sept 7/RUNSWIM

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
58 degrees

A great run! A cooler temp makes all the difference for me. What do I remember? Walking towards the river, listening to the electric hum of the bugs, the cawing of the crows, the rumble of the garbage truck. Seeing so many bright colors today–glowing yellowish green and orange shirts, aquamarine and hot pink shorts. Encountering a few roller skiers, a rollerblader, groups of runners, a water station set-up not too far from the overlook. Hearing the rowers on the river. Admiring the sparkling sun on the water, just barely cutting through the thick curtain of leaves.

Still Burning
BY GERALD STERN

Me trying to understand say whence
say whither, say what, say me with a pencil walking,
say reading the dictionary, say learning medieval
Latin, reading Spengler, reading Whitehead,
William James I loved him, swimming breaststroke
and thinking for an hour, how did I get here?
Or thinking in line, say the 69 streetcar
or 68 or 67 Swissvale,
that would take me elsewhere, me with a textbook
reading the pre-Socratics, so badly written,
whoever the author was, me on the floor of
the lighted stacks sitting cross-legged,
walking afterwards through the park or sometimes
running across the bridges and up the hills,
sitting down in our tiny diningroom,
burning in a certain way, still burning.

I love the linking of thinking with moving here–swimming, walking, running.

Mannequin of the day:

I am always fascinated by the eyes in these mannequins–the little bit of white in the corner of the pupil and the curls veiling the one eye. The way her pupils are shifted up and to the side. What is she looking at? Is it my shoulder? One of the first things the ophthalmologist told me when I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy was that I’d need to learn to look just past people’s shoulders if I wanted to see their faces. Once my central vision was gone, I would only be able to see them through my peripheral. How unsettling is it to others to look at them this way? I do not look at people’s shoulders…yet. For now, I either avoid looking or I just stare into their dim, fading, dead-pupil faces and pretend that they don’t look like a lifeless mannequin.

swim: .9 miles (1600 yards)
lake nokomis

Guess who got to swim in Lake Nokomis this afternoon? Me! When I got back from my run, I found out that the lake was open again (after being closed due to some kid pooping in the water and spreading e-coli and getting several dozens of other people sick…boo). I didn’t think I’d be able to swim in this lake again this year. Now I get to give a proper good-bye. Hopefully, I’ll be able to swim in it more times this week. With my wetsuit I’ll keep swimming until they won’t let me or there’s ice or I decide I”m over it. Open swimming is the best! The water was calm. Everything was a dull, light gray except for the trees on the other side. Already starting to turn slightly. Light green and yellow. After the swim, headed over to sandcastle with Scott for a beer and some fries. Does it get any better than this?

august 22/RUNSWIM

3 miles
trestle turn around
63 degrees

Brand new too white running shoes this morning. My favorites: Saucony Grid Cohesions. Started on version 4 (I think), am now on 11. Cheap and dependable. Thought about upgrading but I’m too frugal. Also, when I buy expensive shoes, I feel pressure for them to be perfect–they better be, if I spend $120 on them, I think. Usually this ends with me wearing shoes that don’t quite work for too long because I spent so much money on them. So inexpensive grid cohesions it is. They worked well today.

Started with an audio book but decided to turn it off and listen to my feet striking the ground–was I plodding too much? Also got to hear the intense, quiet rush of traffic as people hurrying off to work. Chanted some three syllable words, mostly strawberry and raspberry. Didn’t look at the river even once. Barely noticed the lake street bridge or the overlook above the rowing club or the railroad trestle. I guess I was thinking too much about the run and how my legs were sore. I do remember looking to see if anyone was sleeping behind the bench, near the bridge. Sometimes people do in the summer. One time I saw someone sleeping on the hard, uneven paving stones under the bridge. Ouch. Encountered some walkers, no regulars. No Daily Walker. No roller skiers or rollerbladers. Any other runners? At least one, running much faster than me.

I like the form of this poem and how each stanza ends with an introduction to the next stanza. I want to experiment with it.

SEEK
by Sophia Holtz

the moon is a cataract that can’t see rats
chewing bone-filled trash, the satellites
passing above us making maps
of everything we touch. a machine

recognizes a human face, I forget
everyone’s names, & somewhere
a man is making a list of threats
he’s calling law. sometimes while I walk

I look for places where I could hide
because once or twice in my life
a man has tried to follow me home.
certain games are practical,

the way animals gnaw on what’s inedible
so they’ll become better knives.
at work, the children are playing
in an open space, all of them hiding

behind a trashcan, the game more ritual
than search, but it also reminds me
of towns likely burned to the ground
before they were emptied, or at the very least

erased from the map. if you’re small
your best trick is to become invisible.
even insects know this: how many
generations for a moth to resemble lichen.

swim: 1.7 miles
cedar lake

The final open swim of the season. As always, it’s difficult to believe that another year is done. A beautiful evening, a beautiful lake. So pleased that I was able to swim five days in a row. Breathed every five and five/six/five. Heard some planes, felt lots of scratchy, sharp water weeds. Checked out the opposite shore–I think it’s hidden beach. Really nice.

august 21/RUN

2.2 miles
lake harriet

Ran this morning around lake harriet with Scott while our son was taking his 2nd of 3 behind the wheel driving lessons. So great! The water was still, glass-like. Near where all the boats are docked (would you call this a marina?), the water was smooth for 10-15 meters, then suddenly rippled. What was causing this? Noticed a beach with a big swimming area that I’ll have to try out next week before the lake closes for the season. After we finished, had breakfast at Bread and Pickle, something I wanted to do for a few years. Heard a kid jubilantly call out, “I just saw a fish! A Northern Pike! Right there! Right there!” Such wonderful enthusiasm. O, to be so unabashed in my joy! A goal for this year. I’m tired of cynicism and swallowing the quirky joy I have for so many small and random things like garden gnomes and undulating waves and bright, glowing green running shoes!

Halos/ed bok lee

Blood vessels are invading
both corneas, crowding
the sclera, says my opthamologist.

Not an emergency yet, but
just be aware and get proper rest. I ask
about laser surgery and he sights; confesses

when his own eyes are shot, he’ll
surgically insert acrylic lenses.
Two slits, no stitches, fifteen minutes.

With lasers, you’ll still need
readers and eye drops. On my walk
home, I take off

my glasses to receive the breeze.
I like that any nearing face
is surely smiling, gorgeous;

each blurry body’s aura numinous:
style of not style, racially
ambitious, a glob, pure

spectral inchoesion. Aren’t we all
just masses of energy and lifht
approaching or leaving

one another in the jumbled
future or past; sometimes stop-
ping to embrace

for a moment or decades,
before passing
way too far for sight?

That visual impairment improves hearing,
tast, smell, touch is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos about bikers’ helmets;
each streetlamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.
I don’t mind opening a book

like a pewter Rorschach test,
or waking up each morning
inside a fish tank of dream.

I like, whenever I wish, strolling past
the myopic me
in a window or mirror or whatever

reflects back to believe the soul is
ubiquitous like water
in our voices, our cells.

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:
to the dead, we’re the ghosts?

This poem captures so much of what I’ve been feeling about my vision and the magic of seeing differently–out of focus, fuzzy. Often, I like the strangeness of my sight; everything is more beautiful. I was mentioning to Scott the other day that I see things through a soft filter, like the one they used for filming Barbara Walters on The View. But even as I love the soft, generous way my vision enables me to see the world, sometimes, it’s exhausting, overwhelming. Walking around the Mall of America the other day, I was unable to see the hard edged outlines of peoples’ moving bodies. Difficult to navigate. Entering a store, I couldn’t immediately read the signs to orient myself, everything just out of focus.

swim: 1.5 miles
cedar lake

This final week of getting to swim every day is wonderful. Cedar Lake is the best. Looked it up and discovered that at its deepest point, it’s 88 feet. On average, it’s 37 feet. Cool. Felt strong and fast swimming today. More choppy water. More people to pass. As I neared the buoys, it always felt like I was swimming in place or swimming away from the buoy. A bit disorienting. I think there was a current that was pushing both me and the buoy away from each other–is that possible? Discovered an easy way to sight the shore that is invisible in the blinding sun: there’s a clear break in the trees that I can see no matter how bright and shiny everything else is. Breathed every five, then five/six/five. Took a few short breaks at the end of a loop but mostly swam non-stop. I wish there was another month of this swimming–hard to wait until next June for it to happen again.

august 20/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails

Another good run. Down below, on the way back north on the lower trail, I noticed how the first sewer drain I ran by vigorously trickled while the second one sporadically gushed. Heard a bird making the classic bird call through the trees, deep in the gorge, that I imagine when I think of a bird chirping in a forest. So bird. Didn’t take the steps at 38th street again and planned to continue on to the gravel hill just past the social justice keys but took a wrong turn at the fork in the trail and ended up climbing sooner, conveniently right by the water fountain at the 36th street parking lot.

Yesterday I posted a poem with a wonderful use of the word O. (O, to take what we love inside/to carry within us an orchard, to eat/not only the skin, but the shade,/not only the sugar, but the days, to hold/the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into/the round jubilance of peach.) So when I saw a poem that takes on the O even more, I wanted to post it. I love the unbridled enthusiasm of an O! (and of the exclamation mark!!)

O, She Says
BY HAILEY LEITHAUSER

O, she says (because she loves to say O),
O to this cloud-break that ravels the night,
O to this moon, its mouthful of sorrow,
O shallow grass and the nettle burr’s bite,

O to heart’s flare, its wobbly satellite,
O step after step in stumbling tempo,
O owl in oak, O rout of black bat flight,
(O moaned in Attic and Esperanto)

O covetous tongue, O fat fandango,
O gnat tango in the hot, ochered light,
O wind whirred leaves in subtle inferno,
O flexing of sea, O stars bolted tight,

O ludicrous swoon, O blind hindsight,
O torching of bridges and blood boiled white,
O sparrow and arrow and hell below,
O, she says, because she loves to say O.

swim: 1.3 miles
cedar lake

Another great swim! I am really enjoying how much smaller cedar lake is. I heard someone say a loop is 600 yards. It’s easier to swim longer and farther and faster. The water was choppy again, which is great. I love battling the waves. I had no problem swimming straight today and had fun passing people.

august 18/SWIM

2 miles
cedar lake

Open swim is over at Lake Nokomis but it’s still happening at Cedar Lake. So glad I found out how great it is to swim at Cedar. Next year I’ll have to swim here more often. Starting my swim, I couldn’t see at all. No landmarks–no roofs of big buildings or light poles. Only trees. Just swimming into the void of blueish gray water. Luckily I had lined up the buoys before I left so I was okay. The water was opaque and warm enough. Only a few bits of milfoil reaching out to grab my arm. These water weeds are surprisingly scratchy on your skin. It was mostly cloudy. A few times the sun broke through, other times the clouds darkened. On the second half of my last lap it suddenly became very choppy. I love swimming into the waves! Felt strong and fast, then tired. A nice, glowing burn even now an hour later. Overheard one woman say she was leaving soon for Maine to swim there–was it for a race? Not sure. My breathing was mostly every five, sometimes every 3, sometimes 3 then 4 on repeat or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or hear any planes.

In all of my searches for “lakes” or “water,” how have I never encountered this poem before? Love how she captures the reverse world that water creates!

Water Picture
May Swenson – 1913-1989

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don’t fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.
A baby, taken to feed the
ducks, dangles upside-down,
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of
cherry bloom for roots,
where birds coast belly-up
in the glass bowl of a hill;
from its bottom a bunch
of peanut-munching children
is suspended by their
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks
forming the figure 3,
steers between two dimpled
towers doubled. Fondly
hissing, she kisses herself,
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter,
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge
folds like a fan.

august 14/BIKERUN

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A great ride early in the morning before it was too crowded. Thing I remember most: not once but twice some dumb squirrel darted out right in front of my bike, forcing me to use my brakes. I hate squirrels.

run: 2.7 miles
two trails

Such a beautiful morning! Not too hot or windy or humid. Decided to do a quick run even though I’d already biked to the lake and walked around it. Up above, encountered at least one roller skier, some bikers, a dog and their human, a few other runners. Down below, an unleashed dog running ahead of its owners, a few solitary walkers. Watched the river out of the corner of my eye. Avoided muddy, mucky leaves. Ran cautiously under the leaning, yarn-bombed tree trunk.

swim: 1 mile
cedar lake

Finally decided to try out open swim at Cedar Lake. I’ve never been because it’s a lot farther from my house. Really wonderful. Not too many people there, which was great. Smaller loops–not sure, but I think a loop was 400-500 yards? (instead of 1200 at Lake Nokomis). I liked mixing it up with smaller loops. Easier to not get off track even when you couldn’t see, which I couldn’t on the way back because of the sun. Why are so many of the beaches east/west, with one way always being in the sun? No big, crazy beach filled with too many people. Found out after I finished swimming that the rest of lake nokomis open swims will be at cedar. It’s very sad to be done for the season at nokomis without being able to say goodbye to the lake but I’m glad I can still swim–if I can make it over to Cedar. It’s about a 16-18 mile bike ride round trip. Breathed every five strokes. Felt strong and fast and free.

Lake Water
By David Ferry July 16, 2007/ The New Yorker


It is a summer afternoon in October.
I am sitting on a wooden bench, looking out
At the lake through a tall screen of evergreens,
Or rather, looking out across the plane of the lake,
Seeing the light shaking upon the water
As if it were a shimmering of heat.
Yesterday, when I sat here, it was the same,
The same displaced out-of-season effect.
Seen twice it seemed a truth was being told.
Some of the trees I can see across the lake
Have begun to change, but it is as if the air
Had entirely given itself over to summer,
With the intention of denying its own proper nature.
There is a breeze perfectly steady and persistent
Blowing in toward shore from the other side
Or from the world beyond the other side.
The mild sound of the little tapping waves
The breeze has caused—there’s something infantile
About it, a baby at the breast. The light
Is moving and not moving upon the water.
The breeze picks up slightly but still steadily,
The increase in the breeze becomes the mild
Dominant event, compelling with sweet oblivious
Authority alterations in light and shadow,
Alterations in the light of the sun on the water,
Which becomes at once denser and more quietly
Excited, like a concentration of emotions
That had been dispersed and scattered and now were not.
Then there’s the mitigation of the shadow of a cloud,
Phrases and even sentences are written,
But because of the breeze, and the turning of the year,
And the sense that this lake water, as it is being
Experienced on a particular day, comes from
Some source somewhere, beneath, within, itself,
Or from somewhere else, nearby, a spring, a brook,
Its pure origination somewhere else,
It is like an idea for a poem not yet written
And maybe never to be completed, because
The surface of the page is like lake water,
That takes back what is written on its surface,
And all my language about the lake and its
Emotions or its sweet obliviousness,
Or even its being like an origination,
Is all erased with the changing of the breeze
Or because of the heedless passing of a cloud. When, moments after she died, I looked into
Her face, it was as untelling as something natural,
A lake, say, the surface of it unreadable,
Its sources of meaning un”ndable anymore.
Her mouth was open as if she had something to say;
But maybe my saying so is a figure of speech.

I’d like to read this poem several more times. Wow, that ending!

august 12/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Biking to the river, it was strange to see smoke coming out of the sewers; they’re testing for leaks. Not too crowded on the bike path. Just past 44th street, I encountered a bike surrey, about to cause a traffic jam in the double bridge. Later on the way home, I think I passed 5 or 6 surreys. So many today!

swim: 1.3 miles
lake nokomis

Swam 8 little loops off the big beach. Wonderful! The lake was nearly empty, only a swimming class in the shallow area. A few paddle boarders out in the middle. Overcast, looking like rain any second. Not too windy or warm. Nice. Swam for 40 minutes. Smooth, strong, steady. Realized that the swimming breathing stroke poems I’m working on aren’t quite right. The rhythm is not 5/6/3/5 like I’ve been doing but 5/6/3, 5/6/3. Maybe I’ll work on some 5/6/3 or 5/6/3/5/6/3 verses today. After I stopped swimming, standing in the sand in the swimming area near the shore, it started drizzling. I almost went back out to swim some more, but I was too tired. …After the 6th loop, I stopped briefly and noticed the silence. So calm and peaceful! I love this lake.

august 9/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

I never plan it, but according to my workout app, I’ve been averaging 12.7 mph for almost every bike ride I’ve done to the lake for the past month. 12.7 mph is not fast but it’s fast enough for me. And it never feels slow. No run-ins with jerks biking too fast or taking over the whole path or yelling at me. Can’t remember why now, but some cars or bikers did prompt me to shake my head disapprovingly. The dreaded middle-aged mom’s head shake!

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Swam little loops off the big beach today–4, or was it 5? I can’t remember. All I know is that I swam for about 25 minutes. The water was great. Smooth. Not too cold. A couple bright yellow paddle boats hovered just off the swimming area–actually, they weren’t that close but with my depth perception they looked like they were right on top of the white buoys. The water looked yellowish brownish green. There was another swimmer swimming loops. Spent a lot of my sighting time making sure I didn’t run into him. Breathed every five for most of it, occasionally 3/6/3/6 or 5/6/5/6. Felt so powerful and fast slicing through the water and easily rounding the buoys. What a wonderful feeling! Almost convinced myself that it was too much of a hassle to swim today. So glad I didn’t.

every five
Catch pull push release
five times then a breath

three/six/three/six
powerful
strong shoulders and straight strokes
jubilant
generous lungs stay filled

five/six/five/six
swimming little loops
well–not little loops but
loops that are smaller
than loops across the lake

“welcome!” says water
“join us!” cry out the fish
“hello!” calls the bird
perched on the white buoy

Boy Crazy/Carmen Giméndez Smith

The echoes of sirens and cicadas,
and the drunk boys who howl
into the trees at 2 a.m. infect
my window while I sleep,
and I’m pulled into a girl I once was,
calling for love into a sky transected
by power lines until sunset when the town
tightened into itself. I prayed for a boy’s
wolf life, the dream of skulking along
streets with hunger and immunity.
I wanted to cup the moon’s curve
in my hand like it belonged to me,
that was how young I was.

Love the unexpected meaning of the title here and so many of the phrases–infect my window/pulled into a girl I once was/when the town tightened into itself/a boy’s wolf life/skulking/hunger and immunity.


august 8/RUN

2 miles
austin, mn
61 degrees

Did a quick run with Scott in his hometown. Felt humid but not too hot. Ran on the slanted city sidewalks. Lots of shade. Not too hard, but not too easy either. My left leg felt tight again at the end. Encountered one walker, no bikers, and one runner when we were almost back to the house. Not too many people out here on this beautiful morning.

Writing a Poem
by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
a just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. If it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write. Its buzz takes away
feelings, takes over ears, is drilling a hole

in a loose tooth as you sit in history’s
dental chair, frantic and still, the drill
hammering the gums until only
spit oozes, dribbles, spills over, fills

cavities you didn’t know you had,
only the drill lives in your head
only the dull sharp dizz-dizz-dizz.
This is how the poem ends, dizz-dizz….

This poem captures the annoyance and frustration I feel when I hear leaf blowers. So overwhelming and insistent in their buzzing! (And so pointless in their efforts to clear out every single speck of leaf or debris.) I despise leaf blowers.

swim: 1.4 miles
lake nokomis

3 1/2 little loops + a big loop. Loved how choppy it was today, like swimming into a wall of water. Again, couldn’t see the buoys at all on the way back. Still swam straight. Even though it was 77 degrees, the air felt cold. The buoys were weirdly off, with the one closest to the little beach too far to the right. Don’t remember seeing any fish or hearing any airplanes or being stalked by any sailboats.

august 6/RUNSWIM

run: 2.5 miles
two trails

Writing this a few days late, so I don’t remember much. Listened to my audio book up above, nothing down below. Was hoping to encounter the woman with the radio for another writing prompt. I did, but I passed her from behind and couldn’t hear anything. Bummer. Looked a little closer and saw that the yarn hanging off the leaning tree trunk is yellow and pink.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Swam a few little loops, then one big loop. A great swim. Absolutely couldn’t see the buoys until they were right next to me on the way back, but I could occasionally see a lifeguard on their kayak and the sparkling roof of the changing room building so I managed to stay on course the whole time. Felt strong and relaxed and happy to be swimming.

august 1/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.2 miles
two trails
69 degrees
dew point: 62

It’s hot again. Ran the two trails. Listened to an audio book (Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage) on the upper trail. Nothing on the lower–excerpt for an older woman’s radio (the same woman I passed last week). Instead of taking the steps up at 38th, I kept running on the dirt trail to the savana. Sometimes this trail is muddy, today it was not. I think I quickly glanced at the river only once or twice. Mostly, I don’t remember what I saw or heard. No interesting smells or sounds.

Let us for a moment call this pain by other words/Dominik Parisien

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull?

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head?

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

This poem is so great. Immediately reminds me of Eula Biss’s The Pain Scale essay. I don’t think I have a favorite line, they’re all beautiful. Maybe, “which constellations light the sky behind your eyes?”

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Great weather for a bike ride. Especially fun after the swim, on the way home, when it was almost twilight. The final stretch up the river road is always tricky at this time–so crowded. Bikers/runners/walkers spreading out over the path, disregarding the lines or the rules of which path to stay on. It makes it so much more dangerous for me. I’m fine biking in my lane, following the lines, but I can’t always see darting people or judge the amount of space I need to get around someone. Very frustrating.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Did a little loop before open swim started, then 2 big loops. Might have been able to do more, but my brain got tired of not being able to see much. Still, a great swim. The water felt nice–not too warm or cold–and the waves weren’t bad. For the first time, I ran into someone. Not hard, just a tap on their leg before I veered off. The buoys were too far off the main beach but in a straight line. Easy to follow. The sun was blinding heading back from the little beach. I wonder, does it get better or worse the longer you stay in the water? I can’t remember because I usually stop swimming by 6:30. Next time, I should stay until 7:30. Heard some clangs underwater, roaring planes in the sky. Several sailboats. Breathed every five strokes for the first loop. Second loop: every five to the little beach, every 6 to the right on the way back to the main beach. After I finished, met Scott at Sandcastle for a beer and watched a sailboat, with a brightly colored sail, slowly drift closer to us. What a great night! What a great lake!

july 31/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A wonderful morning for a bike ride! No altercations with assholes! Noticed, as I biked over a bridge, how much the creek was rushing. Sometime soon, I’d like to bike along the creek to Lake Harriet.

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis

Swam a mile this morning off the big beach. It was windier than I expected. And chillier. Just 70 degrees. I had goose bumps as I entered the water. Swam 6 little loops/38 minutes. Swimming into the wind and the waves, I breathed every 6 on my right side. Swimming away from it, every 5. The water was yellowish, greenish, brownish and opaque. Couldn’t see anything below me, no streaks or flashes or shafts of light. Had no problem seeing the vertical white buoys–well, I couldn’t see them through my central vision until I spotted them with my peripheral vision. I think I saw one kayak out there. No other swimmers. Just me. Very relaxing and mechanical, steady. 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left. Metronomic. Maybe a little less than a quarter note = 60? Not sure. I like turning into a machine, gliding through the water. About 30 minutes in, I felt like I could swim for a few more hours. I liked how the wind rocked me.

Last year, I discovered Roger Deakin’s fabulous book, Waterlog. I finally bought it this summer, using a birthday gift card. Here’s a passage I’d like to think/write about:

…swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries: the line of the shore, the bank of the river, the edge of the pool, the surface itself. When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim. …You are in nature, part and parcel of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land, and your sense of the present is overwhelming.

I like the idea of the water world being a reverse, almost an upending. I’ve played around with that in some poems already. I’d like to push it some more. I’m particularly interested in the lack of gravity and weightlessness. Deakin’s also writes:

In water, all possibilities seemed infinitely extended. Free of the tyranny of gravity and the weight of atmosphere…

july 30/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3 miles
trestle turn around
59! degrees

Ran much earlier this morning–at 6:45. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to be out so early. I love summer mornings. I’d like to try and get up early more often in August. Ran without headphones. Made sure I noticed the river, slivers of sparkle in the sun. Difficult to see through all of the trees. Running past the Welcoming Oaks noticed a new stump, almost level with the ground. Oh no! Which one of my friends has been chopped down? I fear it might be my favorite: the tree that leans, arching its back, almost as if to say, “Heyyyyyyy” or “Watch out!” I hope not. I’ll have to go back and take a closer look. A motorcycle rumbled by, blasting the news on their radio. Saw other runners, walkers, roller skiers, bikers and 3 in-sync rollerbladers. Noticed in the tunnel of trees that, in addition to the clearing I’ve been writing about, there’s another one, created by the stone wall that Delia the dog likes to jump up on. Could really smell the sewer this morning, especially above the rowing club. Yuck! Heard some birds. Whooshing cars. Ran the 3 miles straight without stopping, even though my left leg felt tight. Wish it wasn’t so difficult.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Mostly, biking isn’t too bad, except for when someone is going really slow and I need to pass them. It’s so hard to pass with my vision. I can’t trust that I’m actually seeing if a bike is coming. Today I didn’t see the bike coming, tried to pass, and almost got in the way of another biker. He was so mean about it, his yell still echoing in my head. At first, I was devastated, feeling so bad about my vision and my mistake. But then I remembered how many bikers I had encountered who did the same thing I did and I didn’t scream at them. My conclusion: this guy was a big asshole.

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis

Made it to the lake early and did three little loops. They were late setting up the buoys so it was a wetsuit rebellion. People just started swimming, not waiting for the lifeguards to announce the start. I joined them and did only one loop. So many swimmers! So many swimmers unable to swim straight, almost routing me! But who cares? The water was wonderful. Warmish and calm. Clear. Smooth. I felt strong and powerful and relaxed. Did a lot of breathing every 5 and sometimes 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right. There is something special about swimming loops outside at a lake. One of my top 5 all-time favorite things to do.

MORNING SWIM
(from Where I Live – New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, W.W. Norton, 2010)

Into my empty head there come
a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom

I set out, oily and nude
through mist, in chilly solitude.

There was no line, no roof or floor
to tell the water from the air.

Night fog thick as terry cloth
closed me in its fuzzy growth.

I hung my bathrobe on two pegs.
I took the lake between my legs.

Invaded and invader, I
went overhand on that flat sky.

Fish twitched beneath me, quick and tame.
In their green zone they sang my name

and in the rhythm of the swim
I hummed a two-four- time slow hymn.

I hummed “Abide With Me.” The beat
rose in the fine thrash of my feet,

rose in the bubbles I put out
slantwise, trailing through my mouth.

My bones drank water; water fell
through all my doors. I was the well

that fed the lake that met my sea
in which I sang “Abide With Me.”

Love the line in this poem about there being no line or roof or floor to tell the water from the air. And the fish! I almost forgot about the tiny little minnows I saw at the big beach. Swimming in the shallow water. Pretty cool.

july 25/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

So windy! Gusts up to 23 mph. Biking the last stretch around the lake to the big beach, I could feel the wind wanting to blow me off my bike.

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Got to the lake early. The plan was to swim small loops until open swim started then do one big loop, but it was so windy and choppy–even white caps!–that it was difficult. Going one direction, I was swimming straight into the waves. Tough. Almost stopped after one loop, but decided to keep going and did a few more. Watched the lifeguards trying to set up the orange buoys on the choppy, wavy, windy water. It was taking so long that I didn’t have time to stay. As I biked up the hill, 15 minutes later, I could still hear them trying to line up the buoys. Oh well, I still swam some. It would have been fun to swim in the choppy water. I like swimming in choppy water. A fun challenge. Plus, it’s a cool experience to be gently (or vigorously) rocked. Last fall I wrote a lot of lines about waves. Here’s a few that I especially liked and that I’m hoping to put into a poem:

In the summer I swim across the lake.
When the wind is just right it makes the water into a cradle.

And when the wind is wrong
the waves become a washing machine.

I swim through a spin cycle
and reach the far shore scrubbed clean.

july 23/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3.1 miles
two trails
66 degrees

Cooler this morning. Listened to a playlist running above, some rowers running below. Noticed that the dirt path at the beginning of the lower trail is more old asphalt than I realized. How long ago did they stop paving this trail? Could see the river sparkling serenely beneath me. Heard the rowers. Encountered some walkers who had no idea I was there. When I called out, “excuse me,” one of them dramatically flinched. Never know how to handle these situations. Sometimes I find it funny, their frantic gestures. Other times, it’s annoying that they’re blocking the whole path and I can’t get past them without startling them. Encountered another walker, an older woman with hiking poles, listening loudly to a speech. The women speaking was calling out, “we’re not the problem, we’re the solution!” What is she referring to? Who is the we? What is the problem and what is the solution?

Cliffhanger update: the leaning tree trunk near the 38th street steps seems to be leaning more. I almost had to duck as I ran under it. Is it lower, or am I just forgetting how lean-y it already was? Will it lean even more or fall or be removed soon?

Ended my run right past the small clearing in the tunnel of trees. I’m stuck in my writing about it. Is it because it’s more magical in the early spring before the trees have filled in? When I look at it now, it’s still a clearing but it doesn’t make me feel dizzy or like I’m floating as I run past it. Maybe I should look at earlier entries about it?

A Kind of Meadow
BY CARL PHILLIPS

—shored
by trees at its far ending,
as is the way in moral tales:

whether trees as trees actually,
for their shadow and what
inside of it

hides, threatens, calls to;
or as ever-wavering conscience,
cloaked now, and called Chorus;

or, between these, whatever
falls upon the rippling and measurable,
but none to measure it, thin

fabric of this stands for.
A kind of meadow, and then
trees—many, assembled, a wood

therefore. Through the wood
the worn
path, emblematic of Much

Trespass: Halt. Who goes there?
A kind of meadow, where it ends
begin trees, from whose twinning

of late light and the already underway
darkness you were expecting perhaps
the stag to step forward, to make

of its twelve-pointed antlers
the branching foreground to a backdrop
all branches;

or you wanted the usual
bird to break cover at that angle
at which wings catch entirely

what light’s left,
so that for once the bird isn’t miracle
at all, but the simplicity of patience

and a good hand assembling: first
the thin bones, now in careful
rows the feathers, like fretwork,

now the brush, for the laying-on
of sheen…. As is always the way,
you tell yourself, in

poems—Yes, always,
until you have gone there,
and gone there, “into the

field,” vowing Only until
there’s nothing more
I want—thinking it, wrongly,

a thing attainable, any real end
to wanting, and that it is close, and that
it is likely, how will you not

this time catch hold of it: flashing,
flesh at once

lit and lightless, a way
out, the one dappled way, back—

I like how this poem demands many readings, some of them out loud, for me to begin to understand it. I have not yet read it enough. So far, here’s what I’m drawn to: trees and moral tales; trees as hiding/threatening/calling to; trees as Chorus; the double-meaning of stands (represents + a group of trees); the worn path as emblem; trees whose twinning of late light and the already underway darkness.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Today’s open swim was so crowded! Hundreds of swimmers. Too hard to see them all in the sun. So I only swam 2 loops and an extra mini loop off the big beach. The water was choppy but I didn’t care. Couldn’t see much but I kept swimming. I felt strong for most of the swim until suddenly my right shoulder hurt. Now, a few hours later, I am very tired. Swimming in the lake is the best. What joy to still be able to see enough to swim and bike!