july 19/SWIM

5 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees

5 loops again! I swam 4 without stopping, then got out of the water to check in with Scott before returning and swimming one more loop. Felt strong and relaxed and happy. I remember thinking, this is it — it = the best, a moment I want to live in and return to when I need it. Steady strokes. Breathing every 5. Not seeing the buoys but swimming straight towards them. Not effortless or easy but satisfying.

The water was choppy, full of swells. From the big beach to the first orange buoy, it was difficult to stroke; I felt like I was flailing. Not being hit with big waves, but feeling like the water just under me didn’t want to cooperate. From the far orange buoy to the far green buoy, it was difficult to see anything, everything kept hiding behind a wave. Mostly I breathed on my right side. The last stretch of the loop, parallel to the big beach, was the best. Pushed from behind by the waves, I felt like I was on a people mover. My strokes were stronger and faster and easier.

The water was yellowish-green, with the occasional glob of algae, one or two prickly vines. My sparkle friends (the sediment/particles) were back! No fish sightings or near misses with other swimmers. No menacing swans. Probably because of the choppy water, the lifeguards kept drifting too close to the buoys, which made for tighter angles around the course.

During the last stretch of the fourth loop, as I looked through the water and saw nothing but bubbles and my hands, I thought about how this opaque water doesn’t represent the void or nothingness or the absence of something but a different way of being, one that is not only possible, but is already being lived. I don’t think this quite makes sense yet. Suddenly I thought about Judith Butler and her idea of making room for other ways of being. The aim is less to create an endless number of new ways of being, and more to acknowledging and support ways that already exist but have been ignored, silenced, reviled, feared. I’m getting somewhere with this, I think, but I’m not quite there yet. Something about how poetry, for me, is about this making room, giving a language to ways of being that already exist but only on the edge, the periphery — not only, but especially my way of being.

Two days ago, I was watching a video about the World Champion triathlete Beth Potter and her pre-Olympics training. Her swim coach was giving instructions to her training group at the lake: Before the buoy, you need to sight it and then do 20 strokes in with your eyes closed. See if you can hit the buoy. Potter’s response: Eyes closed? Coach: Yeah, yeah, a bit of blind swimming. I remember hearing someone during open swim a few years ago say that if your stroke is good/straight, you should be able to swim to the buoys with your eyes closed. I’m guessing that’s what Potter’s group is working on — making sure they have proper form.

One reason open swim club has been so meaningful for me for the last decade is how it has helped me to learn how to be — how to navigate, function — when I can’t see. To trust straight strokes, to get comfortable with other senses.

Random things to remember for future Sara: After possibly breaking a rib in his bat encounter, Scott is healing — he’s running and sleeping in the bed and not waking up each morning in agony. He and FWA are playing 4 instruments each in the pit for Spongebob Square Pants. I saw it last night: great. RJP moves into her dorm for her first year of college in a little over a month. Tadej Pogacar is achieving super-human watts as he bikes his way up the Alps and towards a resounding victory in the Tour de France. The lexapro seems to be working; I have so much less anxiety. The election continues to be shit show that I’m trying to ignore.

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 5/SWIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Things

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

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

still my favorite lines from it:

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

aquatic plant management

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

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

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

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

Aquatic Plant Management

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

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

july 4/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Skies can’t keep their secret!

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



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

If I should bribe the little Bird – 

Who knows but she would tell?



I think I won’t – however – 

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

What sorcery had snow?



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

Know what the Sapphire Fellows, do,

In your new-fashioned world!

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

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

the prowling Bee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hundreds of Minneapolis Park Workers Poised to Strike for a Week

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

july 2/RUNSWIM

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

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

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

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

10 Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Things

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

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 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 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.