july 22/SWIMRUN

swim: 1 loop
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees
9:30 am

FWA did it! Today, he swam across the lake and back again. 1200 yards. It was fun to stop at the little beach and talk with other swimmers, while we took a break. We met an older woman, who loves to swim around the lake, even when it’s not open swim. She said her kids told her she better stop because the fine is big if you are caught. (I think it might be $2500!) One of her responses, Technically I’m not swimming across the lake, but around it. I like her.

The water was great for the swim: smooth, and not choppy at all. Much easier than when it’s windy. It has been fun training with FWA. I’m hoping he’ll swim some in August. What a gift to spend this time with my wonderful son!

run: 3 miles
marshall loop, shortened
80 degrees
11 am

A little while later, I ran with Scott. It was hot. We walked a lot, which was fine with me. A memorable sighting: an eagle circling around, high above us, riding a thermal. It took a while for me to be able to see it in my central vision, but finally I could. What a wing span!

The other day, searching for something else, I found this beautiful interview with Marie Howe from 2013 for Tricycle. She’s talking about losing her beloved brother Johnny and the space she had for grieving. These words fit with other words of her that I’ve read and loved and just used in my class. Putting them in the context of her grief makes them glow even brighter for me:

MH: That was really a big deal. I was given this place to be without any expectations really. And everything changed so that the particulars of life—this white dish, the shadow of the bottle on it—everything mattered so much more to me. And I saw what happened in these spaces. You can never even say what happened, because what happened is rarely said, but it occurs among the glasses with water and lemon in them. And so you can’t say what happened but you can talk about the glasses or the lemon. And that something is in between all that.

KPE: It’s like the Japanese esthetic word of ma. It’s so wonderful. The space between….

MH: This is the space I love more than anything. And this became very important, but there’s no way to describe that, except to describe “you and me.” And there’s the space. I make my students write 10 observations a week—really simple. Like, this morning I saw. . . , this morning I saw. . . , this morning I saw. . . —and they hate it. They always say, “This morning I saw ten lucky people.” And I say, “No. You didn’t see ten lucky people. What did you see?” And then they try to find something spectacular to see. And I say, “No.” It’s just, “What did you see?” “I saw the white towel crumpled on the blue tiles of the bathroom.” That’s all. No big deal. And then, finally, they begin to do it. It takes weeks. And then the white towels pour in and the blue tiles on the bathroom, and it’s so thrilling. It’s like, “Ding-a-ling, da-ding!” And some people never really take to it. But I insist on it. What you saw. What you heard. Just the facts, ma’am. The world begins to clank in the room, drop and fall, and clutter it up, and it’s so thrilling.

KPE: Because it clanks and falls?

MH: Yes! It does. It’s like, “Did you see it? Did you see it?” Everybody goes “Whoa!”

Marie Howe: The Space Between

It is thrilling to notice the world! To hear it clank and drop, watch it create clutter. This reminds me of 2 other things I have recently encountered, one for the first time, one again, after a few years.

First, this poem was posted on twitter the other day:

Do Not Ask Your Children To Strive for Extraordinary Things/ William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

The space between us, reminds me of Juliana Spahr’s amazing post 9-11 poem: This Connection of Everyone With Lungs

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.

july 19/SWIM

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
90 degrees
5:30 pm

Another windy, choppy open swim night. It wasn’t too bad swimming from the big beach to the little beach, just some swells from behind. Occasionally, the swells made it difficult to do full strokes. Rounding the far orange buoy was difficult. Big (at least, big for Lake Nokomis) waves straight into my face. The next loop I remembered to breathe to my left to avoid them.

10 Things I Remember

  1. a few military planes flying above the lake
  2. on the way back to the big beach on the first loop: voices somewhere nearby. I kept trying to figure out what they were. Finally: 2 people in a canoe, way too close to open water swimmers. When I told them they were in the swimming area, one of them said, “we’re trying to get out of here, but this wind is kicking our butt!”
  3. lots of bits of vegetation floating in the water — I had to spit some of it out, other bits of it made it under my suit. I noticed them later, when I took a shower. A few vines wrapped around my arms
  4. with all the waves, lots of swimmers were doing breaststroke or treading water, a few seemed to be almost clinging to the big buoys
  5. I had no problem staying on course. My biggest problem: a nose plug that kept shifting and goggles that kept leaking. I had to stop a few times to adjust them
  6. when the water wasn’t too choppy, I breathed every 5. When it was choppy, every 3 or 4
  7. didn’t see or hear any birds — no seagulls or ducks, in particular
  8. the waves made it difficult to see anything but water in front of you. Sometimes the slight swells looked like someone was right ahead of me — a phantom swimmer?
  9. exiting the water and looking back from the shore, the water looked almost calm to me. You’d never know how choppy it was in there!
  10. I had something else to write, but somehow I got distracted and lost it again. Maybe I’ll remember and come back and add it in here?

Even though it was choppy, another great swim. As always, I felt strong and happy and confident.

Found this beautiful poem the other day by the wonderful Marie Howe:

The Moment/ Marie Howe

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when, nothing


no what-have-I-to-do-today-list

maybe half a moment

the rush of traffic stops.

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.

july 18/SWIM

2 cedar loops or 1 nokomis loop
open swim at cedar lake
98 degrees
5:30 pm

note: I’m a little behind on my log entries this week; too busy working on my lecture for my class. So I’m writing this entry on Wednesday. Hopefully I still remembered what happened! Went to open swim with FWA at cedar lake. It’s hot in Minneapolis, almost 100 degrees, but we were almost cold as we waded in the water. It’s amazing how much cooler it is by the lake — 10 or 15 degrees cooler?

The thing I remember most about the swim: the water was so clear! I could almost read my watch underwater. I would have been able to read it if my central vision wasn’t so bad. Reaching the swimming area on the other side, at Hidden Beach, we could see all the vegetation just below us. Very freaky and cool. I was swimming much slower to stick with FWA, so I was able to hover above the water and really study it. Within a few seconds, I saw some small fish swimming in-between the stalks of the milfoil.

One other thing I remember: Cedar Lake was in fine form, demonstrating it’s best anything goes spirit. Lots of people swimming across the lake without caps. Tons of floats in the swimming area, the strong smell of pot on the shore, canoes and kayaks paddling straight through the open swim course. It was chaos by the orange buoy at hidden beach, with so many people on floats or inner tubes. I’m surprised someone wasn’t trying to climb up on the buoy. And, open water swimmers were swimming in all directions — some had the buoy to their right (the way we’re supposed to swim), but many others swam with it on their left. I was telling FWA that when I first started swimming at Cedar, this chaos bothered me. Now, I don’t mind. Maybe it’s helping me to chill out a bit?

july 17/SWIM

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
80 degrees / calm water
9:30 am

What a wonderful morning for a swim! Sunny. Warm and calm water. Strong shoulders. It felt so good to be moving through the water! Fast and strong, straight to the buoys. As I neared them, and could finally see them, I wished that I could draw or sketch or do something to recreate the image I see when I’m in the water. How different is it from someone who can see “normally”? At first, there’s nothing. Then, occasionally, the absence of something, a hulking nothing where there should be something. Then, the idea — I can’t see the buoy but I feel like it’s right there. Then, a flash. A brief flicker of orange or triangle or buoy. Finally, when I’m close (20 feet?): a buoy.

As I twisted my head out of the water to breathe, I looked up and thought: cloud. 12345 breathe left: cloud. 12345 breathe right: glaring sun and cloud. I started thinking about how I like that as I exert myself, either in the water or on land, I have more difficulty over-thinking things, which is something I do too much of. No time and no energy to think too much. I’ve written before about overthinking. I decided to look it up, and found this helpful article/thing I wrote on march 20, 2018:

“A few days ago, I stumbled upon a brief essay about running and how it differs from walking:

But the act of running gives me something I cannot get from a walk, and that is total mental freedom. I agree with Kierkegaard that walking is objectively better than sitting, in terms of feeling good. But it is not always sufficient. And although the day-to-day business of writing is closely connected to walking, the business of being a functioning person – for me – requires something else. Running demands that you concentrate on something which requires almost no conscious thought at all. It is a particular kind of thinking which is all about the next few seconds and entirely pragmatic: mind that low-hanging branch, is that dog on an extendable lead, am I about to get mugged by a flock of Canada geese (the nightclub bouncers of the bird world). It also proves that you are more, or at least other, than you think.

Stepping Up to the Page / Natalie Haynes

I like her idea of running as offering a particular kind of thinking and I agree that much of running time is taken up with mundane, immediate thoughts about branches or cracks in the pavement or how deep a puddle is, whether or not the runner I’m approaching will move over, etc.. But, what I also like about running is that flashes of insight happen too–I have really great thoughts. Because of the effort I’m making and my need to pay attention to my surroundings, I can’t ruminate slowly and obsessively about those thoughts. The best I can do is try to record them in a voice memo or write them in a log entry after I’m done. Why is this a good thing? I’m not sure that I can express it right now–maybe something about a need to correct my tendency to overthink things or my love of imposing limits on my creative process?”


Don’t you wish they would stop, all the thoughts
swirling around in your head, bees in a hive, dancers
tapping their way across the stage? I should rake the leaves
in the carport, buy Christmas lights. Was there really life on Mars?
What will I cook for dinner? I walk up the driveway,
put out the garbage bins. I should stop using plastic bags,
visit my friend whose husband just left her for the Swedish nanny.
I wish I hadn’t said Patrick’s painting looked “ominous.”
Maybe that’s why he hasn’t called. Does the car need oil again?
There’s a hole in the ozone the size of Texas and everything
seems to be speeding up. Come, let’s stand by the window
and look out at the light on the field. Let’s watch how the clouds
cover the sun and almost nothing stirs in the grass.


bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees
9:15 am

Biked with FWA over to the lake for a training session. He’s planning to swim across during open swim this week, most likely on Friday morning. Very exciting! We talked a lot about the walking dead and human nature and power struggles. Very interesting. We encountered a few very slow bikers. We were biking slow too, so I wondered, as I looked at the steady pedaling of the biker in front of me, how she could be moving so slowly. FWA, who usually doesn’t notice or comment about these things, mentioned it later, when we were in the water. Anything else about the bike? We passed a runner moving fairly quickly. The dull slap of their foot strikes seemed to echo as we all passed under the 28th avenue bridge.

swim: 5 little loops (1 big loop)
lake nokomis big beach
80 degrees
9:45 am

Wow, what a perfect morning for a swim. The water was warmer, the sun was out, the wind was gone. The water felt smooth and easy, like a hot knife through butter. Maybe that’s a strange metaphor for swimming, but I kept thinking as smooth as butter as I swam the first loop. I swam 5 loops of freestyle, FWA swam 4 loops of breaststroke. We talked about the temperature of the water — mostly warm, with weird pockets of warmer then cooler water — and he mentioned how once, when the sun went behind the clouds and the water was suddenly dark, he imagined that there was a big creature below him. Yes! I said, I’ve thought that before too! It’s fun to share these thoughts with someone else. I know, I’m 48 and should know better than to imagine scary lake monsters, but I still sometimes think about what scary things might be below me, even as I know it’s (almost) impossible that it could be anything bigger than a medium-sized fish.

We both saw some seagulls resting on the white buoys as we approached them. FWA said, The seagulls and I have an agreement. I asked what the agreement was and he said, We won’t mess with each other, or something like that. I like passing the seagulls, wondering how long they’ll wait to fly away as I approach.

The clouds were fluffly and still and occasionally glowing when the sun was stuck behind them.

After we were done swimming, as we stood (I bounced) in the water, I noticed 2 swan pedal boats approaching the big beach. Very menancing! One of them was barely on the other side of the white buoys. Good thing we were done swimming!

This morning, before we left, I encountered a poem about the sound of locusts:

The Locust/ Leonara Speyer

Its hot voice sizzles from some cool tree
It seems to burn its way through the air
Like a small, pointed flame of sound
Sharpened on the ecstatic edge of sunbeams.

I like this description for the sound of cicadas. Speyer titles her poem with a single locust, but I always think of this sound (and of locusts or cicadas) in groups, making a collective sound not a singular one.

july 14/RUNSWIM

run: 3.6 miles
marshall loop
67 degrees
8:40 am

Another beautiful day! After all the biking yesterday, feeling tired today. The run felt good, but now I lack motivation to write or remember my run. Still, I’ll try. This week in my class, we’re shifting gears to talk about rhythm, breathing, and translating wonder into words. I decided I’d try to think in triples as I ran: strawberry/blueberry/raspberry/blackberry. Now I’ll try to summarize my run in triples:

singing birds
daycare kids
playground yells
lake street bridge
up the hill
one lane closed
passing cars
feeling tired
sweating lots
stop to walk
cross the road
avoid bikes
yellow vest
trimming trees
shadow falls
up the steps
down a hill
music on
Taylor Swift
Paper Rings
lifting knees
quick fast feet
ending strong
check my stones
wipe my face
breathe in deep

That was fun! Writing out, “singing birds,” reminded me of the birds I first heard as I walked out my door and up the block. Their 2 note song (not the black-capped chickadee “feebee”) sounded like they kept telling me to Wake up! Wake up! No rowers on the river, which was a pretty shade of blue. Admired how the trees along the shore cast a gentle shadow on the water.

Last night, or was it very early this morning?, I woke up and went downstairs to get some water. Something bright was behind the curtain. The moon? The moon! So big, so bright, so perfect hanging half way up the sky over my backyard. I went out on the deck and marveled at it for a moment. The moon, never not astonishing! Here’s an acrostic poem (I love acrostic poems!) about the moon.


for the world.

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
85 degrees
5:30 pm

Writing this the morning after. Arrived at the beach: so windy! The water was choppy, but not too bad. Tried to think about rhythms and breathing as I swam. I remember thinking about how chanting words can help in many different ways: connect you with your breathing, keep you focused and on pace, open you up and make words strange which could lead to new (and better?) words, and is a way to hold onto/remember ideas that come to you while you’re moving (try to remember the idea through a few words or a phrase). I thought about that for just a few minutes. The rest of the time, I was preoccupied with breathing, staying on course, avoiding other swimmers, and worrying that my calf and feet might be tightening up. Can I remember 10 things?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a silver flash below me — this has to be fish, right?
  2. one dark plane hovering in the air, hanging in the sky for a long time
  3. nearing an orange buoy, it shifted in the wind and the waves. Hard to get around it.
  4. the green buoy was closer than it often is to the big beach, so was the first orange buoy
  5. clouds, no sun
  6. far off to my right: steady, speedy swimmers, approaching the buoy at a sharp angle
  7. a lifeguard kayaking in just before the beginning of open swim, apologizing for the wait (even though it was just 5:30). My response, “no worries,” and I meant it. The lifeguards really have their shit together this year
  8. wiped out after the 3rd loop, I thought I tucked my cap under the strap of my suit. Nope, it must have fallen in the water. Bummer
  9. lots of muck and sand and a few little bits of vegetation under my suit when I got home and took a shower
  10. feeling both so much love for the lake, the lifeguards, and the other swimmers AND also feeling irritated by and competitive with any swimmers near me.

No ducks, or seagulls, or dragonflies, or swans (peddle boats)…not too many people at the beach — are they on vacation this week?


bike, round 1: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back
66 degrees
9:00 am

Biked to the lake with FWA for our swim training. I can tell he’s getting more fit on the bike, which is great. As we biked on the side streets he told me all about the walking dead episode he just watched. All I remember it that it was a beautiful day and that I felt so happy to watch as the lake come into view. Such a wonderful lake!

swim: 3 white buoy loops (= .5 loops)
lake nokomis big beach
68 degrees
9:30 am

Told FWA he had to push himself a little more. He did 3 loops with almost no stops. For the last 1/2 loop, we raced. As he said, “I really went for it.” I think he’s almost ready to try swimming across. How wonderful it is to be able to share this with him, and to spend this time with him!

bike, round 2: 17 miles
river road/hidden falls/crosby farm/st. paul riverfront/summit/river road
78 degrees
2:00 pm

It was such a nice day, that I asked Scott if we wanted to go for a bike ride. We biked to our favorite tap room, City House, right on the river in St. Paul. Very cool. The biking was definitely harder in terms of seeing, but I did it. Biking through Crosby Farm was bumpy and hard to see potholes, but it was beautiful. I heard so many wonderful birds! We biked around a lake on a wooden boardwalk that was overgrown — so strange and cool.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. big, fluffy clouds
  2. chirping, trilling, singing birds!
  3. the smell of pot
  4. rowers on the river, 1 or 2 at a time. One pair was taking it very slow. I watched (and heard) their paddles double-slap the water
  5. protestors on the lake street bridge — no war with Russia
  6. the huge houses on summit ave — thinking about how my grandpa would drive my mom down summit every sunday and dream about having one of these houses
  7. going the wrong way on an overgrown, crater-filled path in Crosby Farm
  8. a plane, very high in the sky, white. With my vision, I first thought it might be the moon. For a few glances, I could see it in my peripheral, but not my central vision. Finally, it appeared.
  9. lots of speedy, e-bikes in the bike lane as we biked back on Summit
  10. a tall, crooked, flagless flagpole at the University Club

july 12/RUNSWIM

run: 3.1 miles
dogwood coffee run
66 degrees
6:45 am

An early run with Scott to beat the heat. We ran north on the river road trail, then over to Brackett Park, then to Dogwood Coffee. We stopped to admire my stacked stones at the ancient boulder. Heard some bluejays. Noticed the sun sparkling on the water, and cutting through the thick, humid air. Heard the loud whooshing? thrashing? of an eliptigo as it sped past us on the bike trail. Scott said he thought it sounded like two lumberjacks were sawing down a tree, with one of those big saws that you hold on either end and push back and forth. I remember thinking Scott’s acting out of this saw was entertaining.

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
80 degrees
5:30 pm

Another great swim, even though it was very choppy on the way back from the little beach. Managed to stay on course with barely any sighting of the orange buoys. I write about this so much, but it’s always strange and amazing to be able to swim straight and keep going when I can’t really see where I am.

Half the sky was blue and clear, the other half looked like a storm was moving in. Later, after we left the lake, it poured. I wondered how much it would have to be raining for them to cancel open swim. Usually they only cancel it when there’s thunder or lightening.

Saw more silver flashes below me. Also, a dark shadow as I swam around one of the buoys. At some point, I heard a squeak. Someone else’s wetsuit? I got to punch the water a few times, when I swam straight into it. Fun! Breathed every 5, then when it got choppier, every 4, or 3 then 4 then 3 again. I don’t remember seeing any swan boats or sail boats or paddle boarders. No music or yelling, laughing kids.

Back in April, I collected poems about dirt — soil, humus, fungi, and dust. Here’s another poem to add to the dust pile. It’s by Ted Kooser. He is such a wonderful poet!

Carrie / Ted Kooser

“There’s never an end to dust
and dusting,” my aunt would say
as her rag, like a thunderhead,
scudded across the yellow oak
of her little house. There she lived
seventry years with a ball
of compulsion closed in her fist,
and an elbow that creaked and popped
like a branch in a storn. Now dust
is her hands and dust her heart.
There’s never an end to it.

I love his line breaks and his beautiful first sentences. I should check out his collected works and study him more.


bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees (there) / 80 degrees (back)
9:15 am (there) / 10:45 am

Biked with Scott to the lake. Went a little faster than with FWA. Do I remember anything? Not much. Hearing the lifeguards setting up the buoys as we neared the lake, feeling the wind rush past my ears, being passed by a very nice biker near Nokomis.

When I asked Scott what he remembered, he reminded me of a cool image I pointed out to him: a band of orange light, about a foot high, stretching across the brick wall of the beach house, above the bike racks. It was a reflection from the solar panels near Sandcastle.

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
78 degrees

Very choppy today. Still wonderful. Open swim is one of my favorite things. For the first loop, the waves pushed me out farther away from the buoys. Mostly, I liked the rocking — not too rough, but not gentle either. I think I noticed a few silver flashes below me. Didn’t see the sky much, too many waves. Today I mostly saw water or a lifeguard kayak, a pink cap, or a yellow or orange buoy tethered to a swimmer. Swimming around the last green buoy was a wild ride; it felt like the water was pushing me along. Noticed a few other swimmers getting away off course, being pushed by the waves. Sometimes I breathed every 5 strokes, but more often it was every 4. I breathed on the side that was away from the waves.

I don’t remember seeing any ducks, or being brushed by any vegetation, or waring noticing a menancing sailboat. No extra loud beaches or little kids asking me questions about swimming across the lake.

I found a quote from a Mary Oliver poem (in Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s first post for her World of Wonder column) that I’m planning to use in my lecture for my class this week. This is the orgin of the quote (with the quote in italics):

The Ponds/ Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

MO’s description here of choosing to believe in the beauty or the good or whatever you’d call it, and not the flaws, reminds me of how I mostly see the world with my diseased eyes: because I can’t always look closer (not much central vision), I see the world as softer, in more general forms. I can’t see the small flaws or the ugliness as often. This inability to see details causes lots of problems, but it also enables me to look on the world with less scrutiny. Not sure how it works for other people who have damaged central vision, but that’s how it works for me.


bike: 7.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
70 degrees
9:00 am

FWA has figured out the shortest way to get to the lake, and when we bike over there to train for his swim across the lake, we always take it. We also bike much slower than I do by myself. It’s nice to bike slower. It’s safer, I notice more, and I’m less tired when we get to the lake. My most distinctive memory of this bike ride was seeing the flash of intense blue from a bird as it flew away. Was it just a blue jay, or something more interesting, like an indigo bunting? I checked with FWA, and he agreed it was blue.

swim: 1.5 small loops (500 yards?)
lake nokomis big beach|
73 degrees
9:30 am

A beautiful morning for a swim, even if we didn’t swim that much. I need to start pushing FWA to swim a little bit more. The thing I remember most about the swim was seeing 2 swam pedal boats off in the distance. One of them was facing us, looking menacing.

run: 3.5 miles
lake nokomis — one way
82 degrees
4:30 pm

So hot! I had the crazy idea of doing a one way run to the lake, then meeting Scott for a beer. I had to stop a few times to walk. Even though it was hot, I made it. It was very crowded at the beach — so many people! Lots of fun people watching. Lots of swans, kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, inner tubes out on the water.

Colors I noticed at the lake

  1. a woman’s bright blue suit with a ruffled collar
  2. blindingly bright white swan boat + a woman’s pale legs
  3. another women’s black adn white 2 piece suit (top: black, bottom: white)
  4. a young girl’s pale green board shorts
  5. a small bird, all black
  6. an orange ball
  7. an extra bright yellow bikini top
  8. woman in the water: dark red velvet overalls
  9. boat sail: yellow and red
  10. a lifeguard’s red suit