july 18/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.5 miles
two trails
77 degrees
dew point: 70

Hot! Thick air. Sluggish legs. Listened to an Agatha Christie audiobook on the upper trail, the gorge on the lower trail. Also heard some kids up above somewhere. The lower trail was a little muddy from the recent rain, especially the mulch-y leaves. Writing this a day later so I don’t remember much. Ran for two miles before stopping to take a quick walk break up the stairs. Pretty soon I’ll have all the ups and downs and turns of this short trail memorized.

Cliffhanger: a fallen tree leans across the path, near the steps up to 38th street, held up by the trunk of another tree. Will it fall soon and hit someone walking under? Will the parks department remove it? Will it stay here all summer?

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

On the way to the lake muttered “jerk” under my breath at one idiot driver. On the way back muttered to another clueless driver, “ass.” Aside from that, was hot and happy to be able to see well enough to bike. At one point I wondered, has my brain just memorized the path? I’ve biked it 100s of times and have carefully noticed all the curves and curbs and craters. At the last scan of my central vision, it was almost gone. How can I see anything? Brains are fascinating.

Cliffhanger: There’s a short stretch of trail, right before and after 28th, that’s “officially” closed for construction. Even though signs are blocking the trail, you can still get by them and the trail/road are still bike-able. When will they start construction? How many more times can I bike on this part of the trail? Will it take the rest of the summer? What path/trail/road/sidewalk will I bike on instead?

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

Another wonderful open swim. The water was too warm, almost like bath water. At times it felt heavy and slow, like swimming in place or through simple syrup. Other times, it felt fast and smooth. I stayed on course the whole time. Swimming to the little beach, I could see the buoys enough to know I was swimming straight. On the way back, I could only see them when they were right next to me. Instead of sighting with buoys, I used the kayaks to line up the path. The third time I was swimming back, my goggles fogged up and I really couldn’t see anything. I didn’t panic but I still don’t like swimming without being able to see something–the roof of the building, the light pole, other swimmers, buoys. Glad I only swam 3 loops. After biking home, I was exhausted!

Achingly Beautiful How the Sky Blooms Umber at the End of the Day, Through the Canopy
Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Summers spent practicing in the apartment
stairwell: hand on the bannister, one foot after
another. Did I ever tell you I couldn’t walk

until I was three and then sort of dragged
myself up and downstairs until I was seven
or eight? That burgundy carpet.

I’d stop to breathe and look out the window,
over brick tenements, toward the Capitol
building. Oak leaves so full of late summer

sun even I thought, “Obscene” and stood stunned
for a moment. My God. The urge to rest like the birds
on the phone wires, chatting like barristers

at the end of the day. Myself the useless
Ambassador from the third floor. I was the last one
up so the door was left open. I can still see it gaping

from two stories down. Sometimes music played.
Sometimes I’d smell supper. Neighbors stopped
to say hello. Achingly beautiful how the sky

looked as I stood after they left. Nicer somehow
in the middle. All the trees tucking blackbirds
into their darkness. It really did take this long.

What a beautiful poem! I love the oak leaves so full of summer that they were obscene–so true!–and birds chatting like barristers and blackbirds being tucked into the darkness by trees.

july 16/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 83%
dew point: 66

Hot and harder today than yesterday even though the dew point was lower. Ran 2 miles without stopping then walked then ran again. Listened to headphones. Someone has placed another small stone on top of the ancient boulder. Noticed that at one spot in the tunnel of trees my view filled with a green canopy except for at the very top. I could see a thin line of sky. It looked like air at the surface with me under green water. Cool. Faintly heard the rowers on the river. By the end, felt slow and tired but happy to be outside and moving.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

Started my bike ride in a soft, steady rain. Ended it in sunshine. Didn’t mind biking in the rain at all. Less bikers on the trail. No chaos by the falls. The creek was high as I biked by my favorite part of the path, but not over its banks yet. By the time I reached the lake, it was much warmer and brighter and the buoys were already out.

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

An hour before open swim it was pouring rain and thundering so I wasn’t sure if it would happen. But it was clear by 5:30. I could see the buoys without any problems on the way to the little beach but hardly at all on the way back. Almost ran into the lifeguards on kayaks a few times–well not almost. I saw them in time, but I was headed straight for them. I blame the lifeguards. Too close to the buoys. I heard someone else complaining about how close they were. One lifeguard was almost on top of the final buoy. The water was warm. Too warm. I can’t imagine how hot it would have been swimming in a wetsuit. The water was also calm. No waves today. It felt thick and heavy at times. Breathed every 5 and sometimes every 6. Since it was the free night it was more crowded with lots of slower swimmers stopping and floating. I didn’t run into a single one which was amazing because I didn’t notice some of them until I was almost on top of them. Saw some planes in the sky. No sailboats or fish or ducks. Felt strong and straight and joyful. What a wonderful way to spend a Tuesday evening!

Springing
Marie Ponsot – 1921-2019

In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

Swimming aimlessly is luxury just as walking
loudly up a shallow stream is.

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air;
strangers meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.

What wd it be to be water, one body of water
(what water is is another mystery) (We are
water divided.) It wd be a self without walls,
with surface tension, specific gravity a local
exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising,
rising to fall, falling to rise.

july 14/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

Open swim! A wonderful morning for a swim, even if it was too warm and sunny and windy. The water was the choppiest it’s been this year, which didn’t bother me at all. The buoys were way off to the side but since they were in line, I didn’t mind. I swam strong and straight and steady. Mostly breathed every 6 strokes. The rough water gently rocked me. Sometimes the waves were off to one side, sometimes it was like swimming into a wall. At one point, near one of the buoys, I felt like I was swimming in one of those forever pools where you swim in place–is that what they’re called? Loved the swim today. Love being in the water. Always have.

Out of Water
BY MARIE PONSOT

A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
dots the grass already dotty
with aster-white and clover.

I warn, “They won’t last, out of water.”
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of  water
children don’t last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of  what’s next
and what was yesterday
they pick today.

july 11/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
two trails
67 degrees

Just a few degrees cooler and an hour earlier makes a difference. An easier run. No walking. No headphones either. Lots of cars on the road, lots of bikers on the path. Heard the rowers but didn’t see them. Greeted some runners and walkers. Listened to water dripping out of the sewer pipe. Don’t remember thinking about anything except how, even with all the sun, the tunnel of trees seemed dark and thick and beautiful today.

Our Valley
by Philip Levine

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis
water: 80 degrees

A great night for a swim! Mostly breathed every six to my right, but switched it up a little with some 5s on right and left. I need to write some more poetry inspired by these breathing patterns. The buoys were lined up very oddly–too far off the big beach, angled too sharply near the little beach–which made it difficult to sight, but I didn’t panic and swam without seeing. Well, I could see the first two buoys but not the third one closest to the little beach. Don’t remember hearing any planes or seeing any fish. Noticed a sailboat in my peripheral vision most of the time. Felt strong and a little sore in my right calf. Was really tired at the end of today. So much exercise!

Almost forgot about the water temperature. So strange: pockets of freezing cold water mixed with warmer water. The water was extra cold just off the little beach. I like swimming through this really cold water–a sudden surprise, very brief, then warmish water again. The water is 80 degrees, which is more than warm enough for me. I still hear people complaining about how cold it is. I can’t help myself from thinking, wimps!

Breathing
BY MARK O’BRIEN

Grasping for straws is easier;
You can see the straws.
“This most excellent canopy, the air, look you,”
Presses down upon me
At fifteen pounds per square inch,
A dense, heavy, blue-glowing ocean,
Supporting the weight of condors
That swim its churning currents.
All I get is a thin stream of it,
A finger’s width of the rope that ties me to life
As I labor like a stevedore to keep the connection.
Water wouldn’t be so circumspect;
Water would crash in like a drunken sailor,
But air is prissy and genteel,
Teasing me with its nearness and pervading immensity.
The vast, circumambient atmosphere
Allows me but ninety cubic centimeters
Of its billions of gallons and miles of sky.
I inhale it anyway,
Knowing that it will hurt
In the weary ends of my crumpled paper bag lungs.

                                                                                                                    July, 1988

Mark O’Brien, “Breathing” from The Man in the Iron Lung.

I like the connections drawn between air and water here. I often think about that while I’m swimming, imagining worlds reversed, where the air is water, water air. Writing this, I’m wondering: how much oxygen is in the lake? I looked it up and found an article about dissolved oxygen and how fish need it for breathing. Air typically has an oxygen concentration of around 21%, while water has less than 1%.

july 9/RUNSWIM

run: 3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
dew point: 62

I’m pretty sure I wrote this entry already, earlier today, but now I can’t find it and it’s almost 9 PM and I don’t have a lot of energy to write anything else. But I’ll try. It was hot this morning but it didn’t bother me in the first mile. There was a nice breeze and it was overcast. Everything seemed fuzzy and dreamlike, out of focus. I remembered to notice the river–I saw it through the trees shimmering silver. Started feeling the heat in mile 2 but managed to keep running until 2.5 miles. There were so many cars on the river road. Must have been heading to work.

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

The forecast said rain and thunderstorms at 5:30, when open swim was supposed to begin, but it was clear with the sun promising to peek through the gray clouds. The first loop was a real challenge. My googles were fogged up and I absolutely couldn’t see any of the buoys. Not even a quick glance. Was it because the sun was gone and it was gray? Not sure, but I decided that I had to swim another loop to push through. The sun came out and suddenly I could see the buoys. Not all the time but enough of a glimpse to keep me on track. I felt strong today. No aching shoulder or sore legs. Breathing: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right. Didn’t see any fish, hear any planes, run into any other swimmers. Didn’t see any white sails or airplane sharks in the sky. Just me and the water. Wonderful.

Preface

Swimming is continuous, only the rivers are intermittent.

The river is something that happens,
like exercise or illness, to the body
on any given day
I am rivering.

Not that the river is like the body
or the river is the body
but ooooooooooo both have gone
and what is left is something else.

To not end where you thought you did,
not with skin but water
not with arms but meadow
of watercress, dropwort, floating pennywort,
against all odds to be buoyant.

To feel there is an upward force
greater than the weight of the heart
the knuckles the head to feel as in to feel
it physically push up the ribs which are bones now

everything remembering what it is
becoming is remembering
sinking in the silt is the sand
of the shell of the bone singing
in the reeds in the rushes
hordes of heartbeats not my own:

mollusc onto stone,
milfoil onto moss,
mayfly onto trout,

metal onto clay,
acid onto wire,
electrified chicken wire to keep the salmon in
the summer we’ll make a day of it,
fill the car up, make a day of it,
fill the river, make like mayflies

in the summer, swim
in traffic, swim in the car
in the river in the summer in the city
in the chicken in the acid in the salmon in the rain
in the silt in the sulphur in the algae in the day we’ll come
and part as friends

in the day in the river in the moss in the rushes we’ll come and part

in the river in the heather in the rushes in the rain we’ll stay and the day and the day
and the days dart over and summer is over
us salmon leap over
us all come apart
in the end
of the day
and the river.

july 7/BIKESWIM

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

Sunday mornings are always hard to sight with the sun in my eyes as I swim towards the smaller beach. It was supposed to be cloudy but instead there was bright sun. I swam without really seeing anything and I didn’t panic. Strange to be getting so used to swimming blind. My breathing pattern: 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 6 breathe left. I like staying under the water longer. Oh, to be a fish for a few minutes!

bike: 12 miles
twins’ stadium and back

Biked to the game. Didn’t feel too bad. I am still not changing gears, even on the big hills. Why not? Not sure, but it seems to be working. It doesn’t make it too hard.

june 26/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
74 degrees

Overcast on the way there, sunny on the way back. Hardly any wind. Not too many other bikers. A few annoying surreys on the way back. I’m very happy that I’m not having trouble seeing things–like curbs or other bikers.

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis
7 loops around the white buoys

What a wonderful day for a swim! The water was so calm and I had it all to myself. Every year I intend to swim at the lake as many mornings as I can. Then I find reasons not to do it. I’m hopeful that I can remember how great this swim was today and commit to more morning swims in July. My right shoulder hurt a little but otherwise it was a peaceful, relaxing swim. Just me and the water–and a steady stream of planes in the air. Again, lots of counting: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left. No deep thoughts. Mostly, I kept thinking: sight the buoy, stay straight. Or, is that the tree line I’m seeing or a kayaker? Or, are there any fish beneath me? Or, what distance have I gone? Lots of questions, I guess. When I got out, I felt strong and sore and satisfied. Swimming in the lake is the best. I prefer swimming across the lake the most–it’s more interesting and challenging–but swimming off the big beach is cool too.

Theory of Writing
Souvankham Thammavongsa

We all know two plus two equals four
And we begin with that. We learn to add
Before we learn how to take away, to lose.
It’s a great way to learn how to write. To
Have a formula, a line to follow. Before
We know what adding means, we have to
Know what two means. What two and two
Mean together. There are many ways to get to
Four. Five subtract one is equal to four.
One times four is equal to four. The square
Root of sixteen is four. A square root
Is a number that looks exactly like it, multiplied
By itself. Four divided by one also equals
Four. Four to the power of one is equal to four too.
We can get there through a derivative, if
That’s how you want it. The square of the
Hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares
Of the other two sides can also get you to four.
There are so many ways to get to four.
Once all these other ways of getting
To four is understood, it’s not really four
You’re after. Anyone can get to four. And
You know this. Maybe it’s the certainty of
Four. That you can always get to it. That it will
Always turn out the same. Maybe that’s what
You want. The certainty of four. Or maybe
It’s the ways in which you know how
To get to four that is the point of writing.
What you had to learn and build, the time it took
To hold open the possibility for yourself.

june 25/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
river road, south/lower path, north
68 degrees

Sun! Breeze! Low humidity! Strong legs and a good attitude. A nice run. Listened to my playlist for the first half, running on the river road path next to the road and another split rail fence. Next time I run this, I should count how many times the walking and biking paths diverge. Ran to the 44th street parking lot, just before the double bridge, and then turned down to the lower path. Took off my headphones and heard some trickling water and the rowers. I tried to look quickly at the river but I couldn’t see the rowers. I only heard the coxswain calmly directing them. Don’t remember much else about the run except encountering a bunch of dogs and their humans in the tunnel of trees. Oh–and so many cars on the road this morning! Was there a road closure? Was it the time that I was running? Something else?

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: .5 miles
lake nokomis

Open Swim was cancelled tonight because of high wind, which was very strange. They’ve never cancelled due to high wind before. I am trying not to worry too much about it all, but this is the third session in a row that has had problems–last Tuesday it was cancelled because of the threat of rain even though their policy has always been that you can swim in the rain, just not thunder, and Sunday started 30 minutes late. Open Swim is one of my favorite things and I would very upset if it stopped happening.

june 24/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 4.25 miles
to lake nokomis

Biked over early to open swim. Wasn’t sure when (or if) the thunderstorms would start. As I began, it began drizzling (or spitting as I like to say to my daughter). Not too many people biking on the trail. More runners trying to beat the storms. A nice, easy ride with no vision problems even though it was really gray and my sunglasses made it look even grayer.

swim: 1.6 miles
lake nokomis
68 degrees/drizzling

Wore my wetsuit which was much harder to get on with all the humidity. Spent a few minutes trying to get it zipped up before I finally managed it. Got in early and did 4 loops (.75 miles) off the big beach. The lifeguards were 30 minutes late setting up the course. Once the course was open, I did a loop + an extra trip around the first buoy. The water was wonderfully smooth. The buoys were easier than usual to see. A great swim. I was wiped out when I was done, which felt good. Thought about doing another loop but I wasn’t sure when it might start storming and I still had to bike home–of course, 1 1/2 hours later it still hasn’t stormed. I don’t remember thinking about much while I swam. Mostly I counted: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left, or 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 6 breathe left. I like counting. It’s relaxing and distracting. Didn’t see any fish but I did see one duck. No boats. I didn’t hear any planes. Didn’t run into anyone. No kayaks off course. Saw some bright pink, bright yellow, glowing green buoys tethered to swimmers. Most swimmers were wearing wetsuits.

bike: 4.25 miles
back home from lake nokomis

Couldn’t stop smiling on my bike ride back. Happy to have missed the thunder/rain. Happy to have had a good workout. To be in the wonderful water. To see the buoys and not get off course. To bike without the fear of running into someone or the curb.

Right before I started swimming, it began to rain. Soft, slow, steady drops for only a few minutes. I love rain on the lake–what it does to the air hovering above the water, what it does to the water hovering below the air. I searched for “rain on the lake” at the Poetry Foundation site and found this lovely poem:

Song
BY LLOYD SCHWARTZ

rain on the lake
room at the lodge
alone in a room
in the lazy light

loons on the lake
geese in the air
moose in the woods
aware    awake

a cry dislodged
from the musty woods
the gamy musk
of the one aroused

the roaming moose
the rooms lit up
the woods awake
in the loony light

the moon dislodged
the lake aflame
the Muse amazed
amused     aroused

june 18/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

The bike ride to the lake is only 4.25 miles and only takes 20 minutes but it seems much longer. I think it’s because of all the different places I bike by: south on the river road, through the crowded minnehaha falls, by the Dairy Queen, over the mustache bridge, on the creek path, close to lake hiawatha, up the hill, then around lake nokomis. I didn’t have any problems with my vision today as I biked. Nice! I should make sure to bike more this summer while I can still see. The bike ride back, after my swim, was good too. I just barely missed getting stuck in the narrow bike part of the double bridge at 44th street with a surrey.

swim: 2 miles/3 loops
lake nokomis
75 degrees

What a great night for a swim! Not too much wind so the water was calm. The buoys were positioned well. I could barely see them on the way back but there were enough people around to see the way and I could always see the top of the building at the big beach. My sighting is good this year, which is such a relief. Lot of swimmers because it was free night–first timers preparing for their first triathlons. Heard lots of people calling out, “I can do this” or “I’m swimming in 3-2-1….I mean it this time…3-2-1….okay, here I go.” Didn’t have too many run-ins (or swim-ins?) with other swimmers–I fear I might have routed a few. I was tired by the end. Breathed every five or five on the right side, 3 on the left. Or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or ducks. One sailboat before open swim started. Heard lots of planes roaring overhead. Got to the lake almost an hour early so I sat on the beach and listened. Heard people talking, dogs barking, and a swing rhythmically creaking. As it went up it sounded like Rs rolling. On the way down: mmmwwwooowww. Over and over again.

Just looked at my notes and saw that I wrote down swarming bugs. Little gnats dancing around, flying in my face. A few years ago, Scott looked it up and discovered that they’re not swarming but mating.

Just read that Joy Harjo will be the next US Poet Laureate. So cool! In honor of her, here’s one of her poems:

Ah, Ah
BY JOY HARJO
for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

june 16/SWIM

1.38 miles/2 loops
lake nokomis
61 degrees (air) 70 degrees (water)

The air was colder than the water. Wetsuit weather. The light was strange and the buoys were hard to see–only 2 of them today, but I did fine. I could see just enough to not get off course. Just barely glimpsed the bottom of the rowboat at the little beach, overturned under the lifeguard stand, and the top of the lifeguard building at the big beach. I felt buoyant, floating on top of the water. My back hurt a little. Didn’t see any fish or ducks or sail boats. I don’t think I heard any airplanes. Didn’t run into any swimmers. No weeds floating in my face. What did I think about? Mostly, I hoped my back wound’t hurt and my leg wouldn’t cramp up or the buoy wouldn’t disappear or I wouldn’t end up way off course. I only did 2 loops but I was tired at the end. Now my body burns, a glowing, welcome ache.

june 13/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 2.25 miles
river road up above, south/down below, north
63 degrees

So beautiful this morning! Sunny, calm, cool, low humidity. Decided to do a quick, easy run. Stayed up above, next to the road running south and took the lower, rougher trail on the way back, running north. Noticed the boulders and the split trail fence that stretched alongside the walking path up above. Heard some yelling, laughing kids at a school. Running back, on the lower path, I payed attention to the wrought iron fence and how bushes and vines and wildflowers were reaching through the bars. Will this be trimmed back anytime soon and who will do it, volunteers or the parks department?

bike: 4.3 miles
lake nokomis

Biking by Minnehaha Falls park the parkway was so crowded. Very happy to be on a bike and not in a car! Also, noticed as I turned onto the lake biking path that the flooding is over and the walking path is open again. All that’s left is a mucky mess.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis
70 degrees (air and water)

A great second open swim at lake nokomis. Decided that 2 loops with one extra trip around the first buoy (an extra 200 yards) was enough. Cold in the water without a wetsuit. The water felt very thick and slow at the beginning–extra dense, which is strange because I think that’s supposed to happen when the water is warmer. Couldn’t really see the buoys at all on the way back because of the sun but it didn’t matter because I could see the tops of the building at the big beach. Saw several swimmers swimming way off course and realized that I swim straighter than a lot of people who can see much better than me. Coolest thing I remember: watching the bubbles from my hand slicing into the water make funky shapes and lines.

Looking for a poem about lakes, I found this one. I like the idea of wind and the sound of wind being two separate things and the soft, simple way this poem reveals itself–oh and the line: “these creatures robed/in your parents’ skins.”

At the Lake House
BY JON LOOMIS

Wind and the sound of wind—
across the bay a chainsaw revs
and stalls. I’ve come here to write,

but instead I’ve been thinking
about my father, who, in his last year,
after his surgery, told my mother

he wasn’t sorry—that he’d cried
when the other woman left him,
that his time with her

had made him happier than anything
he’d ever done. And my mother,
who’d cooked and cleaned for him

all those years, cared for him
after his heart attack, could not
understand why he liked the other

woman more than her,
but he did. And she told me
that after he died she never went

to visit his grave—not once.
You think you know them,
these creatures robed

in your parents’ skins. Well,
you don’t. Any more than you know
what the pines want from the wind,

if the lake’s content with this pale
smear of sunset, if the loon calls
for its mate, or for another.

june 6/RUNSWIM

3.1 miles
railroad trestle and back
75 degrees

So hot and hard to breathe! Not sure if it’s all the cottonwood flying but I had a lot of trouble breathing. Time to start running earlier–good thing school ends for the kids tomorrow. Listened to my audio book as I ran, so I don’t remember much–except it was hot, I was sweating a lot and my throat needed to be cleared all the time. Came close to tripping over a dog.

Stopped running at the spot I’m trying to write a haibun about. 4 fences–wrought-iron, stone retaining wall, wood retaining wall, split rail. These fences stand at the start of the ascent into the tunnel of trees. Noticed some small maples (I think) on the edge of the path. Not sure what the other trees are. I did see some broad leaves with jagged edges. What are those? At the beginning, the slope isn’t too steep or high but it gets steeper and higher and darker and narrower as you climb. Wondered why this not so steep spot was the place where a wrought iron fence was placed when there are much steeper spots farther up and decided it was for the cars coming around a curve up above. Not sure if that’s correct. Did a car crash through the split rail here too as some point? In the winter, when this lower path is not cleared and I have to run above on the biking path, I sometimes worry that a car might slip on ice, slide up on the path and hit me. At the end of the tunnel of trees and almost the top of the hill are too boulders (I need to go back and study them some more) and a welcoming oak tree. On top of the taller rock is a cairn of 3 or 4 rocks stacked on top of each other. Who put them there? I think I first noticed them last year. At the top of the hill, is a porta potty, a parking lot, an overlook, some benches, more boulders and the welcoming oaks.

Breathe. As in. (shadow)
Rosamond S. King

Breathe
. As in what if
the shadow is gold
en? Breathe. As in
hale assuming
exhale. Imagine
that. As in first
person singular. Homonym
:eye. As in subject. As
in centeroftheworld as in
mundane. The opposite of spectacle
spectacular. This is just us
breathing. Imagine
normalized respite
gold in shadows
. You have the
right to breathe and remain
. Imagine
that
.

swim: 1000 yards
lake nokomis

More shafts of light. Such a cool effect. Tons of cottonwood on the water surface (and in my suit after I got out of the lake and took a shower). A few strange floating objects–wood or something else? The sun was creating this weird red tint effect on everything. I think I saw a few fish swimming below me and another swimmer next to me. Lots of boats encroaching on the designated swimming area. Nearing the shore, swimming inside the wading area, the water was clearer and I could see the bottom. Really cool. I didn’t see all the things on the bottom, like hairbands, but just where the bottom began.

june 5/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 1050 yards/.6 miles
lake nokomis

Back again at the beach today. Only one small, puffy cloud, the rest of the sky was a bright, blameless blue. Lots of people at the lake but not many in the water. I didn’t think it was too cold–I wonder what the temperature is right now? Whatever it is, I didn’t need a wetsuit and I wasn’t freezing after I got out of the water. Did 3 big loops without stopping and then, after a quick break, one more loop. Maybe a mile is only 6 loops?

The water was turgid and light brown with several shafts of paler brown light beaming down from above. A cool effect. A few times I saw some silver flashes below me. Big fish? Every swim right outside the big beach is tinged with mide trepidation–what’s below me? and what if it decides to surface? Planes heading to MSP Airport roared overhead. Was able to mostly spot the smallish, vertical white buoys. I think I’ll practice more sighting (and not panicking when I can’t sight) tomorrow. Feels good to be in the water again. Hopefully I can keep up my goal of swimming almost every day.

In honor of the fish I may or may not have seen but certainly swam above, here’s Elizabeth Bishop’s classic and marvelous poem:

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop – 1911-1979

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

june 4/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
to lake nokomis and back
swim: 1000 yards/.57 miles
lake nokomis main beach

Yes! Summer is here. My first real swim of the year at Lake Nokomis. Thought about doing a mile but since I haven’t swam since October, I thought I’d better take it easy. I did 5 loops in my wetsuit which I don’t like wearing because it feels tight and too constricting. But today it was nice in the cold water. The water was not clear at all and a bit choppy. Noticed a few kayaks just outside the swim area. Was able to see the white buoys some of the time. The real test will be when I try to sight the orange buoy a week from today. I’d like to go swimming as many as I can before that. My goal is to regularly do at least 10 loops.

Don’t remember thinking about much except for whether or not my legs were cramping up or if water was getting in my ear or if there were any fish below me or boats approaching or how my yellow backpack was doing propped up against the big light post. A few times the waves in the water looked like other swimmers.

Swimming/Sarah Arvio

“Our relationship to you is the same as
that between abstraction and metaphor,
between the idea of a clear lake

and the citing of the lake to describe
the clear idea,” one said with a laugh.
Oh, I said then, what a fine idea

and now what lake will embody its fact?
And this: Aren’t we tired of comparisons
to the natural world? Then this: “And what

world isn’t natural?” “Only the world
of the mind is unnatural.” And this:
“It defies nature and defines nature

and won’t be defined. The life of the mind.”
“But its death“ one punned: “Perish the thought.”
“In the deep all these questions sink away,

and only the swimming matters: water
sliding around the head and heart and hip,
arms cresting and curving, with not against;

carried along on the roll and the rush,
a good swimming knows water won’t resist,
swift or even slow but yes, effortless.”

“Are these words merely pretty? No, my dear.
Water is the principle of pleasure
and of pain, the receiver of the touch,

for the cells and tissues are waterbound.”
With the splash of a smile one turned to me:
“What bodies do we choose? A glacial lake,

cold as ice, aqua-blue and vaporing,
on which one red leaf is a gash of joy,
a sultry southern sea warm as a bath

and carrying its weight in liquid salt.
We covet water through which light will ride
and you, my dear…” Here his words drifted off.

may 31/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 100 yards?
lake nokomis

Yes! Open water swimming is here! Well, not officially until June 11th when open swim club starts, but I briefly swam in the lake today so I’ll count it. Water temperature was probably 65 or 70 degrees. It was pretty cold and my goggles were fogging up so I only did a quick swim out to the white buoy and back. Unlike last year, the water was not clear at all. Guess it must be because of all of the rain and flooding? I was hoping to get freaked out by seeing everything. Oh well. When I got out I felt a bit dizzy. Was it because of the cold? Not enough food? I hope it’s nothing to worry about. I’m hoping to swim a lot more this summer. 4 or 5 times a week.

Still thinking about prose poems. Here’s another one. Wow, does it get dark.

She Spent a Year Hallucinating Birds
BY JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM

They perched on roofs and fences and sills. They posed statue-still on catenary lines. They aligned along cables like prayer beads on rope. They amassed en masse on the cemetery lawn and marauded the broad, yawning fields like cattle. Their cackles were black. Each shadow dove and pecked. They nested in chimneys and chirped at the chime of the church bell. They worked in shifts. Clocked out at odd hours. They laid their eggs in the Vs of trees. They teemed on the dry-baked banks of creek beds, streams the sun had overseen. They teetered on the bed-knob tops of flagpoles. They pitched like pennies into founts. They pitched like babies into wells. They thumped at doors then skulked away like hoodlum teens. They jabbed her. When she cried they did it faster. Everyone knows what happened next. Some grew big as sunflower stalks, others tall like bonfire flames. Or moving vans. Or the sick, brick houses people die inside of every night. Their hatchlings canopied the sky. Was it her fault, then, when they pinned her to the ground and thrust their feathers down her throat? Or wormed between her legs in bad-man ways? Or rattled plumes and whooped and beat her body with their wings? Or locked their talons to her thighs and tra-la-la-ed that ditty from the old-time music box? Or forced their whiskies past her lips? Or put her in the pillory? This was foreplay, in a way. They rolled in rabid packs and woofed like dogs. She couldn’t throw a bone. The meat was gone. They chased her and they named her and they boiled her tears and bathed her. Then they ate her.

oct 25/BIKESWIM

bike: 7.5 miles
to ywca and back
50 degrees

My last bike ride of the fall? Could be. Pretty sure it’s my last bike ride to the Y. My membership ends when October does. No choice, I’ll have to run outside all winter, which is fine with me.

swim: 1 mile/1850 yards
ywca pool

This could also be my last swim of the year at the y. Don’t know if I’ll get back there before next Thursday when my membership ends. It was a good swim. I noticed the sounds–so loud! Everything amplified by the water. Sloshing and thumping and splashing. I need some better words. At some point during the swim, I imagined swimming next to a younger version of myself. Then I imagined all 6 lanes filled with differently aged-Saras, younger Saras and older Saras. What would we think of each other? Strange and magical. I liked imagining a Sara-filled pool. Later, I noticed the shadows of the trees, just outside, dancing on the pool floor. It looked like the pool bottom was alive. I liked being in this world, free of gravity and the need to see anything too clearly.

oct 9/RUNSWIM

5.75 miles
franklin loop
47 degrees/raining

When I started my run, it wasn’t raining. But within minutes I felt some mist and by the time I reached the east side of the river it was raining. At first I didn’t feel the rain. I only heard it gently falling on the leaves. Such a comforting sound. Soon enough it was raining and I felt it on my face. I don’t mind running in the rain, as long as it’s not freezing, which it wasn’t today.

What else do I remember?

  • the squeaking sound the wet leaves made as I ran over them
  • the once yellow now glowing orange leaves near the lake street bridge
  • avoiding the cracks in the path just past the railroad bridge
  • looking down at the river as I crossed the Franklin bridge, remembering run across it in the race 2 days ago
  • hearing the trickling of water below the gorge on the st. paul side
  • hearing a dog’s sharp bark down in the gorge
  • seeing a runner up ahead on the franklin bridge and slowly getting closer, finally passing them before the meeker island sign
  • smiling as I ran back across the lake street bridge
  • seeing the Daily Walker up ahead, dressed only in a short sleeved shirt, passing him
  • running past 2 walkers with big umbrellas at my favorite part of the path near the end of my run
  • seeing red yellow orange leaves
  • encountering only one spazzy squirrel

swim: 1 mile/1800 yards
ywca pool

Until my membership expires at the end of the month, I’m swimming a mile at the y after band rehearsal on Tuesday nights. It felt good. I felt strong. And, amazingly, swimming for 30 minutes straight wasn’t boring or tedious.

oct 2/RUNSWIM

5.5 miles
franklin loop
50 degrees/96% humidity

Misty. Humid. Cool. Fall colors are appearing. Greenish yellows. Reds. Oranges. Greeted the daily walker. Felt good, relaxed. After stopping a few times to deal with a phone call in the first 2 miles, was able to run the rest without walking. Running over the Franklin bridge was beautiful. Admired an inverted image of the railroad bridge in the water. Ran around 20-30 seconds faster per mile than my last run. Saw a rafter of wild turkeys on the St. Paul side. Maybe a dozen of them just hanging out on the lawn of the Shriners Hospital. I love that I can see wild turkeys in the middle of the city. Heard water trickling down the side of the gorge. Felt water trickling off of my face. Wondered how long it would be before all the leaves would be gone and I could see to the other side. Thought about the 10 mile race I’m running this Sunday. My goal: to enjoy it and to not take it out too fast.

Anything else I remember?: cars rushing by on the river road, the gorge looking gorgeous in dark green and rich brown, the grit crunching under my feet by the lake street bridge, the yellow leaves on the trees right by the marshall bridge almost all gone already, squirrels darting frantically, no rowers, no roller skiers, any bikers?, no ducks quacking or geese honking, no bugs buzzing, no sirens wailing, no eagles or hawks soaring, no runners or walkers or bikers or drivers irritating me, my knee hurting only slightly and not too often.

swim: 1 mile/1760 yards
ywca pool

After band rehearsal, walked a few blocks to the y for a quick swim. 8:45 is a great time to go to the pool–no one else is around! There was one other swimmer a few lanes over. Far enough over that I couldn’t really see her for most of my swim. My mile went fast. So fast that I wondered if I had miscounted. But I didn’t. I often miscount, thinking ahead too much. The only way I don’t lose track is by mixing up my stroke count. I break the mile up into 200s with a 50 breathing every 3 strokes, a 50 every 4, a 50 every 5, a 50 every 6. I don’t remember much about the swim except: staring down at the blue line in the middle of the lane and then counting the tile of the other blue line that marks the drop off for the deep end: 3 tiles; looking up every so often, noticing the lifeguard walking around; trying to quickly glance at the clock as I swam by but having trouble; and noticing that there are at least 3 clocks within view as I swim, none of which I could see that well.

sept 27/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
to the ywca pool

I always bike on the river road to the greenway then over the Sabo bridge,until I reach lake street and the high school where my son goes. I turn left, bike on the sidewalk for half a block, carefully turn in the narrow gate and I’m there, at the u. Today for the first time, maybe ever, I saw a train on the tracks beside the greenway trail. Usually the tracks are empty or, occasionally, someone is walking their dog on them.

swim: 1 mile/1800 yards
ywca pool

Changing into my suit, I overheard a woman talking about swimming in the locker room. “People ask me why I swim. Isn’t it boring, just swimming back and forth? And I tell them that it gives you time to think. I’m always thinking about work stuff, planning what I need to do. I should get paid for my time in the pool because I’m working!” I like locker rooms and the rituals around either getting ready to work out or winding down after you’re finished. I don’t always like talking to other people, but I enjoy listening to their conversations. Frequently, they’re happy and positive, about how great it is to work out or when they started working out or answers to the question of where they got their lotion/socks/shoes/shirt/shorts. The best conversations are between the older women (the silver sneaker set) between 9:30 and 10:00, after they’ve finished the aqua blast class. So much laughing and giggling and joy. They feel good, working their bodies in the water.

Only swam a mile today because I think all the flip turns are messing with my kneecap (I’ve displaced it before, pushing off the wall). I could stop doing flip turns, but I’d rather stop coming to the y and run outside this winter. Swimming is something I’ll do in the summer. Noticed that the blue tiles that make up the plus signs on the walls at either end of the lap are in blocks of 6. I tried thinking about different things while I swam, most of which I don’t remember. Lots of thoughts about my stroke and the catch, push, pull, recovery of it. And, one fun idea about a writing experiment I’m doing right now about my many Sara identities (the Saras): the Sara with a smile not the Sara with storms brewing in her eyes.

Discovered a wonderful poet who is also a swimmer the other day: Maxine Kumin. In her poem “To Swim, to Believe” she writes:

Each time I tear this seam to enter,
all that I carry is taken away from me,
shucked in the dive.

Where have I come from? Where am I going?
What do I translate, gliding back and forth
erasing my own stitch marks in the lane?

What a beautiful way to describe how swimming takes away/erases your thoughts/worries/sense of self!