jan 18/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
34! degrees
35% snow-covered

Sun! Above freezing temperature! Shadows! A great afternoon for a run, even if there were huge puddles, some soft snow, and a few slick spots. My left knee/hip hurts a little, but I decided to go run anyway because tomorrow it will be very cold. -2 (feels like -22) at 9am. Future Sara would be very upset with present Sara if she had not taken advantage of this weather. No headphones running south, then a playlist on the way back.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a lot of the path was clear, with big puddles, but a few stretches, like on the double bridge or under the ford bridge, were still covered in grayish-white, gloppy snow
  2. someone was running below me on the Winchell Trail. We were parallel for a minute, but I was slightly faster, so we got out of sync
  3. someone else was running, with a dog, on the walking side of the pedestrian bridge, through the deeper, unplowed snow
  4. the falls were frozen — one tall column of ice with a dark hole in the middle
  5. at least 3 or 4 bikes, some of them were fat tires
  6. the river: all white, covered over with snow, no holes today, no sparkle either
  7. some dogs barking below, in the gorge
  8. they must have plowed the main roads earlier today; all of the entrances to the path/sidewalks were obstructed with short mounds of snow
  9. no geese, no turkeys, no crows, maybe a woodpecker
  10. forgot to take note of the sky while I was running, but earlier on my walk with Delia, I noticed it was bright blue with a few puffy clouds

Before I went out for my run, I thought about continuing my haunts poems, maybe adding some more to the sequence. A line popped in my head that I intended to think about as I ran, but forgot:

Before I
was ghost

I was girl,
fiercely

physical,
solid.

I really like this, but I’m not sure what to do with it yet.

study the masters/ Lucille Clifton

like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed. she dreamed too, words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you had heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and
america.

jan 17/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
22 degrees / feels like 15
75% snow-covered

Looking forward to the day when the pavement is bare again. It’s supposed to be above freezing tomorrow, so maybe it will melt? Even with the soft, slippery snow, it was a good run. Felt really strong and relaxed all the way through the turn around. Running up the franklin hill was hard, but I forced myself to keep going until I reached the bridge. Then I walked for a few minutes and put in my headphones. Then I ran the rest of the way. Wore the right number of layers for the weather (2 tights, 1 pair of socks, tank top, green long sleeve shirt, pink cotton jacket, black vest, buff, 2 pairs of gloves, black hat), although the hat got a little warm. Taking the hat off, at the end of my run, my ponytail was soaked. Later, when I took the ponytail holder out, I sprayed water all over the floor. Gross, I guess. Scott asked: “Was that sweat?” Yep.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. right before starting my run, looking north on my street, the sidewalk was stretched out in a straight line for blocks, almost completely clear
  2. the tight crunch of salt or ice-melt on the sidewalk in front of the church as I ran over it
  3. the short stretch of sidewalk on the north side of lake street that leads over to trail was in rough shape: soft, sloppy, uneven
  4. chirping birds, sounding like spring
  5. everything looking like static, not quite staying still, except for the tree trunk which looked solid and very brown
  6. everything also looking sepia-toned. Is it because of all the brown trunks?
  7. a single crow cawing nearby
  8. the river, 1: mostly white, with small holes of open water
  9. the river, 2: under the bridge, open with gray water
  10. the river, 3: down in the flats, just past the franklin bridge, I was closer to the water and the many spots where the ice/snow had cracked, everything still, not calm but desolate or abandoned

Hearing the single crow cawing, reminded me of an Arthur Sze poem I read this morning:

Fauve/ Arthur Sze in Dazzled

Caw Caw, Caw Caw Caw.
To comprehend a crow
you must have a crow’s mind.
To be the night rain,
silver, on black leaves,
you must live in the
shine and wet. Some people
drift in their lives:
green-gold plankton,
phosphorescent, in the sea.
Others slash: a knife
at a yellow window shade
tears open the light.
But to live digging deep
is to feel the blood
in your rage as rivers,
is to feel love and hatred
as fibers of a rope,
is to catch the scent
of a wolf, and turn wild.

The word, fauve, sounded familiar, but I had to look it up. It means vivid colors, and refers to the movement of painters, including Matisse, and “their unconventional use of intensely vivid color, and free treatment of form” (Merriam-Webster).

fauves = wild beasts
vivid colors express intense emotions

I’m thinking about Fauvism (the little bit I understand of it), and its intense, vivid, sharp, striking colors. One blog post I read, contrasted Monet’s dreamy, subdued Houses of Parliament with Derain’s Charring Cross Bridge and his “lurid greens” and yellows. It is difficult for me to see intense colors. I was noticing earlier today that sometimes it helps to look off to the side. In general, I see the world, more like Monet’s dream. What does this have to do with Sze’s poem? Not sure. This quite sure, but it connects. I’ll need to think about it some more.

jan 12/RUN

4.45 miles
minneahaha falls and back
34 degrees
35% snow-covered

Even warmer today! Less layers, sun. Ran to the falls and back. Running south, no headphones; running, north, a playlist. My left hip/knee/back (the usual suspect) felt sore, but not too bad.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The clicking and clacking of ski poles, the scratching and scuffing of skis on bare pavement: a cross-country skier crossing the road! I think this is the first one I’ve seen this season
  2. Kids laughing and yelling and having fun at the playground across the road
  3. A walker and an unleashed dog on the Winchell Trail below me. For a moment, I thought the dog might be trying to keep up with me
  4. The falls is fully frozen, at least it looks and sounds like it to me. All I saw was a hulking column of ice; all I heard was silence, no gushing or trickling water
  5. Heard the call (not the peck) of a pileated woodpecker, the fee bee of a black-capped chickadee
  6. The path had less snow on it. Some stretches were completely bare, others had wide strips that were clear. Under the ford bridge it was a soft, slushy mess
  7. As I entered the river road trail, I passed someone who had been running, but just stopped. At first I thought she was muttering something under her breath, but then I realized she was breathing heavily, then I heard a voice coming out of her phone, giving her instructions that I couldn’t quite hear. Was she doing a couch to 5k program?
  8. Noticed my shadow ahead of me as I ran south — clear and sharp in the bright sun
  9. Heard the raucous laugh of a walker on the other side of edmund, her voice echoing
  10. one thing I didn’t notice: the river. Again, I forgot to look at it

I think I’ll post more Chang/Merwin poems this month. Here’s another one from Chang that resonated for me:

Separation/ Victoria Chang

Each day, landscape splits
from the beauty it emits.
When nature is free
from sight, it is most
like itself. I erase each
word right after I write it.

Separation/ W. S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

jan 11/RUN

5.6 miles
franklin loop
17 degrees / feels like 0
50% snow-covered

Warm air, warm sun. Another good run. Headed north and decided, at the last minute, to do the Franklin loop. Heard some geese, their honks congregating under the lake street bridge. Maybe some crows too? I know I heard another bird, but I can’t remember now. A black-capped chickadee? Definitely no woodpeckers. Running over the franklin bridge, I studied the river: all white, mostly flat, the edges a silvery shimmer. Later, nearing the trestle, I saw a few bits of black: open water. Encountered some other runners, walkers, at least one fat tire. As I reached the lake street bridge, I came up with a line for a swimming poem that I’m revisiting. I stopped on the bridge to record it into my phone.

Anything else? Most of what happened, what I thought about, got left somewhere out on the trail.

This morning, just as I was leaving for my run, the mail came, bringing the chapbook by Victoria Chang I ordered last week. I think they only made 200+ of them. It’s a small square book, bound with thin red twine. Very cool. I’d like to try making something like this. Titled, Another Lost Year, it is made up of short poems, all with W.S. Merwin titles. So many great ones. Here’s one I especially like. It happens to fall in the very middle of the book, where the red twine is exposed and tied in a knot.

Left Open / Victoria Chang

We can’t see beyond
the crest of the wooden gate.
We are carriers
of grass yet to be grown. We
aren’t made of cells, but of fields.

I like this idea of being a carrier of grass yet to be grown. My first thought was of grass on graves — Whitman’s “uncut hair of graves” or Dickinson’s “The color of the grave is green”. Then I thought of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “To the Young Who Want to Die”:

Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green’s your color. You are Spring.

I like the idea of being made of fields, not cells. Here’s the original Merwin poem:

Left Open / W.S. Merwin

The shutters are rusted open on the north
kitchen window ivy has grown over
the fastenings the casements are hooked open
in the stone frame high above the river
looking out across the tops of plum trees
tangled on their steep slope branches furred
with green moss gray lichens the plums falling
through them and beyond them the ancient
walnut trees standing each alone on its
own shadow in the plowed red field full
of amber September light after so
long unattended dead boughs still hold
places of old seasons high out of the leaves
under which in the still day the first walnuts
from this last summer are starting to fall
beyond the bare limbs the river looks
motionless like the far clouds that were not
there before and will not be there again

jan 6/BIKERUN

bike: 16 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.6 miles
-5 degrees / feels like -20

Brr. Earlier in the week, I ran when it felt like 20 below, but today that felt too cold, and I’ve run everyday this week, so I decided to run less, and downstairs in the basement. Watched a replay of some Olympic track races while I biked, listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran. I wore my new running shoes, the ones that have been redesigned with a much tighter toe box and that made my toe sore earlier this fall. I’m trying to break them in/stretch them out slowly this winter.

In this first week of January, I’m rereading all of my entries from 2021 and putting together a summary. It’s fun (mostly, but a little tedious too) to review them and remember the year. Today I did August and read about swimming and swells and droughts and wildfires and sweating and running on the Winchell Trail.

Hardly any mention of COVID — there was definitely a lull with the pandemic this summer and fall. But…that’s not quite true in Minnesota. Delta hit hard, and even before Omicron hospitals were almost at capacity. In November or early December, the hospitals out out an ad pleading with people to be careful, and that hospitals/ staff were reaching the breaking point. Now, Omicron has hit. I don’t think our numbers are as bad as other places, but here are some thing I’d like future Sara to know about this time:

  • It looks like Omicron is less severe, which is great, but hospitals are still filling up and mild cases range from almost nothing to being knocked out and miserable for a week.
  • the mild designation has to do with your oxygen levels. As long as you can breathe and your oxygen rating is in in the upper 90s, and you don’t have to be admitted to the hospital, it’s a mild case. From what I’ve read anecdotally, mild cases can be awful: headaches, fatigue, chills. And then, there’s long covid
  • full hospitals mean there are no beds/care for people with other emergencies. Just skimmed an article that mentioned wait times at metro area emergency rooms are anywhere from 8 to 24 hours
  • schools are in-person and one of the main ways they’re trying to manage keeping kids safe is for them to get tested regularly. The problems: rapid at-home test are all sold out everywhere — stores and online; testing sites are booked up for weeks; even if you are able to get tested, results can take more than 72 hours. It is impossible to contain the spread of omicron this way (note: just found out you can pick rapid tests up at school so RJP will get some for us)
  • schools are running out of staff + substitutes because teachers are getting infected and have to quarantine whether they experience symptoms or not
  • I am not nearly as stressed out about this wave as I have been for the last (almost) 2 years. My jaw is not tightening, and neither is my chest. Still, this is a drag and I worry about RJP, who wants to go to school and see her friends

reciting while running

After running for about 10 minutes, I decided to record myself reciting my haunt poem again.

I go to the gorge / 6 jan 2022

jan 4/RUN

4.5 miles
minhehaha falls and back
28 degrees
75% snow-covered

Even warmer today (than yesterday or Sunday). Everything gray and white, even the sky. Almost forgot to look at the river, but then I remembered. It would have been nice to have my Yak trax with the slushy, soft, sluggish snow. Listened to the gorge on the way to the falls, a playlist on the way back. Felt good and strong. Only occasionally thought about my daughter and how she’s home sick with a headache and runny nose. COVID? Doubtful, but possible. Getting tested is very hard these days: no rapid tests, long lines at testing sites. Hopefully this will be over soon.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: almost all white with a few off-white (gray? light brown?) spots
  2. the path: a slightly wider strip of almost bare pavement than yesterday
  3. 2 walkers ahead of me on the path, waiting to cross at a spot just 15 feet from the crosswalk, then crossing over to Becketwood
  4. kids playing at the minnehaha academy playground
  5. graffiti on the biking part of the double bridge, the empty outline of orange and purple and blue letters
  6. the falls: almost, but not quite, fully frozen. I could hear the softest rushing of water from behind the ice
  7. about a dozen people at the falls
  8. 2 people walking up the hill in the park, one of them in a bright orange jacket
  9. the view down to the spot where the creek collects and kids like to wade in the summer was grand and beautiful and white
  10. running in the road on the spots between sidewalks, about half of the surface was bare, the rest was light brown snowy slush, looking like coffee ice cream

To fit in with my continued thinking about ghosts, and haunting, and remembering, and naming and the things it can signify other than power or claiming or owning, and yellow:

Forsythia/ Ada Limón

At the cabin in Snug Hollow near McSwain Branch creek, just spring, all the animals are out, and my beloved and I are lying in bed in a soft silence. We are talking about how we carry so many people with us wherever we go, how even simple living, these unearned moments, are a tribute to the dead. We are both expecting to hear an owl as the night deepens. All afternoon, from the porch, we watched an eastern towhee furiously build her nest in the wild forsythia with its yellow spilling out into the horizon. I told him that the way I remember the name forsythia is that when my stepmother, Cynthia, was dying, that last week, she said lucidly but mysteriously, More yellow. And I thought yes, more yellow, and nodded because I agreed. Of course, more yellow. And so now in my head, when I see that yellow tangle, I say, For Cynthia, for Cynthia, forsythia, forsythia, more yellow. It is night now. And the owl never comes, only more of night and what repeats in the night.

jan 3/RUN

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

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

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

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

10 Things I Noticed

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

Love Letter/ Diane Seuss

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

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

dec 28/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge turn around
14 degrees / feels like 3
85% snow-covered / snowing

Even though a lot of the sidewalks were bare on our block, I decided to wear my yak trax. Very good call. The trail was almost completely covered with snow from yesterday, and the quickly accumulating snow that was falling now. Having spikes helped a lot.

Lots of layers. I felt like a stuffed sausage: gray tank top for extra coverage on my stomach which is often red at the end of a cold run; green shirt, black 3/4 zip-up; pink jacket; black vest; 2 pairs of tights; 2 pairs of socks; 2 pairs of gloves; buff; hood; black cap. Once I got moving the layers didn’t bother me — not too cumbersome, not too hot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was mostly white, with a few black streaks
  2. At least 2 tall people were sledding down the steep slope between edmund and the river road
  3. The walking path was mostly okay but had a few slick spots, hidden under the snow
  4. At least one fat tire
  5. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker, saw Daddy Long Legs
  6. Heard some hammering or nail-gunning or some sort of scraping at a fancy house on the other side of the river road
  7. Below the Franklin Bridge, the flats had disappeared in the falling snow
  8. After stopping to put in my headphones for the second half of the run, I felt like I was floating or flying, barely touching ground, finding that soft space between foot strikes
  9. Lots of walkers with dogs
  10. Snow flakes were flying into my eyes, some of them freezing on my eyelashes. At one point in the run, looking off to my left side, I saw something that looked almost like my faint shadow. Was it, or was I seeing some of my crusty eyelash, or my nose? I couldn’t decide.

Omicron update: read some twitter feeds this morning about it, which was probably a mistake? — not sure. Also following a facebook friend who is fully vaxed (2 doses + booster) but got it anyway. It’s a “mild” case, but sounds completely miserable — exhausting, painful. I don’t feel nearly as anxious about this as a did in 2020, but I’m still ready for this to be over (like everyone else). I wonder what will happen next week when RJP is back in high school.

Here’s a wonderful poem from Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod. I love her writing.

In the Grand Scheme of Things/ Maggie Smith

It sounds like someone wound up the wrens
and let them go, let them chatter across your lawn

like cheap toys, and from here an airplane
seems to fly only from one tree to another, barely

chalking a line between then. We say the naked eye
as if the eye could be clothed, as if it isn’t the world

that refuses to undress unless we turn our backs.
It shows us what it chooses, nothing more,

and it’s not waxing pastoral. There is too much
now at stake. The skeletal rattle you hear

at the window could be only the hellion roses
in the wind, their thorns etching the glass,

but it could be bones. The country we call ours
isn’t, and it’s full of them. Every year you dig

that goddamn rose bush from the bed, spoon it
from soil like a tumor, and every year it grows back

thick and wild. We say in the grand scheme of things
as if there were one. We say that’s not how

the world works as if the world works.

I had a rose bush at my old house that I tried to dig out every year. Like in this poem, it never worked. It always came back. It’s easy to read its reoccurrence as an annoying problem, but it could also be read as resilience, persistence, refusal to give into a world that doesn’t (seem to?) work. It feels like Smith allows for both of these readings.

dec 19/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
17 degrees / feels like 0
100% snow-covered

I think this is my coldest run so far this season. Running north, it was much warmer. Turning around, heading south, the wind whipped straight through me. Brr. Last night, I bought a new winter running hat at REI. It’s a black ball cap, with a visor and ear flaps and it’s lined with fleece. Excellent. So far this year, I’ve been using a free twins cap I got at a game when it was DQ day. At one time, it was black. It’s still black on the inside, but the outside is a brownish gray, bleached by the sun, stained by my salty sweat. Gross, I suppose, although it doesn’t bother me that much. Because I can’t see things that well, faded hats don’t bother me. I still care a little about how I look, but barely. Luckily, I mostly look fine, so who cares?

I had thought about wearing my yak trax, but because the neighborhood sidewalks were mostly bare, I decided not to. My run was fine, but I should have worn the yak trax. The trail was completely covered with about an inch of soft, uneven snow. I ran on the walking path most of the time because the snow plow had come through and pushed all the street snow up onto the biking path. Fun (not fun). I slipped a few times, but no danger of falling. I listened to my feet strike the snow and the crush crush rhythm of both feet. Thought about how the sound is much different when I’m moving slower and walking. Then, the sound of the snow still has the crush but it also has a slow grinding noise — the sound of one foot slowly lifting off the ground. So 2 sounds at once: crush creak crush creak. I wondered if I could fit this idea into one of my two beat poems? Maybe.

Speaking of my beat poems, I was looking for a different word for describing the beat as a discrete unit of time. I had written time’s sharp shutters but I wasn’t quite happy with it. While I was running, I thought of slicing. Then, after I was done: time’s sharp cuts. Now I need to figure out how to describe the space/time between beats. For now, I have a stutter, but I’m not sure if I like that.

There were lots of people out by the gorge. Runners and walkers. No bikers or skiers. One person pulling an empty sled. No Daily Walker, no Santa Clause, no Mr. Morning!. The river was open, with a few ice floes. It was a dark blue, not quite black. The sky was white.

dec 16/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill

Yesterday, the threat of a big storm — tornadoes, dangerously high wind, thunderstorms — never happened. At least not in Minneapolis. Today, it’s back to winter and more snow and cold air. I decided to stay inside and do a quick bike + run. Watched a video about some deeper meanings in Saturday Night Fever while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Today exercise offered a good break from my work on my beats poem. It’s getting closer, but I’m not quite there with this one. Hopefully I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m trying to remember to not become to invested in any of my words or phrases.

dec 6/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike on stand
run: 3 miles
treadmill
outside temp: 9 / feels like -11

Welcome winter. I would have run outside but that wind, wow. 22 mph with 30+mph gusts. Decided I’d stay inside. Watched an old cross-country race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. No amazing epiphanies, but it felt good to move.

I continue to work on my haunts/haunting/haunted poem sequence. One about restlessness is giving me some trouble. Restless as pacing, returning to loop/orbit around the river repeatedly, in constant motion, searching for a view + a way in (to connection, understanding, joy, better words). Constant motion as being blurred, fuzzy, unfinished, fizzing out (or leaking out?), released from form, not following straight, efficient lines (of a road) but a meandering trail that travels with the terrain, remembers/mingles with the past (thinking of Wendell Berry’s difference between a road and a trail / october’s apparitions). I want to end it with something about never leaving loud conclusions (better word?) but quiet records with my feet (referencing Girmay’s snail). I need at least one more day with this one, I think.

Here’s another great ghost poem I encountered the other day on twitter:

Ghosting/ Andrea Cohen

How cavalier
people are—

with language
and with silence.

Any ghost will
tell you—

the last thing
we mean

to do
is leave you.

nov 26/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin hill + extra
33 degrees

The air felt colder than 33. Maybe because of the wind? A good run. My old apple watch is dying (ver 2), and it shut down at the third mile so I don’t know my exact distance. I’m pretty sure I ran about 5.5 miles.

Not too crowded. A little faster. I listened to an old playlist. I don’t remember much. All the trees are bare. The water had icy foam at its edges, near the shore. There are some flowers — still not sure if they are real or plastic — at the trestle. Running by it last week, I thought they were in a vase. Stopping there today, I realized they were put in the remains of a post. Once, part of metal railing on ledge under the trestle, now an uncapped cylinder sticking out of ledge, the only bit left of the railing. Noticed several white sewer/run-off pipes popping out of the side of the gorge. Also noticed the start of the Winchell Trail on the north side. A biker sped past me as I ran, then walked, up the Franklin hill. They were going fast!

Here’s a delightful poem that I just found twitter. I might like to memorize this so I can have it when I need it:

The Orange / Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

nov 23/RUN

4.8 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop
32 degrees

Listened to a playlist this morning and didn’t think about much. Sunny, a little windy, cold — not that cold, but cold-feeling in November when temps so far have almost always been above freezing. By January, I’ll probably describe 32 as warm. Lots of walkers, a few runners. No bikers or roller skiers. No squirrels either. Running over the double-bridge at 44th, I thought about it differently today. On Saturday, Scott and I hiked down in the ravine by this bridge and looked at it from below. A very different perspective. Lots of graffiti on top and a gaping maw underneath. We saw a few icicles hanging of the bottom, and heard some seeping in the limestone. Will there be ice columns in a few months?

Almost forgot: Turkeys! 5 or 6 of them huddled in the grass on the side of the road.

Yesterday, after struggling with a way into a poem for my haunting series, I finally found it. Very glad that I persisted. Whether or not my poem is any good, I’m very pleased with how much I’m learning and how I’m starting to be able to do more showing and less telling–or at least much less theorizing. I love how poetry is helping me to shift how I think and write.

from Haunts Haunting Haunted / Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft)

viii.

Signs — Maps
Monuments
Markers
claims on the
land a
possessing
with loud
You are heres
that ring
out proper
names placed
in firm ground
meanwhile
softer forms
quiet
submissions
of proof
whisper You
aren’t here
alone
: tamped
down grass
a gutted
fence with
chain links pried
open
stones stacked on
boulders
a black glove
draped on
a tree branch
faint paths
criss-crossing
the woods
graffiti
more than
evidence
these slight
signs do not
declare
but call you
to join
the endless
work of
noticing
making
room for what
remains
outside the
Known the
official
story

Robert Bly died yesterday here in Minneapolis. Here’s a poem of his that someone posted:

Gratitude to Old Teachers / Robert Bly

When we strike or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?
Water that once could take no human weight—
We were students then—holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

nov 12/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
35 degrees
wet snow flurries!

It begins! Cold air, layers, snow. Winter is almost here. Everything was already wet when I started, then, at some point, it started sleeting or snowing or something in-between. I didn’t care; I had a hood and a water resistant vest. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker and a new regular who I don’t have a name for yet. No distinguishing features that my fuzzy eyes can see–an older man, not too tall or short, not too big or small, white. All I remember is his enthusiasm and the joyful ways he waves or greets me with a “morning.” Am I even sure it’s the same person every time?

When I got to the bottom of the franklin hill I stopped to dictate a line for the poem I’m working on. Yesterday I struggled to get through a section on bells and ghosts. Early this morning, I had a breakthrough but still needed to work on the last line. I figured a run would help, and it did. Hooray for running and its ability to get me unstuck!

After that, I put in a playlist and listened to music for the rest of my run, which made me run about 1 minute per mile faster. I felt like I was flying. Free and fast and untethered.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The color palatte of the day: light gray, dark brown, spicy mustard yellow, slate blue, light green
  2. Running down the franklin hill noticed that half of the tree line was bare, half was a light green
  3. Running through the tunnel of trees, looking down on the floodplain forest: here you can’t see the river, only an endless stretch of forest floor and bare trees
  4. Almost to the the bottom of the hill, a snow/rain drop fell straight into my eye — ouch
  5. Some geese honking, sounding agitated
  6. A chirping whistling bird, sounding like spring, a woman stopped on the path, craning her neck, looking for the source of these sounds (at least, that’s what I imagine she was doing)
  7. Flashing lights from a parks or city vehicle, glowing brighter in the gloom
  8. The vase of flowers still perched on the ledge below the railroad trestle
  9. A bright white paper towel or plastic bag laying on the path, just past the franklin bridge
  10. A very fast runner that I saw twice in shorts and a bright orange long-sleeved shirt

This poem! So many lines that I love:

In the Meantime/ Max Garland

The river rose wildly every seventh spring
or so, and down the hatch went the town,
just a floating hat box or two, a cradle,
a cellar door like an ark to float us back
into the story of how we drown but never
for good, or long. How the ornate numbers
of the bank clock filled with flood, how
we scraped minute by minute the mud
from the hours and days until the gears
of time started to catch and count again.
Calamity is how the story goes, how
we built the books of the Bible. Not
the one for church, but the one the gods
of weather inscribed into our shoulder
blades and jawbones to grant them grit
enough to work the dumb flour of day
into bread and breath again. The world
has a habit of ending, every grandmother
and father knew well enough never to say,
so deeply was it stained into the brick
and mind. We live in the meantime
is how I remember the length of twilight
and late summer cicadas grinding the air
into what seemed like unholy racket to us,
but for them was the world’s only music.

oct 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around + extra
49 degrees
19 mph gusts

Brrrr. Colder and windier today. Wore tights and 2 shirts. The leaves continue to change. Today: bright brassy yellow with hints of green and brown. Not mustard or gold — at least to me. So intense and delightful that I exclaimed “wow!” as I reached the edge of the welcoming oaks. Down in the tunnel of trees more oranges and yellows. Still more leaves in the trees than on the ground, but if the wind keeps blowing like it did yesterday and it is today, that will change. By next week, will all the leaves have fallen? I felt strong and relaxed, running at an easy pace. Then a runner slowly approached from behind, not passing me fast enough, running alongside of me. I sped up to avoid them and knew it was a mistake almost immediately. I was running too fast. Ran for a few more minutes at that pace and then stopped to let the other runner pass. The lesson to learn: always slow down or stop to let another runner go by. Do not speed up to avoid them. This is a reminder of a lesson I should have learned several months ago with the group of kids on bikes under the lake street bridge (see may 28, 2021).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A bright orange tree on the grass between edmund and the river road. Difficult to quite remember, but I think it wasn’t completely orange, maybe giving the idea of orange or orange-tinted leaves on an otherwise green leafed tree
  2. The man in black who was not in black at all but still has the very long legs. I think I might rename him “daddy long legs” — is that bad?
  3. The trees above the ravine and the slick slats and sewer pipe and concrete ledge were bright yellow and red
  4. The wind was blowing in many different directions, never at my back
  5. The jingling of my house key in the small zippered pocket in the front of my orange running shirt
  6. A roller skier without his poles — no clicking or clacking, lots of awkward arm movements
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Hardly any leaves left on the welcoming oaks
  9. An approaching runner avoiding me by running on the other side of a tree and through the grass
  10. 3 sets of steps (all inviting me to take them): the old, uneven stone steps after the tunnel of trees; the big stone slabbed steps before the trestle; the recently replaced wooden steps after the trestle. All leading to the Winchell Trail

Ran north listening to the wind, south listening to a playlist with Miley Cyrus and 2 songs by Silk Sonic — nice! At the end, above the ravine, I thought about how I rely less on a watch, and much more on the weather and the trees to keep track of time. Much more enjoyable to think in seasons or the progress of the leaves than minutes, hours, days.

Earlier today I was thinking about pace — and only slightly in relation to running pace, more about pacing and restlessness and ghosts that haunt the path. Pace and pacing, like watches or clocks, impose limits and boundaries: a running pace uses seconds and minutes per mile (or km) and pacing involves walking back and forth in a small or confined space, retracing your steps again and again until you rub the grass away and reach dirt, or wear the carpet bare. What to do with that information? I’m not quite sure…yet.

I found this poem on twitter yesterday. Even though it doesn’t deal with my theme (ghosts, haunting, haunts), I wanted to post it and tag it with water so I would have it for letter. Such a wonderful poem and poet!

Portrait of a Figure Near Water/ Jane Kenyon

Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
no sound.

favorite bits: anger, the inner arsonist; the bats and the rafters the roof sagged between; the line break for “the stone trough was still/filled with water”; and water as the soundless balm for our burning alone.

random sighting/thought: Saw a sign in front of a house that read:

We love our rocks!
Please do not
take our rocks.

I thought about the importance of line breaks here. Maybe it’s just my faulty vision, but when I read this sign I am just as (or maybe more) likely to read the line “take our rocks” on its own and think they want me to take their rocks. How does the meaning of the sign change with different breaks:

Please do
not take
our rocks.

Please do not take
our rocks.

Please
do not take
our rocks.

What if you mix up the order?

Our rocks
do not take
please

Our rocks do
please take not

rocks? please.
ours do not take

do ours not please? (rock’s take)

take rocks — ours
please — (do not)

Too much useless fun!

addendum: I told STA about my fun wordplay, and he offered this one:

Our rocks please.
Do not take!

another addendum: The sign actually started: Rocks rock!

august 29/RUN

1.65 miles
neighborhood
80 degrees

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

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

The First Water Is the Body/ Natalie Diaz

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

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

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

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

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

august 27/RUN

2.5 miles
neighborhood
71 degrees
humidity: 90% / dew point: 68

A quick run through the neighborhood. Past Cooper School and Minnehaha Academy. Listened to Taylor Swift’s album, Lover. Checked out all the cars in the parking lot. Just like old times — the summer of 2020. Not that warm, but humid. Now I’m sweating a lot.

Heard Taylor Swift sing, “I cut off my nose to spite my face” and thought about the strange expression. Some of Swift’s lyrics are cheesy or trite, but others catch me by surprise with their cleverness. I like this opening from “Paper Rings”:

the moon is high
Like your friends were the night that we first met
Went home and tried to stalk you on the internet
Now I’ve read all of the books beside your bed

Thinking about/working through/getting stuck in poems about water–especially my love of it. Today’s challenge: turn a poem about breathing every 5 strokes that involves lines with 5 syllables (the strokes) then a break and 1 or 2 more syllables (a breath) into a contrapuntal. Three poems in one. One poem = all the words + Second poem = only the part of the line with 5 syllables + Third poem = only the part of the line representing the breath. Can I do it? Should I do it?

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 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 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 1/RUN

2.25 miles
neighborhood
77 degrees

No open swim again today due to the smoke from Canadian forest fires. No swim tomorrow either. What a bummer. Took a long walk down by the river with STA and Delia this morning, and then a run this afternoon. The air quality is already much better. Hopefully the smoke will stay gone. Could there be any chance that they reconsider open swim tomorrow? Maybe but probably not.

Running on the dirt between Edmund and the river road, I twisted my foot/ankle on a root. I’m pretty sure it’s fine. I hope it’s fine. Yes, it will be fine. Writing this a few hours later: it seems fine. Whew.

Today is the first day of August and have I decided that this month’s theme is love. Not so much romantic love, but a wide range of definitions of what it could mean to love in this time of seemingly intractable divisions and impending, ever nearing collapse. I have decided that this topic is much needed. I am tired of letting hate or fear or dismissal or disgust at how terrible some people seem to be dictate how I see and experience the world. I want to give as little energy to those negative, draining feelings as possible. I want to let love win and I’m interested in exploring the wide range of ways poets express it. This topic is partly inspired by Ed Bok Lee’s poem “Water in Love” and a possible title I have for a poem or a collection: How to Love Like the Lake Loves

the lesson of the falling leaves/ lucille clifton

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves

july 31/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
69 degrees / smoky

Keeping up the Saturday tradition of running the marshall loop. Got a later start so it was sunnier, with less shade. Listened to a iTunes playlist that I created a few years back–The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy, Billy Joel, ACDC, Pat Benatar, Jamirquai, and perfect timing for John Williams’ Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark: running up the last stretch of the marshall hill, almost at the top.

Running over the lake street bridge to St. Paul, I watched a big bird–I think it was a turkey vulture–soaring high above the river. Running back over the lake street bridge to Minneapolis, I looked down at several shells. Rowers! Right below me, just crossing under the bridge heading south, was a single scull. The rower was wearing a bright orange shirt. Since they were facing me, I thought about waving, but then decided I was too high up and moving too fast.

Reaching the top of marshall, running by Black Coffee and Waffles, I could smell the waffles and their sweet bakery smell. I used to love waffles, piled high with whipped cream and chocolate. Now that much sugar gives me a headache. What a drag it is getting old.

There is still a lot of smoke in the air. It didn’t bother my breathing too much. Crossing the bridge, the smoke made everything hazy and the sky was almost white.

Sea Poem/ Alice Oswald

what is water in the eyes of water
loose inquisitive fragile anxious
a wave, a winged form
splitting up into sharp glances

what is the sound of water
after the rain stops you can hear the sea
washing rid of the world’s increasing complexity,
making it perfect again out of perfect sand

oscillation endlessly shaken
into an entirely new structure
what is the depth of water
from which time has been rooted out

the depth is the strength of water
it can break glass or sink steel
treading drowners inwards down
what does it taste of

water deep in it sown world
steep shafts warm streams
coal salt cod weed
dispersed outflows and flytipping

and the sun and its reflexion
throwing two shadows
what is the beauty of water
sky is its beauty

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 25/SWIMRUN

3 miles/ 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
84 degrees

Very sunny and difficult to see this morning. Even though I’m treating my goggles with baby shampoo before each swim, they seem to be foggin up. Do I need to tighten them, or have they just lost all of their anti-fog coating? The fogginess with the bright sun made it harder to see, but it didn’t matter. Stayed on course. As usual, the buoys were in a different place–especially the green ones. I don’t mind, and I don’t blame the lifeguards. I’m sure it’s difficult to set the course. I like the challenge of figuring out how to navigate a new course every time. My priority: avoiding other people + getting as much extra distance as I can. This strategy is the opposite of what you’d want to do in a race, but I’m not in a race, and I don’t want the loop to be as short as possible. For each of my three loops, I tried to adjust and correct for the mistakes I had made in the last loop. Mostly, I did. I fear I might have routed a few swimmers as I passed them.

I’m pretty sure my central vision is a bit worse. I am definitely finding it harder to see the buoys straight on, even when they’re not backlit or I’m not blinded by the sun. By seeing the buoys, I mean seeing anything, any flash of color, any evidence that there’s something out there other than boats and trees and water.

When I do see the buoys, they often look like something else, usually a boat. On my first loop, nearing the little beach, I wondered why there was a boat hovering off the shore, directly in line with where I wanted to swim. When I got closer, I realized it was the first green buoy. I partly mistook the buoy for a boat because it was much closer to the beach and shore than it ever has been before, but I also mistook it because my brain guessed wrong. It had to decide, with the limited visual data it was getting, boat, lifeguard, or buoy. Sara-brain went with boat.

Reading the book, Leap In, the author discusses how the biggest challenge for her in learning to swim freestyle was exhaling. She had no problem taking in air, but she struggled to let it out. For a few minutes, I thought about my exhales under the water. I also tried to work on being flatter and higher up in the water. Reaching, stretching, bending my elbows, sweeping them under my torso.

For a few moments–probably seconds–I wasn’t think about where I was going, or if I was too close to someone else. I was just swimming. Nice. I’d like to have more of these moments in the water. It’s hard to stop thinking when I feel like I need to be constantly sighting. What would happen if I tried sighting less? That sounds like an interesting experiment for this week.

water thoughts for today

1

On Friday at open swim, I noticed an older woman exiting the water with a limp. She looked very fit and strong but also like something was wrong with her leg. I could tell she was a great swimmer. I thought about Lord Byron and how I recently read that he was born with a clubfoot and walked awkwardly on land. In the water, this didn’t matter; no one could see his foot. Some of us are better in the water.

2

Last week, when the water was extremely rough, I overheard someone lament to a fellow swimmer, “I’m going to be drinking a lot of dirty water on the way back.” There is a myth, among some, that city lakes are dirty and polluted. This incorrect assumption angers me. Lake Nokomis, almost always, is a wonderful place to swim. Talking with STA about what I was posting here and he mentioned how the lake does have sediment that gets stirred up by the waves, which is true. The lake isn’t pristine.

3

7 Shard/ CAConrad


                            he said
                           breathe like you
                           read your poems

                         what the hell
                      does that mean
                 then suddenly
             I’m breathing it
              look at our hands
               baked into being
                 by a fleeting magic
                  bark with dogs to let
                  the neighborhood know
                 you can go to
               the address
knock all you want
   no one is there now
        where the exit signs
                 are burned out
                      the preexisting
                               condition is
                                  not cancer
                                        but the
                                       glass of
                                      polluted
                                     drinking
                                          water

4

Due to a worsening drought across the state, Minneapolis and St. Paul residents are being asked to water their lawns on an even-odd water schedule and to limit watering to mornings and evenings.

MPR News/ July 21, 2021

run: 2 miles
tunnel of trees + river road trail + extra
90! degrees

Earlier in the day, STA mentioned that the even though it was hot today, the dew point was relatively low, so 90 might not feel so bad. Somehow I got this stuck in my head and decided to go out for a quick run around 3:30. STA did too, but not at the same time as me. I listened to my song of the spring–Leave the Door Open–and summer–Solar Power. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad, especially in the shade. I didn’t really start sweating until about one and half miles in. I think I saw at least one other runner and a few walkers. Lots of people sitting in the shade on benches. As I ran by them I wondered what they thought of me running in this heat.

This morning, water meant: cool, refreshing, gentle rocking in 81 degree lake water, abundance, enveloped. This afternoon, water meant: lack, absent, thirst, delayed arrival, dripping, damp, soaked.

july 14/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
73 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 67

It is supposed to rain for most of the day, starting in the late morning. Decided to run before it started. Hot and thick. Sweaty. Listened to my playlist, starting with my song of the summer: Lorde’s Solar Power. Felt strong. I think all the swimming is strengthening my hips and legs and back. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker twice. Heard the rowers when I stopped briefly at the trestle. Avoided a group of runners near the spot above the Minneapolis Rowing Club. I can’t remember any of my thoughts. Got lost for 30 minutes.

Here’s a great poem that fits better with June’s theme of water and stone, but I’m posting it anyway. It’s from her new collection, out at the end of this month, Goldenrod!

Wife for Scale/ Maggie Smith

This is a tender age––and in geologic time,
hardly an age at all. But a golden band

of rock, pressed paper-thin, will stand
for these years, a kind of scientific

shorthand. Once I had a professor
whose wife was in every photo he took

of rock formations. He’d click through
slide after slide, saying: My wife for scale.

Isn’t there always a woman in the picture
and isn’t she always small in comparison?

Forgive me: that was my grief talking.
Tell me: how do I teach myself to be alone?

The strata for this age will not be the first
to reveal what salt does to stone, as if

a sea had been here and not sadness only.
Tell me: with God a question, where

is solace but in the earth? The soul
I’m standing on in this moment–––

even as it shifts beneath my feet, as it gives
and cannot hold me—will be rock.

Love this poem!

june 27/RUN

4.3 miles
minneahaha falls and back
66 degrees/ dew point: 62
light rain

Ran south on the river road trail past the falls and stopped at the big statue just past the pergola garden. When I would walk or bike the kids over here, about 10 years ago, we (or was it mostly me?) called this statue “big feet” because all the kids could see was his big feet. There was also a little feet (John Stevens)–a much smaller statue not too far way. Today I wanted to find out who Big Feet actually was. I assumed he might be someone connected to Fort Snelling–Zebulon Pike or Snelling or Franklin. Nope. Gunner Wennenberg, a Swedish composer, poet, and politician. This statue was erected on June 24th, 1914. Looking him up online, I am amused by this last paragraph in the wikipedia entry (originally found in an old Encyclopedia Britannica):

Wennerberg was a most remarkable type of the lyrical, ardent Swedish aristocrat, full of the joy of life and the beauty of it. In the long roll of his eighty-four years there was scarcely a crumpled rose-leaf. His poems, to which their musical accompaniment is almost essential, have not ceased, in half a century, to be universally pleasing to Swedish ears; outside Sweden it would be difficult to make their peculiarly local charm intelligible.

Difficult to make their peculiarly local charm intelligible? Ouch. I’m not sure if any part of my ears are Swedish–Finnish and Czech and Norwegian–but I listened to one of his hymns, and I thought it was nice (I don’t like the word nice here but I’m not sure I could go so far as to say it was beautiful).

During this run, I felt strong and relaxed and sweaty. So much sweat. The temp was 66, the dew point 62. Difficult for sweat to evaporate and cool me off. I listened to a playlist so I didn’t hear any trickling or gushing water. No rowers or birds or small bits of conversation. I did feel the light rain cooling me off sometimes.

For today’s water and stone poem, I decided to search for a Swedish poet. I found Tomas Tranströmer, the 2011 Nobel Prize Winner for Poetry.

excerpt from The Half Finished Heaven

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Under Pressure

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening.
We’re living here on a shuddering work-site
where the ocean depths can suddenly open up –
shells and telephones hiss.

You can see beauty only from the side, hastily,
The dense grain on the field, many colours in a yellow stream.
The restless shadows in my head are drawn there.
They want to creep into the grain and turn to gold.

Darkness falls. At midnight I go to bed.
The smaller boat puts out from the larger boat.
You are alone on the water.
Society’s dark hull drifts further and further away.

june 7/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
75 degrees

Too warm this morning. Decided I needed the distraction of headphones and my old spotify playlist. Ran on the trail for the first half, then walked across turkey hollow (no turkeys today) and ran up 47th. I don’t remember glancing down at the river. I was too busy looking out for other runners. Do I remember much of this part of the run? Only the 4 or 5 times I had to cross over the bike path to give approaching runners room, and that it was uncomfortably warm outside. After running up 47th I headed over to the guantlet (the narrow strip of grass between Becketwood and 42nd, with the river road on one side, a small wood on the other) and then to Edmund. I decided to stop at the house on Edmund that posts poems on their front windows to see if they had posted a new one–the last one I saw was M Oliver’s “Work.” Yes, they did. The sun was too bright on the window to see the top of the poem, but the rest of June Jordan’s “These Poems” was wonderful. I love that my neighbors post these poems.

These Poems/ June Jordan – 1936-2002

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

Ah, love this poem. And it fits with my theme of water and stone with the line, “These words/they are stones in the water/running away” Not sure about the image of stones in the water running away? Do stones run away? I’ve seen them skip or tumble or be a throw away or roll, but never run. I’m probably missing something…

may 5/RUN

3.25 miles
turkey hollow
54 degrees

An overcast, cooler day. Not quite gray but not blue either. Wore my new raspberry red shoes. I have wanted red shoes for a few years now. Felt faster, stronger. Tried to listen for more birds. Heard the usual (or uje as FWA and RJP like to say) singers: black-capped chickadees, cardinals, crows, pileated woodpeckers not drumming but calling out, sounding like a loon to me. Ran the final 1/2 mile with my spotify running playlist.

I heard a bird that I thought was a crow calling out and tried to figure out what word their call sounded like but I couldn’t. It was one syllable and shrill. I looked on the birdsong charts that I posted a few days ago for one syllable calls and found the red-breasted nuthatch. Listened to its call and it sounded like what I remember. Then, I looked it up on a birds of the mississippi river gorge guide that I found a few years ago. Yes! Red-breasted nuthatches are permanent residiences here. Nice! On the birdsong chart, the word used to describe the call is “ink” but I can’t hear that when I listen to it. Googling it, I found “ank ank” which sounds more like it to me. Here’s how all about birds describes them:

An intense bundle of energy at your feeder, Red-breasted Nuthatches are tiny, active birds of north woods and western mountains. These long-billed, short-tailed songbirds travel through tree canopies with chickadees, kinglets, and woodpeckers but stick to tree trunks and branches, where they search bark furrows for hidden insects. Their excitable yank-yank calls sound like tiny tin horns being honked in the treetops.

They like to hang out with chickadees and woodpeckers? That sounds right. I remember hearing “chick a dee dee dee” a lot too. I need to look up how to record/make not of a bird sound–what information do people usually include? Here’s a page with some helpful information that I’ll check out later. For now, I’ll write:

May 5, 10:25
At the corner of 44th and West River Parkway near Becketwood
Red-breasted nuthatch call—“ank ank ank”

In the description, kinglets are mentioned too. Looked it up and we have those in the gorge as well. I’m thinking it might be helpful to look up the birds I know and then find out what other birds they hang out with. Also, when hearing bird sounds, try to listen for where they’re coming from–high up in the trees? the grass? lower branches?–then look up habitats. I feel this birding my ear will be slow work; I’ll consider it a big accomplishment if I can identify 2 or 3 more birds this month.

One last thing: I never would have guessed that the irritating, loud call I was hearing came from such a small bird. And I never would have guessed that it wasn’t a crow or a raven or a rook.

Looking through my safari reading list, I found this letter from Emily Dickinson to her cousins. I saved it a few years ago, I think. Why? Oh, past Sara what was in here that you wanted to keep? I’m not sure, but I think it’s fitting for the month of birds and birdsong. I’ll need to read her lines many more times before I feel close to understanding them, but I’m glad to have them.

TO: Louise and Frances Norcross
FROM: ED

Sisters,

I hear robins a great way off, and wagons a great way off, and rivers a great way off, and all appear to be hurrying somewhere undisclosed to me. Remoteness is the founder of sweetness; could we see all we hope, or hear the whole we fear told tranquil, like another tale, there would be madness near. Each of us gives or takes heaven in corporeal person, for each of us has the skill of life. I am pleased by your sweet acquaintance. It is not recorded of any rose that it failed of its bee, though obtained in specific instances through scarlet experience. The career of flowers differs from ours only in inaudibleness. I feel more reverence as I grow for these mute creatures whose suspense or transport may surpass my own. Pussy remembered the judgment, and remained with Vinnie. Maggie preferred her home to “Miggles” and “Oakhurst,” so with a few spring touches, nature remains unchanged.

The most triumphant bird
I ever knew or met,
Embarked upon a twig to-day, –
And till dominion set
I perish to behold
So competent a sight –
And sang for nothing scrutable
But impudent delight.
Retired and resumed
His transitive estate;
To what delicious accident
Does finest glory fit!

What to do with the contrast between the mute rose and the bird who sings for “nothing scrutable/But impudent delight”?