july 9/RUNSWIM

3.25 miles
top of summit hill and back
78 degrees

Warm, sunny. Started in the neighborhood. Ran past the house, a block away, with the guy who is always outside on his front step, usually smoking. No smoking today, thankfully. Have I never not seen him?

Two white mattresses propped up at the end of driveway. Something spray-painted on them that I could read fast enough as I ran by. Graffiti? A message to the garbage guys?

Rowers! At least one 8-person shell on the river below me as I crossed over to the east side.

Shadow falls falling! As I ran up the summit hill, I could hear the water in the small creek slowly making its way to the falls. I tried to see it, but couldn’t.

Other than the rowers, and some sandbars, the water was empty. Brown. Reflections, which looked like dark shadows to me, of trees lining the shore. A small stretch of sparkle. Farther down the river, below the U. the water is foamy, but here it’s just brown.

It was hard, and I walked a few times, but I also pushed myself to run more than I wanted to.

When I reached the bridge again, I put in my “Beaufort Scale” playlist.

look pal, this isn’t the sea

Yesterday, I wrote about looking for a balance between routine and disruption. This morning (7:30 am), I’m thinking about how open swim club offers one model. Swimming across the lake during open swim is a routine with a few set rules: a designated time, lifeguards lining the route, buoys you are supposed to always keep to your right. But, how you choose to follow those rules is up to you. Show up early (often they open the course before it’s officially supposed to start), or halfway through, or even at the last minute. Do just one loop or as many as you can fit into two hours. Swim straight from one buoy to the next in a tight, efficient line or loop wide, taking up as much lake as you can. Swim without stopping, or stop often to catch your breath or orient yourself or feel the openness and solitude of the lake. Round the far buoys or go past them to pause at the shore. Use a kick board or fins, a snorkel. Wear a wetsuit or a tri-suit or a swim suit but always some suit (another rule: no naked swimming).

An open water slogan I’ve seen before: no walls. No lane lines or lanes. But, this isn’t Homer’s sea, Alice Oswald’s unfenced purple. There are shores in sight (well, mostly in sight) and only vines, fish, and swan boats to encounter. No sharks or motorized boats or big waves. Does that mean the lake is all routine? Safe, steady, predictable?

from A Swim in Co. Wicklow/ Derek Mahon

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.

Lake Nokomis is affected by wind and watermilfoil reaches out to grip me near shore almost every swim. No, it’s not the sea, but it’s also not a suburban pool.

In the lake, you can’t see much, either above or below. Above: water, vague trees, sky, sand. Below: your hand, ghost vines, silver flashes. No bottom, just void, nothing, or something not-seen.

In an essay about open swimming in the sea, Lauren Groff (love her writing and her awesome Olympic triathlete sister!) writes:

There is danger, a great deal of it. There are sharks that circle her. They wait. Their teeth shine in the murk. Their bodies lazily trail her shadow as it darts over the coral reef.

Lake Nokomis doesn’t have sharks. It has uncertainty, mystery, a floor only 15-20 feet below scattered with things we can’t see because the water is stirred up, murky. I wonder, which is scarier? Swimming above sharks you can see, or above a nothing that could be anything that you can’t?

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees

A few hours before open swim started, the sky unzipped and it rained hard. I think that might be the reason the water was so full of vegetation: whole vines, chunks of vines, and some green slimy substance. Gross! Before I realized what was happening, I swam through the slime — bright green, soft but not in a pleasant way. I’m glad my mouth was closed and I had a nose plug in. Hopefully it’s not toxic. In the 10 years I’ve been doing open swim, this is the first time I’ve experienced anything like this slime. I almost stopped after one loop, but decided to swim 2 more.

added, 10 july 2024: Reading back through my description, I wanted to add that I didn’t just swim through one random patch of this green slime. It was everywhere, all around the lake. Starting the first loop, before I realized the slime was there, I recall feeling something on the side of my head and wondering if some of my hair had escaped from my cap. No — I think it was some of the slime. The first loop was the worst, but for every loop, I could see it, often below me, but sometimes near the surface.

Okay, against better judgment — mine and Scott’s — I looked it up and it might be blue-green algae, which could be bad and make me sick. Hopefully not. Probably not. If if were blue-green algae I think someone would have seen it and they would have cancelled open swim. Future Sara will let us know.

july 8/RUNSWIM

3.35 miles
ford bridge and back
68 degrees / dew point: 62

Ran an hour earlier today, but it was still hot and muggy. Quiet, calm, not too many walkers or bikers or runners on the trail. With the thick green, I don’t recall seeing the river once. Chanted triple berries. Heard the faint trickling down in the ravine, then from the sewer pipe. Some rustling in the brush. Construction sounds — big planks of wood being dropped? There were birds, I’m sure, but I don’t remember hearing them. No roller skiers or rowers or shadows. Lots of water in the form of humidity and sweat and post-rain run-off.

Repetition, Routine, and Quotes Taken Out of Context

After my run, scrolling around (reading old RUN! posts from today and poetry people tweets), I came across 2 ideas about repetition/routine. The first was a quote from Karlheinz Stockhausen about repetition and walking and breathing:

Repetition is based on body rhythms, so we identify with the heartbeat, or with walking, or with breathing. 

I always want to find the context for these context-less quotes spread online, so I looked it up. Sometimes it can be tedious, finding the source, but today, quick satisfaction! I didn’t know who Karlheinz Stockhausen was, but now I (kind of) do: a big deal — an experimental composer, very influential in 20th century music, including hip-hop and techno (is that the right umbrella term?), according to this cool documentary, Modulations. I also found the unpublished interview from which this quote comes. Here’s some context for the quote:

Q: One of your comments is that a lot of times it’s too repetitive?

A. Yes. I think it’s more interesting to create music which transforms, shapes figures, so that one can follow a process. Repetition is based on body rhythms, so we identify with the heartbeat, or with walking, or with breathing. This has been the tradition for thousands of years of basic musical songs, tunes. But since the middle of the century in particular, the music has become very irregular in rhythm. And the invention of transformations of certain figures has become the most important in musical composition. I think it’s simply more interesting than repetitive technique.

Karlheinz Stockhausen interview

When I read the out-of-context quote (which is shared a lot), I thought it was about the value of repetition and its connection to breathing, but in context, the quote is criticizing repetition as something to move beyond. Context matters (imho)!

This discussion of repetition and disruption of that repetition reminded me of a poem from Carl Phillips (posted on 8 july 2023), Western Edge, that I had just re-read

I need you  
the way astonishment,  
which is really just  

the disruption of routine, 
requires routine.  

I like need repetition and routine and establishing habits that my brain can visually interpret, but I also need love disruption, interruption, moments of astonishment. My ongoing question — how to balance the routine with the astonishing?

swim: 3 nokomis loops (6 cedar loops)
cedar lake open swim
78 degrees

A beautiful night for a swim! Calm water, warm air. Too many vines floating in the water. They kept passing over me, trailing, lingering. I said to Scott that it felt almost like a violation, the way they slowly moved from my shoulder, down my torso, then my leg. Yuck! He joked, it was a vine-olation. The vines were also a problem near shore, growing up from the bottom in a thick tangle. It’s not difficult to imagine someone getting stuck in them and drowning.

The buoy across the lake was fine for the first loop, then partly deflated for the second loop, then completely flat for the rest of the loops. Just an orange blob on the water. I’ve never seen that before! Of course it happened at Cedar lake.

Another Cedar lake moment:
A woman to the lifeguard: Excuse me, my son doesn’t have a cap, and he’s not 18 (the minimum required age for open swim), but could he swim across?
Lifeguard: As long as he’s a good swimmer, it should be okay.

Maybe I would have been critical of these things in the past, but I’m not now. Deflated buoys and underage swimmers are just part of the cedar lake vibe.

10 Things

  1. blue sky with a few puffy white clouds
  2. something flying through the air — a plane? a big bird? I turned on my back for a minute to check: plane — I could hear the roar of the engines
  3. the orange blob from a distance, not whispering orange, more like a random very quick blip — orng
  4. scratchy vines poking my arm
  5. murky water, difficult to see my hand, yellowish brown
  6. log rolling — a giant red fake log
  7. before the swim, standing by the lifeguard stand — creeaakk — the lifeguard opened a big trunk, looking for something. I wonder how often they open it? Judging my how much it creaked, not too often!
  8. the deflated buoy was far away from hidden beach — no chance to see or hear how many people were swimming there
  9. the water was warm, but near the shore where it was still deep, there were pockets of very cold water
  10. on the last loop, I could feel the muck under my suit, against my skin, scratching me. I almost stopped to pull it out, but when do I ever stop?

july 7/SWIM

4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
69 degrees / calm

Finally, the water was warm! Warm enough that I wasn’t freezing on the drive home, wrapped in blankets. And I didn’t have to take a long, hot shower to thaw out. Another wonderful swim. Strong, confident strokes. Steady, barely a break in the rhythm — 1 2 sight 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 breathe right 1 2 sight 3 4 5 breathe left — once to adjust my nose plug, a few times to avoid drifting swimmers, and once to stand at the big beach between loops 3 and 4.

today, 4 loops = 3800 yards

10+ Lake Things

  1. getting ready to start, overheard: a tiny, older woman in wetsuit to another women in a tri-suit — are you ready to swim? the tri-suit replies: no, I don’t want to do this wetsuit: you don’t want to swim? tri-suit: no, but I have a race on the 14th
  2. a delightfully creaking swing, sounding almost like it was calling out or scolding me — creeaakkk creeaakk
  3. glittering sediment in the water
  4. pale, ghostly legs near the buoys
  5. lifeguards for the win: the course set up and open 5 minutes early! and the buoys were fairly in line with each other!
  6. no swans or geese or ducks or minnows (at least that I recall)
  7. loop 1: sun, a few clouds
  8. loop 2: less sun, more clouds, half the sky turning white
  9. loop 3: more sun again
  10. bubbles, bubbles everywhere from exhaling and piercing the water
  11. I added to the collection of sad, scattered hairbands at the lake floor by accidentally dropping mine at the end of the swim
  12. at the beginning: a metal detector dude, wading in the water!

A few random thoughts: I don’t miss the silver-boat bottom and even if it were still here, the course is set up in a way that would make it unhelpful for guiding me. I only breathe through my mouth when I swim because of my nose plug. Longterm, what kind of impact does that have on my swimming, breathing, fitness? It’s me, hi, I’m the problem it’s me: breaststrokers always seem to be trying to race me. They irritate me. Not that I’m complaining, but how come I never see any snakes in this water (or eels)?

During loop two, I recited Anne Sexton’s “The Nude Swim” as I swam. All this in us had escaped for a minute is still my favorite line, although I also like, we entered in completely and let our bodies lose all their loneliness. I also recited a bit from MO: It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit among the flux of happenings.

scott’s big band concert

Last night, FWA and I went to Scott’s big band concert. It was outside beside a beautiful lake in a small town northwest of Minneapolis. It lasted for 2 hours. Sitting there, I witnessed the changing light — from bright to shadows to sun descending, sky suggesting pink. At one point, I turned to FWA and mentioned the pink then asked, is it pink? And he said, no and looked at me a little strangely. I responded, I love how my vision makes everything magical. It didn’t look PINK! but more like a whisper, a trace, the slightest hint of pink, as if someone was whispering to me, pink. Was I anticipating the sunset I expected? Or maybe just more attuned than FWA to the changing light, having given so much attention in the past few years to subtle shifts in color?

10 Things During the Concert

  1. at the end of a song, just as the singer was hitting a fabulous high note, a train passed nearby, its horn blaring, sounding like part of the music
  2. someone was smoking a pipe nearby — later Scott complained that he could smell it on stage; I smelled it, but it didn’t bother me
  3. a woman behind me cackling
  4. another woman in a flowing turquoise skirt walking by then stopping to listen to the Stevie Wonder medley then swaying to — now I can’t remember which Wonder song it was, Sir Duke?
  5. no bugs!
  6. birds! — high in the sky, one bird awkardly flapping its wings, frantic with speed
  7. birds! — shooting up in the sky like fireworks or static on a screen, one at a time
  8. the lake behind me — I could feel it but couldn’t see it because to turn and look would seem as if I was staring at the people behind me — oh, why didn’t they position the band shell in front of the lake!
  9. during the concert, people were playing basketball at the court next to the stage — I don’t remember hearing them, just seeing bodies moving back and forth
  10. in the distance, to my right, carnival rides — a spinn-y ride lit up in red and green and blue lights — as dusk neared, I watched the lights glow

It was a long night — we left the house at 3:45 pm, got to the concert venue at 5, waited around until the concert started at 6, then listened for 2 hours, and finally got home at almost 10. But I’m glad I went, and grateful that FWA came too. So many cool images to witness and remember.

july 6/RUN

3.1 miles
ford bridge and back
66 degrees

The struggle continues. Another difficult run, another beautiful morning. Birds! Flowers! Blue sky! Sweat. Sore legs. Weak will. Chanted triple berries for a few minutes, which helped me keep going longer than I thought I could. Had fun running to “Virtual Insanity” — it helped me pick up my cadence for a few minutes

10 Things

  1. running on the dirt path between edmund and the river road, a sharp pain on the shin — not a muscle but a bug stinging me
  2. flowers: purple orange red yellow pink
  3. walking past the house with a dog named Merry, 2 cars with canoes on top, excited voices — returning from a trip or leaving for one?
  4. one of the people: Shit! I’m already sweating
  5. the meadow just beyond the ford bridge was silent — no buzzing cicadas or croaking frogs today
  6. above on the ford bridge, voices somewhere — no intelligible words just 2 women making noise
  7. traces of mud on the trail — not gloppy, just wet
  8. the trail, busy with zooming bikes
  9. thud thud thud a power walker approaching from behind during my cool-down walk
  10. a big boulder on the side of the trail, a small, hollowed out part of top, filled with water — water and stone

Seeing this stone, I was reminded of Octavio Paz’s poem “Water, Wind, Stone”:

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.

Before the run, I gave myself the task of trying to think about water and stone as I ran. The only thing I remember is this rock with the small pool of water in it.

july 5/SWIM

4+ loops
lake nokomis open swim
64 degrees (air) / 70-72 (water)
clouds then rain then sun then clouds

Hooray for Friday morning open swim! Overcast and calm water. For the first 100 yards, the water felt slow and cold, then faster and invigorating. At the last reading (tues, july 2) the water temp was 72, but it rained a lot, so I’m thinking the temp maybe went down a degree or two? I should start tracking the temp to see how much it fluctuates.

Because the buoys are positioned by lifeguards every swim — they paddle out on kayaks where they are advised by someone on shore where to drop their anchor — and because there’s no exact spot for each of buoys, the loop distance varies. Today it was long, which I like — the more distance, the better! Here’s a comparison on 3 different 4 loop swims by number of strokes I took / distance (which I’m pretty sure my watch doesn’t measures accurately):

25 june 2024: 2094 strokes / 3100 yards
30 june 2024: 2124 strokes / 3600 yards
5 july 2024: 2374 strokes / 4000 yards

I should note that my stroke count is very consistent. It’s kinda amazing to me how steady and even and similar my stroke count per 100 yards is across the summer.

For much of the swim, I felt strong and focused: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 breathe right 1 2 sight 3 4 5 breathe left. Not much thinking, some noticing:

10 Things

  1. the particles in the water — just ahead of me, reminding me of confetti or glitter, not so much moving through them as moving with them
  2. at first the water felt cold, invigorating
  3. for 3 loops: a white cloud-covered sky
  4. a car in the parking lot had its headlights on — glaring bright yellow
  5. visibility: very good for lake nokomis — if I had tried, I think I would have read my watch underwater!
  6. watching my hands underwater: stretching slicing, ghostly pale
  7. another swimmer’s legs coming into view, glowing white under the water
  8. loop 4 sun, 1: patches of soft blue sky
  9. loop 4 sun, 2: shafts of light underwater, illuminating the particles and making them sparkle
  10. as I neared the beach, surveying the way the bottom went from deep to shallow — a steep drop-off!

In the middle of the swim, I decided to recite Anne Sexton’s “The Nude Swim.” I had memorized part of it a few years ago, but this morning I memorized all of it. Such a great poem — I really like Anne Sexton’s voice. I should read more of her poems.

still my favorite lines from it:

All the fish in us
had escaped for a minute.
The real fish did not mind.
We did not disturb their personal life.

aquatic plant management

A few days ago, I looked up information about the vegetation/vines that I swim above in lake nokomis. I looked them up a few years ago, and recall learning that they were milfoil, but this summer I started doubting that I was remembering the name right. I was! There are two types of watermilfoil:

Eurasian watermilfoil : invasive, choking out native plants
Northern watermilfoil: native, food for the fish

On the Minneapolis Parks’ site, they describe aquatic plant management, which was fascinating. The most effective way to control Eurasian watermilfoil is to harvest it, either with a mechanical harvester or by scuba divers (!). The mechanical harvester, which from what my bad eyes can see is a boat with a big spinning blade

removes plants that are in the top four to six feet of water. The harvested plant material is removed from the water and stored until the end of summer when it is brought to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to be used as organic fill for their operations. 

Aquatic Plant Management

The scuba divers, who only do this on Wirth Lake and Lake Nokomis, hand-pull the watermilfoil in areas that are inaccessible for the mechanical harvester. I wonder what areas are inaccessible and if I’ve ever witnessed the scuba pulling and not realized it. Very cool!

The water was at least 10 degrees colder than the Y pool (82 degrees), but not that cold. Still, by the end of loop 3 (almost an hour in), my hands were getting a little numb. When I got home, I took a long, hot shower. I’d love to be able to swim in very cold water someday — one fantasy: moving to the UK and swimming in the ocean all year round. The other day, I watched this video and thought, I want to be able to do this with other woman, laughing and freezing and loving it:

july 4/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
71 degrees / humidity: 78%
light rain

Raining all day today. After talking to FWA about how he likes to walk in the rain, I decided to run before the rain got heavy — thunderstorms are predicted in the late afternoon. I never mind running in the rain, but I’m usually reluctant to start in it. I’m glad I went for it today. What a beautiful green: deep, rich, fresh (but not refreshing!), comforting. The rain was light enough that I barely felt it — no soaked, clinging shirt of shorts (that happened a few weeks ago).

I’m not sure if it was raining all the time or it stopped sometimes or it was a combination of light rain with dripping trees. It was fun to run under and beside the trees when the rain-soaked leaves rustled. One time I misjudged how low a branch was and ran through it instead of under it — the cool water on my face was a surprise then a relief.

Under the lake street bridge somebody had parked a lime scooter in the middle of the walking path, forcing walkers/runners to veer out into the bike path. Dangerous — bikes bomb down the hill and cut close to the edge of the path without warning. Also, I can’t always see these scooters, or I can sort of see that they’re there, but can’t properly judge my distance from them. Hard to believe I haven’t already been impaled by the handlebars of one of these scooters (or bikes)!

I was not alone on the trail. Mostly walkers, many with umbrellas — no menacing blue umbrella guy who takes over the entire path and won’t budge an inch. Some runners, one talking on a bluetooth headset. No roller skiers. Any bikers? I can’t remember.

Bright car headlights. The whooshing of wheels through the puddles on the road.

In honor of a run in the rain (more fun to say than a rain-run, or is it?), I decided to look to my friend, Emily Dickinson, for a poem. She did not disappoint!

The Skies can’t keep their secret!/ Emily Dickinson

The Skies can’t keep their secret!

They tell it to the Hills –
The Hills just tell the Orchards –
And they—the Daffodils!



A Bird – by chance – that goes that way –
Soft overhears the whole – 

If I should bribe the little Bird – 

Who knows but she would tell?



I think I won’t – however – 

It’s finer – not to know –
If Summer were an Axiom –

What sorcery had snow?



So keep your secret – Father!
I would not – if I could – 

Know what the Sapphire Fellows, do,

In your new-fashioned world!

I found this poem on a favorite site, The Prowling Bee. I love how the blog author, Susan Kornfield, describes ED’s role as a poet:

 Dickinson again chooses the naturalist’s approach to the world rather than the academic’s or theologian’s. She observes in rich detail but is quite reluctant to draw conclusions. Better, to her, the wonder than to have the Latin names and dry scientific knowledge. I suppose this is a poet’s eye, looking at each event, each bit of the world that catches the eye, afresh. Those of us who name, categorize, and systemetize, inject at least one layer between us and the actual world. This preference for questions over answers is one reason why we love our poets!

the prowling Bee

This poem reminds me of Tony Hogland poem that I memorized as part of my 50 for 50: The Social Life of Water

All water is a part of other water.
Cloud talks to lake; mist
speaks quietly to creek.

Lake says something back to cloud,
and cloud listens.
No water is lonely water.

a few hours later: No thunder storms yet (at 2:40 pm), just a steady rain, a dark sky. I’m writing in this already finished post to add an article that I read on MPR News about Minneapolis Park Workers going on strike. The article offers some powerful descriptions of the difficult labor — physically, emotionally — that many park workers do.

Lane [a park worker] says he’s been with Minneapolis parks for more than a decade, arriving at 5 a.m. daily in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, during 2020 riots that followed the murder of George Floyd and regularly, when tasked to clean up homeless encampments.

It can be a grueling job, he said. He’s frequently cleaning up broken glass, needles and feces, ensuring the public spaces are safe to enjoy. On one of his most difficult days, Lane said he watched a woman die from an overdose. But like any other day on the job, he pushed on.

“Just to see the poverty was disheartening,” he said. “It touched me, man. I cried a few times just thinking about how people are living out here.

Hundreds of Minneapolis Park Workers Poised to Strike for a Week

Wow. I often notice and appreciate the park workers, but it’s usually related to tree-trimming or road patching. I don’t think enough about this other, less visible, labor. What a difficult task to clear out encampments, especially if you disagree with the decision that they need to be cleared out. Last month, while running with Scott, I recall pointing out all of the tents and tarps and stuff propped up near a trash can on the trail just above the gorge. I wasn’t sure why it was there, but now I imagine it was the aftermath from an encampment clear out by park workers.

july 2/RUNSWIM

4 miles
monument and back*
65 degrees / dew point: 62
drizzle**

*a new route? Through the neighborhood, over the lake street bridge, up the summit hill, over to the Civil War Monument and back
**or as I’ve been known to say, spittin’ (does that come from the UP? the south? the midwest?)

Even though the dew point was high, the drizzle helped it feel cooler. Everything dark and quiet, calm, green. Passed the guy who is always sitting on his front stoop smoking. Also passed kids arriving at the church daycare. Pushed myself to keep running up the summit hill even though I wanted to stop. Made it!

Chanted triple berries for a mile or two. It helped distract me. raspberry / blueberry / strawberry

10 Things

  1. shadow falls was gushing through the trees
  2. the street lamps were glowing on the st. paul side
  3. rowers on the river! an 8-person shell. The coxswain was advising them on where to place the paddles in the high water (we have a river flood warning)
  4. morning! from a passing runner — good morning!
  5. the river was a beautiful gray blue, the trees a rich green
  6. so windy on the bridge heading east that I had to take my cap off and hold it
  7. the whining of a power saw in the distance
  8. alone at the monument overlook
  9. sometimes it was a drizzle, sometimes just a mist — difficult to tell which while running and sweating
  10. enveloped in dark green in the tunnel of trees — the only light was green light and a small circle of white at the top of the hill

As I looked down at the river from high above on the gorge, I thought about the rowers and their paddles and how different their experience of the water was to mine. Down there in the water, I bet it’s choppy and bumpy, with wind and spray. Up here, it’s almost flat and gray blue. No feeling of motion — no waves or the unsettling sense of being higher on water that’s on the edge of spilling over somewhere.

Yesterday I started thinking again about different bodies of water and how poets write about them: Mary Oliver (ponds), Lorine Niedecker (lakes), Alice Oswald (rivers, the sea). I also remembered Cole Swenson and their writing about the river Gave de Pau in Gave. I think I need to buy this book! Anyway, I looked up a few more of their poems and read one titled, “To Circumferate.” These lines stuck with me:

With a careful
adjustment of eye there are
no buildings. A city of trees
and hedges

As I ran back from the monument, looking left to the ravine and the trees, I thought about that line and imagined the stretches of grass, the trees, the green ravine as a city — the only city — no buildings or houses or roads or cars, only trees and tall grasses and bushes leading down to the river.

All of this thinking about different bodies of water reminded me of something I started to read but had to return to the library before I got very far, Visitation/ Jenny Erpenbeck. I took a screen-shot of the first two pages and the amazing description of water within them:

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees / drizzle

A great swim! Now I’m cold and tired and hungry!

10 Things

  1. more ghost vines glowing below
  2. one menacing white swan
  3. the water below was a deep green with some blue
  4. the water near the shore was still clear enough to see the sandy bottom
  5. the sky was pale — no sun, except for a few times when it almost broke through
  6. it’s the free night for open swim so more bobbing buoys — yellow was the most popular color
  7. breathed mostly every five
  8. tangled in a few vines, one leaf didn’t want to go away
  9. stopped once or twice in the middle of the lake — calm, quiet — I should stop more
  10. some little speck got in my eye at the beginning of the swim — I should have stopped to fix my goggles, but I just kept swimming, now it’s still stuck in there

july 1/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
64 degrees

Feeling a little off since yesterday afternoon — the slightest sore throat, a little stuffy, tired. Can’t decide if it’s allergies from swimming in the lake or something else (tested, not COVID). Future Sara, let me know.

This first July run was the same as most of my June runs: difficult, but worth it. The first half was fine, the second half hard. Sore legs, hard to keep going. I think a lot of it is mental, but I’m not sure how to fix it. For now, more swimming, shorter runs.

One thing that helped in the first half was reciting two poems: Still Life with Window and Fish / Jorie Graham and The Social Life of Water / Tony Hoagland. It was a good distraction. I think it might help if I figured out a task or project or activity before each run. That has helped me in the past.

10 Things

  1. greeted the Welcoming Oaks — good morning! good morning!
  2. admired the green view down to the floodplain forest — deep green, scraggly excess
  3. noticed the purple flowers lining the trail
  4. heard the rowers below — not yet on the river, but down below near the boathouse, laughing
  5. encountered a long line of unevenly spaced kids in yellow vests on bikes — lots of stragglers near the back
  6. not a single view of the river that I remember
  7. heading north: wind pushing from behind, heading south: in my face, cooling me off
  8. one bug almost landing in my eye
  9. several stones stacked on the ancient boulder — was it 4 again?
  10. the outline of an orange cat spray-painted on the sidewalk — even though it probably doesn’t look like Garfield, every time I see it I think, Garfield

Why was the cat named Garfield? The other day, when Scott and I were walking, I thought I heard a woman call out to their dog, Neil! Come here Neil! And I thought that that would be an awesome name for a dog, but not as awesome as Bob Barker.

Alice Oswald and color vision

I’m fascinated by something that I read in Alice Oswald’s interview with Kit Fan:

and this may again be an effect of thinking about the project with an artist, I was just thinking an awful lot about light and vision and the way … well, light as an insect, really, which is not just Homer, it’s also Dante. I always loved this part of Dante where he talks about the spiriti visivi, I think they’re called. And this idea that when you look at things, what’s happening is these kind of, you know, these creatures are sort of moving out from your eye to the world and moving from the world back into your eye. I was trying to sort of slow down my senses while I wrote this poem and imagine even a sort of passage between myself and the world was a creature, living creature of some kind

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

And here are 2 places where that idea shows up in Nobody:

from Nobody/ Alice Oswald

page 19

There are said to be microscopic insects in the eye
who speak Greek and these invisible
ambassadors of vision never see themselves
but fly at flat surfaces and back again
with pigment caught in their shivering hair-like receptors
and this is how the weather gets taken to and fro
and the waves pass each other from one color to the next
and sometimes mist a kind of stupefied rain
slumps over the water like a teenager
and sometimes the sun returns whose gold death mask
with its metallic stare seems to be

blinking

page 30

When trees take over an island and say so all at once
some in pigeon some in pollen with a coniferous hiss
and run to the shore shouting for more light
and the sun drops its soft coverlet over their heads
and owls and hawks and long-beaked sea-crows
flash to and fro
like spirits of sight whose work is on the water
where the massless mind undulates the intervening air
shading it blue and thinking

I wish I was there

or there

I was planning to think about these lines as I swam at the cedar lake open swim, but when we got there it was too windy. No buoys, no lifeguards. People were still swimming, and I might have too, if I didn’t feel so tired and — not stuffed up, but congested in some way, like I’d swallowed too much lake water at the last swim. So many waves, almost 30 mph wind gusts.

june 30/SWIM

4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
65 degrees

Wow wow wow! What a wonderful swim for my birthday weekend. The air was cooler, but the water was fine and the sun was warm. Not much wind, so few waves, but the sun reflecting off the water sparked light everywhere. Felt strong and sore, then not sore, then sore again: mostly my neck from sighting and breathing. I didn’t wear my safety buoy and it felt strange, like I was missing something.

1

The water was clearer, lighter. Less greenish-blue and empty, more greenish-yellow and full of living things — particles, vines, sediment — and light. Shafts of light everywhere underwater — not straight down, but at angles and coming up from the bottom not down from the sky. An illusion, but fun to imagine the light source as down below. The opposite of Lorine Niedecker’s “ocean’s black depths” (Paean to Place) and Alice Oswald’s “violet dark” (Nobody). I noticed the shafts of light the most in the stretch of water between the last green buoy and the first orange one.

2

After I finished my 4th loop, swimming just inside the pink buoys, I looked underwater — clear enough to see the sandy, rocky bottom, but not clear enough to see any hairbands. Writing this reminded me of what I witnessed before the swim: minnows! As I waded in the shallow water, dozens of little fish scattered as I approached. None of them nibbled at my toes, or if they did, I didn’t feel it.

3

During the first loop somewhere between the first and second orange buoys an alarming thought appeared: what if I fainted in the middle of the lake? In the past this thought might have caused panic which I would feel in my body — a flushed face, harder to breathe, hot tingling on the top of my head. Not today. No physical effect. Within a few minutes the thought was gone. Is this because of the lexapro? FWA says that sometimes he feels the lexapro working — he’ll start having overwhelming thoughts but instead of spiraling, he feels himself become separated from those thoughts — they become abstract and distant. I wondered about this as I stroked then connected it to Alice Oswald’s Homeric mind and the idea of thoughts not just living in our head but traveling outside of our bodies from there to there.

3

I only saw the orange buoys when I was right next to them. I was almost always swimming straight at them, so some part of me knew they were there, just not my eyes. No panic or fear or negative thoughts as I looked at the nothingness of water and sky and a vague, generic tree line.

june 29/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
66 degrees

A beautiful morning for a birthday run! Green shade, breeze. The run wasn’t easy, but it was wonderful to be outside with everyone else — bikers, runners. walkers, roller skiers, rowers, birds, river, rocks, trees, wind, glittering leaves, stacked stones.

For a little while, I chanted Emily Dickinson:

life is but life
death is but death
bliss is but bliss
breath is but breath

Today I am 50. I’ve decided that I will recite the 50 poems I’ve memorized gradually — possibly spread out over a week or a month — to Scott. Maybe a few to the kids too. No formal thing. How long would it take, I wonder, to recite all 50 poems at one time? Too long!

So far, I’ve recited Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” and Mary Oliver’s “Swimming, One Day in August”

Other fun birthday things: celebrated at the amazing Millie’s Wine Bar last night with Scott, FWA, and RJP. Walked to the library and picked up Mz N. Had a pint of Bee Sting at Arbeiter. Watching the first stage of Le Tour tonight! Tomorrow, open swim. A wonderful birthday!