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 10/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
78 degrees / dew point: 66

For the first mile, in the shade it felt almost cool or, at least not HOT! Hardly any bugs, but tons of chirping birds, one black-capped chickadee calling out for a response which never came. A few other runners, walkers, a group of bikers. After turning around at the trestle I passed by 3 women instructing a fourth on how to use an unfamiliar bike. Somewhere I smelled tobacco — from a car? below on the winchell trail? a walker’s clothes? Admired the glowing purple flowers on the edge of the trail and the stretch of the path that was all shade, except for a few splotches of light. One splotch was big enough to see my shadow in before we both disappeared into the shade. The river was calm and pale blue. The green was thick excess. The stretches of trail in the direct sun were warm. At least twice I pushed myself to keep running when I wanted to stop. At the trestle I put in my old “Winter” playlist

immersion

This summer I’m devoting a lot of attention to water and swimming and my experiences during open swim. After reading Lauren Groff’s essay, Swimming, Anne Carson’s story 1=1, and watching Samantha Sanders’ mini doc, Swimming Through, I’m thinking about why I love open water swimming and how to describe the experience of moving in/with/through water. Here are 3 descriptions from Groff, Carson, and Sanders.

1 – Groff

there is a moment in swimming when, after a while, the body’s rhythm grows so comfortable that the swimmer loses awareness of herself. There is a marrow-deep letting go. She isn’t thinking. Her brain is off, her body is on autopilot. She is elevated; happy is not the word for it. To be and not to be, simultaneously: some people call this state ecstasy, others call it zen. They are, perhaps, different names for the same phenomenon. It is difficult to attain, and there are a thousand ways to attain it. Some meditate, others do peyote, others focus so hard on their art that the world itself falls away and they look up, days or hours later, to be staggered by what they have created in the full flare of their own white heat.

Swimming/ Lauren Groff

Groff’s last bit, “in the full flare of their own white heat” reminds me of Mary Oliver and one of her poems that I posted on 10 july 2022: “The Ponds”:

from The Ponds/ Mary Oliver

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.

The white heat also makes me think of Emily Dickinson. But, the flare of white heat seems like the wrong sort of metaphor for what happens to you in the water. Also, even as we float in the water, we are still fully in it, not above it.

2 — Carson

. . . no interaction with another person ever brought her a bolt of pure aliveness like entering the water on a still morning with the world empty in every direction to the sky. That first entry. Crossing the border of consciousness into, into what?

And then the (she searches for the right word) instruction of balancing along in the water, the ten thousand adjustments of vivid action, 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

To swim, especially freestyle, with your head mostly underwater, only surfacing to breathe (as opposed to breaststroke, where you always have a frog-eye view), is to be immersed in water, not floating above it. And not burning a white heat, but —? Something I can’t quite name yet. The it you are in, is not just water, but life.

3 — Sanders

 

There are many wonderful, beautiful moments in this doc about resilience and community and transformation, but I especially love this moment, starting 10 minutes in, in which they describe the shift from tracking the temperature to giving attention to — witnessing — the ice. To me, this might speak to Carson’s idea of crossing the border of consciousness into something/somewhere else.

 We became very obsessive about how cold the water was getting. You know, it’s 50, then it’s 40, then it’s 40.2, then it’s 39. I had two thermometers that both busted this year in the cold water, I didn’t get another one. We just figure that it’s cold. So then it’s about I can’t wait to swim in the snow. Then it was like, I can’t wait to swim when there’s ice.

And then we had no idea what did ice mean? You know, this winter it meant so many different kinds of ice because you know, there’s the first ice that was like a very thin, thin layer of ice. Almost like snowflakes on the water. Break them as I stroked and then turn around and they would have reformed behind me. Ice that was so sharp that you actually were getting cut and you needed to be careful.

And then, you know, we got real ice.

Swimming Through/ Samantha Sanders

The feeling of swimming is the feeling of noticing the world, not existing above it, but fully in it, immersed, aware, witnessing the slight changes in temperature, or where waves usually start, or how the weather affects the opacity of the water.

A few minutes before this ice part, one of the women says this about the experience of swimming in very cold water: I feel metallic! I love that — maybe that should be the title of a poem, “To feel metallic”?!

added a few hours later: I almost forgot to include some sources that I’d like to gather then read then archive:

  • “The Anthropology of Water” / Anne Carson in Plainwater — go to the U library for this one
  • In Summer, We’re Reborn/ Nina MacLaughlin
  • Excerpt from The Folded Clock* / Heidi Julavits

*several years ago — maybe 10? — I put The Folded Clock on my wishlist and got it for Christmas of that year. Apparently this was before I got into the habit of writing the date on the first page, so I can’t remember exactly what year that was. I also can’t specifically remember why — maybe because I was into memoirs? Anyway, I know I read some of it before but I didn’t realize that she wrote about swimming in lakes!

Julavits is swimming in a Berlin lake, filled with algae. This is the last paragraph:

The best thing about my first Berlin swim was this. When I took off my bathing suit, the crotch was bright green from the algae that had collected there. It was like getting my period for the first time and seeing the shock of color where normally there is only white.

The Folded Clock

When I took my suit off after my green algae filled swim, the muck that usually collects beneath my suit on my stomach and under my breasts included some bright green bits? chunks? traces? I’m glad that it collected there and not in my crotch!

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 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 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 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!

june 27/RUNSWIM

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
69 degrees

Another run that started easy then got hard. My left hip and knee were stiff and sore. Walked several times on the way back.

Listened to feet shuffling on the grit, some keys jangling in a bucket. Smelled something floral and sweet near the franklin bridge. Felt a cool breeze on my warm face, sweat dripping off of my pony tail. Saw blue, red, and orange graffiti under the lake street bridge and a man helping a dog get through a hole in the chain link fence halfway down the franklin hill.

Ran by a break in the trees with an inviting dirt trail and thought again about how I love seeing these trails and wondering where they lead. Then I thought about how I prefer trails that have already been made by others — an invitation from past feet to explore and to step off the paved path.

Saw this poem online this morning and was surprised that I hadn’t already posted it:

blessing the boats/ lucille clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

swim: 3 loops
72 degrees
light rain

I like swimming in the rain — when it’s a light rain. Have I ever swam in a hard rain? I’m not sure. When you are already wet, it’s difficult to tell what’s rain and what’s lake. Another great swim. I’m struggling in my runs, but loving the water.

10 things

  1. a steady rain that I couldn’t feel or see as I swam
  2. water, a darker green with some blue
  3. tangled in several thin, loose vines — one on my head, another my shoulders, and another on my legs — most were just slimy, but one was sharp and scratchy
  4. pale vines stretching up from the deepest parts of the lake — how tall are these vines this year? they glowed like the moon behind the clouds
  5. particles in the water, almost looking like glitter — or, was that raindrops breaking the surface?*
  6. mostly breathing every five — a few sixes, some threes, at least one two
  7. pink orange yellow safety buoys tethered to swimmers
  8. rounding the second green buoy, sighting the first orange buoy — so far off and lonely — just it and water — and only appearing in my vision when it wanted to
  9. some sort of disturbance below me — was it a big fish? — nothing seen, only felt, the water moving beneath me
  10. standing up near the beach after I finished, noticing the rain, then hearing some kids in the water excitedly yelling, It’s raining!

*It wasn’t until I wrote this out that I realized I was noticing the rain. It was very cool. The rain drop glitter made the water feel more alive, active — stirred up and swirling

I was surprised by how many people were at the beach. It had been raining all afternoon. People were still having picnics, kids were still in the water, several dozen swimmers were out on the course

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 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.”