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 25/RUNSWIM

3.1 miles
2 trails
73 degrees / dew point: 66

Another hot and humid morning. Another difficult run. Is it strange that I don’t mind that it’s hard? Some shade, lots of sun.

10 Things

  1. squish! stepping down in thick, gooey mud on the winchell trail
  2. thwack thwack thwack a runner approaching from behind
  3. pardon me that same runner letting me know he was passing
  4. running down to the south entrance of the winchell trail, looking at the river through the trees — not sparkling in the sun, but flat and brown — somehow this made it look even hotter and less refreshing
  5. rowers down below, heard not seen
  6. the sewer at 42nd, a steady stream of water falling
  7. the sewer at 44th, more of a dribble
  8. honking geese
  9. 4 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  10. a squirrel ahead of me on the winchell trail — running then stopping then running, finally jumping through the fence and off the trail — was it waiting to dart out right in front of me? no

Alice Oswald and Lorine Niedecker and water’s depths

from Paean to Place/Lorine Niedecker

How much less am I
in the dark than they?

Effort lay in us
before religons
at pond bottom
all things move toward
the light

Except those
that freely work down
to ocean’s black depths
in us an impulse tests
the unknown

from Nobody/ Alice Oswald

The sea she said and who could ever drain it dry
has so much purple in its caves the wind at dusk
incriminates the waves
and certain fish conceal it in their shells
at ear-pressure depth
where the shimmer of headache dwells
and the brain goes

dark

purple

from “Interview with Water”/ Alice Oswald

To be purpled is to lose one’s way or name, to be nothing, to grieve without surfacing, to suffer the effects of sea light, to be either sleepless or weightless and cut off by dreams.

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees

4 loops! A beautiful summer night! The water was a bit choppy but it didn’t bother me. Saw some silver flashes below — fish? Also, beautiful shafts of light illuminating the particles swimming with me and a few ghostly vines reaching up from the bottom. In certain stretches it felt like the water wanted to pull me down to the lake floor — difficult to kick and keep high near the surface.

New breathing/sighting pattern I noticed last night at cedar: 1 2 3 breathe right 1 2 look up to sight (no breath) 3 4 5 breathe left

above the surface: A few times I paused in the middle of the lake to give attention to the surface. Once I saw a dragonfly. Another time, a plane. The water was blue but not as intense as on Sunday.

below the surface: bubbles, my hands, could feel the movement before I saw any swimmers, then bubbles and pale legs kicking. The water was green but with less blue and more yellow.

june 24/SWIM

2.5 big loops (5 cedar loops)
cedar lake open swim
84 degrees
20+ wind gusts

Big wind gusts as Scott and I walked on the gravel trail to the lake. I wondered how choppy it would be — not bad. No waves forcing me to breathe on just one side. Felt stronger than last Wednesday.

I’m writing this entry the next morning. What do I remember?

10 Things

  1. swimming through a loose vine — wrapped around my shoulders for a moment — not sharp or scratchy
  2. a swimmer in a pink cap (this year’s cap color is an ugly bronze)
  3. a tangled patch of vegetation growing up from the bottom right by the buoy
  4. black, wet-suited arms beside me for a few strokes
  5. the water above, a dull blue
  6. the water below, a vague empty green
  7. no waves but sometimes it was hard to stay up on the surface
  8. the lifeguard’s kayak gliding by me, fast and smooth and red
  9. more vegetation from below in the middle of lake — how tall are these vines?
  10. last year, the far buoy was placed very close to the swimming area at hidden beach, this year it is farther out

Alice Oswald and Nobody

I’m having fun returning to Nobody, feeling like I’ve found some ways into AO’s watery dream-world. I love reading it and Lorine Niedecker and then swimming across a lake.

1

Reviewing my notes in my Plague Notebook, Vol 21 (!), I found this, from AO in “Interview with Water”: continuous present, dream time. This reminds me of Mary Oliver’s now and now and now, which comes up in The Leaf and the Cloud and “Can You Imagine”:

but now and now and now

Swimming across the lake is both a continuous present and not a continuous present. I’m not aware of time, but I do keep track of loops. Maybe each loop is its own continuous present? It would be interesting to try and get lost in the loops, to not count them. I can set up an alarm or a distance workout on my watch that will alert me when I reached a certain amount of time or distance. (How) would the dream-state be different in this loopy state?

2

I’d like to remember (memorize?) this part of Nobody which I imagine is about making poems:

About an hour ago she surfaced and shook her arms
and peered around and dived again and surfaced
and saw someone and dived again and surfaced
and smelt all those longings of grass-flower smells
and bird-flower sounds and the vaporous poems
that hang in the chills above rivers

Those vaporous poems! The diving and surfacing and diving and surface! I love this as a description of a poet — me? — finding words hanging just above the surface. Could they be there for me today during my swim?

3

This definition of day turning to night — wow!

I’ve always loved the way when night happens
the blood is drawn off is sucked and soaked upwards
out of the cliff-flowers the way they worn out
surrender their colors and close and then the sky
suffers their insights all the shades of mauve green blue
move edgelessly from west to east the cold
comes ghostly out of holes and the earth it’s strange
as soon as she shuts her sky-lids her hindsights open
and you can see right out through her blindness
as far as the ancient stars still making their precise points
still exactly visible and then not exactly

june 23/SWIM

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
67 degrees

Yes! A wonderful morning swim. As usual, always a mix of excited and nervous before the swim, but once I entered the water, all of it went away. Not always easy — sometimes my back hurts or a shoulder or a foot — but almost always wonderful. I love the dream I enter below the surface and the confidence I feel slicing through the water and the warmth of muscles worked after. Nothing feels as natural as swimming across this lake.

10 Things

  1. the crooked line of orange buoys — the one closest to the big beach much further north
  2. the faint outline of vegetation reaching up from the bottom of the lake, just below me
  3. swimming through a net of green milfoil near the white buoy
  4. only the occasional flash of other swimmers — a bent, bare elbow, a black wetsuit, a yellow safety buoy
  5. the brief flash of “buoy” or “orange” or “triangle” in my head, then nothing — I listened and believed and swam towards it
  6. one menacing sailboat — an orange and red sail
  7. open, empty water with vague trees in the distance
  8. above the surface, vivid blue, below the surface, green with hints of blue and the faintest idea of yellow
  9. my hands stretched out in front of me in the water — pale, glowing, a sharp contrast with the dark water
  10. shafts of light illuminating the particles in the water, everything constantly moving

the best moment: Rounding the final orange buoy for the third and final time, heading back to the big beach, the sun came out from behind the clouds. Suddenly the water was a vivid blue when I looked up to sight or turned my head to breathe. When I went back under, everything a beautiful, rich green: blue, green green green green green, blue, green green green green. At some point a cloud came and the blue grew darker, not quite purple. I thought about Alice Oswald and Odysseus and purple robes and being purpled.

Alice Oswald and Nobody

Was thinking about this before my swim:

Well, as you know, I’m quite fascinated, even obsessed, you might say with Homer. And one of the things that really tantalizes me in Homer is what is the Homeric mind? Because I think it’s very different from a literary mind. And it seems not to be inside the skull, but to be out in the world. So, there is a particular simile in the Iliad, which actually that first bit of the poem is based on, where it talks about two goddesses coming from heaven to the earth. And they’re very physically described. They kind of fall down from heaven to the earth. And then when they land, they take little pigeon steps, steps like doves or pigeons. So you can really picture them. But the way their flight moves from heaven to earth is as a man, you know, as the mind flutters in a man who has traveled widely, so you can turn it the other way around and say the way a man thinks is like this incredibly physical flight of two goddesses coming down to earth a bit like pigeons. And that’s always really interested me, that for Homer, the mind has the limitations of a pigeon, if you like. It is this kind of … this physical thing that moves. So, if you imagine a place over the sea, your mind actually has to get there. So, even though it may be as fast as the light, it is physical movement.

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

I’m still looking for where in the Iliad these goddesses/pigeons are. And I’m still figuring out what AO might mean here. But it is helpful to read it beside these two parts of Nobody:

1/ page 1

As the mind flutters in a man who has travelled widely
and his quick-winged eyes land everywhere
I wish I was there or there he thinks and his mind

immediately

as if passing its beam through cables

flashes through all that water and lands
less than a second later on the horizon
and someone with a telescope can see his tiny thought-form
floating on the sea-surface wondering what next

2 / 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
shading it blue and thinking

I wish I was there

or there

Is the Homeric mind restless? I wish AO would say more about what she means by the literary mind and its lack of movement. I agree, but I’d like it spelled out. Does my mind work this way when I’m out moving by the gorge, or swimming across the lake? Does it move through or above the water? Maybe it became a fish.

Here’s one more line from the interview that I want to respond to:

. . . feeling of characters who have been eroded by the weather and by the sea is really what I’m feeling in this poem. It’s a poem that just opens itself to the elements and gets kind of washed, it gets its features washed off. . . . I think that’s all part of the erosion, really, it’s like even the forms of visible things have been almost worn down to their abstract shapes.

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

Visible forms almost worn down to their abstract shapes — that’s how much of the gorge looks to me. Soft forms: trees, trash cans, big boulders.

june 22/RUN

3.15 miles
river road south/north
67 degrees
93% humidity / dew point: 65

Very tough on the legs! That dew point — ugh! Another difficult run. Still glad I did it. I heard some chattering birds and water gushing out of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Ran over puddles, slippery leaves, mud, recently re-tarred asphalt, dirt, roots. I remember looking at the river through the trees but I don’t remember what it looked like — probably a very pale blue or white, like the sky.

Inspired by all of my time with Alice Oswald lately, I’m thinking of starting Nobody again this afternoon. Listening to an interview she did with Kit Fan, back in 2020, I’m intrigued by what she said about her approach to writing it:

[The poem] sets out really to drown the reader. I wanted it not to feel like a sort of intellectual exercise where you would emerge kind of clarified and simplified, but literally to be as if you were inhaling water. … I find the people who I think get most out of it are those who don’t expect it to be conveying a thought, but expect it to be more like the experience of being outdoors, where you simply are assaulted by all kinds of different tunes and beings.

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

And here, AO talks about color:

Well, I always feel that the Odyssey is a very bright emerald green because it has this incredible sort of vegetative life in it. It’s like a plant that just cannot stop growing. You know, the sentences grow all over the place. So, even though it’s a poem about the sea, I actually feel that kind of bright green of spring leaves in it. But I mean, I did kind of quite terrifying things to my mind when I was writing this poem, because I got quite interested in theories of color and sort of trying to watch what my mind was doing, particularly looking at colors in water and how your mind will tell you that’s green because you know it’s a leaf, but actually when you look at it, it’s not because it’s in a black river. And so, just trying to notice what the mind does and try, as I’m always trying, to get away from my own mind and out into the world. I was trying to see what colors are beyond my mind. And I think they probably don’t exist beyond the mind. So, it was actually an experience of almost unsettling all my perceptions really.

And being stuck, and going nowhere — is this similar to my looping!?

So these stories don’t get anywhere. They’re all stuck. And I like sort of, you know, Celtic patterns that just go on and on doing the same thing. So I didn’t want to make a poem that got anywhere, really. I wanted a poem that was stuck, whose stories couldn’t quite move forward, that had simply been tossed about by the weather, really.

later (5 pm): At the risk of making this entry too long, I’d like to add a few thoughts/notes after reading part of AO’s Nobody again, having read it before in 2022. It was very helpful to listen to AO’s lecture, “Interview with Water” and listen to/read the transcript of her interview with Kit Fan.

Before the poem begins, AO describes the similar (using similar like she does in “Interview with Water” — not the same, but resembling but varied, like water by currents) stories of Agamemnon, whose wife was not faithful and Odysseus, whose wife was.

This poem lives in the murkiness between those stories. Its voice is wind-blown, water-damaged, as if someone set out to sing the Odyssey, but was rowed to a stony island and never discovered the poem’s ending.

Nobody/ Alice Oswald

It helped me to read that beside AO’s words in her interview with Kit Fan:

. . .the poem is very much a kind of strange reading of the Odyssey. The Odyssey I see is a beautifully patterned wedding hymn about Odysseus’s marriage to Penelope and how they are driven apart by the Trojan War, and then they come back together. But embedded in that story, you’ve got the opposite story, which is the wedding of Agamemnon who goes off to the same war and comes back and is murdered by his wife whose taken another. And it’s that reverse Odyssey that I was writing in this poem, partly because the poet who is abandoned on the island is part of Agamemnon’s household. So, from his point of view, the Odyssey is being seen differently, from that other, much darker story. 

A Conversation with Kit Fan and Alice Oswald

Her use of darker here, reminds me of something she said in “Interview with Water”: “when you look at water, it allows you to exist twice but more darkly.”

june 21/RUN

4.15 miles
the monument and back
67 degrees
humidity: 91% / dew point: 65

Yuck! The air is so thick, everything heavy with moisture. We were supposed to have thunderstorms this morning — 90% chance — so I ruled out open swim, but they haven’t happened yet. Bummer. I bet it would have been a good swim.

I ran through the neighborhood, over the lake street bridge, up the summit hill and to the monument. Then I turned around and ran back, this time running south on the river road path instead of through the neighborhood.

10 Things

  1. 3 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. a strange whimpering, soft howling or moaning sound coming from under the bridge on the east side — a non-human animal? a bird?
  3. no rowers on the river
  4. a foul, rotting smell as I ran over the bridge — I thought of the rot* that Alice Oswald mentioned in “Interview with Water” and the scarlet rot that FWA told me about yesterday when he recounted some “Elden Ring lore”
  5. a dark, deep green everywhere
  6. flowers alongside the trail on the east side: green leaves, fanned like ferns, pale white or purple flowers, small, dotting the green
  7. new (or newly noticed) graffiti under the bridge on the east side — brick red, I think
  8. the dark reflections of tree in the water near the shore — so dark that they look like shadows to me
  9. the faintest trace of a sandbar under the bridge
  10. the usual puddles near shadow falls are back, almost covering the entire path

*AO and rot: “anything excessive or out of focus or subliminal — for example: a swimmer seen from underneath, a rotting smell. . .”

Here’s another Alice Oswald water poem that I uncovered in a dissertation about Oswald, Jorie Graham, and water!

Sea Sonnet/ Alice Oswald

Green, grey and yellow, the sea and the weather
instantiate each other and the spectrum
turns in it like a perishable creature.
The sea is old but the blue sea is sudden.

The wind japans the surface. Like a flower,
each point of contact biggens and is gone.
And when it rains the senses fold in four.
No sky, no sea – the whiteness is all one.

So I have made a little moon-like hole
with a thumbnail and through a blade of grass
I watch the weather make the sea my soul,
which is a space performed on by a space;

and when it rains, the very integer
and shape of water disappears in water.

Almost forgot: japan is a new word for me. Here are some definitions, both noun and verb:

noun:

  1. any of several varnishes yielding a hard brilliant finish
  2. a hard dark coating containing asphalt and a drier that is used especially on metal and fixed by heating — called also japan black

verb:

  1. to cover with or as if with a coat of japan
  2. to give a high gloss to

june 20/RUNSWIM

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls
65 degrees

Overcast this morning. Cool, but humid, sticky. Another run that wasn’t easy or effortless. Keep showing up. It will get easier or you’ll get better or it will (eventually) get cooler. I’m not too worried. Is it the lexapro, or am I just satisfied being able to get outside and move by the gorge?

10 Things

  1. the crater with the tube sock/Florida outline is gone, filled in yesterday
  2. a gnat flew in my eye — a fullness, than a small sharpness, then a watery eye, finally gone!
  3. a motorized scooter on the bike path — hey, you’re supposed to be on the road! (thought, not said)
  4. today’s color palette; green and gray
  5. dark mud, not gooey but slick
  6. laughing kids on a playground
  7. the surreys, all lined up at the falls, one being readied for a family as I ran by
  8. rushing falls, roaring creek, gushing sewer pipe near 42nd
  9. some loud rustling in the bushes
  10. passing a walker, a whiff of subdued perfume — fresh, floral / passing a biker, a sniff of cologne — fresh, earthy

At some point, looking up at the green trees, remembering green water, I thought about Alice Oswald and the connection between water and grief. Then I recalled Tony Hoagland’s poem about swimming and cancer and thought about water and relief.

a few hours later: It’s raining — a soft, light rain — right now (2:30 pm). I’m hoping that open swim will still happen at 5:30. Tomorrow it probably won’t: thunderstorms all day. Anyway, I’m continuing to listen to and think about Alice Oswald’s “Interview with Water.” Very cool! Here’s the next little bit:

Find yourself in the silence underneath an overhanging wave that or thereabouts is the color of a bluish violet ultramarine gown so the great poet sang, “But Odysseus taking his bluish gown in his big hands drew it over his head and hid his face ashamed to let the Phaeacians see his tears.” The gown goes over the head like a wave, the human sits under its sea color with salt water pouring from his eyes. It is one of those places where the form of the poem hurries us forward, the form of the language pulls us back. Porfurion is a word with water inside it like a bucket down in the middle of a line. Already if you look hard at the word you can see the widow’s simile underneath it but Homer is not yet ready to make that gift. With magnificent theatricality, he draws a blue gown across the mind and we, like the Phaeacians, are left looking at it, waiting.

Homer is the foremost poet of the visible. Homer delights in surfaces, but the surface of water is complicated by transparency, and its transparency is complicated by refraction. Water is never the same as itself. Rivers can only exist as similarities, lakes reflect more than their own volume, and what’s more, when you look at water, it allows you to exist twice but more darkly. When you look at it again it evaporates as if moving in and out of existence — it simply requires a bit of sunlight then it reappears as frost. Perfectly symmetrical as if discovering pre-drawn diagrams in thin air. Then it reappears as tears so that any attempt to describe the surface of water tells you to hide your face and inspect your innermost thoughts. All these waverings are part of the word porfurion. The physics or nature of water is metaphysical meaning that its surface expresses more than itself.

Interview with Water

All of AO’s mention of surfaces makes me want to think about surfaces during my swim. I swim on the surface, wanting to stay with my head just below as long as possible. What does the surface look like or feel like when I’m breathing every five (or more) strokes? What if I tried every 2 or 3? What is the color of the surface — from above or below?

swim: 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
68 degrees

Wow, what a perfect swimming night! The water was warmer than the air temperature. The sky was white and heavy. Everything calm, quiet. I felt fast and strong cutting through the water, breathing every 5 strokes with the occasional 3, at least once, after 2. I tried to give attention to the surface. Just under the water, I watched my hands stretch out in front of me, covered in bubbles. The water was a beautiful deep (but not dark) green, with the feeling of deep blue and gray. I could see the sediment swirling. Above the water, the surface was silver, still.


june 19/RUNSWIM

2.5 miles
2 trails
64 degrees

A quick run before meeting my college friends for lunch. Cooler today. Heard the rowers. Spotted: at least 2 bright yellow shirts, one bright pink. City (or county or park?) workers were out re-tarring a few more spots on the trail. Hooray for less craters! Last week, they finally filled in the big crack that had white spray-paint around it, making it look like a tube sock or Florida (I’ve written about it before). I wonder if they’ll finally fill in the hole that’s been getting deeper every year? The one that would definitely twist your ankle if you stepped in it. I hope so.

I don’t remember hearing any birds or roller skiers or laughing kids, but I do remember the squishy mud on the winchell trail and the bug bite I got as I walked home.

color in/on/under water

Listening to Alice Oswald’s lecture, Interview with Water, I came across this great passage about color. First she’s mentions that poets performing The Odyssey always wore blue robes, then she mentions a line from book 8:

Odysseus
with his strong hands picked up his heavy cloak
of purple, and he covered up his face.
He was ashamed to let them see him cry.
Each time the singer paused, Odysseus
wiped tears, drew down the cloak (8:84-89)

Then she references something she said a few minutes earlier —

I keep a bucket of rainwater under my window and it delights me that green leaves reflected in a black bucket are not quite green. I don’t know what color they are. At certain moments, early in the day, they might be called pre-green, but then the clouds change or the wind moves the surface mark and all at once they seem bright dark and blind silvery then foggy emerald.

— and says this:

To go back to that bucket of water — to wave a blue gown above it and ask, What is that color which Homer calls porfurium? It is not blue exactly; it gets translated as purple but purple is a settled color whereas Homer’s word is agitated. It derives from the sea verb porfurion which means to roll without breaking, so it is already a fluid word, a heaped up word, a word with underswell, not a pigment but an emanation from the nature of water. To get a true sense of porphyrion you need to see the sea in it and for Homer the sea is unhuman full of strange creatures missed colored unplowable and this is my favorite word it is a peritone meaning unfenced. If you want to imagine the colour of Odysseus’ gown you will have to swim out into the unfenced place, the place not of definitions but of affirmations. Yes I’m afraid you will have to find your way to the p volume of Johnson’s unwritten dictionary. There you will discover a dark light word an adjective for edgelessness — a sea word used also of death smoke cloth mist blood between bluish purple and cobalt mauve. It appears mid-ocean when the wind perhaps makes a network of backblowing glitters that the underswell moves sideways as when a big sea swells with noiseless waves. It is used of the heart meaning his heart was a heaving not quite broken wave. It indicates a surface but suggests a depth a mutation of flatness or noiseless sheen, a sea creature, a quality of caves, any inlet or iodine or shaded stone, a type of algae or rockfish, anything excessive or out of focus or subliminal — for example: a swimmer seen from underneath, a rotting smell, a list of low sounds, an evening shadow or sea god, a whole catalogue of simmering grudges storms waves and solitudes or deep water including everyone who has drowned in it. To be purpled is to lose one’s way or name, to be nothing, to grieve without surfacing, to suffer the effects of sea light. to be either sleepless or weightless and cut off by dreams — find yourself in the silence underneath an overhanging way that or thereabouts is the color of a bluish violet ultramarine gown so the great poet sang.

Interview with Water

Wow! So many wonderful things to do with this passage! For now, I want to think about how color works underwater. In an hour, I’m heading over to deep (at least, deeper than Lake Nokomis) Cedar Lake to swim across it. How will color work as I swim? Below water? Above? Is this agitated, moving purple similar to how I see all the time? (Yes, I think.)

swim: 4 cedar loops (= 2 nokomis loops)
cedar lake
72 degrees

The first swim at Cedar Lake! As I’ve mentioned here before, Cedar has a very different vibe than Nokomis. Hidden away, at the end of a gravel road. A small beach. No buildings, the only bathroom a port-a-potty. Chill lifeguards. Today the water was cold but (mostly) calm. Not too many swimmers. 2 lifeguards on kayaks, 2 orange buoys, too much vegetation growing up from the bottom of the lake. I overheard another swimmer mentioning the vines too.

color: Inspired by Alice Oswald, I tried to think about the color of the water. Cloudy, not clear. I could see the vines and the bubbles from my breathing and my hands entering the water but not much else. Not purple or blue but green — not dark green but pale green. Maybe some pale blue — yes — and light gray. Occasionally a shaft of light from above, a dark vine below. Textured bubbles. Not much to see, but not nothing there. Instead, everything small, packed, too dense to decipher. No color and too many colors. Impossible to pin down with “green” or “gray” or “blue.” Not grief, but uncertainty.

april 22/RUN

3.8 miles
river road, north/south
62 degrees
wind: 16 mph / gusts: 30 mph

62 in bright sun with very little shade feels warm, too warm. Time to start running much earlier in the day. Other weather-related gripes? Had to hold onto my cap several times so it wouldn’t blow off.

Everything is slowly turning green, especially the floodplain forest. The trees are coming into leaf/like something almost being said.

Noticed some cool bird shadows, one on the road from a bird high up in the sky, another on the side of a house.

Heard something beeping as I ran under the trestle — was a train coming soon? Not that I could tell.

Listened to the wind running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist running south. Heard “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Wind of Change” and thought about how an answer blowing in the wind could mean two contradictory things at once: 1. the answer is coming, change is coming, a better, freer world is coming and 2. the answer is just blowing in the wind, out of reach, as futile/pointless as talking to the wind.

back to the Beaufort Scale

Last week I came up with a great plan to create a Beaufort scale out of poetry lines, but it stalled when I couldn’t figure one out for 1. Today I’ll try again.

But before I do that — I think it stalled also because I got side tracked by metaphor and figurative language. The Beaufort scale mostly uses literal language, describing the effects of wind on various things, like umbrellas or people trying to walk. Occasionally metaphor creeps in with the use of white horses to describe white caps on waves. Is this the only use of metaphor in the scale? No.

Use of metaphor in Beaufort Scale:

0 — “sea like a mirror”
1 — ripples like scales
2 — crests like glass
3 — foam like glass
4 — white horses

If I’m reading correctly, the for use on land section is all literal descriptions of wind’s effects: leaves rustling, trees being uprooted, roof tiles ripping off, inconvenient then difficult to walk. I like how 7 is inconvenient to walk, while 8 is difficult.

Okay, now back to a poem scale. Instead of literal descriptions, I think I’d like figurative ones. It’s more fun!

when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by — “Who Has Seen the Wind?”/ Christina Rossetti

Would this be 5, “small trees in leaf start to sway”? or 6, “large branches in motion”? or 7, “whole trees in motion”?

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible — “Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One” / Richard Siken

2? “leaves rustle”? or 8, “”twigs break from trees”?

I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing — “And All Visible Signs Swept Away” / Carl Phillips

Okay, think I know this one: “Leaves and small twigs in constant motion” (3).

Autumn wind chases in/From all directions/And a thousand chaste leaves/Give way. — “Nature Aria” / Yi Lei

I think this should be 2, “leaves rustle”

Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless/ Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:/It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies — “Fall” / Edward Hirsch

7, “inconvenient to walk against the wind”

the dry/sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending. — “When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Truly Alongside” / Donika Kelly

3: “leaves in constant motion”

Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up/ And speak disparagingly of leaves — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

This is a tough one for me. Is ungluing the fog violent or gentle? To speak disparagingly of the leaves seems less forceful than yelling at them — I think I’ll go with 4 “wind raises dust and loose paper, small branches move” but I could also go with 9, chimney pots and slates removed

Whip the green cloth off the hills — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

10: “Trees uprooted, considerable structural damage occurs”

When winds go round and round in bands,/And thrum upon the door,/And birds take places overhead,/To bear them orchestra, — “Wind” / Emily Dickinson

6 — whistling in telegraph wires, umbrellas used with difficulty

So that the ocean on one side is wild/With foam and glitter. . ./As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. — “Postscript” / Seamus Heaney

11: the sea is covered in foam, widespread damage

So, I already found a line last week for 0. With these lines above, I’m only missing 12. Although some of the lines above are used for multiple levels. I’ll fine tune that in a future entry. This was fun!

Here they are in order, so far:

0 —- the white cotton curtains hanging still

1 —

2 — Autumn wind chases in/From all directions/And a thousand chaste leaves/Give way. — “Nature Aria” / Yi Lei

3 — I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing — “And All Visible Signs Swept Away” / Carl Phillips AND the dry/sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending. — “When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Truly Alongside” / Donika Kelly

4 —

5 — I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible — “Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One” / Richard Siken

6 — When winds go round and round in bands,/And thrum upon the door,/And birds take places overhead,/To bear them orchestra, — “Wind” / Emily Dickinson

7 — when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by — “Who Has Seen the Wind?”/ Christina Rossetti

8 — Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless/ Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:/It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies — “Fall” / Edward Hirsch

9 — Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up/ And speak disparagingly of leaves — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

10 — Whip the green cloth off the hills — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

11 — So that the ocean on one side is wild/With foam and glitter. . ./As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. — “Postscript” / Seamus Heaney

12 —