sept 23/RUN

5.8 miles
ford loop
54 degrees

Fall! Ran the ford loop (north to lake street bridge and across, south to ford ave bridge back across, north on west river road). Sunny, hardly any wind. Calm. Thought about stopping at the overlook on the st. paul side but didn’t. Next time, I hope. It’s hard for me to stop.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running down through the short steep hill just before reaching the double bridge, a glowing orange tree
  2. Some more slashes of red on the low-lying leaves–what are these trees? Basswood? Buckthorn? Looked it up and I think these leaves come from an ash tree
  3. No leaves changing in the floodplain forest yet. All green
  4. The river was calm and blue and empty
  5. Water at Shadow Falls gushing
  6. Mostly empty benches, often facing a wall of green — no view yet
  7. The small, wooded path down from the Ford Bridge was thick with leaves, dark with only a small circle of sunshine at the bottom
  8. Most of the shoreline was still green too
  9. My feet, shshshushing on the sand on the side of the path
  10. Two women walking, talking, one of them say sarcastically something like, “it’s just money”

Before I went out for my run, I memorized Robert Frost’s short poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Recited it in my head for much of the run. Tried to recite it into my phone at the end of my run and blanked on the fifth line — the word subsides — and gave up. More practice needed.

Nothing Gold Can Stay/ Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to gold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing Gold can stay.

At first I didn’t like the ABABABAB rhyme scheme, but it grew on me. It helped to listen to a recording of Frost reciting it and to repeat to myself over and over again.

sept 21/RUN

7.2 miles
bohemian flats and back
56 degrees
humidity: 82%

Cooler this morning. Hooray! Sunny, fall-like. Had been planning to run 8 or 9 miles today, almost all the way to downtown, but the road was closed, and the turn around point was less than 4 miles, so 7+ miles was all I did. I still feel good about it. I’m building up distance. My goal is to be able to do about 20-25 miles a week, with one long (about 10 mile) run.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The leaves are turning, mostly yellow, a few slashes of red, one all-orange tree
  2. Under the Franklin Bridge I started smelling smoke–I think the walker up ahead of me had a cigarette in their hand
  3. Lots of acorns littering the trail
  4. Honking geese. I couldn’t see them, but I heard them, high in the sky as I ran near the turn off for the West Bank of the U
  5. More geese taking over the walking part of the path beside the flats parking lot. A dozen or so. No honking or hissing, thankfully
  6. The river sparkling in the sun and the silhouette of a person fishing below the bridge
  7. A truck rumbling over the Washington Ave bridge as I crossed under it
  8. The newly repaired steps, near the railroad trestle, inviting me to take the lower trail — too many bugs!
  9. A walker listening to the news on the radio, a reporter mentioning Germany and riots or protests or something like that
  10. The solid white line that separates the biking and walking path in the flats is wearing off in one stretch — will they repaint it this fall?

After finishing my run, I listened to a recording of me reciting the latest poem I am writing/revising. I listened to it about 5 times, and did a voice memo with my revisions: 1. make the rhyme of land stand sand be less obvious, 2. which flows more slowly, slowly spreads or spreads slowly?, and 3. change the word “land” at the end to rock. Here’s my updated version:

AFTERGLOW/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Reaching the big beach
for a final time
land’s logic returns
too soon. Unsteady
I stand then drop down
kneeling in wet sand
waiting for tired legs
to remember how
to be vertical.

Muscles are grateful
happy to be used.
A delicious ache
slowly spreads not pain
or heat but glowing
satisfaction. Me
& Shoulders. We are
pleased with our effort.
We feel confident
strong. Enough. More than
enough. Enormous.
Too big to fit in
this lake. No longer
wanting to be water
formless fluid but
the rock that contains
it. Solid defined
giving shape to the (its?) flow.

I’m also not sure of the punctuation or if I should change the line breaks. So far, I’ve been using 5 beats per line. How would it work if I changed where each link broke?

sept 20/RUN

2 miles
2 trails
73 degrees
humidity: 74%

Fall weather please come back. I want my crisp, cool air. The run wasn’t too bad, but now that I’ve finished, I’m sweating a lot. Rain is coming in a few hours and everything will cool down. It’s already dark, ominous. Running above the river on the dirt trail just past the 38th street steps, everything was a slight blur. Dreamy. Unreal. The lack of light makes my already diminished central vision even more dim. Thought about how I couldn’t really see the path but didn’t worry about tripping because I know most of the dips and holes and rocks on this stretch and because even when my eyes don’t see the trail, my feet seem to. I glanced at the river but I don’t remember anything about it.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A walker with a white (or was it yellow?) sweatshirt wrapped around her waist pushing a stroller moving fast. It took me a few minutes to reach and then pass her. As I approached, I stared at her sweatshirt, one of the only bright things on this dark day
  2. Another bright thing: a runner in a bright yellow shirt
  3. Someone paused on the path, getting ready to start walking or running on the Winchell Trail?
  4. The small section of the river trail at 42nd that was blocked off for sewer work last week is open again and so is the road
  5. A tree leaning over the trail, not yet fallen, but looking like it might soon
  6. Flashing lights from a construction/city truck and a man in a yellow vest standing next to it near the sidewalk
  7. The damp dirt down in the oak savanna, not quite mucky or muddy yet
  8. 2 steep spots on the Winchell Trail: running down from the upper trail, right by 42nd street and a giant boulder and running up the short stretch near Folwell
  9. An approaching walker who turned down on an even lower dirt trail before I reached them
  10. The voice of a kid up above me as I ran down towards the mesa

Thinking about my growing number of swimming poems, some re-edited version of old poems, some new. My tentative title for the collection: Every Five (as in breathing every five strokes). All poems will play around with 5 as part of the structure — 5 beats or 5 lines or ?. Scott suggested I do something with iambic pentameter (5 feet of one short one long beat). A sonnet? Maybe a love poem to my swimming body/muscles/shoulders? Hmm…not sure if I’m feeling that.

Here’s a poem for the month’s theme of the approximate. This one is taking up the idea of almost, not quite or not exactly. It’s a poem that features an object — a cucumber — but it is not about the cucumber, but something else.

The Cucumber/ Nazim Hikmet

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and still coming down hard:
it hasn’t let up all morning.
We’re in the kitchen. On the table, on
the oilcloth, spring —
on the table there’s a very tender youn
cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a daisy.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it.
It softly lights up our faces,
and the very air smells fresh.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it,
amazed
thoughtful
optimistic.
We’re as if in a dream.
On the table, on the oilcloth, hope —
on the table, beautiful days,
a cloud seeded with a green sun,
an emerald crowd impaties and on its way,
loves blooming openly —
on the the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender
young

cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a
daisy.
The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and coming down hard.
It hasn’t let up all morning.

This poem and the idea of not exactly, reminds me of listening to the radio in the car yesterday with Scott and RJP. First, the sappy song, “Make it with You” by BREAD came on, then “Hot-blooded” by Foreigner. Both of them sung by someone who is trying to seduce the listener. Scott pointed out how the first song is much more indirect/oblique in its suggestions, while the second is very blunt. I started thinking about how the indirect song is a form of the approximate, the almost, or Emily Dickinson’s idea of the slant. It implies and circles (or what the poet Kaveh Akbar might call orbits and I might say in thinking about my swimming this summer, loops) around the actual meaning, never quite saying it. For Akbar, I think, orbiting is often because we can’t ever fully get at the meaning, while for BREAD it’s an unwillingness to reveal exactly what they mean in order to get what they want. One of the swimming poems I want to revise is about loops and looping around the lake. Maybe I can play around with loop as orbiting or circling, never quite getting there, always near but not quite.

This reminded me of another approximate phrase: close but no cigar. Looked up the origins and several sources gave this explanation:

It comes from traveling fairs and carnivals from the 1800s. The prizes back then were not giant-sized stuffed teddy bears, they were usually cigars or bottles of whiskey. If you missed the prize at a carnival game, the carnie folk would shout, “Close! But no cigar!”

source

sept 19/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
67 degrees
humidity: 90%

Ran with Scott in Austin. It felt much warmer than 67 degrees. Very humid. The gate was open, so we ran through the county fairgrounds. Scott and the kids made it here, but I was on my trip up north, so I missed it. No cheese curds for me this summer. At the far end of the fairgrounds, dozen of geese had were congregating in a treeless, empty field. Lots of geese in Austin, lots of geese up here in Minneapolis too. Sometimes, the sky is filled with their honking. Love that sound, and love this time of year.

Found this poem by Rumi on twitter the other day. I think this fits with my theme of approximate:

Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing
and rightdoing
is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

sept 17/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
61 degrees
humidity: 83%

What a storm early this morning! So much wind and flashes of light around 2:30 am. Running this morning, I expected to see big branches down everywhere. Not too many (any?) on the minneapolis side, but on the st. paul side they had to shut down the right lane and the sidewalk so a crew could clear all the debris. I saw that the road was closed right at the spot where I turn, so I assumed I would be able to get through. Nope. Had to turn around and run past a long line of cars that had probably watched me running towards the closed sidewalk and wondered why I kept going. Oh well. Turning around added a small bit of distance to my run, which was a bonus.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The squeak of my shoes running over wet leaves and pulverized acorns
  2. Little branches, some still covered in green leaves, some bare, littered all over the trail
  3. From my view above on the bridge: a streak of muck/silt? in the river near the st. paul shore
  4. No rowers or roller skiers
  5. A radio playing near the ravine by Shadow Falls. I wondered if the song was coming from down in the ravine or on a bike across the ravine
  6. The more than trickling, not quite gushing, of falls at shadow falls
  7. some fall color: a few yellow trees, a slash of red
  8. someone stopping at the memorial just above the lake street bridge, reading the signs or taking pictures or both
  9. a backpacked kid biking with his dad, heading to school
  10. A shirtless runner speeding past me, almost wheezing

word of the day: majusculation

The act or practice of beginning a word with a capital letter when it is not the beginning of a sentence.

Here’s a poem for the theme of approximate:

[I remember partially]/ Jane Huffman

I remember partially

My searching
Party going out in search

Of my own
Life my lantern light

Like water sloshing
Down the front

Of me and calling
My own name

Into the forest dusk
A partial sound

A painful braying
Syllable

That grounded
Like a current

In the dirt a yard
In front of me

But I resorted to it
Like a witness does

To memory

I was planning to swim this afternoon, but the buoys are gone. Lake swimming is officially over. Sad, but it’s time to focus on fall and winter running!

sept 15/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
56 degrees
humidity: 81%

Fall! It doesn’t quite look like fall yet, but it’s starting to feel like it. A solid, wonderful run around the river.

1 Thing I Noticed

Running over the marshall/lake street bridge back to Minneapolis, I looked down at the river. Near the shore, on the St. Paul side, some towering trees were casting a shadow on the root beer colored water. As I left the shore, the water lightened to a brownish green (or greenish brown?). Looking downstream, the river gradually turned blue as it met the sky. A single rower with a bright orange shirt was rowing across from minneapolis to st. paul. Perpendicular to shore instead of parallel. At the last minute, just before leaving the bridge, I remembered to check the trees lining each shore to see if they were changing colors. Not yet, but soon.

Returning to the theme of approximate (sort of). Thinking about the idea of exact or definite as leading to understanding and the goal of making sense of things. The amazing poet Carl Phillips — I’m reading his collection of essays on craft, Daring, right now too — tweeted this poem the other day:

May Day Midnight/ Michael Palmer

In the light of day
perhaps all of this
will make sense.

But have we come this far,
come this close to death,
just to make sense?

I love this poem, especially it’s use of just in the last line. Making sense is important/necessary, but it’s not all we can/should do. How does the approximate, almost or not quite, the not exact or fixed or finished, enable us to do more (or less) than make sense?

sept 13/RUN

8 miles
lake nokomis and back
58 degrees
humidity: 79%

The 8 mile run this week was much harder than last week’s. I am wiped out. Ran 6.5 miles without stopping, then walked for a few minutes before finishing up the run. Running all the way to lake nokomis and back seems farther than looping around the river.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The buoys are still up at the big beach
  2. There is orange paint outlining the cracks in the path near nokomis avenue
  3. The creek is still very low
  4. Under the duck bridge, on the other side of the creek from the trail, a little kid was singing the melody of a rock song that I can’t quite remember
  5. It was windier at the lake and the water looked choppy
  6. The water was gushing at the 42nd street sewer pipe
  7. A giant monarch butterfly sign was on the fence at the lake nokomis rec center playground–left over from the festival this weekend
  8. The purple and yellow flowers near the parking lot of minnehaha falls are in full bloom
  9. So are the zinnias in the yard with the cat who thinks she’s queen of the block (and is)
  10. 4 IKEA kids plastic chairs left in the boulevard — at least 2 were powder blue

This list took me a while. It was hard to remember anything from the run because I’m so tired. Will I be up exhausted all day?

Still thinking about fish and the fish in me and my poem borrowing some lines from Anne Sexton. I started the run intent on these topics and managed to think a bit about Sexton’s line “the real fish did not mind” but soon forgot all about it as the run got harder.

From some tweets I read, I thought today was Mary Oliver’s birthday. Double-checked, it was on the 10th. Still, her recent birthday inspired me to find a fish poem by her to post here:

The Fish/ Mary Oliver

The first fish
I ever caught
would not lie down
quiet in the pail
but flailed and sucked
at the burning
amazement of the air
and died
in the slow pouring off
of rainbows. Later
I opened his body and separated
the flesh from the bones
and ate him. Now the sea
is in me: I am the fish, the fish
glitters in me; we are
risen, tangled together, certain to fall
back to the sea. Out of pain,
and pain, and more pain
we feed this feverish plot, we are nourished
by the mystery.

So many poems about fish are about catching them or eating them. I want more poems that aren’t about fish as food.

I’m interested in contrasting Oliver’s idea about consuming the fish as a way to become one with it and the water with Sexton’s idea about the fish in us escaping. Fish going out instead of in. What does this mean? Not entirely sure yet, but I think it might help me figure out what to do with the next part of the poem and what I might be trying to say about “the fish in me” and its dis/connection from real fish.

sept 12/RUN

2.25 miles
dogwood loop
58 degrees

Ran with Scott north on the river road trail to the trestle, through Bracket Park, then over to Dogwood Coffee. Great weather for a run. Not too hot or humid, hardly any wind, overcast. Saw Dave, the Daily Walker and after I called out to him, he greeted both us, remembering Scott’s name. Impressive, considering he’s only met Scott once, and it was when I introduced them while running by quickly about 2 years ago! Noticed a few red leaves. Heard the rowers below us. No geese (yet) or wild turkeys or large groups of runners. Some bikers and walkers and signs for an event by the river yesterday: “free rowing” and “free canoe rides.” It would have been fun to try the rowing. Oh well.

Here’s an updated version of the poem I posted yesterday. I’ve fit it into my five beat form. Not sure if it works yet, and I’d like to add more.

At the lake the fish in me escapes

All winter she waits
barely alive iced
under skin. By june
restless. Together
we enter the cold
water but before
the first stroke she’s gone
reborn in endless
blue remembering
fins forgetting lungs
legs january.


sept 10/RUNSWIM

run: 2.7 miles
2 trails
61 degrees

Felt a little warmer today even though it was only 61 degrees. Sunny, quiet. A strange time, not quite fall but not still summer. Running south on the river road trail, I noticed a few slashes of red on the low lying leaves. It’s coming. I love this time of year and the turning of the leaves.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The sewer at 44th had barely a trickle, the one at 42nd was a steady stream
  2. More uneven, shifting sidewalk on the paved part of the Winchell Trail than I remember. Entire slabs settling and separating
  3. A spazzy squirrel darted but didn’t cross my path. Climbed a tree instead
  4. Kids’ voices drifting down from the upper path
  5. The first part of the Winchell Trail that has rubbling asphalt was littered with leaves–signs of fall!
  6. An unleashed white dog, then an unleashed black dog, then 2 or 3 humans, crowding the narrow, leaning path
  7. Someone walking in the middle of the closed road
  8. Voices, then a woman holding a child at the edge of the gravel path near the ravine
  9. The river?
  10. The sign warning of a slight ramp at the end of the path detour near Beckettwood

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis main beach
78 degrees

The buoys are still up! Warm but windy. Swimming into big(gish) waves heading south, riding on big(gish) swells heading back north. Saw lots of flashes below me. Fish or slants of light? Another metal detector dude was out there. He was hard core, in a wetsuit, choppy water up to his shoulders, and had a buoy to anchor him. I wonder what he found? Encountered one other swimmer taking on the waves and talked to someone about to swim at the beach when I was done. A good swim.

Other things I remember: A row of seagulls was at the edge of the water; a few sunbathers were on the beach; lots of kayaks and canoes and paddle boards with people standing and on their knees; the waves too high to see much of the other side or the beach.

sept 9/RUN

4 miles
top of the franklin hill and back
59 degrees
humidity: 80%

Fall running! Love the cooler weather. Thought about a poem I’m revising from my chapbook about open swim at lake nokomis. It’s called “detritus,” although I might change that title, and originally it was about the muck that gets into my suit while I’m swimming and that I need to wash off and was inspired by this fun alliteration: “I can’t see the slimy sand seep inside and settle on my skin.” I’m editing it to fit the form of 5 beats (5 strokes in the water then a breath) and expanding it to go beyond what the lake leaves with me to wonder what do I leave with the lake? This new part is inspired by the metal detector dudes I overheard at the lake a few days ago. Speaking of the lake, I just read about how 2 young kids (8 and 11) were rescued after drowning at lake nokomis on monday, just hours after I swam there. There is critical condition. Wow. I never think of this lake as dangerous — it’s really not that deep — but it is.

Back to my run: I barely looked down at the river. Was it because the path was more crowded? Ran by 2 walkers with a dog taking up the entire walking path. As I ran by, the dog lunged at me. When the owner apologized I said, “that’s okay” and meant it. Later I wished I had said, “sorry I didn’t warn you” and decided that I would either warn walkers in the future or steer much clearer of them and I did. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks and then Dave, the Daily Walker. Heard a crow. Thought about how I felt strong and relaxed. My right kneecap clicked a little but finally settled into its groove.

Here’s a poem I found by searching, “metal detector poetry). When I first read it and realized how long it was, I exclaimed, “Ahh! This is looong.” But I decided to type up the whole thing, and I’m glad I did.

MAN WITH METAL DETECTOR / Robert B. Shaw

You know me. I’m the one
who isn’t dressed for the beach,
arriving late in the day
when you’re folding your umbrella
or shaking out your towel.
I must look from a distance
like some insane slave-laborer
tasked with tidying up
as much sand as I can
with some pathetic tool, some
peculiar carpet sweeper.
In fact what this picks up
is hid below the surface.
I put its ear to the ground
and when, from inches under,
it hears the note, inaudible
to me, of something metal,
the needles on its dials
shiver to full attention.
Then I use my grandson’s
shovel to excavate.
Sometimes a soda can,
sometimes even jewelry
(though more of that turns up
in playgrounds and in parks
than down here by the ocean.)
It’s more like prospecting
than like archeology.
Unwittingly let slip
or purposely discarded,
these relics offer few
hints of their past owners:
a lost coin is every
bit as anonymous
as a chucked beer-tab.
Once in a long while
I came across initials.
It gives me a bad feeling.
I don’t really want to know
who M.S.M. is, whose ring
I picked up near the boardwalk.
Eighteen carat gold
and set with a seed pearl.
Smaller than all my fingers.
Was it loose on hers?
Did she put it in a pocket
which then proved treacherous?
Or (and this is worse) did she
strip it off and throw it
to rid herself of someone
she got it from, someone
she would have liked to see
thrown down hard and buried?
My Sad Monogram,
what’s the use of asking?
You’ve long since found out
insurance didn’t cover it,
or if you meant to lose it
you didn’t even ask.
Pardon me for making up
your story from such meager
evidence — it shows how
things turning up these days turn naggingly suggestive,
won’t leave my mind the way
I want it: matter-of-fact.
Something about this hobby
is getting out of hand.
I only took it up because
the doctor wants me walking.
I feel like knocking off
sooner than usual today
and simply sitting awhile
to watch the way the tide
oversteps itself in long
rippling strikes of silk,
making a cleaner sweep in time
than any I could make.

What a great poem! I’d like to wander/wonder to a story like this in a poem.

sept 7/RUN

8.1 miles
ford loop + franklin loop
67 degrees
humidity: 70%

8 miles! It’s been over 2 years since I ran this far. No stopping to walk. It felt pretty good, the only thing that hurt were my legs and left hip. Just a little sore in the last few miles.

I didn’t look at my watch once during the run. I wasn’t sure when I’d hit 8 miles. I didn’t want to check, find out I still had a mile left, and then lose momentum, so I decided to wait until I got past the lake street bridge to look at my watch. 8.1 miles. Nice. I probably could have run some more, but I decided to stop. To avoid injury, I’m only adding a mile each week.

When I started the run, I wanted to think about a poem I’m revising. I’m having trouble with the ending. It almost works, but not quite. I managed to think about it for a few minutes, before I was distracted by something –maybe the construction near 42nd? One thought, which doesn’t directly help the ending, but my help how I get to it: try making the beats in each line mirror my strokes while I swim. So, mostly 5 syllables for each line, with an occasional 3 or 4 or 6.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. So many beautiful views over on the east/St. Paul side of the river! Breaks in the trees where you can stop and look. Benches with the vines and branches trimmed. A few inviting overlooks
  2. No slashes of yellow or orange or bright red yet
  3. The river, as I crossed the Ford Bridge, was blue and calm, with no kayaks or rowing shells
  4. The shshshshsh of my striking feet on the gritty dirt path between ford and marshall
  5. At least 2 big packs (trots) of runners on the trail — a cross country team for the U or St. Thomas, probably
  6. One roller skier, slowing down to avoid a woman walking on the biking path
  7. A dog bark below, echoing in the mostly quiet
  8. Passing the man in black — a very tall walker, with super long legs, who I used to encounter a few years ago as I ran and who, in the winter, wears all black, and, for the rest of the year, black shorts
  9. The flowers/garden/landscaping at The Monument (just below Summit Avenue) are beautiful. A wide range of bright colors
  10. A huge brick house/estate, perched on a hill on Eustis St

september 4/RUN

4.1 miles
marshall loop
63 degrees
humidity: 89%

Cooler, but I could feel the humidity. Felt strong. I think all of the swimming this summer strengthened my legs and core, which is very helpful. I’d like to figure out how to keep it up this fall and winter. Heard the rowers as I ran down the east river road, then saw them lined up in the water, receiving instruction from the coxswain. Heard lots of other voices in the gorge, near the Monument and Shadow Falls. People hiking? exploring? checking out the falls, which only appear after it rains (which it did the past few days)? Encountered lots of runners and walkers. No roller skiers. I’m sure there were birds but I don’t remembering hearing them. I do remember looking at the river as I crossed the bridge–mostly, the rowers, but also that the river was calm and a blue gray. Not quite sunny yet, so no sparkling water. Anything else? No deep thoughts stayed with me, no fragments from a poem. I’m sure I thought about my son who Scott and I dropped off at college yesterday. Very excited for him.

As I write this entry a few hours after the run, I’m remembering that I thought briefly about the idea of approximate and a passage I read last night from Blind Man’s Bluff, a memoir by James Tate Hill about becoming legally blind at 16, and trying to hide it.

I can still see out of the corners of my eyes, but here’s the thing about peripheral vision: The quality of what you see isn’t the same as you see head-on. Imagine a movie filmed with only extras, a meal cooked using nothing but herbs and a dash of salt, a sentence constructed only of metaphors. To see something in your peripheral vision with any acuity, it has to be quite large.

Blind Man’s Bluff/ James Tate Hill

I thought about this passage when I was running because I’m bothered by his negative depiction of peripheral vision. Is the quality of vision solely based on clarity and sharpness? What value/quality of vision might we get from our side views and from images that are something less than 100% clear?

I find it helpful to read others’ descriptions of how and what they see. Hill’s vision is much worse than mine–even though the cones in my central vision are almost completely gone, my acuity in both eyes is surprisingly good and nowhere near legally blind. It seems as if the last few cones are doing all the work. Yet, even with my not-too-bad-yet vision, I struggle to see things like faces and eyes, read signs. Here’s an example from yesterday at the buffet lunch at my son’s college orientation: The food was put out on platters–watermelon, deli meat, cheese, bread, pasta salad–and you helped yourself. With my vision, I couldn’t tell what some of the food was–I had to ask Scott. I just couldn’t see it well enough. This often happens now when I’m eating a meal. I can’t quite (almost, but not enough) see what’s on the plate. I used to write about how I can’t tell if there’s mold on food, but now I can’t tell what the food is–unless I’ve prepared it myself. Not that big of a deal, but still frustrating.

Here’s another passage from the memoir that I appreciated:

The most frequent compliment heard by people with a disability is I could never do what you do, but everyone knows how to adapt. When it’s cold outside, we put on a coat. When it rains, we grab an umbrella. A road ends, so we turn left, turn right, turn around. We adapt because it’s all we can do when we cannot change our situation.

The other thing that I’ve already started to hear a lot as I lose my vision is: “you’re so brave!” I am not brave; I am good at adapting and learning to live with uncertainty. I am proud of how I’m handling my vision loss, but not because I’m being brave.

Returning to the theme of approximate, I’ve been trying to collect words, phrases that describe it: roughly, vague, almost, not quite, rough estimation, about, nearly, in the right zip or area code, in the ballpark, and the one that Scott mentioned the other day:

close enough for jazz

Had I ever heard this before Scott used it? He picked up the phrase from his jazz director in college, Dr. Steve Wright. Such a great phrase, one that I don’t see as criticizing jazz as sloppy, but celebrating it for its generosity.

september 2/ RUN

4 miles
wabun park and back
64 degrees

Cooler this morning. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker at the start of my run, when I was heading south on Edmund. Instead of running all the way to the falls, I turned at Godfrey and ran through Waban park and down the steep hill beside the river. I was beside the river for much of the run but I barely glanced at it. I remember seeing it once, while on the steep part of the Winchell Trail, through the trees. I’m sure I heard some birds, but If I did, I forgot. I remember hearing the click click click of a roller skier’s poles just above me. Last night, while driving to the Twins’ game, Scott pointed out a group of roller skiers skiing without poles but waving their arms like they were using poles. We imagined that practicing without poles might strengthen your leg muscles. It looked strange and awkward and difficult.

Encountered a few people at Waiban park, walking towards the VA home, which is right next to the park. One woman was wearing a bright yellow vest. Ran down the steep hill, and saw a few more walkers. A fast runner sped by me, running on the bike trail. I passed a walker with shoulder length blond hair that I’ve passed a lot this summer. They always wear hiking sandals and a skirt. Anything else? I don’t remember hearing any water coming out of the sewer pipes or any kids on the playground. I ran by a spazzy squirrel that flung itself on the chain link fence as I went past. Also almost stepped on a chipmunk in the part of the Winchell Trail where the trees are thicker.

It took me some time, but I finally found a poem that fits my theme, approximate:

There Is No Word/ TONY HOAGLAND

There isn’t a word for walking out of the grocery store
with a gallon jug of milk in a plastic sack 
that should have been bagged in double layers

—so that before you are even out the door
you feel the weight of the jug dragging 
the bag down, stretching the thin

plastic handles longer and longer
and you know it’s only a matter of time until
bottom suddenly splits. 

There is no single, unimpeachable word 
for that vague sensation of something
moving away from you

as it exceeds its elastic capacity        
—which is too bad, because that is the word
I would like to use to describe standing on the street

chatting with an old friend 
as the awareness grows in me that he is
no longer a friend, but only an acquaintance, 

a person with whom I never made the effort—
until this moment, when as we say goodbye 
I think we share a feeling of relief,  

a recognition that we have reached
the end of a pretense,   
though to tell the truth 

what I already am thinking about
is my gratitude for language—
how it will stretch just so much and no farther;

how there are some holes it will not cover up;
how it will move, if not inside, then 
around the circumference of almost anything—

how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the 
plodding love and faith, all the

misunderstandings and secrets
I have willingly poured into 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 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 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 20/SWIMRUN

swim: 2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees

More wind, more chop, more rolling waves and swells. Today was a morning swim so the orange buoys were backlit. For me, and my lack of cone cells, this meant they weren’t orange but invisible and then, at fairly close range, dark hulking shapes. Do most people see their orange-ness? As always, I am amazed at how comfortable I’ve become swimming towards something that I can’t see but I trust to be there, based on past experience + deep knowledge of the lake’s layout + my strong, straight shoulders. But this year, there’s another layer to this swimming into nothingness that amazes me: I trust that I’m going the right way, but I also don’t worry if I’m not. So what if I get off course? Who cares if the lifeguards need to nudge me back a little closer to the buoys? I am much less bothered by not knowing, or–and this is a theme for the summer and will feature heavily in a writing project I can tell I’ll be starting in the fall–not quite knowing or roughly/approximately knowing. Not exactly but mostly, almost but never completely. Part of the picture, but never the whole thing. I’ve been writing a lot about bewilderment and unknowingness. This not quite knowing is not bewilderment but something else. Not wild, not lost, but not found either. Hmm….

For the past four times at lake nokomis (sunday, tuesday, thursday, friday), the water has been choppy/rolling in the same way: Smoothest (but not really smooth) from the big beach to the first orange buoy. Swells picking up between buoy 1 and 2, difficult to breath on right side with waves rolling quickly over my head from right to left. Not too bad between the 3rd orange buoy and the white buoy at the little beach. From the little beach back to the big beach, increasingly rough and choppy–waves crashing into me, water spraying up, sometimes difficult to breath on both sides. A wild ride rounding the final green buoy just off the big beach. Swells lifting me up and pushing me along swimming parallel to the shore and heading towards the orange buoy. I like the challenge of choppy water and the energy that it produces but I’m ready for some smoother water. With so many waves, I have to lift my head higher to sight (and breathe?) and my neck is getting sore.

run: 2.7 miles
2 trails
83 degrees

Decided when I got home from swimming that I’d go out for a run. Hot, but a cooler wind. Listened to a playlist for the first half, then the wind mixed with my breathing for the second half. I was able to run in shade most of the time. Very warm in the sun. Don’t remember much of anything. No irritating or memorable people–as I write this now I remember some bikers stopping and blocking the entire path on the way down to the Winchell Trail. Lots of acorns and walnuts on the ground. Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any spazzy squirrels. No roaming dogs. Oh–ran past a garbage truck and the smell was terrible. It (the smell) followed me for a few blocks. And I thought again about how I’d like to work with older students (55+) and teach classes that somehow combine critical thinking, creative writing and experiments, deep awareness of place, and physical activity. Still now sure what that would look like or how to start…

loving like the lake

Yesterday I went through poems I gathered about water and made a list, based on these poems and some of my own ideas, about what water does and how it loves. I’m thinking I might use these various things as titles or first lines for poem. Here’s a line I’d like to turn into a poem:

I think the sea is a useless teacher, pitching and falling
no matter the weather, when our lives are rather like lakes

unlocking in a constant and bewildering spring.

From Nowhere/ Marie Howe

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 it’s 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 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 12/WALKRUNHIKE

walk: 2 miles
run: 2 miles
hike: 1.3 miles
lake superior, north shore
70 degrees, sunny

Walked north along the Gitche-Gami State Trail, which runs for 28 miles (and eventually 86, all the way from Two Harbors to Grand Marais) beside Lake Superior with my dear friend from college, Michele. Turned around and ran back. Later, on the way to Grand Marais, stopped at Cascade Falls and hiked to a water fall, over a few bridges. Encountered 2 older women who asked us if we were having a reunion. When we said yes, they said they were too–ours was a reunion of 5 college friends who met 29 years ago, theirs was of 2 high school friends who met much longer ago than that–they didn’t say, but they were at least 15-20 years older than us. Very cool.

august 11/RUN

3.2 miles
marshall hill
76 degrees

Ran with STA before I left for my trip up to Lake Superior and the North Shore. Over the lake street bridge, up the marshall hill, down the east river road trail, back over the bridge, through the minnehaha academy parking lot. Don’t remember anything about the run–we stopped very briefly at a light at the bottom of the hill; encountered someone walking into Black Coffee and Waffle Bar; and marveled at half of tree, on the ground, blocking the sidewalk, the remaining half looking completely dead inside.

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 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 3/RUN

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.

july 30/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back (on the winchell trail)
72 degrees

They canceled open swim today; the air quality is dangerous (176, which is unhealthy). The smoke from the fires up north is still here. I’m disappointed but also relieved. I can still feel the effects from the smoke of last night’s swim. I went out for a run instead, which made me feel better. I didn’t have any trouble breathing. Ran to the falls and back. The falls were low; no roaring, rushing water. I saw a large bird–a turkey vulture? hawk?–high up in the sky. I don’t remember hearing any black capped chickadees or cardinals or woodpeckers. Running at the start of the Winchell Trail, I (too?) quietly warned the walker ahead of me that I was coming. He had headphones on and didn’t hear me. Then he turned, saw me, and uttered, in surprise, “Oh God!” I wasn’t running fast, so it was no big deal. Just funny. Heard some water trickling out of the sewer pipe at 42nd. Don’t remember what I thought about, but I do remember trying to forget the increased anxiety I have over wildfires and Delta variants. Some days it’s a struggle hanging onto joy and delight in the midst of so much evidence that everything is falling apart.

Water: a smoky river, not glittering in the hazy sun; a subdued waterfall; a receding creek; dripping ponytail, forehead, back; trickling pipes; thirst and the desire for some sips from a water fountain; an empty, swimmer-less lake

july 29/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3.25 miles
2 trails
77 degrees

Hot. Sweaty. Too many bikes biking in pairs beside each other, taking over the path. Still, a good run. Just before starting, I listened to a recording of myself reciting 2 poems I’m working on. Thoughts about them came and went as I ran above the river. On the Winchell Trail, right before running up the short, steep hill near Folwell, I thought about how I don’t always notice the river when I’m running next to it. Sometimes I’m distracted by other thoughts or an approaching person. Sometimes the river is hidden behind a veil of green. And sometimes I’m too lost in the dream world. Then David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech with the refrain, “This is water” popped into my head. I decided to stop at the top of the hill and record my thoughts:

thoughts will running/ 29 july

Okay, I’m running and I had an idea. Thinking about how when I’m running on the Winchell Trail above the river, sometimes I don’t remember to look at the river, to acknowledge the river, behold it, recognize that it’s there. And I started thinking about David Foster Wallace and “this is water” and how sometimes it’s important to notice and behold and say, “this is water.” To say, “this is water,” is to stand outside of it, to have some sort of distance, to be beside it. Sometimes we want to be immersed in the water. We want to be immersed in a dream world or a now that is not outside, not as distant, not beside. That means we don’t notice that this is water because we’re in it, and that’s a good thing too.

I reread the transcript of Wallace’s speech. I like many of his ideas about the value of a liberal arts education for giving us the tools to think critically, to be aware, to notice a wider range of realities beyond our limited, selfish one, to move past our unconscious “default” settings. Much of it is based on choice and will and our ability, which we must cultivate through education/practice/habits, to be open to understanding situations in new, potentially more generous, ways.

I like these lines:

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

In his speech, Wallace’s primary default setting is that we are selfish–everything is centered on us–and that we passively and consistently frame the world in this way. His solution: actively and deliberately think about the world in other ways. Seriously consider others’ perspectives, their struggles. Be actively critical, not passively uncritical. But, as I’m learning through poetry and various other things I’m reading about attention, sometimes letting go, being vulnerable and not in control, not trying to see things more generously but just being out in the world, moving and breathing and attending to it, sharing space in it with others (and not claiming it as yours) enables us to transform our experiences of it. I feel like I’m not quite making sense here, but I’m trying to get to the point that there are different forms of caring and giving attention, and some of them don’t involve deliberate, controlled focus on something. I’m thinking of soft fascination and being beside/entangled and the periphery.

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees
wildfire smoke from Canada

No problem biking to the lake even though it was very smoky. They finished the sewer work they were doing by the mustache bridge so the bike trail was finally open again. Hooray! So much easier and safer not having to bike on the road and cross back and forth so many times. Very happy to feel mostly comfortable on my bike, able to see most things and not feel scared all the time.

swim: 2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim

Dark tonight. Strange, unsettling. Eerie on the lake with the sun covered with smoke. My googles fogged up again, even though I treated them, making it harder to see. I think Johnson’s Baby Shampoo doesn’t work, only Johnson’s baby wash does. Heard lots of sloshing and splashing. Enjoyed the swim, but felt less buoyant. At one point, it almost seemed like my foot was about to cramp up so I briefly stopped to stretch it. I’m getting better at stopping, taking my time. Another military plane flew low above me, roaring in the sky. That, with the waves and the smoke, make it feel almost apocalyptic. Noticed a bird flying in the sky too, near the plane. From my perspective in the lake, looking up from the side as I breathed, they looked the same size and shape. Funny how being the lake makes everything seem the same. Because of the smoke, I tried to take it easier, so I only swam 2 loops.

A few days ago (july 26) I foolishly asked how much choppier it is in Lake Superior than it was at cedar lake while I was swimming. Here’s one answer by the poet laureate of the UP (poet laureate? very cool!):

WAVE AFTER WAVE/ M. Bartley Seigel

Dawn, a lit fuse. The radioman says
“bombogenesis,” like agates tumbling
from a jar—system as meteorite
off Whitefish Point. In other words, water

lynx, Mishipeshu, lathered up in red.
In a heartbeat, rollers mass two stories
trough to insatiate tempest, unquelled
by prayer nor cigarette, careless, mean,

a cold-blooded indifference so pure,
a strong swimmer won’t last ten wet minutes.
At the Keweenaw, surf pummels the stamp
sands with ochre fists, ore boats stack up lee

of the stone, and entire beaches stand up
to walk away. At Marquette, two lovers
walk onto Black Rocks, sacrificial lambs—
their bodies will never be recovered.

july 28/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around + extra
73 degrees
humidity: 85% / dew point: 68

Woke up to dark skies. An hour later: thunderstorms. Around 10 it stopped, so I went out for a run. It was warm and humid but not oppressive. How is that possible? Forgot (again) to greet the welcoming oaks, but checked for stacked stones by the sprawling oak tree. Zero. Everything was dripping. Including me, after about a mile. I don’t remember seeing the river. Too much green. Noticed one of the unofficial trails leading down into the gorge just before lake street. Also noticed a tent set up under the lake street bridge, right next to the portapotty. All zipped up. I wondered how hot they were last night, when the low was in the upper 70s. I also wondered if they were in the tent because they’d been evicted (looked it up and the 15 month eviction moratorium is ending but landlords can’t evict until Sept).

delight of the day

As I approached the trestle, I began hearing a loud rumble. At first I tuned it out, but then I realized: a train! It was hard to see with all of the green blocking my view of the bridge, but slowly I saw the cars. The train was still there, rumbling along, as I passed under the trestle a minute later. Very cool. In the hundreds of times I’ve run under this trestle, I have only encountered a train on the bridge 3 or 4 times. These tracks are hardly ever used. Why was the train crossing today? I kept waiting for the beep beep of the horn but it never came. Only booms as the car lumbered over the old tracks.

After the Rain/ Jared Carter – 1939-

After the rain, it’s time to walk the field
again, near where the river bends. Each year
I come to look for what this place will yield –
lost things still rising here.

The farmer’s plow turns over, without fail,
a crop of arrowheads, but where or why
they fall is hard to say. They seem, like hail,
dropped from an empty sky,

Yet for an hour or two, after the rain
has washed away the dusty afterbirth
of their return, a few will show up plain
on the reopened earth.

Still, even these are hard to see –
at first they look like any other stone.
The trick to finding them is not to be
too sure about what’s known;

Conviction’s liable to say straight off
this one’s a leaf, or that one’s merely clay,
and miss the point: after the rain, soft
furrows show one way

Across the field, but what is hidden here
requires a different view – the glance of one
not looking straight ahead, who in the clear
light of the morning sun

Simply keeps wandering across the rows,
letting his own perspective change.
After the rain, perhaps, something will show,
glittering and strange.

Wow, I love this poem. I’m very glad I searched “after the rain poetry” and found it. The different view he discusses in the later stanzas is what I’m exploring. It’s ED’s slant truth and my sideways/peripheral. It’s also the practice of soft fascination–what we don’t notice we’re seeing when we’re focused on other things. And it’s learning new ways to see without certainty.

july 27/RUNSWIM

run: 3.5 miles
2 trails
78 degrees
humidity: 79% / dew point: 68

Hot and humid this morning. Not too bad in the shade. Heard some birds, noticed the river. Can’t really remember what I thought about as I ran. The paved trail near the road was crowded with walkers, runners, and bikers. On the trail below, I was one of only a few humans. It was a good run.

Entanglements

  • the gnat swimming in the liquid in my eye
  • the darting chipmunk who crossed my path and made me stutter-step down in the savanna
  • the coxswain’s voice floating up from the river
  • the runner and 2 bikers side-by-side, approaching me on my left and right at the same time, too fast and too close
  • the calling cardinal
  • encroaching vines brushing my face, my shoulders, my ankles
  • the dog and their human walking near a big boulder, another pair on the gravel just past the ravine
  • the jingling collar of another dog, far below me, much closer to the water
  • the branch of a tree, waving from the weight of a critter–a squirrel? bird?
  • yellowed leaves littering the dirt trail
  • the stones studding the trail, a few making me slow to a walk so I didn’t trip over them

swim: 2 miles/ 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
91 degrees

Very warm at the lake tonight. The air was warm, the water too. When I started swimming, I went through a few cold spots. Nice. Mostly breathed every 5. The water was much smoother, less choppy. Still had trouble seeing the buoys, but no trouble staying on course. Another great swim. I love how much time I’m spending in the lake this summer.

water thoughts

1

I have seen this commercial several times in the last few days, while watching the Olympics, especially the swimming events:

Are our hearts really made up of 73% water? Checked it, and yes, according to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158:

the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.

The Water in You

2

A science poem for 3rd graders:

Sound Waves/ Amy Ludwig VanDerwate

If you have ever seen the ocean
throwing cold waves from her hand
pulling shells from mighty depths
tossing each upon wet sand,
you can understand how sound waves
move like water through dry air.
One-by-one, vibrations follow
pressing sounds from here-to-there.
Sounds can pass through liquids.
Through gases. Solids too.
But sounds waves moving through the air
are sound waves meant for you.
Violin or thunderstorm —
each will reach your waiting ear
to play upon a tiny drum.
This is how you hear.

3

…underwater sound waves pass directly into your head, bypassing your ears altogether. That’s because body tissues contain such a large amount of water. Try plugging your ears underwater and listening for another splash of someone jumping in. It will be just as loud as the last splash when your ears were not plugged.

How Sound Waves Work Underwater