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.