june 8/SWIM

1 mile/6 loops
lake nokomis, big beach
84 degrees

My first real swim (30 minutes straight) since September of 2019! Very exciting. My apple watch consistently underestimates the distance, so I’m not quite sure, but based on my pace and past loop swimming, I’ve decided I swam a mile. My first mile of many this summer, I hope. It’s ambitious, but I’d love to swim 100 miles this summer. Only 99 left.

The water was about as good as it gets. Not too cold, no chop, no debris. I could see the white buoys out of my periphery. I think I saw a few big fish swimming below me and some beams or streaks of light. Swimming so close to the white buoys, I got a good look at the brown muck on the underside of the buoys at each end. Yuck. I “raced” a paddle boarder paddling in from the middle of the lake, and avoided a few other boats. I mostly breathed every 5 strokes. Sometimes 5, then 6. A few times, 3. A lot of the time I thought about how my right shoulder–the one I injured last spring scraping paint off of the deck–ached a little more than my left, and whether or not the every-so-often sharp pain in my right ear was the start of something, but occasionally I thought about how much I love swimming, and how, even more than running, it gives you a way into another world, where your senses don’t work, or work strangely. Very cool. I like this water world.

For a few hours after I had finished, my body, especially my shoulders, felt slightly and pleasantly sore–not that miserable sore where you can barely move, but the sore you feel when you have worked your muscles and they are grateful to be used in this way finally, after a long 16 months away from the water.

My theme this month is water and stone. As I read through various essays, poems, articles, I’m coming to realize that I’m understanding the theme through the work of one of my new (not new, she’s died 4 years before I was born in 1970, but new to me) favorite poets: Lorine Niedecker. Here’s the opening to a beautiful poem that might serve as an inspiration for me (note: her cool spacing didn’t work when I pasted it into wordpress. Click on the poem to read it with the cool spacing):

Paean to Place/ LORINE NIEDECKER

And the place
was water
Fish
fowl
flood
Water lily mud
My life

in the leaves and on water
My mother and I
born
in swale and swamp and sworn
to water

I was born on water, Lake Superior in Hancock, Michigan, and my mom was too, Mississippi River in West St. Paul, Minnesota. While my mom never learned to swim, or love being in the water, I did. As a digital story I created more than 5 years ago begins: “I have loved water all my life.”

june 7/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
75 degrees

Too warm this morning. Decided I needed the distraction of headphones and my old spotify playlist. Ran on the trail for the first half, then walked across turkey hollow (no turkeys today) and ran up 47th. I don’t remember glancing down at the river. I was too busy looking out for other runners. Do I remember much of this part of the run? Only the 4 or 5 times I had to cross over the bike path to give approaching runners room, and that it was uncomfortably warm outside. After running up 47th I headed over to the guantlet (the narrow strip of grass between Becketwood and 42nd, with the river road on one side, a small wood on the other) and then to Edmund. I decided to stop at the house on Edmund that posts poems on their front windows to see if they had posted a new one–the last one I saw was M Oliver’s “Work.” Yes, they did. The sun was too bright on the window to see the top of the poem, but the rest of June Jordan’s “These Poems” was wonderful. I love that my neighbors post these poems.

These Poems/ June Jordan – 1936-2002

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

Ah, love this poem. And it fits with my theme of water and stone with the line, “These words/they are stones in the water/running away” Not sure about the image of stones in the water running away? Do stones run away? I’ve seen them skip or tumble or be a throw away or roll, but never run. I’m probably missing something…

june 6/RUNswim

2.5 miles
lake nokomis
75 degrees

STA and I drove over to the lake early to avoid the heat and then ran around it. Hot and sunny, but not too bad for me; STA was having some difficulty with his knee and hip, so not so good for him. Lots of people to dodge, mostly in packs of 2 or 3 or more. We weren’t trying to avoid them as much as just not run into them. The highlight of the run: passing 3 people standing near a pooping dog, hearing one of the people say: Such a big poop and right by a trashcan! Good dog! He said this in a voice that you usually hear when someone is praising a toddler. Okay, maybe I also liked feeling the breeze coming off of the lake and watching it glimmer and feeling almost normal and locking into a steady rhythm with my arms swinging the same amount and in perfect chorus with my legs. Oh–and I also remember stretching at a table near Sandcastle and noticing the light from the overhang reflecting on the pavement, making it glow a pale, pretty blue.

swim: just a quick dip in the drink (100 yards?)

I wanted to test out the water before open swim, which starts on the 15th!, so I decided to try a quick swim. It wasn’t that cold, just lots of waves from all the wind. My first time swimming since August of 2019. It felt like I never stopped, and strange and unknown at the same time. In other Junes the lake water has been clear, but not today. Couldn’t see a thing below me. Also hard to see above water. Time to prepare for vague shapes, and not knowing where I’m going, and trusting straight strokes. Always good practice and it makes every swim more exciting–will I get way off course? will the lifeguard have to come get me? I really hope that I can swim a lot this summer. Could I manage 100 miles? I’ll see. Open swim has expanded; I can swim 6 days a week. Minneapolis Parks is amazing.

Here’s a poem for this month’s theme of water and stone. Wow.

The Museum of Stones/ Carolyn Forché – 1950-

These are your stones, assembled in matchbox and tin,
collected from roadside, culvert, and viaduct,
battlefield, threshing floor, basilica, abattoir–
stones, loosened by tanks in the streets
from a city whose earliest map was drawn in ink on linen,
schoolyard stones in the hand of a corpse,
pebble from Apollinaire’s oui,
stone of the mind within us
carried from one silence to another,
stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, horneblende,
agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards,
chalk, marl, mudstone from temples and tombs,
stone from the tunnel lined with bones,
lava of a city’s entombment, stones
chipped from lighthouse, cell wall, scriptorium,
paving stones from the hands of those who rose against the army,
stones where the bells had fallen, where the bridges were blown,
those that had flown through windows, weighted petitions,
feldspar, rose quartz, blueschist, gneiss and chert,
fragments of an abbey at dusk, sandstone toe
of a Buddha mortared at Bamiyan,
stone from the hill of three crosses and a crypt,
from a chimney where storks cried like human children,
stones newly fallen from stars, a stillness of stones, a heart,
altar and boundary of stone, marker and vessel, first cast, lode and hail,
bridge stones and others to pave and shut up with,
stone apple, stone basil, beech, berry, stone brake,
stone bramble, stone fern, lichen, liverwort, pippin and root,
concretion of the body, as blind as cold as deaf,
all earth a quarry, all life a labor, stone-faced, stone-drunk
with hope that this assemblage of rubble, taken together, would become
a shrine or holy place, an ossuary, immoveable and sacred
like the stone that marked the path of the sun as it entered the human dawn.

This poem. Beautiful and powerful and haunting. I need to spend some time with it. So much to think about and reflect on. Here are two other things to put beside it:

From the Emily Dickinson Lexicon, entry for stone

stone (-s), n. [OE stán, wall; Gk. ‘pebble’.] (webplay: body, buildings, cold, dead, earth, express, eye, fall, fences, forgot, glance, gold, great, hard, heart, lie, lifeless, means, mirror, myself, perfectly, Philosopher’s, sense, set, small, stand, still, supposed, turning, universally, use, walls, water, weight).

  1. Hard mineral substance.
  2. Piece of rock; [fig.] thing which has a characteristic of a rock: unbreakable, inanimate, unfeeling, immovable, lack of consciousness, used to throw at things, used to break things, used in building structures.
  3. Jewel; precious gem.
  4. Grave; sepulcher; crypt; mausoleum; burial vault; [fig.] large stone covering the entrance of Jesus Christ’s sepulcher which was removed at the time of his resurrection.
  5. Coffin; casket; solid enclosure holding a dead body.
  6. Headstone; monument marking a grave.
  7. Imaginary substance thought to be able to turn other substances into gold. 
  8. Phrase. “[Written / set / stamped] in stone”: unalterable; prescribed by fate; will of God.

gneiss (which has come up in a few different places for me in the last few days):

Gneiss is a foliated metamorphic rock identified by its bands and lenses of varying mineral composition. Some of these bands (or lenses) contain granular minerals that are bound together in an interlocking texture.

Gneiss: Metamorphic Rock

STA’s favorite joke from high school science class:

She was gneiss, but he took her for granite.

june 4/RUN

3.3 miles
2 trails
72 degrees

Ran earlier this morning–at 6:30–to beat the heat. High of 99 today. We already turned the air on. 90s for the next 5 days. All this heat should warm up the lake. Less than 2 weeks until open swim begins!

I ran south on the upper trail. I tried to look at the river but it was hard. Too much green. Even at the overlook by the entrance to Winchell Trail was green. Only slashes of silver–or white heat–burning through the trees. Running north again on the Winchell Trail at the steepest spot above the river, I could feel the river through my peripheral vision. Sometimes it was a constant brightness, other times a rhythmic flash, keeping time with my striking feet as I passed one tree after another.

Yesterday I mentioned noticing the large crack in the trail that’s been marked with white spray paint and looks like Florida or a tube sock. Glancing at it today, I think it looks more like a knee-high sock or a compression sock, and not really Florida–although it still reminds me of Florida which, despite all the shit happening there these days, is not a bad thing. I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents in Deltona–the heat, the tropical humidity, the beach, Epcot, even the swampy salty tap water. I miss the ocean; I haven’t been there since FWA was a few months old, he’s 18 now.

Other things I noticed: a tall tree on the Winchell Trail leaning over a little too much–was it about to fall?; the trickle of water from the sewer pipe at 44th and the faster flow at the 42nd street pipe, the noise of water mixing in with the noise of rustling leaves; the river more light than water; my good omen: a lone roller skier; the shuffling, stomping feet of a runner behind me, becoming more distant with each step; a furry, big dog sitting calmly, perched at the top of the 38th street steps next to a bench and a human; some singing birds–robins, I think; a greeting from a runner; my new running shorts irritatingly riding up on the one side–probably due to the heat.

Reading Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior.” I’m thinking about rocks and layers and these two opening lines, one from her poem, “Lake Superior,” and one from her essay, “Lake Superior Country, Vacation Trip ’66”:

from Lake Superior

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock

from Lake Superior Country, Vacation Trip ’66

The journey of the rock is never ended. In every tiny part of any living thing are materials that once were rock that turned to soil. These minerals are drawn out of the soil by plant roots and the plant used them to build leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Plants are eaten by animals. In our blood is iron from plants that draw out of the soil. Your teeth and bones were once coral. The water you drink has been in clouds over the mountains of Asia and in waterfall of Africa. The air you breathe has swirled thru places of the earth that no one has ever seen. Every bit of you is a bit of earth and has been on many strange and wonderful journeys over countless millions of years.

june 2/RUN

3 miles
2 trails + the tunnel of trees
65 degrees

Even though I ran yesterday, I decided that I had to run today too, on my 10th anniversary of running. Taking those first steps with the couch to 5k program 10 years ago changed my life, and, honestly, saved my life. Not so much my literal life, as my livable life.

Today I ran south on the river road trail, then turned down at 42nd and ran north on the Winchell Trail. I heard lots of woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees and a tinny mechanical chirp that I think might be a robin but I’m not sure. At the end of my run, right by my house, I also heard a bird calling out, “tweet tweet look at me!” What is this bird? I looked up birdsong mnemonics but couldn’t find anything close to the phrase I heard. I encountered some other walkers and runners and bikers and a maintenance truck with someone up in a bucket trimming a tree. I heard the kids laughing and yelling on the playground. I greeted the Welcoming Oaks and got lost in the green in the tunnel of trees. I counted the stacked stones (2) on the ancient boulder. I noticed the cottonwood fuzz piled up on the edges of the grass. I thought about water and stones and how different yet connected they are here near the gorge. I stopped at the fallen tree branch balanced precariously on the fence creating a bridge to cross under and measured (roughly) the distance from my head–about 2 or 3 inches. No wonder I always want to duck! I avoided the dip in the road and the big crack that is marked by white spray paint in the shape of a tube sock or Florida (at least that what it looks like to me!). I tried to breathe deeply through my noise and swing my arms so that the right swung back as much as the left. I monitored how my left quad felt and my lower back. I crossed the road twice at crosswalks, twice not, making sure to triple check before I went. I peered down at the inviting opening carving out a space between dark green near the oak savanna.

But I didn’t look down at the river, or, if I did, I can’t remember anything about it. What color was it? Were there any rowers on it? Was it smooth or rough? This seems to happen a lot–I lose the river. Is it because when I look at it, I often don’t see anything but water–blue or brown or gray–just there. A blob or a streak or a wide swath. I guess I’m too far away, and it’s too hard to notice anything in a flash–unless it’s sunny and it sparkles or reflects.

Today’s poem on the theme of water and stone is from the amazing Alice Oswald:

Evaporations/ Alice Oswald

I

What I admire is Dew
To have the strength of Dew
To pass apparitional through a place
Without trace or title
To be Snow!
To be almost actual!
Oh pristine example
Of claiming a place on the earth
Only to cancel
Rain
Rain
Smashed against stone
I love leaf and un-leaf
Of frost and un-fern
All these incisions
And indecisions of the Dawn
Yes Yes there is Ice but I notice
The Water doesn’t like it so orderly
What Water admires
Is the slapstick rush of things melting
I have taken my bedding to the fields
First it was Mist
Uncontrollably whispering
Then it was Dew
Disclosing the cold in my mind
Saying simply that it
Comes from nothing
And will return to nothing
Then it was…

II

In their lunch hour
I saw the shop-workers get into water
They put their watches on the stones and slithered
frightened
Into the tight-fitting river
And shook out cuffs of splash
And swam wide strokes towards the trees
And after a while swam back
With rigid cormorant smiles
Shocked I suppose from taking on
Something impossible to think through
Something old and obsessive like the centre of a rose
And for that reason they quickly turned
And struggled out again and retrieved their watches
Stooped on the grass-line hurrying now
They began to laugh and from their meaty backs
A million crackling things
Burst into flight which was either water
Or the hour itself ascending.

O, Alice Oswald! I read somewhere that when she does readings of her poems, she often?always? does it from memory. Very cool. I love so much about this poem: the gentle rhyming at the beginning–dew/through, place/trace. The idea of being almost actual. Frost and un-fern, the slapstick rush of things melting, the way the dew and the mist speak to her. Then, in the second part: the watches on the stones reminds me of M Oliver’s lamenting of clocks and the prison of normal time. I love the cormorant smiles and the meaty backs (which is kind of gross), and the “million crackling things” that burst into flight which could be water drops or the evaporation of the magical hour in and of the water.

june 1/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha creek trail + lake nokomis
71 degrees

Today is STA’s 10 year anniversary of running (his runnaversary); mine is tomorrow. We decided to celebrate them together by running part of the path where it all began in 2011: Minnehaha Creek Trail. What a beautiful day! Maybe a little too bright and warm, but it feels like summer, normal summer.

Running on the trail brought back memories of the kids when they were kids. We lived over by this trail, and not as close to the river, for 10 years. I walked and biked it with FWA and RJP countless times, probably mostly in the summer–to camps, to and to the lake. It was strange to be on this path—for the first time in almost a year–and notice all the differences, like how the trail travels under 28th avenue now instead of steeply climbing up to a crosswalk. As we ran on it, STA remarked on how you would never be able to tell there had been a different trail here unless you remembered it. Yes, the importance of remembering. I’m good at that. It’s strange to be visiting these known, yet unfamiliar, places in the same city in which I still live. Growing up, I never lived in a town for more than 5 years: 4 years in UP Michigan; 5 years in Hickory, North Carolina; 1 year in Salem, Virginia; 4 years in a northern Virginia suburb of D.C; 4 years West/Des Moines, Iowa–well, when I was in college in Minnesota, I still lived in West Des Moines for the summer, so I guess you could count that as 8 years. Anyway, after a few years in the LA area, and a few years in Atlanta, we moved to Minneapolis for good. We’ve lived here since the late fall of 2003, when FWA was 6 months old. He’s 18 now. Wow. I love this place, and I love it even more since I started running around it. Tomorrow is my official 10 running anniversary, so I think I’ll write about what running means to me tomorrow.

Remembering Today’s Run

  • Such a warm, bright sun. Annoyingly (to STA, I’m sure), I had to recite a few lines from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”–the part after the Mariner has killed the albatross and the whole ship is paying the price: no breeze, “all in a hot and copper sky/the bloody sun at noon/right up above the mast it stands/no bigger than a moon.” The part I recited was: “Day after day, day after day/we stuck, no breath, no motion/as idle as a painted ship/upon a painted ocean.” We were moving but the air was not. When in the direct sun, I remember feeling hot and stuck
  • Checking out the menu for Sandcastle and thinking about how we could get some beers and fries after some of my swims this summer
  • Feeling sad about the big willow tree just past the echo bridge–a tree that I’ve featured in at least 2 poems–was recently cut down. Bummer
  • Stopping a lot so STA could take pictures (he posted them on instagram). At one spot, we noticed how still the water was and how clear the reflection of the boat was on its surface. I remember mentioning the myth of Adonis and how he looked at his reflection–but, I should have known better; checking my log entries I found the entry where I first mentioned this story and it was Narcissus. Here’s my entry from just over a year ago:

a mirror reflecting the fluffy clouds. I imagined that the water was another world, doubled and reversed, like in May Swenson’s great poem, “Water Picture“: “In the pond in the park/ all things are doubled:/ Long buildings hang and/ wriggle gently. Chimneys/ are bent legs bouncing/ on clouds below.” Love how “In the pond in the park” bounces on my tongue. I kept glancing over at the water and admiring its smooth beauty and how it looked like a mirror. I started thinking about the Greek myth (which I couldn’t really remember) about the hunter who looked at his reflection. I looked it up just now–of course it was Narcissus. Here’s an interesting article I found that discusses him and the idea of mirrors in water–it even has a picture of Salvadore Dali looking into the water.

april 27, 2020

A new month, a new theme. Last month was birds; this month is water and stone. Today’s poem is one I posted on this log a few years ago (I think), but it’s time to revisit it:

Wind, Water, Stone/ OCTAVIO PAZ

TRANSLATED BY ELIOT WEINBERGER

for Roger Caillois

Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,
stone’s a cup of water,
water escapes and is wind.
Stone, wind, water.

Wind sings in its whirling,
water murmurs going by,
unmoving stone keeps still.
Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:
crossing and vanishing
through their empty names:
water, stone, wind.

Stone: stops/blocks, holds things, is still
Water: carves out stone, escapes and transforms, sings