sept 27/RUN

5.5 miles
ford loop
48 degrees

Today, it feels like fall. Wore my running tights under my shorts.

My right knee is a bit sore. It didn’t hurt while I was running, just after, when I was walking. Now, as I write this, I’m icing it.

Windy. Hissing trees. Running across the ford bridge, the wind was blowing off of the river, making my ponytail and pink jacket flap furiously. The water had strange streaks on it — how was the wind making that happen?

Noticed some crows and lots of construction everywhere. They’re redoing all the sidewalks in the neighborhood. Heard some woodpeckers, drumming on trees. Heard a jackhammer across the river and thought about how it sounded like the woodpeckers. Greeted Mr. Walker and Mr. Morning! Overheard some women say something about listening to a podcast.

leaf watch, 2022

A few bright red trees, some yellow. Still well below peak.

Anything else? Heard the St. Thomas bells chime 10 times. Noticed my shadow above shadow falls. Enjoyed the sensation of running over the dirt — the shshsh sound and the soft slide of my feet as the lifted off the gritty ground.

Here are two poems I recently found on twitter, one about love, the other beauty:

I’ve Been Thinking about Love Again/ Vievee Francis

Those who live to have it and
those who live to give it.

Of course there are those for whom both are true,
but never in the same measure.

Those who have it to give are
like cardinals in the snow. So easy
and beautifully lit. Some
are rabbits. Hard to see
except for those who would prey upon them:
all that softness and quaking and blood.

Those who want it
cannot be satisfied. Eagle-eyed and such talons,
any furred thing will do. So easy
to rip out a heart when it is throbbing so hard.

I wander out into the winter.
I know what I am.

A page from Frank: Sonnets/ Diane Seuss

Sometimes I can’t feel it, what some call

beauty. I can see it, I swear, the conifers

and fat bees, ferns like church fans and then

the sea, its flatness as if pressed by stones

like witches were, the dark sand ridged

by tides, strewn with body parts, claws,

the stranded mesoglea of the moon jellyfish,

transparent blob, brainless, enlightened in its clarity.

I stand there, I walk the shore at low tide, the sky

fearless, not open to me, just open, there it is,

the wind, cold, surf’s boom drowning out

thought, I can photograph it, I can name it

beautiful, but feel it, I don’t know that I am

feeling it, when I drown in it, maybe then.

note: more info on mesoglea and the moon jellyfish

march 27/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
16 degrees / feels like 6

Brrr. I wore almost all the layers today: 2 pairs of running tights, long-sleeved shirt, black 3/4s pullover, pink jacket, black vest, 2 pairs of gloves, winter cap, buff, 1 pair of socks. The only thing missing: hand warmers, mittens, and an extra pair of socks. Like most cold days, it looked (and sounded) warm. Bright sun and singing birds. Because of the cold, it wasn’t that crowded on the trails. I think I only saw 1 bike, some walkers. Was “morning-ed!” by Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus. Nice. Noticed several planes in the sky. With the clear blue and bright sun, they were white smudges, looking almost like the faint trace of the moon during the day. I saw them out of the corner of my eye, but they kept disappearing in my central vision.

the river!

The best thing I noticed today was the river. It was mostly open, but the banks were crusty again, and there were small chunks of ice everywhere. Slushy. Yesterday the wind was moving with the river, pulling it faster south. Today, the wind and water were at odds. The river was moving, but just barely, and away from the wind. Most of its movement was in the sparkling sun bouncing off the gentle ripples. Beautiful.

Saw my shadow off to the side, then in front. Heard my zipper pull clanging against my vest. I don’t remember smelling anything — no, that’s wrong. As I ran by Black’s Coffee, I smelled the fresh waffles.

a word to remember in the summer

petrichor (pe TRI cor): a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Found on a twitter thread about favorite words rarely heard.

Love this poem, and the idea of creating a list or lists with “More Of This, Please” as the title!

MORE OF THIS, PLEASE / EMILY SERNAKER

In grad school I had a writing teacher who’d completely cream my essays.
Cross-outs and tracked changes. He took me at my word
when I said I wanted to get better. But when he liked something,
he’d point to what was working: More of this please.
Did I mention he was British? This is important because lately,
whenever something is really working, I tend to think to myself,
in a British accent: More of this, please. A lunch date turned dinner date
with a dreamboat who is slightly embarrassed his eyes water in cold weather.
Him looking like he’s tearing up at Shake Shack. More of this, please.
A toddler turning got me at the park holding her hair tie, asking me
to fix her ponytail. Her grandmother nodding to go right ahead, my hands
collecting wisps of yellow. More of this, please. Any time my family is honest
about mental health, what my grandparents were up against. This.
Cough-drop wrappers that say, Bet on Yourself. Pop-up concerts in the city.
Stevie Wonder playing Songs in the Key of Life at 10 AM on a Monday,
hundreds of people stopping mid commute in button-ups and blazers
belting out every word to “Sir Duke” and “Isn’t She Lovely,” saying, “My boss
is just going to have to understand!” The subway tiles under Carnegie Hall
with names of performers who played there: Lena Horne, September 29,
1947. The Beatles, February 12, 1964. Dance classes with live drummers.
An editor saying, I’ll pass this on,” instead of, “I’ll pass on this.”
A stranger falling asleep on my shoulder for several stops. Staring at dates
in authors’ bios: Ruth Stone, 1915-2011. Larry Levis, 1946-1996.
Recommitting to living as much as I can. Realizing the dash between the year
you’re born and the year you die is smaller than your smaller fingernail.
It’s smaller than a strand of saffron in a bottle the size of a thimble
in the spice shop across the street.

This poem is in The Sun Magazine. I found all these wonderful quotations about water there: Sunbeams

jan 3/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge turn around
16 degrees / feels like 9
100% snow-covered

Cold, but much warmer than the last time I ran. 21 degrees warmer. Was planning to wear my Yak trax, which make the soft, slippery snow much easier to run on, but one of them was broken — some of the rubber had ripped. Bummer. Technically, my Yak trax are only for walking, so maybe running is too much for them. Should I find some intended for running? Is it worth the investment? Probably.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. He wished me a happy new year. My dorky, overly formal, response: “happy new year to you too.”

It was a little more difficult than usual, running in soft snow. Less traction, more effort from the leg muscles. I was so focused on watching the path, and making sure I didn’t run over a mound of snow, or on ice, that I forgot to look at the river. Well, maybe I glanced at it, but I have no memory of what it looked like. Was it all covered with snow (probably)? Were there any splits in the ice (probably not)? It always amazes me when I forget to look at the river. It’s so big, it’s so there, just below me, how can I forget to look at it?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 or 5 geese, flying in a loose formation, honking. Just above the lake street bridge
  2. Daddy Long Legs, walking, in a bright orange vest, with black pants
  3. Graffiti on a piling under the franklin bridge — just the outline of letters, no color. I wasn’t able to read the letters or the word they might have been spelling
  4. The closed gate with an orange sign attached to it, blocking off the entrance to the minneapolis rowing club
  5. voices below the lake street bridge
  6. a man standing in the middle of the walking path, talking to someone sitting on a bench overlooking the white sands beach
  7. the trail covered in loosely packed snow, except for a few narrow trails where feet or bike wheels or both had worn it down almost, but not quite, to bare asphalt
  8. passing a runner, both of us raising our hands in greeting
  9. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  10. breakfast smells from longfellow grill — no burnt toast this time, just a subtle, gentle, general/generic smell of savory breakfast

Love Letter/ Diane Seuss

But what can it be if love is a past
tense event? And what
was love then
according to my brain
and what
is love now and how do I direct it
like a beam with the power
to excise all that is not love? For a time
I believed getting and keeping
love required lace. Procuring lace
and arranging it
on my body in a certain way.
Isn’t that funny and/or strange?
I modulated my voice to the northern
region of its register. Reddened
my lips. This was love’s drapery
and music and face.
If you’ve read Madame Bovary, if you’ve read
gothic romance, you know
the denouement of that arc.
When I first read the word denouement
out loud my ex-husband laughed
at my mispronunciation.
I include it here as an illustration
of the fact that love does not conquer
all. Now when I think
of love it’s like focusing too hard
on the mechanisms of blinking or breathing.
You can be blinded or suffocated
by that degree of self-consciousness.
Like a love letter, love seems to me to exist
on a thin plane, a disintegrating page
covered in words scratched
onto the surface with purple disappearing ink
cooked up in a chemistry lab.
I’m sure I’ve written a love letter here
and there. Something gauche,
a performance designed toward
the specific outcome of eternity.
I read of a feral dog who could only be captured
by putting the soiled blankets of her puppies
in a live trap. This is my metaphor for a love letter.
I own a letter my father wrote my mother
when they were newly in love.
The stationery is smallish and decorated
with a garish deep red rose in aching
bloom. He spends most
of his language’s currency bemoaning
his bad spelling. No wonder
she found him charming. For my people
it is the flaw that counts, but not for all
people. Our narrative is an object
lesson in the fact that flawed people
deserve to be loved, at least for a while.
That’s the ephemeral part.
I’m much too sturdy now to invest
in the ephemeral. No, I do not own lace
curtains. It’s clear we die a hundred times
before we die. The selves
that were gauzy, soft, sweet, capable
of throwing themselves away
on love, died young. They sacrificed
themselves to the long haul.
Picture girls in white nighties jumping
off a cliff into the sea. I want to say
don’t mistake this for cynicism
but of course, it is cynicism.
Cynicism is a go-to I no longer have
the energy to resist. It’s like living
with a vampire. Finally, just get it
over with, bite me. I find it almost
offensive to use the word love
in relation to people I actually love.
The word has jumped off
so many cliffs into so many seas.
What can it now signify?
Shall I use the word affinity
like J.D. Salinger, not a good
man, put into the mouths
of his child genius characters? I have
an affinity for my parents. An affinity
for you. I will make sure you are fed
and clothed. I will listen to you
endlessly. I will protect your privacy
even if it means removing myself
from the equation. Do those sound
like wedding vows? Are they indiscriminate?
Well then, I am indiscriminate.
I am married to the world.
I have worked it all out in front of you.
Isn’t that a kind of nakedness?
You have called for a love letter.
This is a love letter.

Wow. Things I love about this: affinity instead of love, sturdy instead of ephemeral, “its like living/with a vampire. Finally, just get it/over with, bite me.”, being married to the world, flawed people as charming, and the final line and how the poem leads you to it.

oct 4/RUN

2.1 miles
2 trails
60 degrees

Feeling a little cooler and a lot brighter out by the gorge this late morning. Yellows, reds, and oranges. Heard some kids at the school playground, some women talking. Earlier, when I was walking Delia, I heard a white-haired man on a bike loudly tell his friend, “At the end of next summer, I’m going to Maine, and I’m staying until the leaves have finished falling.” Am I remembering that right? Not totally sure. Saw and heard some people from the parks department chain-sawing some trees in the grassy boulevard. Encountered a few squirrels, heard a honk from a goose. Counted to 4, chanted in triples (strawberry blueberry raspberry). Ended my run at the bottom of the 38th st steps and walked on the Winchell Trail to the Oak Savanna. So many crickets and crunching leaves. One other walker who dramatically moved off to the side to give me room to pass.

Found this poem just now. It doesn’t fit with October or any theme I might have for this month, but it’s a wonderful love poem, to add to my month of love poems from August:

The Patience of Ordinary Things/ Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

The lovely repetition of stairs! The generosity of a window! I love it.

august 31/RUN

7 miles
franklin loop + marshall loop
69 degrees

Thought about biking over to the lake and swimming this morning, but decided to run instead. I need to build up my distance for my 10 mile race in October. Last week I ran 7 miles too, but I stopped for a 5 minute break after 4 miles. Today I ran the entire distance without stopping. Many hills, including one that will be in the race. I ran the franklin loop then, when I reached the lake street bridge, I kept running up the hill on the east river road just above Shadow Falls. At the top, I crossed over to Cretin, which is a reverse of the way I normally run the Marshall loop. Reversing it, I realized that Cretin is all slightly uphill. Ugh.

Things I Remember:

  • Running through the welcoming oaks
  • Noticing that there are no stacked stones on the ancient boulder
  • Smelling the stinky sewer above the ravine
  • Wondering why the trail is closed right by the railroad trestle
  • Greeting Dave, the Daily Walker
  • Smelling the stinky trash, ripening in the heat
  • Slowing down, almost to a stop, to let an approaching runner pass me before we reached a narrow part of the trail
  • Noticing there were no rowers on the river
  • Admiring the wonderful view of the river from one of my favorite spots–on the east side, just above the marshall/lake bridge, right before the crosswalk
  • Wondering why there were so many signs and balloons near the crosswalk–was someone else killed here? Such a dangerous spot. I try to avoid crossing over it; too hard for speeding drivers to see pedestrians, even with the big bright yellow crosswalk sign
  • Listening to the rowdy crows caw-caw-cawing near the ravine–so loud, so many!
  • Working on revisions to a poem I wrote a few years ago. A line contrasting the solid immovability of land with the fluid flow of water popped into my head. Not quite there, but a start

A good, hard run. I’m hoping I have lots of great fall and winter running this year and that I’m able to build up to more miles.

The last day of August, the last day in a month of love poems. Very fitting to finish with the wonderful Katie Farris. A few years ago, my sister Anne asked me who my favorite poets are. I struggled to answer then, but now, having spent a lot more time reading and exploring poetry, I can offer some suggestions: Mary Oliver, Maggie Smith, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Alice Oswald, Lorine Niedecker, Emily Dickinson, Marie Howe, Richard Siken, Rita Dove, and Katie Farris.

Why Write Love Poetry in a Burning World/ Katie Farris

To train myself to find, in the midst of hell
what isn’t hell.

The body, bald, cancerous, but still
beautiful enough to
imagine living the body
washing the body
replacing a loose front
porch step the body chewing
what it takes to keep a body
going —

this scene has a tune
a language I can read
this scene has a door
I cannot close I stand
within its wedge
I stand within its shield

Why write love poetry in a burning world?
To train myself, in the midst of a buring world,
to offer poems of love in a burning world.

august 29/RUN

1.65 miles
neighborhood
80 degrees

Back from Austin. Even though it was warm and mid-afternoon, I decided to do a quick run through the neighborhood. Listened to a playlist and ran to and around cooper school, then by Minneahaha Academy, up Edmund and back home. I can’t remember if I say any other runners. Saw lots of cars on the river road and some walkers and bikers.

Encountered this excerpt from Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Story. I had no idea the collection was about water-as-river/river-as-water. Wow! Very cool. I must read the entire collection now.

The First Water Is the Body/ Natalie Diaz

The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States— also, it is a part of my body.

I carry a river. It is who I am: ‘Aha Makav. This is not metaphor.

When a Mojave says, Inyech ‘Aha Makavch ithuum, we are saying our name. We are telling a story of our existence. The river runs through the middle of my body.

So far, I have said the word river in every stanza. I don’t want to waste water. I must preserve the river in my body.

In future stanzas, I will try to be more conservative.

august 26/RUNSWIM

4.15 miles
minehaha falls and back
65 degrees

Cooler this morning. Fall running is coming soon! Running south, I noticed lots of cars on the river road. None of them were going too fast but I could tell they were in a hurry to get somewhere. Summer seems over. I’m less sad, more wistful or already nostalgic for the water.

When I reached the falls, they were roaring again. It rained this week. More coming this afternoon and tomorrow. Will it be enough to end the drought? Not sure.

It’s a grayish white morning, quiet, calm. I smelled smoke near the double bridge. A campfire down in the gorge? I glanced at the river a few times when I was on the Winchell Trail. Today it looks blue. Heard a roller skier at the beginning of my run. Greeted a few runners and walkers. Successfully avoided rolling on a walnut–encased in its green shell, looking like a small tennis ball. Don’t remember seeing any squirrels or hearing any rower. Too early for kids on the playground. No music blasting from a bike speaker. I remember making note of a fragment of conversation, but I can’t remember what was said.

A good run. The upper half of my right side felt sore at the beginning of the run, but when I warmed up it was fine. I started to recite Auto-lullaby, but never quite finished. I guess I got distracted. I’d like to get back into combining poetry and running in September.

love, connection, and strangers

Yesterday, I discovered a great article by Elisa Gabbert about missing strangers during the pandemic: A Complicated Energy. It made me think about connection and love and how I miss being around other people–like walking on a busy city street or sitting on a bench in a park–when we are all strangers to each other.

To people-watch, says Baudelaire, is “to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world”—to become interchangeable, one of the strangers. For Virginia Woolf, a wander through the city at dusk was an escape from the trap of being “tethered to a single mind,” from the oppression of self: “The evening hour, too, gives us the irresponsibility which darkness and lamplight bestow. We are no longer quite ourselves.” “Let us dally a little longer,” she writes, “be content still with surfaces only.” Strangers are all surface, and if we accessed their depths, they’d cease to be strangers. We’re all surface to them, too—all face. Strangers allow us to be mysterious in a way we can’t when we’re at home, or when alone. With strangers we’re unknown.

I like this idea of surfaces and the unknown, I’m less interested in the idea of people watching and seeing others, probably because I can’t see people very clearly. I do like hearing people’s stories and connecting with them on deeper levels sometimes, but it drains me. More often, I just like being in the midst of them–not too close, no need for talking or touching, being beside each other is enough. This is a meaningful form of connection to me, a form of love. Sometimes more than this is too much.

Woolf’s desire to not be “tethered to a single mind” resonates for me. This tethering and the idea of surfaces makes me think of sinking and floating, with sinking = tethered to the self-as-anchor and floating = being on the surface, unmoored, free to be unknown and unknowing. And then that connection makes me think of some great lines from a Maxine Kumin poem:

Where have I come from? Where am I going?
What do I translate, gliding back and forth
erasing my own stitch marks in this lane?
Christ on the lake was not thinking
where the next heel-toe went. 
God did him a dangerous favor
whereas Peter, the thinker, sank. 
The secret is in the relenting, 
the partnership. I let my body work
accepting the dangerous favor
from the king-size pool of waters. 

To Swim, To Believe/ Maxine Kumin

Love as relenting and letting go of self and ideas. To be tethered to the known (and to knowing) is to sink.

In the next part of the essay, Gabbert laments not being able to see more faces. She misses seeing faces, and she misses seeing faces see her. She is so bothered by this lack of face time that she experiences anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms similar to withdrawal from an anti-depressant. I was struck by discussion here for 2 reasons. First, it gave me more words (and someone else’s words, not just mine) for understanding what I’ve been feeling since 2016 when I stopped being able to see people’s faces clearly. The feelings of loneliness and disconnection, the need to see someone and to see them seeing me. Often I’ve convinced myself that I’m being overly dramatic, that it’s not that big of deal that I can’t see people’s faces, their features, their pupils when they’re talking to me or smiling at me or gesturing to me. But it is. In this essay, Gabbert argues that seeing and being seen are profoundly important–to be seen by others is to become real (and recognized as worthy/worthwhile).

This claim leads me to the second reason I was struck by Gabbert’s words: Why is connection, love, realness so often only (or primarily) understand as an act of sight? This question is not purely academic to me–I post it out of frustration about how the primacy of vision is taken-for-granted–in our everyday thinking and in essays lamenting the loss of connection during the pandemic. With my increasingly limited, unfocused vision, these expressions of recognition and connection are lost on me. Gabbert continues her essay with a discussion of the importance of touch–with a fascinating story about professional cuddlers–so she does offer alternatives to sight for connection. And she offers a broader discussion on the damaging effects of loneliness on our bodies and our mental health. Yet, it still feels like sight and seeing faces are the most important ways of connecting with others. I’d like to find more words about loss of connection that don’t center on faces or seeing. Maybe I’ll have to write them?

One more thing about love. I found this poem by Dorothy Wordsworth while searching for “loving eye” on the poetry foundation site. Her distinction between loving and liking made me curious:

Loving and Liking: Irregular Verses Addressed to a Child/ Dorothy Wordsworth

There’s more in words than I can teach: 
Yet listen, Child! — I would not preach; 
But only give some plain directions 
To guide your speech and your affections. 
Say not you love a roasted fowl 
But you may love a screaming owl, 
And, if you can, the unwieldy toad 
That crawls from his secure abode 
Within the mossy garden wall 
When evening dews begin to fall, 
Oh! mark the beauty of his eye: 
What wonders in that circle lie! 
So clear, so bright, our fathers said 
He wears a jewel in his head! 
And when, upon some showery day, 
Into a path or public way 
A frog leaps out from bordering grass, 
Startling the timid as they pass, 
Do you observe him, and endeavour 
To take the intruder into favour: 
Learning from him to find a reason 
For a light heart in a dull season. 
And you may love him in the pool, 
That is for him a happy school, 
In which he swims as taught by nature, 
Fit pattern for a human creature, 
Glancing amid the water bright, 
And sending upward sparkling light. 

   Nor blush if o’er your heart be stealing 
A love for things that have no feeling: 
The spring’s first rose by you espied, 
May fill your breast with joyful pride; 
And you may love the strawberry-flower, 
And love the strawberry in its bower; 
But when the fruit, so often praised 
For beauty, to your lip is raised, 
Say not you love the delicate treat, 
But like it, enjoy it, and thankfully eat. 

   Long may you love your pensioner mouse, 
Though one of a tribe that torment the house: 
Nor dislike for her cruel sport the cat 
Deadly foe both of mouse and rat; 
Remember she follows the law of her kind, 
And Instinct is neither wayward nor blind. 
Then think of her beautiful gliding form, 
Her tread that would scarcely crush a worm, 
And her soothing song by the winter fire, 
Soft as the dying throb of the lyre. 

   I would not circumscribe your love: 
It may soar with the Eagle and brood with the dove, 
May pierce the earth with the patient mole, 
Or track the hedgehog to his hole. 
Loving and liking are the solace of life, 
Rock the cradle of joy, smooth the death-bed of strife. 
You love your father and your mother, 
Your grown-up and your baby brother; 
You love your sister and your friends, 
And countless blessings which God sends; 
And while these right affections play, 
You live each moment of your day; 
They lead you on to full content, 
And likings fresh and innocent, 
That store the mind, the memory feed, 
And prompt to many a gentle deed: 
But likings come, and pass away; 
’Tis love that remains till our latest day: 
Our heavenward guide is holy love, 
And will be our bliss with saints above. 

swim: 1 mile / 1 loop
lake nokomis open swim
70 degrees

The thunderstorms held off so I could do a final loop in the lake! Now, as I write this at 7:15, it’s dark and raining and a loud clap of thunder just hit somewhere nearby. What joy to get one last loop! Such a strange swim. No one at the lake besides us swimmers–and not too many swimmers. Overcast, eerily quiet, and smoke from wildfires at the Boundary Waters. Another apocalyptic night. Only orange buoys, no green ones. I swam to the white buoy off of the little beach, treaded water for a minute or two, then swam back. What a great season! So happy to have taken full advantage of a great summer. So grateful for the amazing Minneapolis Parks department. STA and I met at Sandcastle for a beer after I finished.

august 25/SWIM

.35 miles / 1 loop
cedar lake open swim
80 degrees

Most likely the final open swim of the season. One more is scheduled for Lake Nokomis tomorrow (Thursday) night, but it is supposed to thunderstorm in the late afternoon, so it will probably be canceled. Forced myself to only swim one loop, even though the water was calm and uncrowded and I would have loved to swim many more. My right side, my upper back and all down my forearm, is very sore and I don’t want to injure it. Even as I wish the season wasn’t ending, my body needs a break, I guess. What a great season. I exceeded my goal of 100 Sara miles and only missed a few open swims at either lake.

The beaches won’t be closed until (at least) after labor day–one year they kept the buoys up until October!–so I’m hoping to swim another week or two. Not sure if I’ll be able to swim indoors at all this winter. In a more perfect world, I would be able to walk a few blocks to an indoor pool. Oh well. More time for fall and winter running!

Unlike Lake Nokomis, which has a huge open parking lot that is directly off of the main beach, Cedar Lake has a small parking lot (that is always filled) and a gravel path with woods on one side, the lake on the other, that leads to a small beach. This difference makes cedar feel more like a lake up north, which I like. As we reached the edge of the gravel on our way out, I noticed a dead tree leaning up against a living one in the woods. I mentioned to STA that I had just read a beautiful poem about two trees like this. This is the poem:

Cello/ Dorianne Laux

When a dead tree falls in a forest
it often falls into the arms
of a living tree. The dead,
thus embraced, rasp in wind,
slowly carving a niche
in the living branch, shearing away
the rough outer flesh, revealing
the pinkish, yellowish, feverish
inner bark. For years
the dead tree rubs its fallen body
against the living, building
its dead music, making its raw mark,
wearing the tough bough down
as it moans and bends, the deep
rosined bow sound of the living
shouldering the dead.

Grief, a burden but also a friend, a companion, is a form (expression?) of love.

august 23/RUN

run: 7 miles
lake nokomis and back
70 degrees / dew point: 66

My longest run in a few years. I’m tired. Ran to the lake then stopped for a few minutes by the little beach. Walked for a few minutes, then ran next to the parkway until I reached minnehaha falls. On the way to the lake, I ran by the creek. It’s not completely dried up, but there’s hardly any water. I didn’t run through it, just by it, but I’ve seen pictures of minnehaha park–no falls. The entire state of Minnesota is in a drought, with a few parts in severe drought. The creek is almost dry because it gets its water from Lake Harriet and Lake Harriet is too low. I haven’t noticed Lake Nokomis being any lower–is it?

It is 4 miles to lake nokomis. Sometimes it seems longer than that because of all the different areas you run through:

  • river road
  • minnehaha falls
  • mustache bridge on the parkway over hiawatha avenue — which years ago had a handlebar mustache spray-painted on the side, but now (just noticed it yesterday) has a mushroom spray-painted near but not on it
  • near the duck bridge by my old neighborhood
  • the echo bridge
  • my favorite part of the path, right before nokomis avenue
  • the new part of the trail that travels under 28th avenue
  • near lake hiawatha
  • up the hill between hiawatha and nokomis lakes
  • beside lake nokomis rec center on the hill
  • down to the lake

I ran this route partly to check out how dry the creek is. I almost forgot to look, too distracted by the effort of running. Didn’t see any herons or cranes. Heard a few black-capped chickadees. No geese or ducks or turkeys. Encountered bikers, walkers, runners, 2 swimmers.

Yesterday I posted a poem by Rita Dove and wondered about the connection between love and mercy. Here’s a poem by another favorite poet, Carl Phillips, in which this connection is questioned:

Sky Coming Forward/ Carl Phillips

How the birches sway, for example. How they
tilt, on occasion, their made-to-tilt-by-the-wind
crowns. How by then he had turned his head
away, as if a little in fear; or shy, maybe . . . Also
the leaves having stopped their falling. Or there
were no leaves left — left to fall. Which to call
more true? Love
                        or mercy? Both of his hands
upraised, but the better of the two tipped more
groundward, the other a lone bird lifting, as if from
a wood gone steep with twilight. Sometimes, an
abrupt yet gentle breaking of the storm
                                                                       inside me:
for a moment, just the rings that form then disappear
around where some latest desire — lost, or abandoned —
dropped once, and disturbed the water. To forget —
then remember . . . What if, between this one and the one
we hoped for, there’s a third life, taking its own
slow, dreamlike hold, even now — blooming in spite of us?

mercy = compassion, forgiveness
love = deep affection, intense interest in something, attachment, devotion

I need to spend a lot more time with this poem in order to begin to understand it, but here are a few thoughts:

“Which to call/ more true? Love/ or mercy?” Just a few days, I was revisiting another Phillip’s poem I memorized last year, “And Swept All Visible Signs Away.” As I read this question about love and mercy, I was reminded of these lines from “And Swept…”: “And what is a willow doing in the darkness?/ I say it wants less for company than compassion,/ which can come from afar and faceless.” Compassion = mercy, connection = love? I’m fascinated by this distinction between mercy/compassion and love/connection, and Phillip’s almost, but maybe not quite, preference for compassion. What if, as we try to live with/are dependent on and vulnerable to a wide range of people, we thought more about compassion, less about love? Or, could compassion (a form of generosity?) be a different type of love?

“the rings that form then disappear/ around where some latest desire — lost, or abandoned — dropped once, and disturbed the water. To forget –/ then remember . . .” Rings and ripples disturbing the water. Not sure what to do with this yet, but I like the image and the idea (which I’ve explored before) of ripples–traces of something that moved, disrupted, transformed. How long do those ripples last? What does it mean to forget then remember? And then, the idea of rings as loops or orbiting and encircling? Very cool.

“there’s a third life” This reminds me of a quote from a D.H. Lawrence poem that was mentioned in a book I was reading about water:

Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one,
but there is also a third thing, that makes it water

Water as another way to be, another life, another possibility beyond what is and what we want/imagine and hope for? I love this idea and want to spend more time with it.

swim: 2 miles
cedar lake open swim
90 degrees

What a great night for a swim! Warm, sunny, calm. The water was mostly smooth and buoyant, easy to swim in. Felt strong and confident and happy. As I started, someone swimming about my pace was just ahead of me. I followed them for a few laps, occasionally wondering if they noticed me and if they cared I was there. Part of me was enjoying following them, and part of me considered pausing to let them go ahead. Usually I like to swim alone. After two laps, they were gone.

Other Swimmers

  • Someone swimming almost right down the center from buoy to buoy, at times looking like they were way over on the wrong side of the buoy. They probably weren’t that close; it was just my vision and my inability to judge how close or far away someone is — usually, everyone looks closer, too close, which is especially difficult for me because I like/need to have space, room. This swimmer splashed a lot and when they reached the buoy they started to do a tight turn, which I was following, but then abruptly stopped. Narrowly avoided running into them
  • Someone ahead of me, swimming breaststroke. I was swimming into the bright sun, unable to see much of anything but the break in the trees I use for sighting. I began to feel something in the water, some churning. I knew it was another swimmer but I couldn’t see them at all. Finally, a bright pink head appeared. A breaststroker. As I swerved around them I thought about the different ways other than sight that I use to become aware of other people
  • Someone swimming even farther away from the orange buoy than me. I could see their elbows and splash out of the corner of my eye. As we neared the beach, swimming at about the same pace, I wondered when they could cut in closer to round the buoy and whether or not I might have to watch out for them so we wouldn’t collide
  • Another swimmer swimming breaststroke. As usual, it seemed like it took too long to pass them. Once I had, I glanced back over my shoulder as I breathed to see their jerkily bobbing head

Because the water was calm, I was able to breath on both sides (it’s called bilateral breathing). Every five. Sometimes, every 3 then 4. No neck or hip or thigh pain, but a slight twinge under my right shoulder blade. Now, out of the water, writing this the morning after, my upper back on the right side is sore.

Anything else? I swam 4 loops without stopping. Stopped for a minute or two, then did one more loop. Oh–felt some extreme temperature changes in the water right near the shores. Much warmer then much colder. I like the extra cool pockets better than the warm ones. Why was it so warm?

Learned that one popular motto for open water swimming is: No lanes, no lines, no walls (sometimes with the addition: no limits — also found one instance of no mercy). Maybe this could be the title of a poem?

random thought: For several years now, I’ve been reading/listening to Agatha Christie books. Yesterday I finished, Destination Unknown, which is about spies and money as power and hidden labs, and not quaint village murders. The ending of it, which I won’t reveal, reminded me yet again of Christie’s anti-capitalist streak. She writes a lot about the decay of moneyed families, lost wealth (through mismanagement, especially being swindled into investing in worthless Argentinian mines), the nihilism of those trying to hang onto their wealth–their willingness to murder to retain just a bit of it, the decline of the servant class, and how terrible suburbs are. I came up with a title for something — a blog? a poem? a band?: Agatha Christie Hates Suburbs. When I searched “Agatha Christie anti-capitalism,” I found an intriguing article by the postmodern cultural critic (someone I read a lot in grad school) Slavoj Žižek: On Agatha Christie and the Dawn of a Postcapitalist Era. It’s a close reading of her 80th book, Passenger to Frankfurt, which I just started listening to. When I’m finished, I’ll read the article. Nice.

august 22/SWIM

3.75 miles / 3 full loops + 1 slightly shorter loop*
lake nokomis open swim
65 degrees

*About halfway through this swim, I hit 100 Sara miles, which was my goal for the summer. 100 Sara miles is probably a little short of 100 actual miles, but it’s still a big number and was an ambitious goal that encouraged me to swim longer and more frequently than I normally do, so I’m proud of myself for reaching this goal.

Final Sunday open swim of the season. A wonderful morning, a wonderful swim! Sunny, not too windy–at least not until the last loop. I swam 4 loops without stopping. For the final loop, I didn’t swim all the way to the white buoy near the little beach, but just rounded the third orange buoy so it was a little shorter. I felt strong and relaxed and very happy to be swimming. I will miss these swims when they end next week.

Many different thoughts/ideas came to me today:

  • Circling and looping and swimming in the lake from big beach to little beach, my route never forming a perfect circle but triangles and trapezoids and elongated ovals. Always swimming on the edge, not inside or near the center of the marked off swim area. Thought about my interest in edges and Emily Dickinson’s Circumference and Oliver’s and Emerson’s circles
  • As the wind picked up, I wondered about future summers of swimming and how the warming of the oceans/earth and increasingly erratic weather patterns will affect lake nokomis. Will it be windier more often? More thunderstorms? More vegetation? A lower quality of water? Will there be a time when the water is not safe to swim in? I hope not
  • A reminder: I feel so confident in the water. Sure of my self, sure of my abilities. I don’t doubt or question or worry–well, except for my fears of getting another calf cramp or a neck cramp or a knee subluxation–when I’m in the lake. I know it’s not possible to become a fish–and I don’t really want to anyway, but I wish I could bring my lake confidence into the rest of my life. The phrase, “fish out of water” popped into my head as I had these thoughts
  • In the lake, I am never really lost, and if I feel disorientation or bewilderment, I soon figure out a way to re-orient myself, to find some landmark or signal that reassures me that I’m swimming the right way. These indications are small and only come in flashes, but I’m learning how to get by with less information, less certainty. This is not living in bewilderment but living with it–and finding ways to mitigate the confusion and discomfort it provides. So, I’m not living in it all the time, but I’m also not ignoring or avoiding the moments when it happens. I think this makes sense to me…

Here’s a poem from one of my favorite poets, Rita Dove. It’s in her new collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse. I think it fits in with love, if we connect love with kindness and mercy:

Green Koan/ Rita Dove

That the mind can go
wherever it wishes
we’ve come to rely on;
that it returns
unbidden to the soul
it could not banish
and learns to thrive there
is life’s stubborn mercy–given
to soften or harden us,
as we choose.