july 16/RUNSWIM

4 miles
river road, north/south
73 degrees
humidity: 86% / dew point: 60

A wonderful sunny morning. Not too hot yet, although the humidity took its toll. By the end of the run, I was dripping sweat. Another improved run. Went farther before I stopped for a quick break, then convinced myself to keep going on the way back. Believing again that I can do the marathon in October.

Decided to listen today. Thinking about how delightful it is to move through the neighborhood, passing from sound to sound.

Sounds

  1. a chorus of BIRD — chattering, chirping, cheeping
  2. a little toddler voice trying to repeat binoculars after his mom said it in a neighbor’s backyard
  3. the shshshsh of my feet striking grit on the sidewalk
  4. overheard from one biker to another — and it was so quiet you could hear the water lapping against the shore
  5. a male coxswain below instructing rowers
  6. my house key softly jingling in my pack
  7. a walker’s keys jangling loudly in his pocket
  8. whoosh after whoosh after whoosh of car wheels passing on the road
  9. the buzz on a riding lawn mower — a park working mowing the grass beside the trail
  10. 2 sets of tap tap tap tapping from roofers — about a dozen taps each, at slightly different speeds, then a short break, then more taps
  11. the quiet hops of a bunny moving across a neighbor’s grass
  12. a lawn mower hitting a twig or a root — thwack!
  13. the clicking of a roller skier’s poles

I think my favorite sound was the soft footsteps of the bunny hurrying across the lawn. A silvery whisper only possible to hear on a calm summer morning like today. I love the sound of animal feet moving — running or hopping through the grass, thundering over hard dirt, scampering in the soft snow.

I posted this poem on here 2 years ago:

The Locust/ Leonara Speyer

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

Speyer is describing a locust but as I wrote on the 16 july 2022, her description makes me think of a brood of cicadas. This sound is LOUD and interrupts you, demanding you notice it. The bunny’s soft footsteps were quiet and easily unnoticed. It feels like an accomplishment to have been quiet and aware enough to hear them.

So, I’m thinking about sound today. Another inspiration: Ears don’t lie.

Hearing is our fastest sense. (Who knew?!) Horowitz says that it takes our brain at least one-quarter of a second to process visual recognition. But sound? You can recognize a sound in 0.05 seconds. And our brain is so adept at hearing the differences between sounds, we can sense changes of sound that occur in “less than a millionth of a second,” according to Horowitz’s book [The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind].

Ears don’t lie

This source led me to a Radiolab story that includes Horowitz: Never Quite Now. This story is not just about sound, but our nerves and neurons and how long it takes for us to process the world. Here’s a helpful description of how our body sees and then wants a pen:

JAD: Okay, so the eye takes the light that’s reflected off the pen, turns it into a little electrical signal, and then sends that deep into the middle of the brain.

CARL ZIMMER: Takes a couple hundredths of a second.

JAD: Bounces around for a bit, and then within …

CARL ZIMMER: A few more hundredths of a second …

JAD: The signal has made it …

CARL ZIMMER: All the way back to the rear end of the brain, where you start processing vision.

JAD: But this is just the beginning.

CARL ZIMMER: Right. Now you’ve gotta like figure out what you’re seeing.

JAD: So our jolt is off again, this time toward the middle of the brain and then down toward the bottom.

CARL ZIMMER: To these other regions ..

JAD: That start to decode the signal.

CARL ZIMMER: The first visual region is called V1.

JAD: Next up …

CARL ZIMMER: V2, V4, and so on. And they’re gonna sharpen the image, make out contrasts, edges.

JAD: And then electricity goes back towards the front of the brain.

CARL ZIMMER: After, let’s see, another tenth of a second or so …

JAD: We finally get to a place where we think …

CARL ZIMMER: “Oh, that’s a pen.”

ROBERT: We haven’t gotten yet to “I want it”.

CARL ZIMMER: Exactly.

JAD: For that to happen, the electricity has to jump from one part of the front of the brain to another and another before you can finally say …

CARL ZIMMER: “That’s a nice pen. I could use a pen.”

JAD: [laughs]

ROBERT: [laughs]

CARL ZIMMER: And we are still not done, you know. Then—then—then …

JAD: Little jolt heads northCARL ZIMMER: To sort of the top of your brain. So we—we’ve gone from your eyes to the back of your brain, around up to the front of your brain again. And now we’re up to the top of your head where you set up motor commands, and then you can grab the pen.

ROBERT: Christ!

JAD: So I mean, you add all this up and what are we talking about here

CARL ZIMMER: About a quarter of a second.

Never Quite Now

Later in the story, Seth Horowitz describes how hearing is the fastest sense and mentions the startle circuit:

SETH HOROWITZ: A sudden loud noise activates a very specialized circuit from your ear to your spinal neurons.

JAD: You mean it bypasses the brain?

SETH HOROWITZ: Yeah, it’s the startle circuit. If you suddenly hear a loud noise, within 50 milliseconds, that’s 50 thousandths of a second, so you’re talking 20 times faster than cognition, your body jumps, will begin the release of adrenaline. No consciousness involved. It’s five neurons, and it takes 50 milliseconds.

Never Quite Now

I’ve written about the word startle before — I especially like Emily Dickinson’s startled grass. There’s a poem in here somewhere, involving bodily recognition (or reaction?) versus brain cognition.

swim: 5 loops
lake nokomis open swim
79 degrees

5 loops! What a great night for swimming in the lake! Calm, goo-free water, strong shoulders, a willing back, enough time to swim an extra loop. Amazing. Writing this a few hours later, I’m wiped out, but I felt good the whole time I was swimming. I swam for 80 minutes without stopping.

I wanted to give attention to sound as I swam, and I did. Mostly, I heard the sloshing of the water as I moved through it. Once I heard a plane roaring above me and another time I heard a lifeguard calling out. Not much else. In past years, I’ve heard squeaks or strange clanging noises, but not tonight. Just slosh slosh slosh.

The water was a pale green with the idea of pale yellow — I didn’t see yellow as much as feel that it was there. Visibility was limited, but I could see my hand in front of me, bubbles, and the underside of the water’s surface, which was very cool.

There were a few menacing swans and some kayaks.

From the shore I could see that the orange buoys were in a straight line. In the water, swimming past them, it didn’t seem as straight. At least once for each loop, I could see the orange dots of the three buoys. The green buoys were more difficult. I didn’t care; I knew where they should be and swam that way.

july 15/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
73 degrees / dew point: 69

Woke up early, but thunderstorms were coming so I had to wait until after 10 to go out for my run. Gloomy, dark green, thick, but a slightly better run. Ran longer before I stopped to walk. Felt stronger while I ran. Kept running farther after I walked before stopping again. Progress!

10+ Things

  1. the usual puddles have returned, blocking the sidewalk (one block over) and the trail (near the entrance to the locks and dam no. 1)
  2. more big branches down, or the same big branches from last week’s storm, not yet removed
  3. dripping sewer pipes at 42nd and 44th
  4. mud and dirt washed up onto the asphalt
  5. exuberant kids running around the grass at minnehaha park
  6. roaring falls
  7. passing by 2 surreys biking up from wabun
  8. a soaked backpack in a driveway, half open, clothes slipping out, 2 books next to it, one of them with the pages rolled over
  9. a pile of clothes tucked under the trees next to the path between the locks and dam no. 1 and the ford bridge
  10. 2 roller skiers, their poles clicking and clacking on the pavement
  11. a chainsaw in the distance — below in the gorge?

wildlife update: Scott talked with a company who informed him that a wasp nest can’t just be removed because the wasps will build another one; it needs to be treated. One problem: it is illegal in Minnesota to treat fruit trees and the wasp nest is in our crab apple tree. Oh well, I guess our neighbors are staying.

july 14/SWIM

4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
78 degrees

The big storms yesterday pushed out all of the algae scum. Hooray! The lake was clear and beautiful. My friends, the sparkling particles, were back. I think I’ll call them the water spirits. I swam 3 1/2 loops without stopping, then did a few breaststroke strokes in the middle of the lake before finishing up. I felt strong and relaxed during it, tired after. A great swim. Soon I’d like to add at least one more loop. Maybe this week?

The water was higher than usual. I noticed that the base of the light pole where swimmers sometimes put their stuff was underwater today. Scott told me that the little beach was gone — no sand, just water all the way to the grass.

10+ Things

  1. blue sky, some white clouds
  2. people on paddle boards, canoes in the middle of the lake
  3. no encounters with scum or vines
  4. the water was calm during the first loop, choppier during loops 2-4
  5. burped underwater which I thought would make a loud, echoing sound — nope
  6. the far green buoy looked white and blended in with the sailboats
  7. ending the loop, sighting the first orange buoy, it looked like a faint moon to me — almost like when you can see just barely see the moon during the day
  8. minnows near shore
  9. 2 lifeguards flirting through their walkie talkies with a third who was out on the course dropping a buoy — it’s not perfect, but we don’t need perfect / but I want perfect / giggle giggle
  10. the color of the water was a golden greenish-blue — shafts of light reached down from above and up from below — green, but a green that made you think blue, too, not clear but clean and fresh
  11. I don’t remember the water temperature so I think it was in that balanced state — not cold or hot

Unsettled by last night’s assassination attempt. Between that and the aftermath of the debate, what a shit-show this election is. As we drove to the lake, I recited Mary Oliver — It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit amongst the flux of happenings. Yesterday something had pestered me so much I thought my heart would break. I mean, the mechanical part. The swim helped me to quiet my unsettled feelings.

july 11/RUNSWIM

3.25 miles
2 trails
75 degrees

Yesterday afternoon, torrential rain, thunder, wind, and hail whipped through our neighborhood. It lasted only 20 minutes, but it was intense. Not scary — except to Delia-the-dog — but wild. It looked like it was snowing: Christmas in July! And the hail was so loud on the roof and the skylight. Today as I ran, I surveyed the damage by the river. Big branches on the dirt path, leaves scattered, a whole tree at the end of edmund:

big tree, felled

Of course I only took one picture, so I had to use it. Not sure if it effectively conveys the size of the tree?

Decided to take the winchell trail to check out the damage below. Some branches down, but nothing blocking the path. Dirt and mud and muck everywhere. I started chanting in my head,

silt / loam / glacial till
silt and / loam and / glacial till

Listened to water gushing out of the sewer pipe and down the slope at 42nd. Also listened to the birds — not one type in particular, but a chorus of BIRD. Noticed the shade on the path and the tiny spots of light. Looked at the river, a hazy heat hovering just above and thought, hot! No relief from that view.

Before I run, I read an excerpt from the novel Elixir. I wanted to think about this quote as I ran:

We were near water. There is a river. If you couldn’t hear it or see it, its ions vibrated in the air and you inhaled water, day and night.

In the Ladies Pool / KAPKA KASSABOVA

In the summer when the leaves block my view and I can’t see the river, I still know it’s there and it is always part of my run in some way.

the Seine, open water swimming, and water quality

I’ve been seeing lots of headlines about the problems with water quality in the Seine for open water swimming events at the Olympics. I mentioned it to RJP and she said she’d heard (on TikTok, natch) that people were pooping in the Seine in protest. Is that true? While looking it up, I found this helpful video: Can Paris fix it’s poop problem?

Okay, read some more, and the “Paris Poop Protest” is a thing. People were encourage to do it on June 23rd, when the President of France and the mayor of Paris were planning to swim in the Seine to prove it was safe. When Macron and Hidalgo postponed their swim, the poop protest was postponed too. So many interesting things to think/write about with this in terms of city infrastructures, rivers, threats to cities’ waterways, the negative and positive impacts of hosting the Olympics, and more. Swimming in public water, feeling the effects of how it’s managed in my body, has given me a deeper perspective on this issue of water quality and water management. I’m so grateful to have access to safe water here in Minneapolis.Everyone should have access to safe water.

time and water

Reading more of The Folded Clock, I was inspired to think about the relationship between time and water. Here are a few thoughts:

1 — anne carson

. . . the staining together of mind and time so that she is no longer miles and miles apart from her life, watching it differently unfold, but in it, as it, it.

1 = 1 / Anne Carson

2 — heidi julavits

As we stroked past I thought I saw George growing older and older. His grandchildren beside him grew older, too, taking his place before being replaced themselves by their children. It was like a trick of stop-time photography, everyone shading into everyone else. . . . Time passed. I started to doze. The cold water had slowed our pulses but everything else spun at great speed. I worried I would awake to find myself an old woman, my husband dead, my daughter grown and turned into me. But life, when I woke up, was as I’d left it.

The Folded Clock / Heidi Julavits

3 — samantha sanders

[on swimming in Lake Michigan in the winter] The exhilaration is remarkable. I feel like we’ve discovered the fountain of youth.

Swimming Through / Samantha Sanders

4 — alice oswald

it is not me but close to me a kind of cloud or smoke-ring
made of nothing and yet it will outlast everything
because it is deep it i sa dead field fenceless
a thickness with many folds in it promiscuous and mingling
which in its patience always wears away the hard thing

or is it only the hours on their rounds
thinking of the tides by turns
twelve white-collar workers
who manage the schedules of water

nobody / alice oswald

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.

from Evaporations/ Alice Oswald

5 — darby nelson

I posted this quote back on 16 august 2021, but I want to post it again here:

We talk of time as the river flowing. I never questioned the implications of that metaphor until I was struck by the words of Professor Dave Edmunds, Native American, on a display in the Indian-Western Art Museum in Indianapolis. Edmunds wrote, ‘Time as a river is a more Euro-American concept of time, with each event happening and passing on like a river flows downstream. Time as a pond is a more Native American concept of time, with everything happening on the same surface, in the same area—and each even is a ripple on the surface.’

If I think of time as a river, I predispose myself to think linearly, to see events as unconnected, where a tree branch falling into the river at noon is swept away by current to remain eternally separated in time and space from the butterfly that falls in an hour later and thrashes about seeking floating refuge. 

But if I think of time as a lake, I see ripples set in motions by one even touching an entire shore and then, when reflected back toward the middle, meeting ripples from other events, each changing the other in their passing. I think of connectedness, or relationships, and interacting events that matter greatly to lakes. 

For Love of Lakes/ Darby Nelson

When I think of time and water, I think of erosion and geologic time, and the wearing down of things by the water over years, decades, centuries. I think of generational time, and the family members, the hearty Finns on my dad’s side, who loved and excelled at swimming. I think of Sara-time and one of the key constants in my life and many selves: I love water and swimming in it. I think of losing track of time while swimming, and tracking it on my watch to look at later. I think of time measured by strokes and loops instead of minutes, measured by open swims instead of days.

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
84 degrees

I swam 4 loops but the buoys were set up in such a way that the distance of 4 loops today was almost the same as 3 loops on other days. Oh well, I’m still counting it as 4. The water was very warm, too warm. Lots of stuff in it, but not as much as on Tuesday. More green slimy stuff, but now that I recognize and know it’s not toxic, it didn’t bother me as much.

I decided I wanted to listen as I swam. I didn’t hear much, just water sloshing over my head. The water was still, flat, sometimes feeling fast, sometimes slow. There was a haze in the air that made it as difficult to see as if my googles were fogged up. I felt strong and smooth and fast and happy.

Before the swim, I asked a few women if they had swum on Tuesday and if they had seen the green goo. Neither of them had. I realized later, as I swam, that I wasn’t asking because I wanted reassurance that whatever it was was not harmful. I just wanted to find someone else to acknowledge that it was strange and gross and something worth reacting to. On Tuesday, no one else seemed to care or be talking about it.

10 Things

  1. 2 women laughing and talking as they tread water between the last orange buoy and the shore
  2. impossible to see either of the green buoys with the sun and the haze
  3. at least 2 menacing swans
  4. the ghost vines are multiplying in numbers and size — creepy!
  5. cloudy sky
  6. a few pockets of cold water throughout the lake
  7. crowded swimming area, beach and park — everyone here on a hot day
  8. the surface of the water above was blue and calm and shiny and smooth
  9. the surface of the water below was greenish-brownish-yellowish
  10. I swam high on top of the surface, feeling extra buoyant

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 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.