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.”

may 2/RUN

6.2 miles
hidden falls scenic overlook loop
42 degrees

It looks like spring is finally coming (for good?) this week. Not yet, but by Wednesday. I was in Austin, MN for the weekend, and it felt like 34 degrees yesterday morning. 34? Boo. Anyway, today’s run was nice. It felt a little difficult, but I kept going and enjoyed it.

Another Monday, another run to above hidden falls. Maybe this is a new tradition? Today I ran past the overlook to some steps that lead down to the falls. They’ve repaired the road and the bridge. As I ran back, I thought that they should rename the falls the “No Longer Hidden Falls” or the “Falls Formerly Known as Hidden” or something like that because they used to be hidden, but now they’re not at all.

Heard some geese freaking out, a few crows, a black capped chickadee or two. Also, some chainsaws and leaf blowers and kids yelling and laughing at the Minnhaha Academy playground. Water trickling, then flowing down the gorge on the st. paul side. Some wet, crudded-up bike wheels slowly approaching from behind. The thud of my feet striking the ground. A woman talking to someone through her phone as she ran.

Noticed the river as I crossed the ford bridge. Blue, framed with brown branches. A few streaks of foam. A white buoy. A construction worker in a bright yellow vest with a shovel near the bridge above hidden falls. The very steep and open rim of the gorge just before hidden falls, a dirt trail leading off of it into nowhere.

Before I went out for my run, I re-visited “The Trees” by Philip Larkin. I recited it in my head throughout the run: “The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said.” This is a great poem to recite while running. Only one line tripped me up rhythmically: “Yet still the unresting castles thresh”

I don’t remember my thoughts as I ran, other than: how am I going to run for 6 miles?, Am I almost done?, This feels amazing!, Wow, that bluff is steep!

their greenness is a kind of grief

The 4th line of Larkin’s poem is: “Their greenness is a kind of grief.” Before my run, I started reading a book I bought earlier in the year and that I’ve been waiting to read until spring: Green Green Green. It’s not green here in Minneapolis yet, but I’m hoping that if I think hard enough about green — and say green green green over and over– it will appear faster. I started the first chapter, “The Eccho in Green.” She describes how green represents both life, newness, hope, health, vitality almost too an intoxicating level AND death, where to look green is to be pale or ill, out of sorts, nearer to death. Then she discusses William Blake’s poem, “The Ecchoing Green” and how the green in it is not the pastoral but the communal/village green, “where people mix with one another, young and old, playing and slowly fading, ecchoing . Green, as it echoes on the green, is the color of human community” (6).

This idea of the public, in-community land, made me think of a passage I encountered this morning that I’d like to return to many times:

These days, it seems like the highest praise a poem can get is someone tweeting in all caps, “This destroyed me!” I have often wondered why someone would want to be destroyed. Rather than immolating the reader, Keene’s poems keep opening up, rippling dynamically outward, playing back and forth between self and other, scene and setting, softly encouraging you in each line to be more generous with your intimacy. What is most startling about reading Punks is that, perceiving the world through Keene’s eyes, you begin imperceptibly relaxing your own spiritual narrowness and start to notice yourself doing the unthinkable. You start loving others beyond the usual perimeter of your affection. 

Friends and Strangers: John Keene’s poetry of others (via twitter)

The author of this paragraph is writing about a new poetry collection by John Keene, Punks. I like this idea of being openned up and how it enables connections — and expressions of love with/for others. Not sure if this makes sense yet, but I wanted to make note of it so I can reflect on these ideas of green space and openness and expansion instead of narrowing.

Here’s the poem by Blake — and recording of someone reciting it:

The Ecchoing Green/ WILLIAM BLAKE

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring.
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells’ cheerful sound. 
While our sports shall be seen
On the Ecchoing Green.

Old John, with white hair 
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk, 
They laugh at our play, 
And soon they all say.
‘Such, such were the joys. 
When we all girls & boys, 
In our youth-time were seen, 
On the Ecchoing Green.’

Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end: 
Round the laps of their mothers, 
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen,
On the darkening Green. 

I might memorize this one for tomorrow’s run.

may 25/RUN

3 miles
47th st loop, short
72 degrees
humidity: 81%/ dew point: 66

Rained this morning, stopped around 11. Decided even though it was warm and humid and thick, to go out for a run. Not too bad, but still difficult. 3 miles was all I could manage. I do not handle heat and humidity well. Still, very happy to get out there, and most of it felt good. Heard lots of dripping water. My favorite: the gushing of the ravine–I couldn’t see it, but heard so much water rushing out of the pipe, down the limestone ledge and then the concrete. Also heard the water rushing out of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Wow! Don’t remember being irritated by any bugs or road-hoggers or loud talkers. The path was crowded, but I managed to get my 6+ feet of distance except for once. Anything else: lots of puddle and muddy grass which I successfully avoided.

reciting while running: green and color

After learning Farris’s epic “What Would Root,” I’m not sure where to go with my green poems. I have a few more in the queue to memorize but I don’t know–should I stop learning more green poems? Spend more time with the three I already have? This morning I found several articles about poetry and color. Right now, I’m reading Dorothea Lasky’s “What is Color in Poetry.” She writes:

Perhaps when we connect color to language, to sound, in the space of a poem we reconnect and resist what Breton has named the tragic bifurcation of the so-called real and dream worlds that happens to all adults. Perhaps this is poetry’s purpose in our lives, to reconnect the real and dream worlds to one’s own dormant light. Of course, I believe the easiest way to do this with language is through the perfect use of color. 

What are some perfect uses of color? How, where is green used perfectly?

Here are some other color sources to read/listen to:

may 24/RUN

2 miles
1.75 loop + extra
63 degrees
humidity: 94%, dew point: 62

Established another loop for my summer loop project: 1.75 loop/ start at 36th, north on Edmund, then north on the river road at 33rd, loop around 32nd, south on edmund, then south on river road at 36th, loop around 38th, north on edmund, end at 36th. Sounds more complicated than it is. If they weren’t doing some big sewer project near the tunnel of trees which has shut down the river road for a small stretch, this loop would be north on edmund, south on the river road. Found out this morning that this project is expected to last until the fall. Bummer.

Everything was thick and green. Heavy, but also calm and slow. Wore a tank top today which helped with the heat. Heard lots of birds–some robins I think. (Later, walking with Delia the dog, I heard 2 black capped chickadees doing a call and response–except for it was more a response and call. I heard the response first. I’d like to imagine what they might be saying to each other in their reversed conversation. Anything else? No view of the river, no roller skiers, no Daily Walker. No running path, no spazzy squirrels, no woodpecker. No sun, no bugs, no shadows. Only green–green sky, green view, green air.

Thinking some more about “What Would Root” and what is and isn’t mentioned in the poem: it’s May, there’s some sun, but no wind or humidity or weather at all. No shadows. There are scolding squirrels, birds, and lizards, but no bugs–mosquitoes or gnats or moths or butterflies. No evidence of other humans. No road or path or dirt trail. There is a smell–“the air was sweet with pine and Island Mountain lilac,” taste–“I could taste the granite in the spring,” sight–“the land spread itself greenly for me,” and touch–“the rock was very hard,” but no hearing–no wind rustling through the trees, no noises from the scolding squirrels, or slurps from the red hummingbirds dipping their beaks into the little red hoods of penstemon.

Here’s another poem I found on twitter the other day involving vision. Will I have to memorize a series of poems about vision sometime this summer?

Eyesight/ A.R. Ammons

It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes
I’ve

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don’t worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain
it’s not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone

may 23/RUN

2.4 miles
1.5 mile loop + .75 loop + extra
62 degrees
94% humidity/ dew point: 61

Humid and thick and sticky. Hard to breathe. Yuck! I already miss the fresher, cooler air. Oh well. Decided to run a few miles this morning before the rain arrives. It’s supposed to rain here all weekend. Lots of other people–runners and walkers–had the same idea. I should start getting up much earlier, when it’s cooler and less crowded. Heard some woodpeckers and a bunch of other birds that I couldn’t readily recognize. Don’t remember much else from my run except that there were lots of puddles on the sidewalk, lots of dripping trees. At some point during the run, I got a nice little shower when the wind nudged some wet leaves and they misted me. Recited “What Would Root” a few times. When I finished my run I recited it into my phone.

What Would Root, may 23

Listening back to the recording, I’m pleased with how I remembered almost all of it and struck by how many birds I can hear in the background. As I listened to the line, “that they were a part of my body, I could not doubt; they were living and enervated and jutting out”, I thought about how I am not entirely sure what “enervated” means. Looked it up and was surprised: exhausted, fatigued, weary. I was thinking it would mean the opposite of that but as I think about the rest of the poem it makes sense. The next line is, “I sat down” and a few lines later the narrator says, “I lay down beneath my own branches.” So, does that mean rooting is akin too resting here? Stepping away from the world, “to nuzzle into the earth”? Or maybe it means being restored, revitalized–for me, that fits better with the color green. I love the world Farris creates here and I want to lay beneath my own branches and nuzzle into the earth–at least for a while, until this terrible pandemic is over and the assholes who are making it much worse are gone.

Speaking of the pandemic, we are entering a new phase. Things are opening back up and it seems like some people think this means things are getting better. Who thinks this and why? I can’t decide how much of this attitude is coming from “actual” people, and how much of it is propaganda designed to get us to risk our lives for the sake of spending money. I do not like this phase; I like it less than the last phase.

Found this poem after using the search word “green.” I want to think about it some more as it relates to my vision and how I see color and forms.

I Look Up from My Book and Out at the World through Reading Glasses/ Diane Seuss

The world, italicized.

Douglas fir blurs into archetype,
a black vertical with smeared green arms.
The load of pinecones at the top,
a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath
of moths, a rabbit strung up
like a flag.

All trees are trees.
Death to modifiers.

A smear of blue, a smear of gold that could be a haystack,
a Cadillac, or a Medal of Honor without a neck to hang upon.

I know the dog killed something today, but it’s lost in fog.
A small red splotch in a band of monochromatic green.
And now, the mountain of bones is only a mountain capped in snow.
 
It’s a paradise of vagaries.
No heartache.
Just and eraser smudge,
smoke-gray.

All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur.

may 21/RUN

3.25 miles
1.5 mile loop*
61 degrees

This summer, I’m planning to do more loops. Today I decided to do an easy run: 2 loops, starting at 36th, heading south on the river road, turning right on 42nd, then heading back north on edmund. One loop = 1.5 miles + .25 mile run to the river.

green as mood, feeling

Overcast this morning and warm. Everything was green. Thought about the idea of green as something you feel instead of see. What does it mean to feel green? Today’s green, in the absence of bright sun, felt calm and floating. Not solid or sharp or singular but part of everything else–pavement, grass, dirt, trees, sky, birds, the little kid speeding away from his dad on his bike.

I quickly googled green mood and found an article about it: What Does Green Make You Feel. Popular answers: calm, excited, stimulated, compassionate, optimistic, natural, fertile. Some that weren’t mentioned, but that I think about: energized/over-stimulated, mystery, envy, greed, naiveté, queasiness, growth/abundance/excess.

reciting while running: What Would Root

Recited What Would Root again as I ran. The entire poem took about a mile to speak in my head–with a few stops and starts with the words. I thought a little bit about the refrain “I could see everything; it was all green.” Then I thought about how I, with my damaged cones, sees green. Am I actually seeing green–and, how much? Is some of this seeing the memory of green or the logic of green—my brain knows that in spring and summer, trees are green, so it “tells” my eyes to see green? I don’t know. I feel like I’m actually seeing green but how many functional cones do I have left? Could I be seeing green through my peripheral? Lots of questions.

When I finished my run, I recited the poem into my phone as I walked home. I got it almost totally right–I forgot the line, “I sat down, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck, understanding for the first time that they were not hairs, but roots.” It is fascinating to have the poem in front of me and then listen to my recitation, seeing what I get right, what I don’t, which articles/words I add or omit.

what would root, may 21

may 20/RUN

4 miles
last chance before franklin loop*
61 degrees

*edmund, north/river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south. This loop is called the last change before Franklin because its most northern point where I turn around is the last chance to turn onto Seabury before the the river road slopes down.

Spring! Warmer weather! No layers today, just shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Windy, overcast, and green. Was able to run right above the river for a few stretches. Streaks of blue breaking through the persistent green. Classic color combination–sky blue + straight up green (not fern or asparagus or pine). Don’t remember seeing–or hearing–any roller skiers. Encountered some annoying road-hogging walkers but was able to cross the road to avoid them.

Recited this week’s poem, What Would Root. I have the entire thing, all 402 words of it, memorized! Running back on Seabury, heading south, I was able to think about the story and meanings in the poem. One thing that’s great, at least for me, about memorizing a poem is that the longer I spend with the poem, the better I can understand it–not completely understand it on every level, but understand it on a basic level. Perhaps everyone else gets these things right away, but it has taken me dozens of readings to get that the line

                 My right eye would not close to this
view; why would it; but when I reached up to touch it, I
felt that there was a twig emerging, and another from my
other eye;

is about how twigs were coming out of both eyes and not just the other eye. Maybe it was because I was trying to quickly memorize so many lines or maybe it was because the idea of twigs emerging from eyes is so strange to me that I couldn’t make sense of the sentence. Whatever the reason, spending time with the words is enabling me to understand them better.

Another revelation: near the beginning of the poem, the narrator “stopped to lean against a rock.” While running, I suddenly realized, they never leave that rock–the entire poem takes place there! I figured this out as I wondered about the rock in the line near the end, “I had to wiggle a bit to/ find a place to lay my head; the rock was very hard.” When I got home, I thought my theory wasn’t quite right because of the line: “soon, I crested a rise,” but now, as I write this, I’m wondering about what crested means here–to walk up a rise? to have their eyes travel to the top of it?

I like the idea of this long, wild story, being rooted at the rock from the beginning of the poem. And I love this idea of rooting, being rooted and how the story unfolds around it. I want to spend some more time thinking about what it means to root, be rooted, take root. I’d also like to write a poem like this–with a story at the gorge–about sinking.

One more thing: re-reading this poem just now, I’m thinking about how important seeing and eyes are. “I could see everything” is repeated 4 times, twigs emerge from the narrator’s eyes, and the poem all starts because the narrator is struck with “some sort of flying detritus” in both eyes. What’s up with that? Maybe tomorrow I can think about it as I run?

Right before climbing the hill at Edmund, I stopped in the grass, looking over at the fence above the tunnel of trees, and recorded myself reciting the poem.

what would root, may 20

I can’t believe I screwed up the first line and forgot the “cathedral”! I love the idea of a cathedral of trees. Overall, I’m happy with this recording. I messed up a few of the words, but I got almost all of it right. I’ll keep working on it for the rest of the week. I think it’s funny that I added “toss a coin” to the line “I wished for seed so I could toss it into that green”

may 19/RUN

2.55 miles
42nd st loop
57 degrees

Did a shorter run today. Warmer, overcast, not too windy. Heard some black capped chickadee’s doing their fee-bee call before I headed out, then the loud drumming of a woodpecker about a mile into the run. As usual, everything was green. Anything else I remember from my run? Saw and heard some roller skiers clickity-clacking. Also heard a kid calling out to an adult–“Let me go first!” And heard a woman, with a lot of anger in her voice, recounting a story about what some other woman had done–I don’t know what it was but I know that “she REALLY shouldn’t have done it!”

Memorized the rest of the Katie Farris poem, What Would Root. An epic undertaking! 402 words. Too much for reciting while running, I think. I do really like this poem and am glad to have memorized it. Will I try another this long again? Not sure. Sometimes Farris uses articles (like the) and sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she includes a that, sometimes she doesn’t. I find it hard to always remember when. I like how she repeated the phrase “I could see everything” 4 times.

Listening back to the recording I made, right after I finished my run, staring into the sink hole at 7 Oaks, I noticed I dropped or added a few words. And I forgot one of my favorite lines: “that they were a part of my body I could not doubt, there were living and enervated and jutting out.”Not too bad for my first attempt at memorizing the entire thing. What a strange, wonderful poem. What does it all mean? Not sure about that yet. After I fully memorize it, I’ll have to dig into the lines, maybe on a longer run?

What Would Root, may 19

Last night, I worked some more on my Ode to Green poem. I’m still trying to figure out the form of the lines–tercets? a prose poem? one long series of lines? In “Ode to My Right Knee” Rita Dove uses couplets but I don’t think those works with my lines. Here’s the tercet version:

Ode to Green/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Greedy gorge gobbler grifting
vistas. Vanishing views.
Overrunning overlooks. Orchestrating

take-overs–trees tressed,
scenes stolen, senses smothered. Stop.
Yield your yearly

domination. Dress down. Decide
against always
exuding excess.

Oh overabundant obstruction,
we want windows, ways
out, openings, other

perspectives, possibilities. Please
share some space. Surely
room remains

for faithful friends forever
craving crowd-less calm
where water waits, wants witnessing, where

laboring lungs long
to take
bigger, bug-less breaths beside
river’s rim?

may 18/RUN

3.5 miles
47th st loop
54 degrees

Sunny but windy this morning. So green! Was able to run right above the river for a few minutes. Hardly any view, mostly variations of green. At one spot, near the bench next to the boulder, I caught a glimpse of the river. So bright, it was almost white. Heard some birds but cannot remember what kinds or what their songs sounded like. Encountered some bikers, walkers, runners, all from more than 6 feet of distance. Forgot to look for the turkeys down by the tree graveyard/turkey hollow (I think I might have named it turkey meadow last week, but I like turkey hollow better). Avoided the big muddy puddles in the grass on the dirt trail near Becketwood by running in the road. Don’t remember much else because I spent most of my time reciting the first half of my next green poem: What Would Root.

Reciting While Running: What Would Root/Katie Farris

Started memorizing this poem about an hour before my run. I decided because it was longer, I’d divide it up and only memorize the first half now, then the rest later. Love this poem! It helps so much to memorize it. It forces me to pay close attention to all the words and to do more than just try to get to the end–which is something that can happen when I’m reading.

When I was finished running, I recorded myself reciting it into my phone. I got most of it right–except for the title and a word here and there. I think I screwed it up partly because I was self-conscious, walking near (but not too near, always 10 feet away) to others. One day, I will not be self-conscious at all. I am already better than I used to be.

what would root, may 18

I like the line, “scolded by squirrels/in their priestly black, their white collars/wagging with the force of their scolding,” although I can’t picture these squirrels. None of the ones around me are priestly black with white collars–about once or twice a year I might see a black squirrel, but the ones in my yard and by the gorge are brown. My favorite lines today: “and stopped to lean against a rock/to scrub it (I thought) away. It was May/it was May, it was May” I love the assonance with stopped, rock, and thought and the rhyme with away and May. And I love the break and refrain of “it was May, it was May, it was May” I also like the line, “it was all green, really;/even the red was anti-green”

a word I didn’t know or know how to pronounce

penstemon: pen stee muhn [from Merriam Webster] “any of a genus (Penstemon) of perennial, chiefly North American herbs or low shrubs of the snapdragon family typically with spikes of showy, two-lipped, tubular flowers with two lobes on the upper lip and three lobes on the lower lip”

Also called beardtongue because the flower often looks like an open mouth with a fuzzy tongue protruding.

Have I seen any of these? Probably, although it’s hard for me to tell from the images I found.

may 17/BIKERUN

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

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

The Trees/Phillip Larkin

biking, 120 BPM
running, 165 BPM

Instructions on Not Giving Up/ Ada Limón

biking, 120 BPM
running, 165 BPM

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

Here’s my latest version:

Ode to Green/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

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