees
4:30 pm (there) / 6:00 (back)

Biked without any problems. 2 distinctive memories, one of the way to the lake, one on the way back.

to the lake: Coasting down the hill between the double bridge and Locks and Dam No. 1, in the hot sun, I passed someone pushing a canoe on wheels. It looked awkward and like they were struggling. I tried to imagine the scenario where you would be pushing a canoe at this spot.

from the lake: Biking under the echo bridge, I heard 2 flutes playing a duet under the bridge, on the other side. It sounded very nice. I imagined calling out, “that sounds great” or “you’re awesome” but I didn’t.

This is the first time I’ve witnessed a canoe being pushed on the paved path or 2 flutes playing a duet under a bridge.

swim: 2 loops
87 degrees
windy

So much wind again. I’m getting used to it. I stayed on course. There was one point where I oriented myself in relation to another swimmer who was off course, so I got a little too close to the buoy, but otherwise, no problem. Again, I seem to swim straight towards the buoys even when I don’t see them, or think I see them. My googles leaked a little, and when I got out of the water there was a film over my eyes. Everything looked like it was fogged up, even thought I wasn’t wearing glasses.

One memorable thing: Rounding the last green buoy, parallel to the big beach, I suddenly hit something hard with my hand. Huh? A green plastic bucket. As I flinched and lifted my head out of the water in surprise, I heard a woman laugh. Was she laughing at me? I doubt it. How did the bucket make it out this far?

I breathed every 5 strokes and had fun punching the water when it was extra choppy. Noticed a few planes and clouds above. An occasional flash below, and nothing else but brown, opaque water. Oh — a menancing sailboat, off to my left side. The first one this year!

addendum, june 22: I remembered 2 more memorable things that I don’t want to forget. One while I was swimming, the other while biking.

swimming: I kept seeing another swimmer out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked back again, they were gone. It was strange, because it happened more than once and felt very real, like they were there, and then they weren’t. Maybe it was the yellow buoy tethered to my waist?

biking: Biking back home on the river road trail, I passed a runner, running smoothly and quickly, snapping their fingers repeatedly. Why where they snapping? Not sure. In all the times I’ve passed a runner while biking (or while running), I don’t think I’ve ever heard them snapping!

june 19/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees
9:00 am (there) / 10:40 am (back)

My first bike ride to the lake by myself this year. Everything was a bit fuzzy, but I wasn’t scared to bike and I didn’t have any problems almost running into things or hitting a big pothole. Hooray! I’m always grateful to still be able to bike. My most distinctive memory of the ride was on the way there, right after I entered the Minnehaha Creek path, past what we (me, my husband, and our kids who named it 10 or 12 years ago) call the duck bridge. A very irritating sound. A person walking with ski poles, scraping then clicking them on the asphalt with every foot strike. Ssscrape. Click. Ssscrape. Click. Over and over. I wondered if the runner right ahead of this walker couldn’t wait to get away from the sound.

swim: 2 very choppy loops
lake nokomis
80 degrees (air) / 75 degrees (water)
9:30 am

I checked the weather earlier in the day and knew it was going to be very windy. And it was. 25-30 mph gusts, I think. It’s hard for me to tell, but this felt like one of the choppier swims I’ve done ever. And I did a lot of choppy swims last year. I wasn’t scared, just tired out by it. My chest burned a little as I tried to get oxygen to it. Hard to think about much else, other than: where’s the buoy? is that the buoy? breathe away from the wave. is my neck getting too sore? am I almost to the big beach? Nearing the final green buoy, at a part that was extra choppy, a big wave washed over me as I tried to breathe. I didn’t inhale any of the water, I guess because I’m a strong, experienced swimmer, but I imagined if I had, how that might have been very bad. And when I say imagined, I mean I literally imagined the scenario, or a vague, dreamy approximation of it, in my head. Swallowing the water, panicking, flailing, drowning. I wasn’t feeling this, but almost watching it like a movie. I often daydream alternate scenarios in my head right after something has happened. Everybody does, right?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the orange buoys, at least 2 of the 3, were in a neat row, cutting diagonally across the lake
  2. the bottom of the overturned lifeguard boat at the little beach was hard to spot through the waves — no sparkling silver streak to follow
  3. water visibility: I could see my hands in front of me and the bubbles they made with each stroke, but not much else
  4. the final green buoy was drifting in the wind, the rope attached to a weight that anchored it was close to the surface, I barely cleared it as I rounded the buoy
  5. my bright yellow buoy, tethered to my waist, was pushed into me by the wind several times
  6. a few female voices near the orange buoy closest to the little beach, a few swimmers resting and comparing notes before heading back to the big beach
  7. the water felt heavier or slower or like some part of it was trying to drag me down, harder to float
  8. off to the side, I noticed another swimmer swmming very far from the buoys — was this on purpose, or were they way off course?
  9. no vines wrapping around my head or big branches floating in front of me
  10. one seagull flying towards me

Overheard, right before starting, near the lifeguard stand:

Swimmer One: I see you’re wearing the wrong colored cap. The lifeguards will make you get out if your cap’s not the right color.
Swimmer Two: I know. I talked to a lifeguard about it. It’s okay.
Swimmer One: Okay. My daughter’s a lifeguard and she’s always saying how awful it is to make someone have to get out because their cap is wrong. You might have to get out on the opposite side and then walk around.

Was there anymore to this exchange? Was the second swimmer irritated by the first swimmer? Why did she have on the wrong colored cap? Was she confronted by a lifeguard in the water? That would be very irritating to be a lifeguard having to confront someone about the wrong colored cap. I don’t like disciplining people or enforcing rules.

This swim and bike was wonderful, and made me feel so relaxed and happy after I was done. Lake Nokomis swimming is the best.

I found this poem via twitter this morning. So great, so perfect for one of the weeks of my summer class!

Calling Things What They Are/ Ada Limón

I pass the feeder and yell, Grackle party! And then an hour later I yell, Mourning dove afterparty! (I call the feeder the party and the seed on the ground the afterparty.) I am getting so good at watching that I’ve even dug out the binoculars an old poet gave me back when I was young and heading to the Cape with so much future ahead of me it was like my own ocean. I yell, Tufted titmouse! and Lucas laughs and says, Thought so. But he is humoring me, he didn’t think so at all. My father does this same thing. Shouts out at the feeder announcing the party attendees. He throws out a whole peanut or two to the Steller’s jay who visits on a low oak branch in the morning. To think there was a time I thought birds were kind of boring. Brown bird. Gray bird. Black bird. Blah blah blah bird. Then, I started to learn their names by the ocean and the person I was dating said, That’s the problem with you, Limón, you’re all fauna and no flora. And I began to learn the names of trees. I like to call things as they are. Before, the only thing I was interested in was love, how it grips you, how it terrifies you, how it annihilates you, and resuscitates you. I didn’t know then that it wasn’t even love that I was interested in, but my own suffering. I thought suffering kept things interesting. How funny that I called it love and the whole time it was pain.

june 12/RUNBIKE

5k
trestle turn around
71 degrees
humidity: 73% / dew point: 62
11 am

A wonderful run! Another day where it isn’t really cloudy, but CLOUD. The sky, almost white. The air, thick (or thicker than yesterday). Ran north on the river road trail past the welcoming oaks — good morning! And past the big boulder with no stones stacked. Through the tunnel of trees, above the old stone steps, under the lake street bridge, all the way to the trestle. I stopped to walk for a few seconds, turned around, and ran back. Worked on increasing my cadence while trying not to run faster and use more effort. That’s hard. I felt tired by the time I reached the trestle — and warm. The dew point is in the uncomfortable range.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. one of the welcoming oaks is very close to the paved trail, just a few inches away
  2. right before reaching the oaks, above the ravine, a tree that fell last week — or the week before? — is still there, leaning over the edge, split in a few places
  3. chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee
  4. a honk or two
  5. 2 bikers and a roller blader, moving and chatting together on the bike path
  6. comiing up behind me, I heard a voice saying to someone else, “there’s 5 of us coming up behind you,” then one biker with a trailer passing me, then moving over to the side while 5 bikers in bright yellow shirts biked past
  7. another, fast biker, approaching a few seconds later. I tried to listen to hear if they said, “on your left,” I don’t think so
  8. rowers on the river! the evidence: the coxswain’s voice gently offering guidance through a bullhorn
  9. a walker, listening to some funk music through their phone in the tunnel of trees
  10. all (almost all?) of the benches were empty

Nearing the end of my run, when I heard the rowers, I had a moment of clarity. I decided to cross over to the grass betwen the river road and edmund and record my thoughts. Here’s a recording of it, and a transcript, with a few additional remarks:

june 12th

june 12th, 2.5 miles run (note: I ran another 1/2 mile after I recorded this, also: I had only finished my run 20-30 seconds prior to recording this so my heartrate was still high and my breathing was more labored). Try to be open to being interrupted. Take notice of the sounds that interrupt you, that call out to you, almost insisting, “listen!,” as opposed to just trying as hard as you can to notice everything and to constantly be vigilant about the listening, trying to return to it again and again. While this can be useful sometimes, we also need the interruptions, the time to just be, to slow down and let the world speak to us.

Here, I try to remember the name of a poem that I think fits. I decided it was titled “Lost.” It is!

Lost/ David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Also, another example of this is the time I was really focused on running, not paying attention, to the point that I didn’t even notice the geese that were on the other side of the road, congregating in someone’s front yard. All of a sudden, one of them gobbled, not ferociously but loudly, almost yelling at me to listen and to notice.

Three things to note here: First, I wrote about this moment in my running log, under the heading “delight of the day” on march 2, 2022.

Secone, it was not geese who interrupted me, but turkeys (hence, the gobble reference). I think I mis-said geese because I was thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese and the lines:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Third, this recording was inspired by a moment on today’s run when I was interrupted by something. I forgot to say what that something was in the recording and I’m already struggling to remember it. I think it was the voice of the rower?

And, that’s…to get to that point..ooo! And then I think about how Mary Oliver has that poem where she talks about how some people can just get there right away. They just open up and stuff pours in. Others of us need a lot more practice. It’s a constant struggle…This would be..the exercise is kind of passive insofar as you’re not doing anything to make it happen, you’re just letting it happen and be around and aware when it does.

Mary Oliver doesn’t exactly write, “stuff pours in,” she writes:

from “The Book of Time” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver

For some souls it’s easy; they lie down on the sand
and are soon asleep.
For others, the mind shivers in its glacial palace,
and won’t come.
Yes, the mind takes a long time, is otherwise occupied
than by hapiness, and deep breathing.
Now, in the distance, some bird is singing.
And now I have gathered six or seven deep red,
half-opened cups of petals betwen my hands,
and now I have put my face against them
and now I am moving my face back and forth, slowly,
against them.
The body is not much more than two feet and a tongue.
Come to me, says the blue sky, and say the word.
And finally even the mind comes running, like a wild thing,
and lies down on the sand.
Eternity is not later, or in any unfindable place.
Roses, roses, roses.

Having this moment of clarity was so great. Before heading out for my run, I was struggling to describe the different forms of attention that we’ll be working on in my class. I have too many ideas, too many sources, too many things that I want to share. I was feeling overwhelmed. On the run, I wasn’t thinking about how to work through this problem, but this idea of interruptions and being open to them found me. This “finding” is an excellent example of what I’m trying to teach about the value of moving outside! It’s not all that we can do while moving, and it doesn’t always happen, but it’s part of why I show up almost every day beside the gorge, moving and breathing and trying to be present.

As I thought about attention before I went out for a run, and the types of attention I want to describe in my lecture recording (I’m doing it like a podcast), I thought about Mary Oliver’s poem “Luke” as a good example of being open to attention. After typing up those bits from MO’s The Leaf and the Cloud above, I see some strong connections between it and “Luke.”

Luke/ Mary Oliver

I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head

and her wet nose
touching
the face
of every one

with its petals
of silk,
with its fragrance
rising

into the air
where the bees,
their bodies
heavy with pollen,

hovered—
and easily
she adored
every blossom,

not in the serious,
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don’t praise—
the way we love
or don’t love—
but the way

we long to be—
that happy
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.

Thank you running and the gorge and my feet for making it possible for me to move so that I could untangle this knot in my thinking and be with the birds and the rowers and the river!

bike: about 12 miles*
around lake nokomis and back

*my very outdated, over-the-hill apple watch crashed again while we were biking, so I don’t know the exact distance. Somewhere between 11.5 and 12 miles. I finally decided that I need a new watch. It’s coming on Tuesday: an early birthday present!

Biked with FWA over to the lake to pick up our swim caps! Tuesday is the first open swim! Hooray!! Several memorable things happened, which I want to remember for me and for FWA:

  1. At Sandcastle, they had entertainment: a singer with a guitar. He sang John Denver’s “Country Roads,” but changed some of the words to fit Minneapolis. Instead of Almost heaven, West Virginia he sang, Almost heaven, South Minneapolis, which was awkward. He kept in Shenandoah River in Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River when, as FWA suggested, he could have sang, Mississippi River
  2. Picking up our caps, a lifeguard asked FWA if he goes to Gustavus (he was wearing a Gustavus t-shirt). When he said yes, she added: “My friend and I just transferred from there to St. Olaf.” Anyone who goes/went to either Gustavus or St. Olaf and knows about their rivalry and might find this remark funny
  3. Biking to lake nokomis on the minnehaha creek path, rounding a hidden corner, we heard a bell ringing repeatedly. It came from a double-recumbant bike, just letting us know they were there. Tne franctic ringing and the sight of a recumbant bike with 2 people on it seemed surreal and strange and funny

june 8/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.4 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: 400 yards
lake nokomis

My first outside bike ride of the year and my first swim! As my vision declines, I never know how hard it will be to bike. Will I be able to see? Will it be too scary? Today was okay. It’s very hard for me to see potholes or react quickly to unexpected things (crowded trails, passing another biker), but as long as I don’t go too fast and I give careful attention (all the time) as I ride, I should be okay. It’s a bit exhausting, but who cares? I can still bike!

Things I Heard While Biking

  1. drumming woodpeckers, twice
  2. the music from the ice cream truck
  3. a biker calling out calmly and quietly as she passed, “on your left”

Biked to the lake with my 19 year-old son, FWA. He’s planning to swim across the lake with me, at least once, although I’m hoping he’ll try it more than once. I’ve been dreaming about one of my kids being old enough to join me in open swim — you have to be 18. They were both on the swim team and are great swimmers. He wasn’t up for the 69 degree water, but I was. It didn’t seem cold to me. I love the cold water on my muscles. Very nice! It didn’t feel as good inside my right ear. Since FWA was with me, and I haven’t swam since last september, I decided to take it easy and only do one loop around the buoys at the big beach.

10 Things I Noticed While Swimming

  1. the season has barely begun and the part of the white buoys under the water was thick with muck…yuck
  2. no clear views below of biggish fish or hairbands or the bottom
  3. near the shore, dozens of minnows parted as I moved through the water
  4. the water was opaque, with shafts of light pushing their way through
  5. I could see the white buoys, mostly the feeling that they were there
  6. the view as I lifted my head to the side and out of the water to breathe was much clearer than my view as I looked straight ahead
  7. I heard some kids laughing as I neared the far end of the beach
  8. when I started, there were a few groups of people swimming, when I stopped, I was one of the few people still in the water
  9. I breathed every five strokes
  10. there was a seagull perched on the white buoy as I neared it. At the last minute, it flew off — was it looking for a big fish?

Here’s Poetry Foundation’s poem of the day. I love how H.D. imagines the trees as water — and how they describe it! Running in the tunnel of trees, past a part that seems surrounded by green, I’ve felt like I was swimming in a sea of trees.

Oread/ H. D.

Whirl up, sea—
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.

note: Oread = “a nymph believed to inhabit mountains.”

april 5/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.2 miles

Rain and wind. Short workout in the basement. Had to pump my bike tire up again. Definitely a leak. Took me only a minute to pump it up. I was reminded of how much I struggled to do it a few months ago when I hadn’t done it in a while. Thought how important habits/habitual practices are for me. Watched most of the 2018 Ironman television coverage while I biked. Listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation as I ran. Have no memory of what I thought about.

before the workout

Day 3 with dirt: loam. Thinking more about compost and soil and humus, I suddenly remembered loam. I discovered this word a few years ago and it has made it into at least one of my poems. Some definitions of loam use the word humus, others don’t.

 3. A soil of great fertility composed chiefly of clay and sand with an admixture of decomposed vegetable matter.

from Oxford English Dictionary online (via local library)

noun

a fertile soil of clay and sand containing humus.

from Oxford Languages (Google’s dictionary)

Doing a brief search on loam and humus, I also found discussions of the distinctions between sand, silt, and clay. According to an answer on Quora, the difference is about particle size. This answer also offers the following distinction between loam and humus:

Loam is a mixture of clay, sand and silt and benefits from the qualities of these 3 different textures, favoring water retention, air circulation, drainage and fertility.

Humus is a highly complex substance still not fully understood. It is a stable and uniformly dark, spongy and amorphous material which come from the mechanical degradation of organic matter. Humus is fertile and gather all properties suitable for optimal plant growth. It is formed by complex chemical compounds, of plant, animal and microbial origin

Searched “loam” on Poetry Foundation and found a few poems:

Loam/ Carl Sandburg

In the loam we sleep,
In the cool moist loam,
To the lull of years that pass
And the break of stars,

From the loam, then,
The soft warm loam,
We rise:
To shape of rose leaf,
Of face and shoulder.

We stand, then,
To a whiff of life,
Lifted to the silver of the sun
Over and out of the loam
A day.

Things to remember: the whiff of life, the silver of the sun

Speaking of loam as the whiff of life. Here’s another poem that I love:

Unveiling/ Gail Mazur

I say to the named granite stone, to the brown grass,
to the dead chrysanthemums, Mother, I still have a
body, what else could receive my mind’s transmissions,
its dots and dashes of pain
? I expect and get no answer,
no loamy scent of her coral geraniums. She who is now
immaterial, for better or worse, no longer needs to speak
for me to hear, as in a continuous loop, classic messages
of wisdom, love and fury. MAKE! DO! a note on our fridge
commanded. Here I am making, unmaking, doing, undoing.

MAKE! DO! I love the different ways to read this, as: making do, managing, getting by, finding a way with limited resources and make something! do something! create act.

Just one more poem with loam in it. Powerful. Loamy roamers rising.

The Theft Outright/ Heid E. Erdrich

after Frost

We were the land’s before we were.

Or the land was ours before you were a land.
Or this land was our land, it was not your land.

We were the land before we were people,
loamy roamers rising, so the stories go,
or formed of clay, spit into with breath reeking soul—

What’s America, but the legend of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Red rocks, blood clots bearing boys, blood sands
swimming being from women’s hands, we originate,
originally, spontaneous as hemorrhage.

Un-possessing of what we still are possessed by,
possessed by what we now no more possess.

We were the land before we were people,
dreamy sunbeams where sun don’t shine, so the stories go,
or pulled up a hole, clawing past ants and roots—

Dineh in documentaries scoff DNA evidence off.
They landed late, but canyons spoke them home.
Nomadic Turkish horse tribes they don’t know.

What’s America, but the legend of Stop ‘n’ Go?

Could be cousins, left on the land bridge,
contrary to popular belief, that was a two-way toll.
In any case we’d claim them, give them some place to stay.

Such as we were we gave most things outright
(the deed of the theft was many deeds and leases and claim stakes
and tenure disputes and moved plat markers stolen still today . . .)

We were the land before we were a people,
earthdivers, her darling mudpuppies, so the stories go,
or emerging, fully forming from flesh of earth—

The land, not the least vaguely, realizing in all four directions,
still storied, art-filled, fully enhanced.
Such as she is, such as she wills us to become.

note:

  • Dineh, “the people,” what the Navajo called themselves
  • for Frost = The Gift Outright / Robert Frost … discovered this was the poem he read at Kennedy’s inauguration, through this helpful analysis, Political Poeticizing (found when I searched, “Robert Frost settler colonialism”)

One more thing: Returning to the idea, in Sandburg’s and Mazur’s poem, I’m thinking about the smell of loam. Here’s something helpful I found:

We feel something deep in the smell of that fresh-soil, and it is one of those mysteries that takes us back to a place in time.  The smell of soil invokes something so deep that it never really can be described. Can you describe the smell of soil in a forest, freshly tilled field, or in a swamp?  Have you ever wondered if fresh tilled soil has always had the same sweet aroma? 

Actually it’s not the soil we smell but the bacteria that enters the soil through the geosmin.  It’s the bacteria that is producing the chemical that we smell.  The smell will be different depending on where the soil is found.  Healthy, productive soils should smell fresh, clean and pleasant or have little odor at all.  If the soil smells like ammonia or has a rotten odor that is a good indication there is poor drainage or lack of oxygen in the soil.

The unique smell is because soil is not just dirt.  Healthy soil is living and is a complex ecosystem with an abundance of bio-diversity.  “Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals”. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949.  Soil…..”the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil.”  Dr. Daniel Hillel

The Smell of Living Soil

One more link: What your soil is trying to tell you with sound, smell, and color

march 31/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 3.25 miles
outside: wind + thin sheet of ice

Wanted to run outside today, but it snowed and sleeted yesterday and it hasn’t warmed enough to melt yet. I don’t want to fall and get an injury. Speaking of injuries, just watched a YouTube video with one of my favorite triathletes, Lucy Charles-Barclay. She has a small fracture on the inside of her femoral-something-or-other (I remember the femoral part, but forgot the rest). She doesn’t know yet how long it will take to heal or if she can do any exercise. She mentioned how she’s always used exercise as a way to cope with any stress/anxiety she is feeling. Now, she can’t and she’s unsure of how how to handle it. I remember feeling this way with my first “big” injury. It sucked, but then I started memorizing poems and I felt better. That injury was when I really discovered how much I love poetry.

I haven’t figured out what to watch now that I’m done with Dickinson, so I watched a random running race while I biked. Then I listened to an old playlist while I ran. Felt pretty good. Didn’t think about anything except how much time I had left. 30 minutes on the treadmill is a long time for me. Very tedious.

I guess I thought about at least one other thing: how much I was feeling the lyrics of Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls, which was on my playlist. I remember liking that song at the end of high school, then driving with a future roommate to see them perform at Luther College my freshman year of college. I always appreciated the lyrics, but they didn’t really mean anything to me, more like empty clichés or slogans or something someone else would do. Now I find myself living (or trying to live those) words in my work and my daily practices:

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine

I like the idea of more (possible) answers + crooked lines + not trying to KNOW or find the answers + the idea of getting closer (but never quite getting) to fine + fine (not success or achievement or even happiness) as the goal.

Found this poem on twitter this morning. Wow!

I Wonder If I Need the Rapture or If I Could Just
Swallow A Catastrophe and Call It Good / Kelli Russell Agodon

Find me at a party socializing with someone’s cat.
Pull a decade from my dress and find what’s left
of the bliss sewn in the hem.

In a perfect world, we would slow dance
with someone we love, we would hold childhood
in our palm and call it a foal.

What we love frolics with its mother, while we ache
for our sins. Walk through a field without disturbing
a spider’s web. Turn off the news

when a javelin is thrown through the screen
into our heart. Yes, you are worried–fear
has been our blanket for years.

Yes, you are home alone so your mind
is cashing in every anxiety chip. Bet on less.
Forget the radishes at the store and be joyful

that you did. There are too many false fangs
at the necks of the ones we love. Bite lighter.
Use your lips. Know the lightening

you believed would kill you didn’t. Not every wolf
harms, many just want to find their way
back into the forests we keep cutting down.

march 30/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes
basement
outside: rain/snow mix

Decided to skip the run today and only bike while I watched the final episode of Dickinson. Sad to see this series end, so glad I stuck with it after almost stopping watching it after an episode. I liked how the creator, Alena Smith, ended the series with lots of hope, a greater appreciation of Death as necessary part of the cycle of life, and an emphasis on ED’s famous white dress as central to her empowerment. I didn’t agree with all of it, especially the choice to use the song, “Gynmnopédie No. 1,” which I connect with the movie, My Dinner with Andre and the “Community” episode. I like the song, but not for the ending of this series. But, who cares? I decided early on in this show that I didn’t want to be too critical of the show — to judge it by what I might have done, or dismiss it as too modern. Instead, I took it as one possible way in which we could imagine ED’s world. I’m going to miss Emily’s mom. This show made me a big fan of Jane Krakowski. And, I’ll miss Lavinia too. Of course, Emily was great and it was fun to see how her poems were invoked.

I’m pretty sure I watched every episode while biking in the basement. Now I’ll have to find something new to watch.

One of the poems featured in this last episode is “I started Early — Took my Dog.” I thought I had posted it on this log already, but I can’t seem to find it. So, here it is:

I started Early — Took my Dog / 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 – opon 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 Boddice – too –

And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

Oh, how I would love to start early and take my dog to the sea! All of my reading of Alice Oswald and the sea is making me want to spend some time on a coast.