july 18/SWIM

2 miles/ 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
77 degrees

Another wonderful morning for open swim. It was bright and warm and calm. So bright I could barely keep my eyes open, but once I was in the water, it didn’t matter. I could still see the flash of silver from the bottom of the rowboat at the little beach. I felt strong and confident and happy. I didn’t feel like a fish today, but a boat–a kayak or a small shell, my feet as rudders.

Didn’t see any fish, but several vines entangled me, and when I took my suit off after the swim, I saw that I had taken some of them with me. More than sand and silt under my suit today–leaves and vines too.

Noticed a bird flying above me, and then a few planes. They all looked the same size. Thought about how much perspective changes in the water. Big buoys look tiny, planes look like birds, dragonflies look like planes. Very cool.

Here’s a lovely poem that might fit better with water and stone then just water:

Balance/ Alice B. Fogel

Balance is everything, is the only
way to hold on.
I’ve weighed the alternatives, the hold
as harbor: It isn’t safe
to let go. But consider the hover,
choices made, the moment
between later and too late.
Hesitation is later, regret
too late. You can’t keep turning
and turning, or expecting
to return. This earth

is not a wheel, it is a rock
that erodes, mountain by mountain.
And I have been too soft,
like sandstone, but there is a point
where I stand without a story,
immutable and moved, solid
as a breath in winter air.

I have seen my death and I know
it is my neighbor, my brother,
my keeper. In my life
I am going to keep trying
for the balance,

remembering the risks and the value
of extremes, and that experience
teaches the length of allowable lean;
that it is easier — and wiser —
to balance a stone as if on one toe
though it weigh a hundred pounds

than to push it back against the curve
of its own world.

july 14/RUN

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

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

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

Wife for Scale/ Maggie Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love this poem!

june 30/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
80 degrees

Such a beautiful day! I’m getting used to biking again, and it’s not too bad. My biggest worries: having to pass other bikers and unexpected cracks or potholes. I’m able to bike when it’s not too crowded, so that helps. Averaged about 11.5 mph. That’s probably as fast as I should safely go. As I biked, I thought about how grateful I am still to be able to bike. Maybe I’ll always be able to bike, but probably, if/when I lose all of my central vision, it will be too difficult and unsafe.

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis, big beach
80 degrees/ sunny/ calm

Another great swim. Pleased with myself for pushing through my inertia and biking over to swim again today. In “sara miles” (1 mile = 30 minutes), I swam 1.5 miles. I’m starting to think that I might actually be swimming more than 1 mile in 30 minutes. Trying to decide if I should recalibrate–1 mile = 25 minutes? Yes. So, I actually swam 1.7 miles. The water was smooth and not too warm or too cold. Actually, I don’t remember feeling the temperature of the water, so it must been just right.

Things I Remember From My Swim

  • Heard and saw at least one more military plane roaring overhead
  • Breathed every 5 strokes
  • Concentrated on trying to shut my mouth as I went under–I don’t ever swallow the water, but I often have it in my mouth in-between breaths
  • My goggles were slightly fogged up for the first 20 minutes
  • I saw several flashes beneath me. Fish, I think. Not sure what kind or how big. It’s better I don’t know
  • Had trouble keeping track of which loop I was on–was it 3 or 4, 5 or 6? I used to have this problem a lot swimming laps in a pool. I’d always think I had done more than I had. Today, as I tried to remember, I thought about how often I am thinking too far ahead. I was losing track of my loops because I kept thinking about the next one. I’m sure this is a common problem, or at least, losing track is a common problem. Do more people lose track because their mind is wandering, or because, like me they’re thinking too much about the laps and jump ahead to the next one in their mind?
  • Listened to the water and the sounds it made as I moved through it–sloshing, not quite an echo–what words do people use for describing underwater sounds?
  • Near the end of the swim, I suddenly noticed some spray, like someone/something was there. Had a fish jumped out of the water? Was it a shift in the wind? I’m not sure
  • Was briefly freaked out by a piece of milfoil that crossed my path
  • About 30 minutes in, I felt warmed up and stronger
  • Thought about what it might feel like to try and swim across a bigger lake or a channel–how would my body feel being in the water moving for hours? I like the idea of the challenge of swimming a far distance in open water, but I don’t like what it might do to my body–especially calf cramps. I hate calf cramps

Found this poem on a cool open water swimmer’s blog (Swimming at Dawn):

SWIMMER (FEMALE)*/ Concha Méndez

My arms:
the oars.

The keel: 
my body.

Helm:
my thought.

(If I were a mermaid,
my songs
would be my verses.)

*Translation by Nancy FreyIncluded in the poetry collection of Concha Méndez titled Inquietudes(Concerns) from 1926. 

june 29/RUNSWIM

run: 3.3 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees
humidity: 87% / dew point: 66

A birthday run after it rained. Not a downpour, just a light shower. Everything felt cool until the sun came out and my body warmed up. Saw Dave the Daily Walker and we talked about both feeling sick a year and a half ago and meeting on the trail (march 13, 2020). He wondered if we both might have had covid. I’ve wondered too. Probably not.

Tried to see the river, but couldn’t through the veil of green. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks and intended to count the stacked stones on the ancient boulder but somewhere between the last oak and the boulder, I forgot. What happened in those 5 or 10 seconds? I think I was distracted by the clanging of a dog’s collar down below. One of the reasons I decided to run this morning was to travel through the tunnel of trees right after it rained. Everything is dark green. But by the time I had reached this spot, it had lightened up too much. Still, it was peaceful and shaded and green. I quickly glanced down below me and thought about how not being able to see the forest floor (because of the leaves and vines) made me feel higher up–floating or flying in green air.

There’s another spot on the trail, not too far past the old stone steps but before Minnehaha Academy, where the trail splits: the bike path stays above next to the road, the running path drops slightly and hugs the side of the bluff. Any time of the year, the running path is narrow here, being so close to the edge and because of a big tree at one spot–what kind of tree? probably an oak–but it becomes even more narrow in the summer when the all the green comes. Today, it was a tight squeeze. Running through, I felt the dew from a few reaching leaves.

Found this poem on poetry foundation when I searched for “rock.” My family’s farm (sold in 2004) had lots of rock piles and they were part of the legend of our family as Puotinens who persist.

Rockpile/ Robert Morgan (1985)

Sprinkled with a luminous dust
of moss and algae, the rocks seem
alive in the sunken woods, bright
as Christmas balls or peeled and
rotting globes, their maps just rags
of lichens and their worlds oblong,
broken, dented eggs. And ferns feather
through the edges of the mound like
a circle of fire around the cairn
or fallen monument. But no
pagan elders worshipped here or
committed sacrifices on this altar.
Though five or six generations
of children carried the stones out
of a field, pried them up with picks
and poles, heaved and toted them
like curses to the edge of the woods
(what frost had worked to the surface
each year like tubers and bones)
until they had a chimney’s worth
and more, piled for snakes to thread
and poison oak to wind. Though fields
they cleared have been woods for a century
and the kids who struggled the weights
from clay are now grandfathers of
grandfathers, each with his own stone.

About 10 years, I created a digital story out of old footage STA took at the farm:

swim: 3 miles/ 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees/sunny/calm

I felt strong and didn’t stop between loops–I paused a few times to clear my goggles or adjust my nose plug or try and see where the green buoys were. I would like to try for a 5k on Thursday.

It feels like it’s getting harder to see the orange buoys. I am not having any problems staying on course, but I’m relying more on other landmarks. Is this a sign that my vision is declining more? Or, is it just where the light is and how it hits the buoys?

Things I Remember From My Swim

  • Someone was playing a drum somewhere and whenever I briefly paused at a white buoy near a beach, I could hear the thumping. I asked STA, and he said they were playing by the overlook way across the lake. Wow, that drum was loud!
  • At least 2 military planes roared overhead in my 3rd loop. They were so loud that several other swimmers stopped to look up
  • I never really saw the green buoys other than the idea of them being there–not a flash of green, but a quick knowing of where they were and a sudden surge in my stroke as I confidently swam towards them. Strange
  • The green buoys were so far over that the course was more like a square than a triangle
  • As I said to STA, it was a birthday miracle that I didn’t plow through a few swimmers. They were swimming backstroke which, for some reason, made it more difficult to see them. Why? Were their heads lower in the water that way?
  • One of the backstrokers bumped into me
  • I breathed every 5, with a few 5 then 6, and a couple every 3
  • No fish or dragonflies, but some milfoil got stuck on my head, near my goggles for a while
  • A few worries: will I be stuffed up after this? is my calf cramping up? why are my goggles leaking slightly?
  • Near the end of my 3rd loop, as I approached the big beach, my shoulders felt strong and big and wonderful

After typing that last bullet point, I noticed a line from Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” that I taped on my desk that seems fitting:

I am larger, better than I thought.
I did not know I held so much goodness.

What a great birthday!

june 27/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees

Biked to Lake Nokomis for some swimming off of the big beach. There’s an open swim at Cedar Lake tonight, but it’s too far to go twice in one week, so I’ll go there on Wednesday, which is the other day there’s an open swim at Cedar. Biking wasn’t too bad. Not too crowded, which makes it easier. My biggest problem: unanticipated ruts or potholes. I can’t see them at all, or until I’m right on top of them. My poor tires. Lots of loud thuds and cracks and pops. But no crashes or falls off of my bike. The other big thing I remember: as I was powering up the hill between lake hiawatha and lake nokomis, I suddenly hear a loud pop and then crackling. Fireworks. At 10 am on a Monday. In the bright sun. Near a random green space between lakes. Why? Luckily I don’t startle easily, because something like that might have made me fall of my bike. So loud and unexpected. I hate fireworks.

The bike ride back, after my swim, was fine too. I encountered a biker who was biking with both of his hands by his sides, and not on the handlebars. How do people do this? I suppose, part of me is envious of someone that carefree, but most of me is incredulous. So dangerous on this cracked, curved, crowded trail.

swim: 1.55 miles/ 9 loops*
big beach, lake nokomis
75 degrees/ sunny
no chop

*since I’m not entirely sure of the distance, and my watch doesn’t seem to be accurate, I’m creating my own standard here, my Sara miles (similar to “jerry miles” from the bowerman track club). 30 minutes = 1 mile, or 6 loops = 1 mile. I added the extra .05 to the distance today, because I did swim a little more and to make my total distance a whole number.

Yes! I want to bike to the beach during the day and do a swim at least once every week. The water was a great tempature and calm. And no one else was swimming around the buoys. For the first half of the swim, I counted my strokes–1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left–and tried to stop thinking. Mostly it worked, although I do remember thinking about the water, how it felt as I glided through it, or as my arms pushed it past my body. Every so often, my buoy tugged at my waist–remember me, it seemed to say, I’m here too. The water was opaque; the only thing I remember seeing was bubbles below me from the water I pushed down at the end of each stroke. A kayak and a paddle board passed by me at some point. I briefly imagined what would happen if a fish bumped into me–not bit, just bumped me.

Earlier this morning, I was reading and ruminating over Bruno LaTour’s ideas about the two shores of a river as nature and culture or truth and the dream or what is real and what is described. A classic problem in philosophy is to find a way to bridge these distant shores, to see how they connect, to link the actual world with our perceptions of it. I’ve barely skimmed it so far, but LaTour is arguing that, instead of finding/creating a bridge, we should get in the river and learn how to navigate the water between these two shores. As I swam, I thought about what kind of reality swimming is–is it real? a dream? a distortion? Then I started thinking about classic philosophical approaches to this problem, and wondered, what if the idea that there is a distinct, sharp reality–a truth–was the illusion? What if the clear divisions we believe to exist between entities–fish, water, me– are our attempt to impose order where it doesn’t exist? Not sure if this is making sense, but it’s starting to sound a lot like a poem I wrote 2 or 3 years ago, Submerged. I think I’ll try to revisit/edit it.

what is poetry?

Found this collection of definitions of poetry in a sticky note that I created on sept 8, 2017–that was about 8 months after I started this log, about 6 months after I discovered I loved poetry, about a month and a half after I injured my knee, and 2 weeks before I could run again. I wish past Sara would have noted which awesome poetry person tweeted these definitions or where to find the essay they wrote, but she didn’t. Oh well.

Well, here is a list of how several poets have defined what a poem is (lifted from an essay I once wrote): What a poem is: “The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth). “A small (or large) machine of words” (Williams). “Language that sounds better and means more” (C.D. Wright). “A verbal contraption” (Auden). “A form cut in time” (Pound). “At bottom, a criticism of life” (Matthew Arnold). “The journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air” (Carl Sandburg). “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson). “An empty basket; you put your life into it” (Mary Oliver). “Somebody standing up… and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment” (Galway Kinnell). “A holy thing” (Roethke). “A momentary stay against confusion” (Frost).

a poetry person on twitter/sept 2017

Erosion/ Eamon Grennan

What the sea does–coming, going–is mole beneath the
seeming solid earth
and keep eating at it until it gives over at last its stony hold
on things
and another chunk comes tumbling. What’s strange is, after
thirty years,
I’ve never seen this happen, never been there at the pivotal
single moment
when these two conditions, these major states of being
(solidity and flux,
the rooted and the foldaway ruthless rootless heart of the
matter) meet and
mate for an instant in which sea-roar and land-groan are one
gigantic sound
and then that jawing withdrawal, that collapse, that racing
after–so foam, stones,
churn of sand, swirl of search become a wrecked mouth
bulging with one
loud clamourtongue, which the rock you stood on plunges
into, dumbing it.

O, I love this poem and the single moment when sea roar and land groan meet and mate!

june 27/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

excerpt from The Half Finished Heaven

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

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Under Pressure

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

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

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

june 26/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
71 degrees/ dew point: 64

It felt hot and humid this morning. Overcast. Ran up the marshall hill without stopping until I reached the bridge steps. It was hard, but I didn’t stop. A good mental victory. Heard some rowers on the river and the coxswain directing them. Crossing back over the bridge, I stopped to read a few small pink signs affixed to the bridge. One was about hope making anything possible, another about how one road block shouldn’t stop you. The other day, as STA and I crossed the bridge in the car, we noticed that the entire bridge was covered in these signs, now only these 2 are left. STA thinks the wind might have blown them off.

Near the start of my run, descending the hill and entering the tunnel of trees, it was a dark, impenetrable green, made darker by my vision. It looked like I was running into a lightless smudge. Very cool–not scary at all. Once I was in the dark green, there was light and trees and thick air. Noticed the 4 fences I’ve written about and the stone wall framed by trees, remembering the time I saw someone perched in one of these trees–hiding? spying?

Now, after the run, I feel sore. I often feel sore in the summer. Not injury-sore but doing-more-exercise-especially-swimming-sore.

Erosion/ Linda Pastan

We are slowly
undermined. Grain
by grain . . .
inch by inch . . .
slippage.
It happens as we watch.
The waves move their long row
of scythes over the beach.

It happens as we sleep,
the way the clock’s hands
move continuously
just out of sight,
but more like an hourglass
than a clock,
for here sand
is running out.

We wake to water.
Implacably lovely
is this view
though it will swallow
us whole, soon
there will be nothing left but view.

We have tried a seawall.
We have tried prayer.
We have planted grasses
on the bank, small tentacles,
hooks of green that catch
on nothing. For the wind
does its work, the water
does its use work.

One day the sea will simply
take us. The children
press their faces to the glass
as if the windows were portholes,
and the house fills
with animals: two dogs,
a bird, cats–we are becoming
an ark already.

The guess will follow
our wake.
We are made of water anyway,
I can field it in the yielding
of your flesh, though sometimes
I think that you are sand,
moving slowly, slowly
from under me.

june 25/SWIM

2 miles/ 2 loops
open swim lake nokomis
78 degrees/ sunny

Another open swim. Since I swam last night too, I only did 2 loops this morning. Over 7 miles of swimming this week so far. I can’t remember the last time I swam this many miles in one week. Excellent. It was sunny and warm and the orange buoys were invisible. No problem. I looked for the quick flash of the silver boat bottom at the little beach and knew I was on course. I didn’t see the buoys until they were right next to me. Decided to swim without my safety buoy today. Easier. I encountered–mostly passed, which is a lot of fun–other swimmers, but mostly felt alone. Me and blurs of green and blue. Below me, the water is completely opaque. I’ve never seen the bottom of this lake, except for right next to shore. A few times I felt some slimy vegetation wrapping around my shoulder, but not much else. No sloshing of water in my ears, no strange metallic sounds rising up from underneath. I saw a few paddle boarders crossing the lake–no motorized boats are allowed on this lake, which is wonderful.

Anything else? Oh–I felt happy and powerful and confident swimming without any problems across the lake. Some of this was because my shoulders are strong and I can swim fairly fast and steadily without getting too tired, but more of it is because I can swim across without being able to see much–just enough vision to keep me on track. In the water, I don’t doubt myself or second guess what I’m doing. I don’t want to be a fish but I wish I could take more of the water with me into the rest of my life. I wonder if I do better in the water because I can’t hear or see or feel anyone judging me or trying to encourage/force me to do things the way they think they should be done?

A Swim in Co. Wicklow/ DEREK MAHON

The only reality is the perpetual flow of vital energy.
                                                                           —Montale

Spindrift, crustacean patience
and a gust of ozone,
you come back once more
to this dazzling shore,
its warm uterine rinse,
heart-racing heave and groan.

A quick gasp as you slip
into the hissing wash,
star cluster, dulse and kelp,
slick algae, spittle, froth,
the intimate slash and dash,
hard-packed in the seething broth.

Soft water-lip, soft hand,
close tug of origin,
the sensual writhe and snore
of maidenhair and frond,
you swim here once more
smart as a rogue gene.

Spirits of lake, river
and woodland pond preside
mildly in water never
troubled by wind or tide;
and the quiet suburban pool
is only for the fearful —

no wind-wave energies
where no sea briar grips
and no freak breaker with
the violence of the ages
comes foaming at the mouth
to drown you in its depths.

Among pebbles a white conch
worn by the suck and crunch,
a sandy skull as old
as the centuries, in cold
and solitude reclines
where the moon-magnet shines;

but today you swirl and spin
in sea water as if,
creatures of salt and slime
and naked under the sun,
life were a waking dream
and this the only life.

There’s a lot I like about this poem and its vivid descriptions of swimming and the water. I don’t like the repeated use of and, joining two verbs: writhe and snore, slash and dash, suck and crunch, swirl and spin. I get why he’s doing it–reflecting the energy of the sea, but somehow it doesn’t fall right on my ears. Maybe I should read it a few more times.

Spirits of lake, river
and woodland pond preside
mildly in water never
troubled by wind or tide;
and the quiet suburban pool
is only for the fearful —

no wind-wave energies
where no sea briar grips
and no freak breaker with
the violence of the ages
comes foaming at the mouth
to drown you in its depths.

I have swam in the ocean (swum?) but never more than wading and playing in the waves, never far out for an open swim. I did snorkel at the great barrier reef, but that was different. The water was calm and I wasn’t swimming much freestyle or too far, just in circles, watching brightly colored fist. Even though it scares me–especially the idea of sharks (thanks, Steven Spielberg)– I’d like to try sometime. Probably with a few other people. The lake water I swim in is mostly calm, with some chop, and once in a while whitecaps. Swimming across Nokomis is not the same as swimming in the ocean, but it’s also not the same as a pool–which can have it’s share of foam and dangers if you’re swimming in a lane with lots of other people. Lake Nokomis is strange because it was originally a swampy area, only averaging 5 feet of depth. It was dredged out and turned into a lake in the 1910s. But, it’s lake water, and it’s packed with fish, and it’s not small.

june 23/RUNSWIM

4.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back + winchell trail
64 degrees
dew point: 60

I feel better at the end of this run than I did during it. A beautiful morning, not too windy or hot, sun that gently dazzled but didn’t beat down. Even so, I sweat a lot and felt hot. Thought about the dew point, trying to remember exactly how it worked. I researched it and wrote about it a few years ago, but when someone asked me what it was a few days ago, I couldn’t remember. How do I forget these things so quickly? Here’s my explanation I wrote in 2017:

It’s not the heat or the humidity it’s the dew point, which is the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

Saw a flash of white, churning water as I ran past the falls. Noticed an opening in the thick trees with a dark winding trail just below the ford bridge–it seemed inviting until I imagined all the bugs that would be waiting for me in there. Heard some voices down in the gorge, on the river. Rowers. Also heard the clicking of a gear change as one bike passed, the clunking of a chain that needed to be greased as another approached.

As I ran on the Winchell Trail through the thick green, I thought that when I’m running by the gorge, I think of in broad, basic ways: tree, rock, bluff, bird, water. Then my mind wandered, and I wondered: (Why) do we need more specific, “technical” names in order to connect with the land? I thought about the importance of names and the violence of occupying and renaming, the value of knowing the history of a place, understanding how it works scientifically, and placing it in a larger context (space, time). Then, as I ran up the short, steep hill by Folwell, I thought about how important it is to learn to think on all of these levels at once, or at least be able to switch back and forth between them. I can experience the gorge as water, rock, tree, bird, wind, or as stolen land occupied and used, abused, restored, protected, ignored, exploited. As a geological wonder, slowly–but not really slowly in geological time, 4 feet per year–carved out by the river eroding the soft St. Peter sandstone. As both wild/natural and cultivated/managed–the site of erosion due to water, and erosion due to the introduction of invasive species, industry, too many hikers, bikers, houses nearby. There isn’t an easy way to reconcile these different understandings and their impacts.

After I finished my run and started walking home, I thought about how these levels/layers could be represented or expressed in a poem. What forms would work best and how to translate all of it into a form? I imagined a mostly blank page with the elemental word in the center (rock or water or tree), then additional pages with other related meanings–you could flip through and somehow add meanings or see all of the meanings at once. Does this make sense? Then I thought about a poem that somehow mimics the form of a fossil, what would that look like? Or the different layers of rock representing different eras of geological time. Not sure if this will go anywhere, but I’ll spend some more time thinking about it.

To chlorophyll, refineries, coal, furnaces beneath early skyscrapers, fossils/ Caroline Kenworthy

after Jane Hirshfield

Back then, what did I know?
The distance between moving cars I could turn into.
How far past EMPTY the engine would run.

I moved daily, rolling over poured rock,
traveling to learn. I was propelled by bodies

of organic matter. First, they were found.
Well, no. First, they were blue flowers carpeting a forest floor,
or the brown and hungry animal moving through them.

Then, they were found, pumped, sifted, melted, strained,
boiled, strained again, divided. Then burned.

Funny to think that we didn’t know what coal was,
and then we did. From there— efficient refinement attracts
our kind— we made these bodies pourable.
The dark rainbow and sharp whiff of petroleum.

I want to explain what I mean by bodies—
at first, I meant sentient movers. As if movement springs only from brains.
Then I thought, an organized, silent burning of sugars. I think,
a system to translate the world into the self.

Life’s long inhale of nutrients, and longer, hotter exhalation in decay. Packed, still, silent.

Hard to remember that matter hums constantly.
These cars and highways— how much of moving is death rearranged.

swim: 1.2 miles/ 4 loops
cedar lake open swim

Cedar Lake! Cedar Lake! Hooray for open swim at both lake nokomis and cedar lake. Very different experiences. Nokomis is 600 yards across, Cedar Lake is 300. Nokomis is about 15-20 feet deep, Cedar is 30-40 feet deep. Nokomis has a big beach with a boathouse and restaurant, Cedar has porta potties. I like both. Today, it was windy and bright. Choppy on the way back and hard to see the shore. My sighting trick: there’s a break in the towering trees where the small beach is.

june 22/SWIM

3 miles/ 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees

Another good swim. I didn’t get off course but I did find it much harder to sight the buoys. Was it all the bobbing bright orange swim caps that I mistook for the buoy, or that I didn’t rinse out all of the baby shampoo I use to anti-fog my goggles so my eyes stung, or the bright sun, or another decline in my vision? Swimming with the sun behind me, I usually could see a smudge of orange and swam straight to the little beach, but swimming into the sun, I couldn’t sight the green buoys at all. I mostly used the roof at the big beach as a guide and when I thought I was sighting the hulking shape of the green buoy, I usually was sighting a sailboat.

Breathed every 5 strokes almost the entire time. A few 5 then 6, or 3 then 5, or 3 then 4. Might have seen a few fish below me, or they could have just been sun streaks. Last week, I saw several dragonflies hovering above the water, looking like little helicopters. Didn’t notice any tonight. No airplanes either. I encountered a few swimmers out in the middle of the lake, but mostly I felt alone, which was fine with me. Every so often, it felt strange and unsettling, but I didn’t mind. I don’t remember hearing anything and all I remember feeling was the choppy waves as I neared the big beach. When I got out of the water, my right eye burned so much that I had to keep it closed. Bright sun + a trace of baby shampoo still in the google = bad news

Earlier today, I spent some time reading up about geological time. Eons and eras, periods, epochs, and ages. So much classification and names for divisions of time! Western science is really into naming things, often after people. It might be interesting to read an intellectual history of geology in the 19th century, but only if it’s written by an engaging writer, like Bill Bryson. I wonder if he writes about geology in his book, A Brief History of Nearly Everything?

Conversation with a Pebble/Alyson Hallett

Here’s what I’ve been wondering. If fire hides in wood
what hides in a stone?

I hold a pebble
in the palm of my hand. It looks like an egg that wants to hatch.

I do not know how long
it will take, how long its incubation or breaking through.

My time is slow, Pebble says. Slower Than you can imagine.

I know this is true.
I kiss the pebble,
Watch the moisture from my lips sink in.

That’s what I’m hiding,
It says. Water. The tiniest Rivers, lakes, seas.

Ideas of what water
Can be. Yes, pebble says,
I am hiding all the world’s memory.