minehaha falls and back
Cooler this morning. Fall running is coming soon! Running south, I noticed lots of cars on the river road. None of them were going too fast but I could tell they were in a hurry to get somewhere. Summer seems over. I’m less sad, more wistful or already nostalgic for the water.
When I reached the falls, they were roaring again. It rained this week. More coming this afternoon and tomorrow. Will it be enough to end the drought? Not sure.
It’s a grayish white morning, quiet, calm. I smelled smoke near the double bridge. A campfire down in the gorge? I glanced at the river a few times when I was on the Winchell Trail. Today it looks blue. Heard a roller skier at the beginning of my run. Greeted a few runners and walkers. Successfully avoided rolling on a walnut–encased in its green shell, looking like a small tennis ball. Don’t remember seeing any squirrels or hearing any rower. Too early for kids on the playground. No music blasting from a bike speaker. I remember making note of a fragment of conversation, but I can’t remember what was said.
A good run. The upper half of my right side felt sore at the beginning of the run, but when I warmed up it was fine. I started to recite Auto-lullaby, but never quite finished. I guess I got distracted. I’d like to get back into combining poetry and running in September.
love, connection, and strangers
Yesterday, I discovered a great article by Elisa Gabbert about missing strangers during the pandemic: A Complicated Energy. It made me think about connection and love and how I miss being around other people–like walking on a busy city street or sitting on a bench in a park–when we are all strangers to each other.
To people-watch, says Baudelaire, is “to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world”—to become interchangeable, one of the strangers. For Virginia Woolf, a wander through the city at dusk was an escape from the trap of being “tethered to a single mind,” from the oppression of self: “The evening hour, too, gives us the irresponsibility which darkness and lamplight bestow. We are no longer quite ourselves.” “Let us dally a little longer,” she writes, “be content still with surfaces only.” Strangers are all surface, and if we accessed their depths, they’d cease to be strangers. We’re all surface to them, too—all face. Strangers allow us to be mysterious in a way we can’t when we’re at home, or when alone. With strangers we’re unknown.
I like this idea of surfaces and the unknown, I’m less interested in the idea of people watching and seeing others, probably because I can’t see people very clearly. I do like hearing people’s stories and connecting with them on deeper levels sometimes, but it drains me. More often, I just like being in the midst of them–not too close, no need for talking or touching, being beside each other is enough. This is a meaningful form of connection to me, a form of love. Sometimes more than this is too much.
Woolf’s desire to not be “tethered to a single mind” resonates for me. This tethering and the idea of surfaces makes me think of sinking and floating, with sinking = tethered to the self-as-anchor and floating = being on the surface, unmoored, free to be unknown and unknowing. And then that connection makes me think of some great lines from a Maxine Kumin poem:
Where have I come from? Where am I going?To Swim, To Believe/ Maxine Kumin
What do I translate, gliding back and forth
erasing my own stitch marks in this lane?
Christ on the lake was not thinking
where the next heel-toe went.
God did him a dangerous favor
whereas Peter, the thinker, sank.
The secret is in the relenting,
the partnership. I let my body work
accepting the dangerous favor
from the king-size pool of waters.
Love as relenting and letting go of self and ideas. To be tethered to the known (and to knowing) is to sink.
In the next part of the essay, Gabbert laments not being able to see more faces. She misses seeing faces, and she misses seeing faces see her. She is so bothered by this lack of face time that she experiences anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms similar to withdrawal from an anti-depressant. I was struck by discussion here for 2 reasons. First, it gave me more words (and someone else’s words, not just mine) for understanding what I’ve been feeling since 2016 when I stopped being able to see people’s faces clearly. The feelings of loneliness and disconnection, the need to see someone and to see them seeing me. Often I’ve convinced myself that I’m being overly dramatic, that it’s not that big of deal that I can’t see people’s faces, their features, their pupils when they’re talking to me or smiling at me or gesturing to me. But it is. In this essay, Gabbert argues that seeing and being seen are profoundly important–to be seen by others is to become real (and recognized as worthy/worthwhile).
This claim leads me to the second reason I was struck by Gabbert’s words: Why is connection, love, realness so often only (or primarily) understand as an act of sight? This question is not purely academic to me–I post it out of frustration about how the primacy of vision is taken-for-granted–in our everyday thinking and in essays lamenting the loss of connection during the pandemic. With my increasingly limited, unfocused vision, these expressions of recognition and connection are lost on me. Gabbert continues her essay with a discussion of the importance of touch–with a fascinating story about professional cuddlers–so she does offer alternatives to sight for connection. And she offers a broader discussion on the damaging effects of loneliness on our bodies and our mental health. Yet, it still feels like sight and seeing faces are the most important ways of connecting with others. I’d like to find more words about loss of connection that don’t center on faces or seeing. Maybe I’ll have to write them?
One more thing about love. I found this poem by Dorothy Wordsworth while searching for “loving eye” on the poetry foundation site. Her distinction between loving and liking made me curious:
There’s more in words than I can teach:
Yet listen, Child! — I would not preach;
But only give some plain directions
To guide your speech and your affections.
Say not you love a roasted fowl
But you may love a screaming owl,
And, if you can, the unwieldy toad
That crawls from his secure abode
Within the mossy garden wall
When evening dews begin to fall,
Oh! mark the beauty of his eye:
What wonders in that circle lie!
So clear, so bright, our fathers said
He wears a jewel in his head!
And when, upon some showery day,
Into a path or public way
A frog leaps out from bordering grass,
Startling the timid as they pass,
Do you observe him, and endeavour
To take the intruder into favour:
Learning from him to find a reason
For a light heart in a dull season.
And you may love him in the pool,
That is for him a happy school,
In which he swims as taught by nature,
Fit pattern for a human creature,
Glancing amid the water bright,
And sending upward sparkling light.
Nor blush if o’er your heart be stealing
A love for things that have no feeling:
The spring’s first rose by you espied,
May fill your breast with joyful pride;
And you may love the strawberry-flower,
And love the strawberry in its bower;
But when the fruit, so often praised
For beauty, to your lip is raised,
Say not you love the delicate treat,
But like it, enjoy it, and thankfully eat.
Long may you love your pensioner mouse,
Though one of a tribe that torment the house:
Nor dislike for her cruel sport the cat
Deadly foe both of mouse and rat;
Remember she follows the law of her kind,
And Instinct is neither wayward nor blind.
Then think of her beautiful gliding form,
Her tread that would scarcely crush a worm,
And her soothing song by the winter fire,
Soft as the dying throb of the lyre.
I would not circumscribe your love:
It may soar with the Eagle and brood with the dove,
May pierce the earth with the patient mole,
Or track the hedgehog to his hole.
Loving and liking are the solace of life,
Rock the cradle of joy, smooth the death-bed of strife.
You love your father and your mother,
Your grown-up and your baby brother;
You love your sister and your friends,
And countless blessings which God sends;
And while these right affections play,
You live each moment of your day;
They lead you on to full content,
And likings fresh and innocent,
That store the mind, the memory feed,
And prompt to many a gentle deed:
But likings come, and pass away;
’Tis love that remains till our latest day:
Our heavenward guide is holy love,
And will be our bliss with saints above.
swim: 1 mile / 1 loop
lake nokomis open swim
The thunderstorms held off so I could do a final loop in the lake! Now, as I write this at 7:15, it’s dark and raining and a loud clap of thunder just hit somewhere nearby. What joy to get one last loop! Such a strange swim. No one at the lake besides us swimmers–and not too many swimmers. Overcast, eerily quiet, and smoke from wildfires at the Boundary Waters. Another apocalyptic night. Only orange buoys, no green ones. I swam to the white buoy off of the little beach, treaded water for a minute or two, then swam back. What a great season! So happy to have taken full advantage of a great summer. So grateful for the amazing Minneapolis Parks department. STA and I met at Sandcastle for a beer after I finished.