july 29/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop (to cleveland)
67 degrees

Ran with Scott on the Marshall loop, our new Saturday morning tradition. Passed by a chatting toddler with their parents — Hi! We’re taking a walk with our dog today! Half walked, half ran up the Marshall Hill. Talked about RAGBRAI and a few other things I can’t remember now.

10 Surfaces Run Over

  1. plywood (little bridges covering the water pipes on the sidewalk for the city construction project)
  2. grass
  3. mud
  4. a big squishy pile of muck on the sidewalk — yuck!
  5. cracked concrete
  6. asphalt
  7. dirt
  8. long, slender, brittle branches
  9. leaves
  10. acorns

Speaking of acorns, as Scott and I ran down the hill above Shadow Falls I heard 2 distinctive cracks on the pavement — crack crack. It was 2 acorns falling from the tree. Yep, the first signs of fall always come at the end of July and early August.

No rowers on the river, just little waves. Lots of runners, walkers, and one biking who sped by very close without warning us and another who was much slower and kind, gently calling out on your left as they approached. Oh — and someone hauling ass on an eliptigo. Excellent.

watched / read / said

Watched a replay of Katie Ledecky winning her 6th straight gold in the 800 at the World Championships in Fukuoka. She hasn’t lost this race in 13 years. Wow.

Read (with my eyes) the first few pages of Andrew Leland’s The Country of the Blind. He’s talking about how strange it feels to know that you will go blind. I can relate, even though his condition — retinis pigmentosa — is different than mine. I look forward to reading more of this memoir today.

Also read, this time with my ears: I’m finishing up the wonderful audio book, Symphony of Secrets. A bad title, but an excellent book.

Yesterday, Scott said something that I’ve heard before, but that I found particularly funny. Talking about how some program he was using broke or stopped working or something like that he said: it shit the bed. Then he said, who shits the bed? wetting the bed, I can see, but shitting in it?

Also said: Talking about how frazzled I would be if I listened to audio books at twice the speed, I hesitated and then said, I would be a basket case. As I used it, I knew there must be some bad origin story for this phrase. Yep. It involves WWI soldiers and lost limbs, and that’s all I’ll say.

july 22/RUN

3.8 miles
marshall loop
70 degrees

Ran with Scott up to Cleveland, over to Summit, beside St. Thomas, down to the river. Stopped and hiked around the Monument before starting to run again. A nice, relaxed run — we talked about the difficulties of taking care of aging parents, terrible comments online, being able to still smell bland smells but not intense ones, swift carrots in Zelda, and whether or not a person who is completely blind (seeing no light) could run if they were tethered to a guide (pacer).

10 Things

  1. dodging sprinklers
  2. the sound of falling water
  3. wooden ramps covering temporary water pipes on the sidewalk making a dull thud when I ran over them
  4. rowers on the river — 2 8 person shells lined up like they might race
  5. a new favorite view of the river from the east side — under the monument on some jutting rocks, a wide view of the lake street bridge, the blue river, longfellow flats on the west side
  6. roots as makeshift steps
  7. mud on some limestone, small gravel and dry dirt on other limestone
  8. the shshshshuffle of a runner’s striking feet from behind
  9. a woman talking on a phone outside — I support all sorts of things in Minneapolis and I’m a SENIOR!
  10. small decals on the lower corner of an out-of-business restaurant: wine glasses and plates and beer mugs? — I can’t quite remember

While I drank my coffee this morning, I memorized a delightful water poem by Tony Hoaglund — The Social Life of Water.

july 15/RUN

2.5 miles
mini marshall loop
70 degrees

Ran with Scott up the marshall hill to cleveland, then over to St. Thomas and back down to Cretin. We were planning to get some coffee at Black, but it looked very crowded. Instead we walked down the hill to Loons and got it there instead. We ran most of it, except for the stretch of hill from the bottom to cretin. We walked that section.

10 Things

  1. bad air quality from the canadian wildfires, 1: a strange orangish pinkish light
  2. bad air quality, 2: hazy over the river — the river was sparkling in the sun, but dulled, not sharp
  3. bad air quality, 3: a haze over the St. Thomas campus, like a strange fog, not thick but fuzzy
  4. interesting patterns on the water’s surface — little grids of waves from the wind
  5. crossing over to st. paul, the river was empty of rowers
  6. crossing back over to minneapolis, Scott mentioned there were rowers. At first, I didn’t see them, but a few minutes later, I noticed a bump in the water in my periphery. Rowers! Suddenly I saw them: 2 small shells with 2 people each off in the hazy distance — this is the strange way my vision works
  7. no bells at St. Thomas
  8. a woman, possibly drunk, singing dude looks like a lady and then yelling out (to us?), I paid for my kids to go to this school! I wanted to speculate on what she meant, Scott did not
  9. an irritating crosswalk that kept barking (in a low voice) wait wait wait but then, when the light changed, didn’t reciprocate go go go, but emitted a rapid series of sounds, making me imagine a round of bullets being fired but not think, Oh, I can walk now
  10. a grand house on cleveland being gutted but not torn down and replaced with an ugly, over-sized new house (nice!, we both agreed)

a life update for future Sara to remember

On Thursday and Friday, Scott and I were in Rochester cleaning out and giving away the last bit of stuff from his parent’s apartment: lamps, chairs, a desk, cleaning supplies, a couch. The end of an era, his mom dead, his dad now in assisted living in the twin cities. Strange to say good-bye to all of this and to be reminded of how little much of your stuff matters to others once you die.

june 29/RUNSWIM

2 miles
to falls coffee
70 degrees

49 today. A very nice birthday run to minnehaha falls then to the new coffee place called the falls with Scott. Walked back through the neighborhood with an iced vanilla latte. Fun to see all the new apartments being built on Minnehaha and to walk down some streets that I’ve never walked down before. The air quality is still not very good (140) with smoke in the air, but it wasn’t hard for me to breathe.

Hours later…My throat started to hurt like I was sick and I was feeling run down. I think it might be the smoke/air quality.

days later…No bad air. Somehow, even though I was barely inside anywhere or close to other people for the last five days, I got COVID.

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
88 degrees

A beautiful night. The air quality is much better, the water is less choppy. What I remember most about this swim was: wearing a new suit that I just got and saying to Scott and the kids, want to see my birthday suit?, like I did when I was a little kid; barely ever being able to see any of the buoys and still staying (mostly) on course except for the first loop when I realized how far to the left the first green buoy was; feeling sore but still happy to be out in the water with the fish and the swan boats, the other swimmers and the planes up in the sky; and noticing a flash of the orange and yellow sail that is often out on the lake in the evenings.

Kept up the “one more loop” habit. Stopped for a break after 2, then did one more loop.

wordle challenge

5 tries:

feast
where
money
lined
DINER

I struggled to find inspiration with these words.

Today we feast with Diane Wiest.
Where‘d you go Bernadette? (a favorite book)
Money makes the world go around. (a song lyric that often gets stuck in my head)
You’re telling me the kids are lined up for a slaughterhouse? (a line from my favorite horror movie)
Tom’s diner — (one of my favorite songs to sing in order to irritate others)

I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner

I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee

june 24/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
72 degrees / dew point: 59

It seemed warmer than 72 out there this morning. Ran with Scott. First Scott talked about Russia and Wagner, then I talked about the You and I and how we start as one and become the other as we acknowledge each other. This discussion was partly inspired by encountering one walker who called out good morning! and another who instead of offering a greeting ignored us and almost ran into me. What else do I remember? Rowers! Scott counted at least 6 shells on the river. Mostly I only saw them, but for one brief moment I heard the coxswain’s voice.

wordle challenge

4 tries: handy / drain / brand / grand
For the third day in the row I had to choose between equally fitting options. This time, brand or grand? I chose incorrectly.

a refreshing shandy
the pro cyclist Indurain
Rembrandt teeth whitening (brand)
Grand Old Days — the start of summer in St. Paul

She defeated him handily.

Yesterday I came across Annie Proloux’s book, Fen, Bog, and Swamp, and I’m certain that she disagrees with the phrase/metaphor, drain the swamp.

Mostly I don’t care, but I have 2 brands that I especially like. For swimming, TYR, and for running, Saucony. I used to mispronounce both of them. It’s tear (cry) not tire, and sock-a-knee not something that rhymes with Marconi.

Before I got into watching pro cycling or running and before my vision made it almost impossible to track the ball, I loved watching Grand Slam tennis. My favorite was always Wimbledon — Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Roger Federer.

handy dandy notebook
down the drain
brand spanking new
you’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flying flag

Somewhere along the way, what is marketed as handy and convenient is not always user-friendly.

a drain, a sewer, a causeway, a sluice

I hate shopping at Target. Endless aisles, filled with only 1 or 2 brands. The illusion of choice.

In 2008, we almost moved to Grand Rapids, MI. We had already picked out a house to rent, almost signed a lease, told neighbors we were leaving. Then I was told I might be able to have a full-time position at the U. Scott and I walked along Lake Michigan and had a gut-wrenching talk. I decided to turn down a guaranteed job for the possibility of a preferable one.

Crossing Water/ Tony Hoaglund

In late summer I swim across the lake to the stand of reeds
that grows calmly in the foot-deep water on the other side.

It is like going to a florist’s shop
you have to take your clothes off to get to,

where nothing is for sale
and nothing on display

but some tall, vertical green spears,

and the small, already half-shriveled pale-purple blossoms
sprouted halfway up the sides of them.

Squatting softly in the cool, tea-colored water,
hearing my own breath move in and out,

leaning close to see the tattered, soft-edged
purses of the flowers,
with their downward hanging cones and coppery antennae.

—This is more tenderness than I had reason to expect
from this rude life in which I built

a wall around myself, in which I couldn’t manage to repair
my cracked-up little heart.

Each time I make the trip, I get the strange idea that this
is what is waiting at the end of life–

long stalks slanting in teh breeze, then straightening—
flowers, loose-petaled as memory, gray
as the aftertaste of grief.

Tonight, I’ll lie in bed and feel the day exhaling me
as part of its long sigh into the dark,

knowing that I have no plan,
knowing that I have no chance of getting there.

I will remember how those flowers swayed and then held still
for me to look at them.

Oh, I love this poem! And I love Tony Hoaglund. I know that he died several years ago (in 2018), but I didn’t know the cause. Looked it up: pancreatic cancer. Just like my mom.

june 11/RUN

1 mile
edmund, south
54 degrees

A very short run with Scott. Didn’t really need to run to reach my weekly goal of 20 miles, but had to get out there to enjoy the cool, almost perfect conditions. Beautiful. At the start of the run I asked Scott about a story he had posted on facebook about a feud over a gravel road in rural northern Minnesota. It was fascinating and distracting. Did I notice anything as we ran? Not really. At the end of the mile we crossed over to the river road and walked down to the Winchell trail. The thing I remember most about the walk was the mulch — soft, soggy, ground up dead leaves — covering half the trail.

wordle challenge

3 tries: wrist/found/guard

The guard found a wrist bone buried in the courtyard of the hospital.

the twist of a wrist
a found sound
a guard in the yard

a wrist or a fist
a found pound
cards with the guards

a listless wrist
found near town
a disregarding guard

through mist, a wrist
found in the ground
a scarred guard

the wrist of a fish doesn’t exist
what’s found in a pound is of no great renown
the guard was a bard who only ate lard

cease and desist
safe and sound
hard to handle

This was fun! I could probably keep going for much longer, but I’ll stop now.

june 6/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
dew point: 61

Ran with Scott this morning. Another warm, thick, still morning. We followed Scott’s getting-back-into-running training plan: run 15 minutes, walk 2, run 15 minutes. Our walk started right by the trestle. My left hip felt a little stiff, my left knee harder to lift at the beginning, but I mostly felt fine. My big right toe isn’t hurting anymore.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. birds, 1: several little birds on the path, reluctant to fly away, forcing a biker to slow down
  2. birds, 2: more of these little birds — sparrows? finches? — stopped right in front of me a few minutes later
  3. the white bike — a memorial for some biker killed by a car years ago — hanging upsdie down under the trestle
  4. green green green
  5. cottonwood fuzz lining the sides of the path, a pale green, looking like corroded copper to me
  6. a few puddles of water near the sidewalk edges — did it rain last night, or had nearby grass been watered?
  7. hi dave! hi sara! hi scott! I was impressed that Dave the Daily Walker remembered Scott’s name, so was he
  8. only 1 or 2 small rocks stacked on the ancient boulder
  9. the cracks in the paved trail that they just redid 2 years ago are spreading and deepening, splitting the trail in two. I made note of a small hole that I’ll need to remember to avoid next time I run this way
  10. a woman in a BRIGHT pink shirt and BRIGHT green pants — wow! I wonder if this is the same woman in the BRIGHT pink pants the other day?

No bugs, no roller skiers, no view of the river. No music, no packs of runners, no irritating encounters. No rowers, no overheard conversations, no drumming woodpeckers.

today’s wordle challenge

3 tries / wrong place SCOUT

Here a few “poems” with these words:

They call her wrong place scout
because she always seems to find the place
no one was looking for (or wanted).

wrong place scout

I was in the wrong place
but it must have been the right time
I had found the wrong camp
but stumbled on the right line
I was near the wrong guy
but he must have said the right words
He led me through the wrong door
but out into the right world.

There is no wrong
place to be when
you are scouting mystery.

I forgot about the dark
bird I saw rooting
in the hydrangeas looking
like it landed in the wrong
place until today
when I learned
about the purple martin scout
and decided that that was what it was.

Even though the finished products of this wordle challenge aren’t the greatest, the experiment was fun to do. I thought about different meanings of scout and listened to/studied the lyrics of Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time.” I also learned about purple martins and remembered a strange bird I watched in my back yard the other day. Bonus: I became aware of the existence of “Minnesota’s Largest Purple Martin House” in Audubon, Minnesota. Wow.

Here’s a water poem that is by one of my favorite poets and will be etched on NASA’s Europa clipper as it travels to study one of Jupiter’s moons:

In Praise of Mystery/ Ada Limón

Arching under the night sky inky
with black expansiveness, we point
to the planets we know, we

pin quick wishes on stars. From earth,
we read the sky as if it is an unerring book
of the universe, expert and evident.

Still, there are mysteries below our sky:
the whale song, the songbird singing
its call in the bough of a wind-shaken tree.

We are creatures of constant awe,
curious at beauty, at leaf and blossom,
at grief and pleasure, sun and shadow.

And it is not darkness that unites us,
not the cold distance of space, but
the offering of water, each drop of rain,

each rivulet, each pulse, each vein.
O second moon, we, too, are made
of water, of vast and beckoning seas.

We, too, are made of wonders, of great
and ordinary loves, of small invisible worlds,
of a need to call out through the dark.

june 4/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
71 degrees

Ran with Scott. Another hot, sunny morning. After a few minutes of warming up, I recited the latest poem I memorized for my list of 100 poems: Tony Hoaglund’s “Summer Studies.” Later, near the end of the run, I recited 2 Emily Dickinson poems, “I felt a cleaving in my Mind” and “Hope is a thing with feathers.” Reciting the poems, then talking about them a little, helped distract us from our sweaty effort.

The big event of the run that Scott wanted to make sure I mentioned was the set-to between a small pileated woodpecker and a squirrel. We heard the squeak of a bird, then some rustling of leaves, then I saw a furry darting streak in the tree. Who won, I wonder? And why were they fighting?

Other bird events: A female cardinal flew out in front of Scott just as he was running around a tree ahead of me. I saw him flinch, but not the whirr of the brown bird in flight. A band or scold or screech of blue jays shrieked out across the grass between edmund and the river road, which prompted us to have a conversation about how much better crows are then blue jays. No turkeys in turkey hollow.

We ran past the house on edmund that posts a poem in the front window. A new one about sunflowers! I can’t remember what it’s called, or who wrote it. I’ll just have to run by the house again to figure it out. I don’t have strong opinions about sunflowers. Maybe that’s because I hardly ever see them.

Looking for water poems, I found something else, beside a water poem:

Here/ Robert Creeley

What
has happened
makes

the world.
Live
on the edge,

looking.

After our run, walking Delia the dog, Scott and I talked about Wordle, which I just recently started playing. I told him about my morning routine: a quick look at Facebook, then re-memorize a few poems, read the poem of the day at 3 poetry sites, then wordle. He suggested I try a new experiment: write a poem every day for a month inspired by the wordle that day:

The number of lines = the number of tries I have to make
Each line must include the word that I guessed
possible bonus = the theme of the poem is the correct word

Today: 4 tries: farce blame beads beast

What a farce
to blame the sun
for the beads on your brow
you, beast, were born to sweat.

I don’t really like this, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll add one more rule: a 5 minute time limit?

may 28/RUN

3.15 miles
marshall loop (short)
65 degrees

Ran a shorter version of the Marshall loop with Scott. We ran for 10 minutes, then walked for 1 minute, 3 times. I liked it as a way to keep everything more relaxed. My heart rate stayed lower too. No rowers on the river, no waffle smells coming out of Black. What else do I remember? Looked for the eagle perched on the dead tree below the lake street bridge. Nothing. Felt the soft salty sand on the edge of the sidewalk on the bridge. Got scratched by some dead branches poking out of a hedge.

Wound is the Origin of Wonder/ Maya C. Popa

A cross-breeze between this life
and the imagined one.

I am stuck in an almost life,
in an almost time. If I could say,

but I cannot, and so on. Sunlight
dizzies through the barren trees,

the skyline, a blue fog against
a yellow light, and on the highway

every Westward car blinds me.
Every surface reflects

that quiet understanding: decisions
have been made, irreversible decisions

to upend beauty for something
approximate—the airport hotel,

its Eiffel Tower on the roof,
a playground near the public storage.

Beyond, bridges like monuments
to fracture, and a sign for Pain Law:

not metaphor, but litigation.
Who would not, given acreage

in another’s mind, lie there
for a while to watch the sky be sky?

I was drawn to this poem because of its discussion of the almost. I need to spend more time with it to understand, but I feel like Popa thinks of the almost life as a negative, as preventing access to the real (sky as sky). I think of the almost in more positive ways.

Also: Beyond, bridges like monuments
to fracture, and a sign for Pain Law:

not metaphor, but litigation.

What does that mean — not metaphor, but litigation?

may 7/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall to dogwood loop
57 degrees

Scott and I ran a slightly shorter version of the marshall loop that ended at dogwood coffee. No coffee today, too crowded. Everything is getting green. No fuchsia funnels yet, but some white blossoms, violets (are they violets, or just violet flowers?), tulips. Chirping birds. A downy woodpecker squawking in a tree. I was just about to write that I didn’t remember looking at the river, but then I remembered: lots of white foam everywhere — swirling in the center, collecting on the edges. No rowers again. Anything else? Muddy, wet, humid, hot when the sun was out, very little breeze.

I told Scott a boring story about noticing runners sprinting on the other side of the road as we ran down cretin. He told me that he felt like he was plodding along, that his legs were like logs thumping down on the ground. Then I imagined his legs as logs, which was fun to do — his legs started as thick logs with rough bark, then after a 1/2 block of awkward steps, they peeled off and his human legs appeared.

Another strange story: running down the hill on the east river trail, beside shadow falls, I saw something up ahead. What it actually was was a big white, fluffy dog. What I saw was the bottom half of very broad hipped person walking towards us. This is an example of how my brain tries (and sometimes fails terribly) to guess what my eyes are actually seeing. After telling Scott what I thought I saw, I said, headless and torsoless hips walking towards me? that’s not even a real thing. Come on, brain!

Mary Ruefle

No time to read from My Private Property or Madness, Rack, and Honey, so here’s one of her poems. I remember reading it sometime in the last few years, but not why or when.

The Bench/ Mary Ruefle

My husband and I were arguing about a bench we wanted to buy and put in part of our backyard, a part which is actually a meadow of sorts, a half acre with tall grasses and weeds and the occasional wild flower because we do not mow it but leave it scrubby and unkempt.  This bench would hardly ever be used and in summer when the grasses were high would remain partially hidden from view.  We both knew we wanted the bench to be made of teak so that it would last a long time in the harsh weather and so that we would never have to paint it.  Teak weathers to a soft silver that might, in November or March, disappear into the gray hills that are the backdrop of our lives.  My husband wanted a four foot bench and I wanted a five foot bench.  This is what we argued about.  My husband insisted that a four foot bench was all we needed, since no more than two people (presumably ourselves) would ever sit on it at the same time.  I felt his reasoning was not only beside the point but missed it entirely; I said what mattered most to me was the idea of the bench, the look of it there, to be gazed at with only the vaguest notion it could hold more people than would ever actually sit down.  The life of the bench in my imagination was more important than any practical function the bench might serve.  After all, I argued, we wanted a bench so that we could look at it, so that we could imagine sitting on it, so that, unexpectedly, a bird might sit on it, or fallen leaves, or inches of snow, and the longer the bench, the greater the expanse of that plank, the more it matched its true function, which was imaginary.  My husband mentioned money and I said that I was happier to have no bench at all, which would cost nothing, than to have a four foot bench, which would be expensive.  I said that having no bench at all was closer to the five foot bench than the four foot bench because having no bench served the imagination in similar ways, and so not having a bench became an option in our argument, became a third bench. We grew very tired of discussing the three benches and for a day we rested from our argument.  During this day I had many things to do and many of them involved my driving past other houses, none of which had benches, that is they each had the third bench, and as I drove past the other houses I could see a bench here and a bench there; sometimes I saw the bench very close to the house, against a wall or on a porch, and sometimes I saw the bench under a tree or in the open grass, cut or uncut, and once I saw the bench at the end of the driveway, blocking the road.  Always it was a five foot bench that I saw, a long sleek bench or a broken down bench, a bench with a slatted back or a bench with a solid, carved back, and always the bench was empty. But I knew that for my husband the third bench was only four feet long and he saw always two people sitting on it, two happy or tired people, two people who were happy to be alive or two people tired from having worked hard enough to buy the bench they were sitting on.  Or they were happy and tired, happy to have reached the end of some argument, tired from having had it.  For these people, the bench was an emblem of their days, which were fruitful because their suffering had come to an end. On my bench, which was always empty, nothing had come to an end because nothing had begun, no one had sat down, though the bench was always there waiting for exactly that to happen.  And the bench was always long enough so that someone, if he desired to, could lie all the way down.  That day passed.  Another day followed it and my husband and I began, once more, to discuss the bench.  The sound of our voices revealed a renewed interest and vigor.  I thought I sensed in him a coming around to my view of the bench and I know he sensed in me a coming around to his view of the bench, because at one point I said that a four foot bench reminded me of rough notes towards a real bench while a five foot bench was like a fragment of an even longer bench and I admitted it was at times hard to tell the difference.  He said he didn’t know anything about the difference between rough notes and fragments but he agreed that between the two benches there was, possibly, just perhaps—he could imagine it—very little difference.  It was, after all, only a foot we were talking about.  And I think it was then, in both of our minds, that a fourth bench came into being, a bench that was only a foot long, a miniature bench, a bench we could build ourselves, though of course we did not.  This seemed to be, essentially, the bench we were talking about.  Much later, when the birds came back, or the leaves drifted downwards, or the snow fell, slowly and lightly at first, then heavier and faster, it was this bench that we both saw when we looked out the window at the bench we eventually placed in the meadow which continued to grow as if there were no bench at all.