august 18/RUNSWIM

run: 3.15 miles
2 trails
78 degrees / dew point 67
sunny

Started and ended with Queen (Another One Bites the Dust) and a running playlist, in the middle, sounds from the gorge — laughing kids at a playground, scurrying animals in the dry brush, crunching gravel, trickling sewer pipes.

Now, sitting at my desk, I’m hearing the electric buzz of the cicadas. …and now, one or two minutes later, they’ve stopped. Now I hear birds–pretty sure it’s cardinals–and a kid repeatedly saying, “Uh oh uh oh uh oh!” An adult in a cooing voice: “Do you need help?” and “You’re not a baby, you’re a BIG girl!”

When I was running on the Winchell Trail, at the steepest part without a railing, I tried looking quickly at the river. Blue. Decided it was better to absorb it through my peripheral. Safer. I thought about how I like these bodily experiments (tracking my thoughts, what I notice) I’m doing as I run and swim. How they enable me to apply theories I’ve been playing around with for decades about epistemology and ontology and ethics.

I’ve been listening to an interview with Kaveh Akbar on Between the Covers, and I was struck by his definition of work in terms of revolutionary poetics:

One thing that I think about a lot is that a revolution comes in two parts; there’s the overthrow and the rebuild. Without either of those parts, it’s not a revolution. There has to be something being turned over and then there has to be something being set up in its place. It’s very easy to inhabit the carapace of revolutionary rhetoric without advancing something new. That, in and of itself by definition, isn’t revolutionary because there’s no rebuild. There’s no gesture towards a rebuild. I’ve talked to my students and my friends and the people with whom I’ve had this conversation in these discussions. I think a lot about the physics definition of work which is the force applied to an object in order to move it. If there’s force applied to an object and nothing moves, that’s not work. Similarly, if an object moves but you haven’t applied force to it, then you haven’t done work. If I say to a room full of people who agree with me, “F*ck Trump,” and I say that in a room full of poetry people, probably the majority of them will be like, “Yeah, f*ck Trump.” I haven’t really caused anything to move. I’ve inhabited the form of revolutionary rhetoric but I haven’t actually moved anything. By the physics definition of work, probably that’s not doing much or any work. 

Kaveh Akbar Interview

I think I’ll add this definition to my work page on undisciplined.

swim: 2 miles / 2 loops
cedar lake open swim
88 degrees / windy

Another windy day, another wave-filled lake. I’d like to be able to compare this to the sea or ocean. I know cedar lake waves are gentle swells, but how much more gentle, how much less choppy than a normal swim in the sea? Tonight, I did a better job of staying on my side of the lake as I swam towards the far beach. For the first few minutes of the swim, I felt weightless, light, but it didn’t take long for the water to drag my body down into the water. I didn’t want to, but I felt like I was having a fight with the water. Every stroke felt slightly off, not smooth, not easy.

Even struggling, it was a great swim. What a wonderful thing to be able to swim so much this summer! Already this week, 4 days in a row. I enjoyed glancing up at the sky sometimes when I breathed. It was mostly sunny, with some hulking clouds. One big cloud hovered behind me as I swam across. It loomed, almost menacingly, but I didn’t mind. I noticed the soft forms of the tree tops to my left and imagined fall coming (too?) soon. To my right, as I headed back, I could see something, not quite shining–I determined it was a small gap in the trees with the sun barely peeking through. Because of the bright sun and my vision, the orange buoy was completely invisible–was it to everyone else? Probably a little, but not as much as it was to me. I knew it was there, so I kept swimming, but I couldn’t see it until I was almost to it. This not-seeing is happening more this summer. It barely bothers me. It’s tiring, but I know I’m swimming the right way–using other landmarks and my established map of the route–so I don’t worry.

I do not like breaststroke. I recognize its value, especially in choppy water, and how it makes some swimmers feel more comfortable in the water, but I dislike being around breaststrokers. The irritating bobbing, which is hardly ever smooth, but jerky. The wide, strong kick. And the way that as I approach someone swimming breaststroke, it always seems very hard to pass them. They seem to be racing me for a bit, then they disappear. I know this is just how I see them–and perhaps it’s distorted by bad vision–and I know that it is ridiculous to dislike breaststroke for these reasons, but I do.

how could I forget this moment?

Had to revisit this log entry to add something that I almost forgot: after I finished swimming, as I was drying off, there was a young kid–less than 5, I think?–who kept repeating, “nanana boo boo.” At least 50 times. In the best (as in most effectively embodying) version of a bratty voice I’ve ever heard. Wow. STA walked by the kid and said he looked and sounded like a cartoon character of a bratty kid. He was not saying this to us, but to another kid, or to himself. Over and over and over again. It was both annoying and delightful. I’m glad I witnessed it and I’m glad it’s over.

The Swimmer/ Mary Oliver

All winter the water
has crashed over
the cold the cold sand. Now
it breaks over the thin

branch of your body.
You plunge down, you swim
two or three strokes, you dream
of lingering

in the luminous undertow
but can’t; you splash
through the bursting
white blossoms,

the silk sheets—gasping,
you rise and struggle
lightward, finding your way
through the blue ribs back

to the sun, and emerge
as though for the first time.
Poor fish,
poor flesh

you can never forget.
Once every wall was water,
the soft strings filled
with a perfect nourishment,

pumping your body full
of appetite, elaborating
your stubby bones, tucking in,
like stars,

the seeds of restlessness
that made you, finally,
swim toward the world,
kicking and shouting

but trailing a mossy darkness—
a dream that would never breathe air
and was hinged to your wildest joy
like a shadow.

Not sure how I feel about this water-as-womb idea. I like the idea of imaging a time before I/we were so separated from everything else, but not sure about the womb imagery. I like the line, “Poor fish,/ poor flesh./ You can never forget.”

august 17/SWIM

2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
88 degrees / windy

Another choppy night. No problems for me. I like the rocking of the waves and the chance to punch the water–not to release any anger, but energy. Heading back to the big beach on the first loop, I noticed a menacing sailboat. I wondered how close they would get–I find it hard to tell. Rounding the final green buoy right off the big beach was fun. It felt like a fast moving lazy river or a log ride. Wild. During the second loop my nose plug was too loose. I tried to stop mid-lake to fix it, but it didn’t help. As air leaked out, it made a strange, strangled noise. Sometimes my nose sounded like it was yelling underwater. I wonder if anyone else could hear it. How far do swimmers’ sounds travel? If I yelled underwater could anyone else hear it?

This month I’m trying to think about love in other forms, but I’m struggling. I think I’ve been distracted. And it’s been hard to find poems that speak to me. And maybe addressing love straight on is too difficult. Maybe I do better when I’m looking for other things, then love can appear on its own terms. Here is a series of 5 poems by Amorak Huey, all about a famous logjam. I love that they wrote not 1 or 2 but 5 poems about the logjam. I read about logging along the Mississippi River gorge in the mid to late 1800s, before the timber was depleted and the flour mills took over. At first, I wasn’t sure how this fit into the theme of love, but love (and water, another recent theme) is in several of the poems.

5 Poems/ Amorak Huey

LOGJAM

               The 1883 logjam on Michigan’s Grand River 
               was one of the biggest in the history of logging.

Listen: one hundred fifty million feet of logs: skew and splinter thirty feet high for seven river-miles. Sky of only lightning, mouth of only teeth, all bite and churn, thrust and spear, the kind of mess made by men who have men to clean up their messes. It rains. Thirty-seven million tons of white pine clears its throat. Water rises. The bridges will go soon. Listen closely: underneath the knock and clatter, the trees still sing. The song is a violence. 

LIKE GREAT HARPS ON WHICH THE WIND MAKES MUSIC

                                         —Henry David Thoreau, on the Eastern White Pine

Dark ghosts, tall as moonlight.
Shadows without shadows.
Listen. This wind will not last.
Such music will never play again.

The smallness of a man
who enters a forest to destroy a forest;
who believes that to name a tree
is to claim its strength as his own—

across the lake, a city burns. 

O-WASH-TA-NONG, MEANING FAR-AWAY-WATER

Across Happy Hollow Road, across Gillespie’s pasture, past barbwire and tree line, the river of my childhood still twists and eddies south toward the gulf, cold as memory’s fist, even on the sunniest day, even decades later as I cross a new river each day, the same river, the only river, the river I’ve invented, shaped and poured to quench my thirst to be loved, a filled trench, a scar left 11,000 years ago as the great glaciers crawled north, meltwater left to find its own way to the lake. The story of a river in America is always a story of destruction.  

“A HUNDRED DOLLARS TO AN OLD HAT SHE HOLDS”

                                      —Local paper, predicting an iron railroad bridge 
                                      would withstand the logjam; the bridge was swept 
                                      away while the ink was still wet.

What if I’ve learned the wrong lesson from every story?
What if a flood, after all, is only a flood, cleansing nothing? 

What if our sins cannot be washed away so easily,
if all our stumbling will leave us lost, still?

Somewhere I learned to love the kind of man I am not. 
Knuckle-scar. Thick forearms. Beer-bottle-dark eyes

and a sense of duty. The strength to hold a tugboat steady in rushing water
while other men sledgehammer pilings into place, an obstacle

to catch what comes our way, it’s a matter of time—
all that’s upstream breaks free.

THE ENGINEER WHO FIXED THE LOGJAM RECEIVES A GOLD WATCH FOR HIS TROUBLE

I know so much about how water moves 
it leaves me dizzy. I know time and rivers
are tools the rich use to make fools 
of the rest of us; no limit to the weight a man 
can heave onto the backs of other men.
What else to do but decide to survive?
Water has no memory, is only memory,
is the world’s purest form of desire,
the relentless drive to return home
whatever the cost. It’s all any of us want,
to have a smoke and finish the job,
carry our weary bodies to a hearth
somewhere, a resting place
and the warmth of someone who loves us.
If water cannot go through, it goes around.

I want to spend more time with these poems to think through some of the lines, like the last one: “If water cannot go through, it goes around.” How does this fit with water as the world’s purest form of desire that can quench our thirst to be loved but never saves or cleanses us, but keeps us lost.

And now I’m wondering about the differences between types of water–the water in a lake as compared to a river, the sea, an ocean, a glass, a pool, a stream, a ditch? How do they express (embody?) love in different ways?

august 16/RUNSWIM

run: 10k
franklin loop + extra
67 degrees

A 10k. I needed to check back through my logs to find out the last time I ran this far. November 4, 2019. Wow. I’ve still been running a lot, just more frequently and less distance. It felt pretty good until the very end. STA and I are signed up to run the 10 mile in October. Will it even happen? Not sure.

It was sunny, not too windy, and mostly not too hot. In the shade it was fine. Ran north on the river road trail until crossing at franklin. Heard the rowers down on the river. Two coxswains, one male, one female. Their voices echoing through the bullhorn. With the echoing, it sounded more serious than a practice. A race? Or was it only how the sound travels differently on the east side, as opposed to the west side of the river. Would more open space, less trees in the gorge, change how the voices traveled?

And, I saw someone riding a unicycle–first time ever while running, I think.

Thought about what a wonderful time I had with my college friends, how great it was to be challenged and stimulated and reminded of the importance of friends and community. Also thought about some of our discussions about how people come together in crises–neighbors helping neighbors when intense storms do severe damage to houses, buildings, towns. We need that sense of community AND we also need to do what we can to prevent these powerful storms/ erratic weather patterns from happening more frequently. Why do so many of us seem unwilling to work on the prevention, on radically transforming how we live, and how we continue to take without (enough) concern for its impact on the earth and all of its inhabitants?

The Clock! That 12-figured moon skull!

Before heading out for my run this morning, I learned about the debut poetry collection from Adam O. Davis: Index of Haunted Houses. Amazing! Found these epigraphs at the beginning and started thinking about other things I had read about clocks and time:

Think of this: When they present you with a watch they are gifting you with a tiny flowering hell, a wreath of roses, a dungeon of air…. They aren’t giving you a watch, you are the gift, they’re giving you yourself for the watch’s birthday.

Julio Cortázar

Years, like any other measure of time, offer mankind the promise of isolate events, of an origin and terminus to history, when in relatiy there is no isolating time as time has no origin or terminus. 1980 never existed, or, if it did, it has always been 1980.

Muriel Échecs

After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing, and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of life.

Calvin Coolidge*

*After writing this, I listened to an excellent podcast–The Scottish Poetry Library--with Adam O. Davis and the host mentioned what Dorothy Parker said about Coolidge after he died: “How can they tell?” Ha!

Here’s something I read just yesterday from Love of Lakes/ Darby Nelson

We talk of time as the river flowing. I never questioned the implications of that metaphor until I was struck by the words of Professor Dave Edmunds, Native American, on a display in the Indian-Western Art Museum in Indianapolis. Edmunds wrote, ‘Time as a river is a more Euro-American concept of time, with each event happening and passing on like a river flows downstream. Time as a pond is a more Native American concept of time, with everything happening on the same surface, in the same area—and each even is a ripple on the surface.’

If I think of time as a river, I predispose myself to think linearly, to see events as unconnected, where a tree branch falling into the river at noon is swept away by current to remain eternally separated in time and space from the butterfly that falls in an hour later and thrashes about seeking floating refuge.

But if I think of time as a lake, I see ripples set in motions by one even touching an entire shore and then, when reflected back toward the middle, meeting ripples from other events, each changing the other in their passing. I think of connectedness, or relationships, and interacting events that matter greatly to lakes.

For Love of Lakes/ Darby Nelson

I’m also thinking of Mary Oliver and her reoccurring clocks as representing the restrictions of ordinary time.

And there is the attentive, social self. This is the smiler and the doorkeeper. This is the portion that winds the clock, that steers through the dailiness of life, that keeps in mind appointments that must be made, and then met. It is fettered to a thousand notions of obligation. It moves across the hours of the day as though the movement itself were the whole task. Whether it gathers as it goes some branch of wisdom or delight, or nothing at all, is a matter with which it is hardly concerned. What this self hears night and day, what it loves beyond all other songs, is the endless springing forward of the clock, those measures strict and vivacious, and full of certainty.

The clock! That twelve-figured moon skull, that white spider belly! How serenely the hands move with their filigree pointers, and how steadily! Eat, speak, sleep, cross a street, wash a dish! The clock is still ticking. All its vistas are just so broad–are regular. (Notice that word.) Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought. The town’s clock cries out, and the face on every wrist hums or shines’ the world keeps pace with itself. Another day is passing, a regular and ordinary day. (Notice that world also.)

“Of Power and Time” in Upstream/ Mary Oliver

from a log entry on april 7, 2021

I’m thinking about words like: inefficient, clockwork, pace (as in, “keep up the” or running pace or the hectic pace of modern life), mechanization, industrialization, useless, instrumental, accessible, smooth, easy, fast, relevant, order, discipline, attention economy, rest, restlessness, sleep, internal clocks, spending time vs. passing it, paying or giving attention, eyeballs on the page, obscure, unnoticed, unnoticing.

And that the battery in my apple watch is dying and how, even though I depended on it so much before, I’m considering not replacing it and not wearing a watch. Not keeping track of my pace.

And, I’m thinking about these beautiful lines from Alice Oswald’s “Evaporations”:

In their lunch hour
I saw the shop-workers get into water
They put their watches on the stones and slithered
frightened
Into the tight-fitting river
And shook out cuffs of splash
And swam wide strokes towards the trees
And after a while swam back
With rigid cormorant smiles
Shocked I suppose from taking on
Something impossible to think through
Something old and obsessive like the centre of a rose
And for that reason they quickly turned
And struggled out again and retrieved their watches
Stooped on the grass-line hurrying now
They began to laugh and from their meaty backs
A million crackling things
Burst into flight which was either water
Or the hour itself ascending.

swim: 2.1 miles / 5 loops
cedar lake open swim
84 degrees / windy

Another great swim at cedar lake. The water was very choppy with lots of swells. It was windy. The waves didn’t bother me at all, but my legs were sore from my 10K earlier in the day. My left hip hurt. Swam on the edge of the course to avoid other people–so I wouldn’t have to worry about running into them. Almost ran into a lifeguard on a kayak a few times. I think they might have been trying to get me to swim closer to the buoys. I suppose I was fairly far from them, but I wanted to use the break in the trees as my guide. In years past, being nudged by the lifeguard might have bothered me, making me feel like I was doing something wrong or failing, but not this year. I’m happy to not be so hard on myself or to always need to be doing it the proper/right way.

For much of the loop I could only breathe on one side–when I breathed on the other side, I got a mouth full of water from a wave. I mostly breathed every six strokes. No difficulty breathing, no shortness of breath. I like holding my breath for longer.

I didn’t look at the sky much. It was hard to see in the midst of all the waves. Not sure if there were any planes or birds. Hard to notice anything else but the water and others’ elbows and bright caps and the orange buoys — which I could not really see.

My challenge for the last 3 swims (only 3 left at cedar): to crack the code for the stretch between the start of the loop to the far beach. For some reason, no matter how much I try–stopping briefly at the start to sight the distant orange buoy, swimming farther out and away from the other side–I always end up swimming too close to others swimming the other way. I can’t figure out if there’s a current pushing me that way or something else that makes me lose my wider trajectory. I can barely see the orange buoy, so I’m relying on other things. So far, I haven’t found a helpful landmark on the other shore. I want to figure this out before I’m done for the season.

Still in the month of exploring different notions of love in poetry. Here’s a poem by Paul Tran that I think fits:

Bioluminescence/ Paul Tran

There’s a dark so deep beneath the sea the creatures beget their own
light. This feat, this fact of adaptation, I could say, is beautiful

though the creatures are hideous. Lanternfish. Hatchetfish. Viperfish.
I, not unlike them, forfeited beauty to glimpse the world hidden

by eternal darkness. I subsisted on falling matter, unaware
from where or why matter fell, and on weaker creatures beguiled

by my luminosity. My hideous face opening, suddenly, to take them
into a darkness darker and more eternal than this underworld

underwater. I swam and swam toward nowhere and nothing.
I, after so much isolation, so much indifference, kept going

even if going meant only waiting, hovering in place. So far below, so far
away from the rest of life, the terrestrial made possible by and thereby

dependent upon light, I did what I had to do. I stalked. I killed.
I wanted to feel in my body my body at work, working to stay

alive. I swam. I kept going. I waited. I found myself without meaning
to, without contriving meaning at the time, in time, in the company

of creatures who, hideous like me, had to be their own illumination.
Their own god. Their own genesis. Often we feuded. Often we fused

like anglerfish. Blood to blood. Desire to desire. We were wild. Bewildered.
Beautiful in our wilderness and wildness. In the most extreme conditions

we proved that life can exist. I exist. I am my life, I thought, approaching
at last the bottom of the sea. It wasn’t the bottom. It wasn’t the sea.

Wow! You can listen to Tran read this poem on The New Yorker site. I love their dramatic reading–so powerful and delightful and wonderful. I understand the poem to be about finding/forging/fighting for a love of self. I love their lines about living without light, about finding life beyond the life that needs light to be possible. My relationship to light is changing as my eyesight deteriorates. Earlier on, sunlight could be too bright–it would hurt my eyes. Now that I’ve lost most of my cone cells, it doesn’t bother me as much. Nothing is that bright. I have a low vision lamp that helps me to read more easily. When light isn’t bright enough, the letters become too fuzzy. Some day, even the brightest bulb won’t matter. I must learn to live with less light. It will never be as dark as the deep sea in the poem (at least, most likely not), but it will be faded and not much help. No more shedding light on a situation for me.

august 9/RUNSWIM

run: 4.35 miles
minnehaha falls and back
70 degrees
humidity: 93% / dew point: 68

Ran south to the falls. More rain last night. The dirt, muddy. The tree branches, dripping. Stopped to check out the falls. More water falling. Also noticed how much I was sweating. Hard for my sweat to evaporate when the dew point is so high. Heading north, I turned down on the Winchell Trail. The mud was slippery and the path was crowded–more people on it than I’ve seen in weeks. No noise from the sewer pipe at 44th, but the one at 42nd was gushing. Los of cars and bikes rushing by on the path. A good run.

moment of curiosity

Just south of the double bridge at 44th, the walking trail splits from the bike trail and briefly descends down before climbing back up to meet with the bike trail beside the road again. This path is bumpy and narrow and steep–a perfect place to trip. And it adds an additional mini hill to climb. If you stay up above, the trail is all downhill. I never used to take it because it was easier (and safer) to stay up above, but lately I’ve been enjoying it. Today, as I was climbing out of it, I noticed a suitcase and a lampshade tucked away, under the low branches of a tree, hidden from the road. Who put it there, I wondered, and why? Had they left, and were they coming back for it later? Did they live down below, by the river? Had they hidden it a few days ago, or much longer? What did this suitcase contain? Clothes? Money?

swim: 2.25 miles / 6 loops
cedar lake open swim
84 degrees

A great Cedar Lake swim! Smooth and not too crowded. Near the shore, the water was very cold, but as I swam out deeper, it warmed up. I did a better job of sighting the orange buoy at the far beach and staying away from other swimmers. The thing I remember most: so much milfoil! Scratchy, persistent. It felt like some of it got in my suit–rough and irritating. It wrapped around my shoulder, my arm. Moved slowly down my back. No fish, some paddle boarders, a few planes.

At point beach, there’s a sandbar near the shore, but very soon, it drops away. How deep is the water here? I’m not sure. In other spots, where you can touch bottom, there’s lots of vegetation. The floor feels slimy and soft and gross. At east/hidden beach, the bottom is mostly small rocks.

Rounding the buoy, starting a new loop, a swimmer coming from shore cut me off and I had to stop for a second. I wasn’t upset because I’m never sure who has the right of way here. The swimmer seemed like they were going pretty fast. I followed behind, steadily. I think they almost ran into a few other swimmers. Just before we reached the far buoy, I passed them. Is it bad that this made me feel good? I’m not really competitive in the water, but I do enjoy passing people, not because I’m beating them (well, not too much because of this), but because swimming past someone slower than you makes you feel like you’re swimming fast. It’s fun to feel fast–powerfully gliding on top of the water.

I wanted to be surprised./ Jane Hirshfield

To such a request, the world is obliging.

In just the past week, a rotund porcupine,
who seemed equally startled by me.

The man who swallowed a tiny microphone
to record the sounds of his body,
not considering beforehand how he might remove it.

A cabbage and mustard sandwich on marbled bread.

How easily the large spiders were caught with a clear plastic cup
surprised even them.

I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended.
Or why each time a new fossil, Earth-like planet, or war.
Or that no one kept being there when the doorknob had clearly.

What should not have been so surprising:
my error after error, recognized when appearing on the faces of others.

What did not surprise enough:
my daily expectation that anything would continue,
and then that so much did continue, when so much did not.

Small rivulets still flowing downhill when it wasn’t raining.
A sister’s birthday.

Also, the stubborn, courteous persistence.
That even today please means please,
good morning is still understood as good morning,

and that when I wake up,
the window’s distant mountain remains a mountain,
the borrowed city around me is still a city, and standing.

Its alleys and markets, offices of dentists,
drug store, liquor store, Chevron.
Its library that charges—a happy surprise—no fine for overdue books:
Borges, Baldwin, Szymborska, Morrison, Cavafy.

—2018

I like this poem and thinking about wanting to be surprised, and then about the differences between experiencing pleasure and joy and love and surprise. Is one of these more important than the others?

august 7/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin hill turn around
69 degrees / soft rain

Finally, rain! Not enough, but still helpful. When it stopped for a few minutes, I decided to go out for a run. Ran north on the river road trail all the way to the bottom of the Franklin hill. Turned around, ran all the way back up to the bridge, then walked a few minutes before running again. Everything wet and green. Heard lots of singing birds and imagined their song was a celebration for the rain. So much dripping. I couldn’t tell what was rain and what was water falling from the trees. I didn’t care. It all felt refreshing. Encountered some runners but it wasn’t too crowded for a late Saturday morning. Felt strong and happy and relaxed. I’m running slower these days, but it doesn’t feel too slow, which is nice.

Ran north listening to the gorge, ran south listening to a playlist–Todd Rundgren, The Black Keys, Billy Joel

moment of the run

Heading down into the tunnel of the trees, fog had settled in the mid-story canopy. Everything hazy, a soft white, then a dark green. As I ran deeper into the trees, the air cleared. Then, heading up and out of it on the other side, the fog returned. Such a cool experiences. Mysterious, other-worldly, bewildering.

Small Kindnesses/ Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

I love the idea of small, brief moments of exchange carving out a sacred space together. Some might call these “good manners,” but I don’t like how that phrase suggests that displaying/practicing them is about ME and how good and moral I am. Small gestures like thanking someone or moving your legs to let them pass is more about another–about seeing and acknowledging them (beholding their existence and their worthiness). To me, these small, repeated rituals are essential for love and for living in the midst of/ with others.

august 6/SWIM

3.25 miles / 3 full loops + 2 mini loops
lake nokomis open swim
72 degrees

A great morning swim. Sunny, bright. Almost impossible to see anything at the start of the loop. I didn’t try, just trusted my strokes and shoulders and some part of me to know where the far shore was. It worked. Swam straight to the little beach and the overturned rowboat. Again, I marvel at how I can swim without seeing, how I swim straight into a background of vague greens and blues–no landmarks or distinctive forms. Water, sky, trees. About halfway to the other shore, I did get a quick flash of the boat bottom, but only once or twice. Also, a few times, people or lifeguards on kayaks popped up in front of me. I had enough time to avoid running into them. My feet didn’t feel strange, my shoulders didn’t hurt. Next time, I’ll have to swim a little longer. Anything else I remember? My goggles are still fogging up sometimes. I think I saw a fish just below me. A few vines of milfoil brushed past me. Some loud planes roared overhead. A seagull was perched on a white buoy I was approaching near the little beach. A few kayaks crossed my path. I mostly breathed every five, but sometimes I breathed every three or three then five.

Another love poem:

The More Loving One/ W. H. Auden – 1907-1973

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

august 5/RUN

run: 3.1 miles
2 trails the no-stress way
69 degrees
dew point: 64

Decided to try a variation on the 2 trails that would hopefully not be as stressful as the way I’ve been going this summer. Instead of heading south on the river road trail, which involves battling cars at the 4 way stop at 35th, and then avoiding pairs or packs of runners and speeding, crowding bikers, I ran on the grassy boulevard between Edmund and the River Road. I crossed over to the trail at 42nd and only had to run up above, on the more crowded trail, for 2 or 3 minutes. Much better! Love (for other runners and bikers + running by the gorge) restored, irritation avoided. Nice.

Shortly before starting my run, it had rained briefly. Not even enough to dampen all of the ground, everywhere patches of dry, parched dirt. Enough to make it all feel wet though, and to hear sprinkling coming out of the sewer instead of just trickling or dribbling.

Ran by the house on Edmund that posts poems in their front windows. No new poems today. Still 3 poems by June Jordan.

As I ran north on the lower trail, I started thinking about my vision. I imagined that I might need a white cane sometime in my 50s and I thought that it won’t bother me. Well, some parts of it will bother me, I’m sure, but I won’t worry about what other people think.

Yesterday at the eye doctor, during one of the tests the doctor said, “Now, this is the worst part.” It wasn’t bad at all for me, so I asked, “Why is this the worst part? It didn’t bother me at all.” He responded, “That’s because you don’t have any cone cells left.” He was shining a super bright light directly into the center of my eyes. For anyone with “normal” vision, the light would have been painfully bright. I’m glad I learned to ask. It’s helpful to know–a little disturbing too to think about how few cones I have left, and how dead the central vision in my eyes is.

It’s Thursday, so usually I’d be doing open swim too but the threat of a severe thunderstorm forced them to cancel. No storm. Bummer.

This month I’m thinking about love. In particular, I’m trying to think about love in new ways, beyond the clichés of what it means to love and how we represent that love. Here are 2 poems that complicate the ultimate symbol of love, the heart. Before posting them I just want to add, in my most grumpiest voice: I really don’t like the heart gesture that so many athletes are making with their hands at the Olympics as a way to signal their love to friends and family back home. Bring back Carol Burnett’s tug of the ear, I say! Much more personal and meaningful than the trendy, empty gesture of the hand-heart, popularized by Taylor Swift in the 2010s. I read that she tested out several different gestures on her audience and stuck with this one when it got the biggest response. Expression of love focus-grouped. I mentioned my complaint to my daughter and she showed me the heart hand signal that her favorite band, BTS, does. A fist with 2 fingers crossed. To me it looked like an actual heart with the fingers representing the aorta. Probably not, but I thought it was cooler.

Heart/ Maggie Smith

A child of, say, six knows you’re not the shape
she’s learned to make by drawing half along a fold,
cutting, then opening. Where do you open?

Where do you carry your dead? There’s no locket
for that–hinged, hanging on a chain that greens
your throat. And the dead inside you, don’t you
hear them breathing? You must have a hole
they can press their gray lips to. If you open–
when you open–will we find them folded inside?
In what shape? I mean what cut shape is made
whole by opening? I mean beside the heart.

Heart to Heart/ Rita Dove –

It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

Rita Dove and Maggie Smith are two of my favorite poets.

august 4/SWIM

2.25 miles/ 6 loops
cedar lake open swim
80 degrees

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t like cedar lake a month ago. What a great place to swim! Relaxed, easier to sight–and also easier to stay on course when you can’t sight, less crowded, shorter loops for faster, continuous swimming. It was windy tonight, and choppy in the water. My feet felt a little weird the first few loops, but they didn’t cramp up.

2 memorable things about the swim:

  1. The sky: noticed several planes above me, moving in and out of clouds. At Nokomis, the planes look like sharks circling in the sky, here they look like birds. Stopped mid-swim to determine if what I was seeing above me was a plane or a bird then watched it (a bird) soaring high.
  2. The vegetation: So many vines being stirred up by the wind and the choppy water. Sharp and scratchy, hitting my face, wrapping around my arm. At least one or two traveled down my back, which was very unpleasant. Several years ago, I remember getting part of a vine in my mouth. Gross.

Because the loops are shorter and I have a clear landmark to sight heading back from east (hidden) to point beach, I don’t have to be thinking constantly about where I was going. I could let my mind wander. I know it did, but I can’t remember what I thought about. Possibly about the optometrist appointment I had earlier in the day. Confirmation, yet again, that my vision is deteriorating. Difficult news every time I hear it, yet reassuring too. I’m not making this up, I really can’t see well. The doctor said almost all of my cone cells were gone. Just two tiny islands, one in each eye, protected by the rod cells I have in the very center. He said he was surprised that I could see as well as I could. So strange how vision works. I hardly have any cone cells left, but the few that remain are working so hard that the vision in my right eye is still 20/20 and 20/40 in my left. What? A new worry: possible deterioration of some of my periphery. It’s called paving stone deterioration. It is not that big of a deal, just something to monitor. Still, it’s unsettling to imagine losing some or all of my peripheral too.

I don’t have a poem about love to add here, but I’m thinking about care and my hard working cone cells and protecting rods and what they’re doing for me and the amount of love they show me everyday. This love is not the primary goal, but is still a part of what our bodies do for us everyday until, one day, they don’t: in spite of the odds and the difficulties, they find a way to keep working, even if that “working” barely works, or works in different ways. Does that make sense?

august 3/RUNSWIM

run: 3 miles
2 trails
69 degrees

A nice morning for a run, even if the smoke from the Canadian wildfires is still lingering. We are in a drought and everything is dry. Only a trickle out of the sewer at 42nd. My steps on the dirt and gravel sound sharper, crisper and the rustling in the bushes, more ominous. All around the leaves and vines droop, gasping for moisture. Running on the lower trail, I could smell the sewer more than usual. Overripe. Unpleasant. Near the start of my run, I could hear the coxswain calling out on the river.

Mostly I enjoyed my run, but I struggled to find the love for others and not just annoyance. Bikers cutting too close, walkers not giving me enough room. Running south on the upper trail in the morning is a challenge. Too many walkers and bikers, all seeming closer with my vision. I uttered, under my breath, “what the fuck?” several times. After the second or third time I thought, “what is wrong with people?,” I decided that it was not them, or me (which is often my next conclusion in these situations), but the trail. From the spot above the oak savanna to 44th, this stretch is a problem. The running and biking paths only separate a few times, and the bike trail is almost always right next to the road and to speeding cars, traveling too fast on a windy, narrow road intended for pleasure drives not commuting. So, to find the love, I will try to avoid running on this part of the trail. Because of how narrow it is and my constant need to look out for others when I’m on it, it isn’t usually much fun. I’m fine with finding other ways to run south. I might try running on Edmund or in the grassy boulevard again.

Here’s one of Maggie Smith’s most well-known poems. It feels fitting for a month about love and finding the love in spite of the world:

Good Bones/ Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

swim: 2.25 miles / 2.3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
85 degrees

Choppy tonight. So choppy that they removed the green buoys; they were drifting too much. On my first loop, heading towards the little beach, my eyes began to burn. I hadn’t washed enough of the baby wash out that I used to anti-fog my googles. It got so bad, I swam much of it with my eyes closed. Didn’t matter; I still swam straight. I stopped at the white buoy off of the little beach and rinsed my eyes out. Ouch. On the second loop, my feet started feeling weird. Almost like they might cramp up. Unsettling. I paused a few times mid-lake to try to relax them. Stopped after loop 2 thinking I was probably done. Not tired, just scared of foot cramps in the middle of the lake, too far from a shore. Decided to try one more loop. Still felt weird, so I turned around at the second buoy and headed back. Not as much as I would have liked to swim, but still over 2 miles. Met STA for a beer at Sandcastle. Even with the problems in the water, it was a nice night.

august 2/SWIM

2 miles
lake nokomis main beach
75 degrees

Finally, I was able to swim again! Last time I swam was Thursday. Too much smoke all weekend. I ran the most miles in a week that I have in a while, but I missed swimming. Swam around the white buoys at lake nokomis. There might have been one or two people in the water, much nearer to shore. My only companions: an occasional rower or boarder and a seagull that liked to perch on the white buoys as I swam by. I was happy to have the bird’s company, although I worried that they were there to catch a fish–which meant that I was also swimming with a lot of fish–and I wondered if they might try to attack me as I swam by. They didn’t. A few times they flew away, off to another buoy.

Because I’ve been swimming across the lake almost every day, I haven’t had much time to swim laps/loops around the buoys. It’s not as exciting, but it’s less crowded, more relaxed, and I don’t have to worry about sighting or getting off course. I’d like do more of these small loops but I don’t know if I have time (or the energy to add even more swimming).

The water was cold, but felt great. Very calm, no chop. Sunny, but not too bright. My goggles fogged up again. Is it time for a new pair? Heard lots of sloshing and, at one point, a loud shriek from shore. A kid freaking out. I breathed every 5 strokes and worked on closing my mouth before I put it back in the water. Also tried to pull harder and push by hand down more forcefully as it went under my torso. Thought about my dr’s appointment this morning for all of my sinus troubles this last year. No real answers for the sinus pressure or why my jaw would tighten up and my nose and eyes would feel like I had an iron blanket on my face. Was it largely due to stress over the pandemic? It’s both unsettling and fascinating how we respond to stress and anxiety in such physical ways.

Here’s a song about love that I heard on the radio this weekend by one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock Singers (only second to my ultimate favorite, Blossom Dearie): Bob Dorough. I have always loved song lyrics and the interesting, compelling, complicated ways words are made into music and combined with music.

Love (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)/ Bob Dorough

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
tra la la la la
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
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Page 498
Love
L-O-V-E
Love

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
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Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
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5 meanings are given

One: Love, a feeling of
strong personal attachment
induced by sympathetic understanding
or by ties of kinship
ardent affection

Two: strong liking for
feeling fondness
having good will
as love of learning
as in love of country
as in love of country

Three: tender
tender and passionate affection
which seeks fulfillment in sex

Four: Cupid or eros
as the god of love
sometimes Venus

Five: tennis
love in tennis means no points scored
and you have nothing
and you have nothing

antonym: hate

awesome instrumental interlude

Five: tennis (tennis)
love in tennis
means no points scored
and you have nothing
and I have nothing

antonym: hate

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
tra la la la la
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
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Five meanings of love

Since I mentioned Blossom Dearie, here’s on of my favorite love songs by her:

Down with Love/ Blossom Dearie

Down with love the flowers and rice and shoes
Down with love the root of all midnight blues
Down with things that give you that well-known ping
Take that moon & wrap it in cellophane

Down with love let’s liquidate all its friends
Moon and June and roses and rainbow’s ends
Down with songs that moan about night and day
Down with love yes take it away, away

Take it away
Take it away
Give it back to the birds and bees and the Viennese
Down with eyes romantic and stupid
Down with sighs, down with cupid
Brother let’s stuff that dove
Down with love

I am not down with (romantic) love, but I am tired of the well-worn ways it is represented in songs and poetry. I love the line about liquidating all its friends: moon and june and roses and rainbow’s ends