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 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 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.

april 26/YOGACORE

yoga: 20 minutes
core: 10 minutes

Downward facing dogs and crescent moons and cat backs and cow mountain rag doll child poses. Dead bugs and side planks and bird dogs and push-ups and reverse crunches. And other things I can’t remember the names of right now.

some things I heard watched read today

HEARD most of an amazing Tinhouse podcast interview with the poet and multi-media artist, Diana Khoi Nguyen. After I finish, I’d like to read the transcript and pick out some passages that were particularly moving.

WATCHED some advice from Billy Collins on how to write poetry: Read poetry, lots of it, thousands of hours of it. Read Wordsworth.

read poetry

READ parts of Mary Oliver’s Long Life:

And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?” This book is my comment.

Long Life/ Mary Oliver

and a review of collection that I want to check out, Wonder About The that references a useful essay by Forrest Gander, What is Eco-Poetry?:

Aside from issues of theme and reference, how might syntax, line break, or the shape of the poem on the page express an ecological ethics? If our perceptual experience is mostly palimpsestic or endlessly juxtaposed and fragmented; if events rarely have discreet beginnings or endings but only layers, duration, and transitions; if natural processes are already altered by and responsive to human observation, how does poetry register the complex interdependency that draws us into a dialogue with the world?

What is Eco-Poetry? / Forrest Gander

and also references Angus Fletcher:

In his magisterial 2004 study A New Theory for American Poetry, Angus Fletcher posited that “environmental sensitivity demands its own new genre of poetry” and argued that environment poems “are not about the environment, whether natural or social, they are environments.” 

and discusses how Wonder About The mentions eyes frequently:

The peculiar art of perceiving the environment is often a subject of Wonder About The, whether it’s acknowledging that a farmer’s “bright Deere” is “a part of / the field’s design” or the urgent command, presented in progressively larger type, to “look up / look up / look up.” Eyes, in fact, are mentioned often, from “the sense record” being visited “upon our eyes / our ears” to a hard-earned vision of a waterfowl:

my winter eye
unlayers all frost
anneals what distance
     takes

rank glorious muck
rot palimpsesting rye
the duck
the living eye

april 11/RUN

3.1 miles
edmund, south/river road, north/edmund, south
56 degrees
wind: 12 mph/ gusts: 22 mph

Shorts and bare legs again today. Hooray! Was planning to do the 2 trails, but when I reached the entrance to the winchell trail I heard some very noisy rustling of leaves. Too big for a squirrel. A dog? A bear? A human? I tried to look ahead but all I saw was a black blob. I thought it was a person with a stroller so I moved a little closer. Nope — a male turkey with its tail spread like a peacock, a red wattle glowing, even for me with my bad color vision. Wow. I mentioned it to a man walking down the hill and he said, well, this is the way I’m going! and slowly and calmly walked toward the turkey. A showdown. After 30 seconds or so, the turkey relented and the man walked past. Not me, I climbed the hill and ran on the trail next to the road. This encounter will be my birding poem for the day!

10 Things Other Than Tom Turkey

  1. a woodpecker cry — pileated, I think
  2. another woodpecker cry a few minutes later — was this bird following me?
  3. loud kids at the playground, mostly having fun
  4. 2 bikers heading north — we can ride the wind now. I thought this meant that they would have the wind at their backs, so I would too, when I turned around. No. Wind was in my face heading north, later in the run
  5. admiring the view of the river from the overlook — the water on the other shore was sparkling
  6. mud and roots on the dirt trail between edmund and the river
  7. the clickity-clack of roller skiers poles behind me
  8. several of the benches had people on them — more than half?
  9. bird shadows
  10. a shrieking blue jay above me

After turning around because of the territorial turkey, I put in my “It’s Windy” playlist: They Call the Wind Maria/ the furies; Dust in the Wind/ insignificant or fleeting

The wind wasn’t overpowering but it was everywhere, coming from every direction. I remember noticing how it played with my hair, making my ponytail bob and my little loose strands fly around my face. Only once did I need to adjust my hat for fear that the wind might blow it off. I don’t remember hearing any skittering leaves or getting dust in my eyes, grit in my teeth. The wind didn’t sing or howl. It did push me forward and hold me back. And I think it made the whole run harder.

Earlier this morning, I checked out Mary Oliver’s West Wind and found this delightful part of a poem about wild turkeys. It seems fitting to include today after seeing several hens — being guarded by the male turkey on Winchell.

from Three Songs/ Mary Oliver

1

A band of wild turkeys is coming down the hill. They are coming
slowly—astheywalkalongthey look under the leaves for things to 
eat, and besides it must be a pleasure to step alternately through the
pale sunlight, then patches of slightly golden shade. they are all hens
and they lift their thick toes delicately. With such toes they could
march up one side of the state and down the others, or skate on water,
or dance the tango. But not this morning. As they get closer the sound
of their feet in the leaves is like the patter of rain, then rapid rain. My
dogs perk their ears, and bound from the path. Instead of opening their
dark wings the hens swirl and rush away under the trees, like little
ostriches.

Returning to my birding poem for the day. I’m having a little difficulty finding the focus, so I thought I’d write a little more around this little poem. What are the details that I remember, that I might want to write about?

  • First thing noticed: an unusually loud rustling sound that I thought was too big for a squirrel, too much for a human
  • the moment of seeing something but not knowing what it was — a bear? a dog? a stroller? Not feeling scared, but feeling like I should stay back until I figured it out, feeling that it was something unusual. This moment last a long time, which was fine because I had time, but wouldn’t have been if I had needed to make a quick decision, like if the turkey was running towards me
  • the turkey was so big! its tail was up and spread out like a peacock, making him look even bigger and framing his face
  • the face — fuzzy but clear enough to know that this turkey was telling me to back off! I couldn’t make out his eyes, but I could see — or, maybe I guessed a little — when he was facing me — yes, it was the contrast of light and dark — when he was turned away, he was just a dark, hulking shape, when he was turned toward me I saw a pale beak
  • the red wattle — was it bright? I can’t quite remember, but I know it was red and big
  • when I felt fairly certain it was a turkey, I still couldn’t see details — just a small, light head with red, framed by broad dark tail feathers — how much of his bigness was because of his tail, how much his body? the form — menacing and comical at the same time, with its big circle for a body and its tiny head
  • the approaching man — I said to him, there’s a big turkey down there! He said something like, well, THIS is the way I’m planning to go! His tone wasn’t too jerky, just matter-of-fact. When he approached the turkey he called out sternly but not too aggressively — hey hey move! At first, the turkey wouldn’t budge and the guy looked back at me, but after some time, the turkey moved

Reflecting on these details some more, I’m thinking that the guy, albeit interesting, is unnecessary for my purposes. I think adding him might take the poem in a different direction. . . although, I am struck by the encounter between me, him, and the turkey. The guy didn’t seem like a jerk, but he did give off some older white guy energy — this is the way I’m going turkey! Your puffed up feathers can’t stop me! I was happy to stand back and observe the turkeys from a (respectful?) distance, while he was ready to keep moving through the turkeys.

The uncertainty from not being able to see what the turkey was is what I’d like to focus on, although I want to weave in the strange mix of menacing and comical too. Here’s a long passage from Georgina Kleege that is helpful in explaining my own process of seeing things. She is able to see most things because she expects to see them; it’s the unexpected things that make it difficult. oh — I like this idea of bringing surprise in here!

Expectation plays a large role in what I perceive. I know what’s on my desk because I put it there. If someone leaves me a surprise gift, it may take a few seconds to identify it, but how often does that happen? . . . . I can recognize most things through quick process of elimination. And that process is only truly conscious on the rare occasions when the unexpected occurs, as when my cats carry objects out of context. A steel wool soap pad appears in the bath tub. I see it as a rusty, graying blob. Though touch would probably tell me something, it can be risky to touch something you cannot identify some other way. . . . I once encountered a rabid raccoon on a sidewalk near my house. I learned what it was from a neighbor watching it from his screened porch. What I saw was an indistinct, grayish mass, low to the ground and rather round. It was too big to be a cat and the wrong shape to be a dog. Its gait was not only unfamiliar but unsteady. It zigzagged up the pavement. I moved my gaze around it as my brain formed a picture of raccoon. The raccoon in my mind had the characteristic mask across its face, a sharply pointed nose, striped tail, brindled fur. Nothing in the hazy blob at my feet, no variations in color or refinements in form, corresponded with that image. Its position was wrong. The raccoon in my image was standing up on its haunches, holding something in its front paws. And what does a rabid raccoon look like?

Sight Unseen/ Georgina Kleege (105-106, print version)

Kleege grew up, from age 11, with a big blind spot in the center of her vision. That was roughly 50+ years ago, so she’s had time to learn how to guess and eliminate and handle identifying unexpected objects. I’m still learning. Mostly, it doesn’t bother me, although i occasionally worry about my safety. Anyway, I find Kleege’s description of her process helpful in enabling me to describe what I did. Kleege saw “an indistinct, grayish mass, low to the ground and rather round.” I saw an indistinct, dark mass, somewhat low to the ground and rather round. My dark mass moved slowly but not awkwardly and was accompanied by a loud racket. I might have guessed turkey earlier if he, and his hens, hadn’t been so loud, and if he hadn’t been so big and round.

How many times have I seen a male turkey with its feathers puffed up? Looking it up, I read that this puffing could be a courtship ritual or a sign of intimidation — in my encounter, was it both? The courtship version involves a strut and a gobble — oh, I wish I would have heard him gobble! The only noises my turkeys made were with their beaks or feet as they rooted around for food. And, maybe his low, un-awkward (graceful?) gait was a strut that I couldn’t quite see?

possible ideas, images, descriptions to add: gobble-less, unexpected and unusual for this regular route, rotund (or round or a puffed up dark dot/circle), rooting racket.

clues to choose from: a dark mass too big for a bird (or so I thought), too small for a bear, a slow strut.

Something to think about: was it just the puffed up feathers that made seeing turkeys strange? I think so.

I almost forgot. I took a picture! Look at me, at a safe distance!

turkey sighting / 11 april 2024

march 17/RUN

6.2 miles
minnehaha dog park and back
wind: 13 mph / gusts: 27 mph

Another weekend run with Scott. We talked about Ada Limón’s National Park project and I recited Scott’s favorite line from one of the poems featured in the project. The line — Surely you can’t imagine they just stand there loving every minute of it. The poem — Can You Imagine/ Mary Oliver. Scott likes the line because it’s also a line from the Loverboy song, “Loving Every Minute of it.” As we ran into the wind I mentioned the terrible wind (and rain and cold) in the 2018 Boston Marathon. Scott talked about a dream he had last night that he went to a friend’s gig and how, when he woke up, he realized that that friend did actually have a gig last night. He also talked about birds — wild turkeys and his favorite encounter with them when he saw two walking side-by-side down a busy sidewalk near lake street.

When we started running, it was snowing — small flurries. At some point it stopped, but it stayed cold and windy. Writing this now, a half an hour later, I’m still cold.

image of the day: a robin on the edge of path, hopping along then flying across the path. Having noticed the leaves skittering in the wind on the other side of the path, at first I thought the robin was a leaf. But then, when it landed on the fence, I could tell it was a bird. After mentioning it to Scott, I recited a line from ED’s “A bird came down the Walk –“. I think I’ll write a little birding poem about this Robin!

10 Things

  1. skittering leaves
  2. a robin — first on the ground as a dark form that could be anything and that I thought was a bird, then fluttering across the path, then landing on the top of the fence
  3. flurries in the air — steady, then swirling, then a clump of them dumped
  4. water falling at the falls, a few bits of ice near the edge
  5. the creek, mostly flowing, but still on the edge, and low
  6. a walker with an unleashed dog, wandering around the trail
  7. the view of the river obscured by a screen of thin, unleafed branches
  8. the fake bells of the light rail on the other side of Hiawatha
  9. the curve of the river below us as we ran south toward fort snelling
  10. a steady cadence — the lift lift lift of my feet, slightly slower than Scott’s

jan 20/RUN

4.35 miles
minnehaha falls and back
5 degrees

Back outside! Cold, but much warmer than Tuesday. Low (ish) wind, plenty of sunshine, clear paths. I felt a little tired and sore, but still happy to be outside. Was planning to do my usual routine of running without music, then putting some in at my favorite spot by the falls, but I forgot my headphones. Oh well, if I had been listening to music I might not have heard a goose honking.

10 Things

  1. startled some birds in the brush on the path near the ramp that winds down to the falls bridge — some rustling noises, then a silver flash as the sun caught the feathers on one of the bird’s wings — it reminded me of Eamon Grennan’s line about a lark’s silver trail in Lark-luster or EDickinson’s silver seam in A Bird, came down the Walk
  2. the falls were hidden behind columns of ice
  3. a few people (3 or 4?) walking on the frozen creek, admiring the falls from up close
  4. falling water sound: tinkling, sprinkling, shimmering
  5. the creek was frozen over, with just a few open spots where the water flowed beneath it
  6. running past the stretch of woods near the ford bridge — all the leaves are gone, the small rise up to the bridge fully visible
  7. crunch crunch crunch as my feet struck the ground — not slippery or hard or too soft
  8. my shadow, sharp lines, solid, dark, lamp post shadow, softer, fuzzier
  9. the rhythm of a faster runner’s legs as they passed me — a steady lift lift lift — so graceful
  10. a lone geese honking — not seen, only heard

Somewhere near the Horace Cleveland overlook (near the double bridge), I thought about interiors and exteriors and how you can look in or out of windows and then outside as the abstract/thinking/theorizing/writing and inside as the body. I want to remove the barrier between these, to mix writing with being/doing/moving as a body. Then lines from Maggie Smith’s “Threshold” popped into my head: You want a door you can be on both sides of at once. You want to be on both sides of here and there now and then…Yes, I do.

added 21 jan 2024: Reading through a past entry this morning I suddenly remembered the black capped chickadee calling out their fee bee song so loudly as I ran up the hill between locks and dam no. 1 and the double bridge. Wow! I recall thinking they were in beast mode (a reference to Michael Brecker and how some people describe his playing).

Jane Hirshfield’s Ten Windows, Chapter 6 (Close Reading: Windows)

Many good poems have a kind of window-moment in them–they change their direction of gaze in a way that suddenly opens a broadened landscape of meaning and feeling. Encountering such a moment, the reader breathes in some new infusion, as steeply perceptible as any physical window’s increase of light, scent, sound, or air. The gesture is one of lifting, unlatching, releasing; mind and attention swing open to new-peeled vistas.

windows offer an opening, a broadened landscape, fresh air, a lifting, unlatching, releasing, expansion, an escape or a way into somewhere else

In this chapter, Hirshfield does a close reading of ED’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” — yes!

I have called the third stanza (And so of larger — Darkness –/Those Evenings of the Brain –) the poem’s first window, but for me, the true window in Dickinson’s poem is contained in one word; its quick, penultimate, slipped-in “almost.” (And Life steps almost straight). The effect is so disguised it feels more truly trap-door than window: On this close-to-weightless “almost,” the poem’s assurance stumbles, catches. Its two syllables carry the knowledge that there are events in our lives from which no recovery is possible.

I love Emily Dickinson’s almost in this poem. The space it gives — the possibilities — for living your life otherwise. It seems that Hirshfield reads this almost as unfortunate — you almost made it back to your normal life after the darkness, but not quite. I don’t. There’s so much room (and a lot less pressure) in the almost! So much to write about this idea, so little time right now.

In the chapter, Hirshfield references a “popular” Dickinson poem that I’ve never encountered before:

The Brain — is wider than the Sky — (1863) J632/ Emily Dickinson

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do —

The Brain is just the weight of God —
For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
And they will differ — if they do —
As Syllable from Sound —

I’d like to put this into conversation with my mid-run ideas about the body and the mind — maybe add Mary Oliver’s ideas about the difference between a poem and the world from The Leaf and the Cloud too.

august 11/SWIM

2.25 loops (2 big + 2 little)
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees

Open swim was delayed this morning by almost 30 minutes. A lifeguard shortage? Not sure. While I waited I, along with several others, swam a few little loops off the main beach. These loops were calmer and more relaxed than the big loops in the middle of the lake. I liked it.

a dead fish

Yuck! Wading near the shore, I saw something stuck in the shallow water: a BIG white fish, belly up. Was it a fish? With my vision, I can’t always tell. I’ve been known to see things wrong, like thinking a furry hat was a dead squirrel. I asked some other swimmers to check. Yep. One of them, named Sara (or maybe Sarah?) too, said it was a northern pike and too big to be in this lake! I looked it up and it might have been a northern pike, but it wasn’t as big as any of images I saw. Whatever it was, I’m glad I don’t ever see this type of fish in the middle of the lake! Maybe it’s one of the silver flashes I often see below me?

The water was warm and buoyant and choppy, especially on the way back. I strained my neck a little lifting it up over the waves to sight the buoys and my other landmarks. Because of my sore neck and needing to go to the bathroom (of course), I decided to stop after 2 loops.

Every so often I chanted the first lines of a Mary Oliver poem to myself: It is time now, I said, for the quieting and deepening of the spirit among the flux of happenings. And it worked, at least the quieting. Not sure I’d say I went deeper. The water was buoyant and my buoy had enough air in it, so it was more like my spirit was quieting and lifting. When I’m swimming I don’t want to sink, but float. This reminds me of some lines from a Maxine Kumin poem that I’ve written about on here before, “To Swim, To Believe”:

Matters of dogma spin off in the freestyle
earning that mid-pool spurt, like faith.
Where have I come from? Where am I going?
What do I translate, gliding back and forth
erasing my own stitch marks in this lane?
Christ on the lake was not thinking
where the next heel-toe went. 
God did him a dangerous favor
whereas Peter, the thinker, sank.

Perhaps to think is to sink, to forget to float? But maybe only when you are in the water.

august 8/RUNSWIM

3.15 miles
2 trails
78 degrees
humidity: 46%

Warm, but low humidity. Ran later, at 11:30. Some shade, mostly sun. Ran south on the dirt trail between edmund and the river road. Yesterday it was mostly wet and muddy, today dry and dusty. Crossed over to the river road trail, then down to Winchell just before 44th. I don’t remember much about the river except that it was white and very bright. The trees were green and thick. No leaning trunks today. Also no sleeping bodies passed out on the path.

Listened to more acorns dropping — clink clunk thump — and kids yelling as they biked or played at the playground for most of the run. After ascending the 38th street steps, I put in Taylor Swift’s 1989 and she welcomed me to New York.

10 Things

  1. right before starting to run: a dark brown, almost black, squirrel sitting up on its hind legs — did it have an acorn? I couldn’t tell
  2. pale, dusty dirt on the boulevard path
  3. the squeaky groan of the bed of a big truck tilting down to drop off some type of giant machine on the road
  4. passing by a walker on the narrow winchell trail — right behind you! — as water dripped dripped dripped out of the sewer pipe below
  5. running on the tips of my toes as I traveled up the short, very steep grade near folwell
  6. 3 or 4 small stones stacked on the ancient boulder by the sprawling oak tree
  7. passing by the old stone steps that lead to the river, the flash of an idea: why not take these steps down to the river? another flash: bugs, heat, no time to stop. So I didn’t
  8. another groups of kids in yellow vests biking on the trail, the leader/adult calling out, stay on your side of the lane!
  9. doing quick steps to avoid the tree roots just barely sticking out of the dirt on the trail at the top of edmund
  10. listening to the line in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood”:
    Did you have to do this?
    I was thinking that you could be trusted
    Did you have to ruin what was shiny?
    Now it’s all rusted
    and thinking about shiny vs. rusted, and rust in the fall, then I noticed some rust on one of the big metal tubes all around the neighborhood that the city is using for their sewer work — Scott says these tubes get placed vertically in the ground and the workers stand in them as they do their work

The World / Marie Howe

I couldn’t tell one song from another, which bird said what or to whom or for
what reason.
The oak tree seemed to be writing something using very few words.

I couldn’t decide which door to open—they looked the same, or what would
happen when
I did reach out and turn a knob. I thought I was safe, standing there, but my
death remembered

its date: only so many summer nights still stood before me, full moon, waning
moon,
October mornings: what to make of them? which door?

I couldn’t tell which stars were which or how far away any one of them was, or
which
were still burning or not—their light moving through space like a long late
train,

and I’ve lived on this earth so long, 50 winters, 50 springs and summers,
and all this time stars have stood in the sky—in daylight when I couldn’t see
them, and

at night, when most nights I didn’t look.

This idea that stars are there all the time, even in the day when we can’t see them, seems to be (at least in my limited experience) a favorite of poets. Also: the moon!, the fact that stars are dead by the time we see them, so we’re looking at ghosts, and the realization that ponies are not baby horses (I encountered this revelation, sometimes with the annoying phrase, I was today years old when I realized that ponies aren’t baby horses, from poetry people). All of these, sources of wonder and delight. I suppose they are for me, well maybe not the horses/ponies thing.

Currently I’m reading Andrew Leland’s The Country of the Blind and it’s amazing. His descriptions of becoming blind, or being in this state of living while losing sight, not living with lost sight, resonate a lot for me, especially the idea of doubting your own vision loss and his experiences with eye doctors:

(note: I didn’t have time to transcribe this page, but I will come back to do it and put in alt text for others who already can’t see the image, and for me who will soon not be able to.

swim: 3 swell loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees

So many swells in the water today. For most of it, I felt like I was being pulled down into the water. Not very buoyant. I wondered if I would able to do 3 loops. But as I got deeper into the swim, I felt stronger and more able to keep going.

10 Things

  1. little minnows near the shore — hello friends!
  2. being rocked — not roughly or gently but in a way that made it difficult to push through the water
  3. getting stuck behind a woman swimming backstroke and getting way off course — is she swimming backstroke? is that the green buoy, way over there?
  4. racing a wetsuit on the back end of the first loop. Did he realize we were racing, or was it just me? I won
  5. the far orange buoy was much closer to the little beach than it has been all season
  6. spotted one swan, no sail boat or wandering canoes
  7. sighting other swimmers by the bubbles their feet made under the water
  8. the orange buoys looked like they had white patches as I got closer to them — the sun was shining extra bright on them, I guess
  9. no birds or planes that I remember but one zooming dragonfly
  10. felt like I was on a people mover for the last stretch between the last green buoy and first orange one — swimming so fast, pushed along by the swells behind me

Recited Mary Oliver’s “Swimming, One Day in August” in my head as I swam the last loop and realized something. She writes:

Something had pestered me so much
that I felt like my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

The mechanical part? I realized that her heart breaking is a good thing here and that her mechanical heart is the one that follows the beat of organized, tightly contained time, broken down into hours and minutes and seconds so we can be as efficient and productive as possible. Yes! Swimming in the lake can break me open and out of time’s rigid boxes.

august 6/SWIM

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
68 degrees

First swim back since last Monday. I’ve missed it. Almost thought it wouldn’t happen; it was supposed to rain. Instead, cloudy. Hooray!

I had a rough start. Right before swimming, I couldn’t get my nose plug to stay on my nose. After taking it off and putting it on again several times, I decided it was good enough and headed out to the first orange buoy. A few strokes in, I had to stop. A leaking goggle. Fixed it, started again. A minute or two later, I could tell my nose plug wasn’t on fully. Stopped in the middle of the lake to adjust it. A few minutes after that, my eye began to burn — I hadn’t rinsed out all the baby shampoo I use to de-fog my goggles. I swam with my eyes closed for a few strokes then stopped to rinse my eyes and goggles out while treading water halfway between the shore and the middle green buoy.

I had hoped to recite Mary Oliver’s “Swimming, One Day in August” as I swam, at least the first lines: It is time now, I said,/ for the deepening and the quieting of the spirit/among the flux of happenings. But, it was hard to think about deepening and quieting when my eyes were burning and my nose plug was leaking. After completing 2 loops, I decided to stop and stand and rest at the big beach for a minute and then find a way to get deeper and quieter for my last loop. I think it worked.

10 Things

  1. seagulls! Maybe a dozen, standing in the water near the shore
  2. a gray morning with rain coming
  3. water temperature warmer than the air
  4. opaque water — no silver flashes
  5. a few boats in the water, mostly lifeguards in kayaks
  6. the buoys were off from my line of landmarks — the top of the building, the over-turned boat, so I swam wide and on the edges of the course as I kept the landmarks in sight
  7. smooth water — were there any waves?
  8. no vines or weeds or floating chunks of vegetation
  9. no sun
  10. at least one plane in the sky

A strange sensation. I keep having flashes of memory about the swim that seem like dreams. Was I dreaming as I swam, or did I dream about swimming last night? Maybe a bit of both?

Hard for me to believe, but it looks like I haven’t posted Mary Oliver’s poem, “Swimming, One Day in August” in its entirety. Here it is:

Swimming, One Day in August/ Mary Oliver

It is time now, I said,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.