august 22/SWIM

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

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

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

Many different thoughts/ideas came to me today:

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

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

Green Koan/ Rita Dove

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

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 19/SWIM

2.75 miles / 2 full loops + 1 shortened loop
lake nokomis open swim
85 degrees / windy

Yet another windy day at the lake. In past summers, I remember having an occasional windy, choppy swim, but not so many in a row. Tonight’s water seemed the choppiest, swell-iest it’s been. Was it? I think I’m losing perspective. I wonder how tonight’s waves compare to the second summer (2013 or 14) when there was a surprise wind storm and the lake was evacuated–except for the few swimmers, like me, that they didn’t notice. Am I getting used to the waves, or am I exaggerating them? Unsure. Mostly, I like swimming in this rough water.

The second half of the loop, from the little beach back to the big beach and then parallel to the shore until reaching the first orange buoy again was a wild ride. There was bright sun, making it difficult to sight anything, then rough water, crashing against my left side. No gentle rocking, just pushing and shoving, with the occasional slap. I breathed every 4 or 6, almost always on my right side. Once I rounded the final green buoy and reached the swimming area just off the big beach, the waves were behind me, pushing me forward. Sometimes this was pure fun, with the wave doing all the work. Sometimes, it was unsettling, with the water underneath not quite dropping out but feeling like it was sucking all of the energy out of my stroke, like I was hovering (and not floating) in a substance that wasn’t quite water, but wasn’t air either. I wonder if anyone else has a description for this experience? I’ll have to look it up.

Even with all of the rough water, I managed to notice a few planes. Swimming toward the little beach, I suddenly heard a sharp ringing in my ears, just for a minute. I wondered if it was my ear ringing or some sound traveling under water. I felt a lot of vegetation float past me. Usually sharp and scratchy, but once it caressed my foot and leg–a strange, gentle and unwelcome touch. Another time I accidentally grabbed a plant that wasn’t floating free, but was rooted to the lake bottom. How tall was it, I wonder. Anything else? As I was beginning my third loop, I heard the lifeguard calling out for the safety break. This lifeguard had a deep voice and a sense of humor. I laughed when he announced, over the loudspeaker, that the safety break was over. Was it what he said or how he said it? I can’t remember.

august 18/RUNSWIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaveh Akbar Interview

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

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

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

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

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

how could I forget this moment?

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

The Swimmer/ Mary Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

august 17/SWIM

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

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

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

5 Poems/ Amorak Huey

LOGJAM

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

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

LIKE GREAT HARPS ON WHICH THE WIND MAKES MUSIC

                                         —Henry David Thoreau, on the Eastern White Pine

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

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

across the lake, a city burns. 

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

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

“A HUNDRED DOLLARS TO AN OLD HAT SHE HOLDS”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

august 16/RUNSWIM

run: 10k
franklin loop + extra
67 degrees

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

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

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

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

The Clock! That 12-figured moon skull!

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

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

Julio Cortázar

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

Muriel Échecs

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

Calvin Coolidge*

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

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

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

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

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

For Love of Lakes/ Darby Nelson

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

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

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

“Of Power and Time” in Upstream/ Mary Oliver

from a log entry on april 7, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bioluminescence/ Paul Tran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

august 15/SWIM

2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
70 degrees

Just got back from a trip up to the North Shore with 5 of my college friends. We’ve known each other for 29 years. Wow. We hiked and walked, ran (just a little), and kayaked. A wonderful time.

Today was my first swim since last Monday. A beautiful, sunny day. Lots of swells. Not rough or choppy, just wavy. Heading to the little beach, I felt high on the water, buoyant. In the middle of lake, I started to feel the swells. I noticed many others stopping their freestyle to do some breaststroke. Rounding the white buoy at the little beach, I felt even more waves. A gentle rocking. I wonder how many other swimmers enjoyed it like I did. After rounding the final green buoy and heading back to the start, the swells were behind me, lifting me up. A strange feeling. Something not quite right. I was moving and able to push and pull in the water, but it almost felt like the water was holding me up. I thought about Lynne Cox and her story of swimming above a young whale, how the water was sucked out from underneath her. What I was feeling was completely different, but I wondered if there was some similar sensation. I wonder if I will ever experience this again. I liked it.

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 8/SWIM

2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
73 degrees

Very nice open swim! Super smooth water and overcast. Not too crowded and not too bright. Still couldn’t see the buoys that well, but it didn’t matter. What a joy to be swimming this morning. I encountered some swimmers–was seriously routed by one–but mostly felt alone. Just me and the water. Back to the swimmer who routed me: I was swimming on the inside, trying to get ahead of them. They kept drifting in the wrong direction. Finally they almost ran into me. I stopped for a second, they did too. Then I was able to go around them. A strange moment–not upsetting or irritating, just strange. I don’t remember seeing (or sensing) any fish. No loud noises or strange smells or choppy waves. No milfoil. No ducks. One seagull, perched on a white buoy near the little beach. At least one plane. No sailboats or paddle boarders. No conversations with other swimmers.

august 6/SWIM

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

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

Another love poem:

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

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

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

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

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