By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
I began swimming right around the time I started to walk. My first swimming pool was at the entry to nearby subdivision; here, I encountered my lifelong love water. I swim about once a week. Nine months a year, I have the extraordinary pleasure of biking to and from the public pool in my neighborhood. If you have not done that lately, I cannot recommend it enough. In the winter, I welcome the joy of shedding layers of clothes and releasing the cold-weather hunch from my shoulders.
The physical demands of swimming laps require focus: breathing and counting. Best of all, swimming makes sending an email or text, or checking in on social media quite impossible.
The laps I complete approach meditation. I swim, I think, I count, I turn, I extend with my arms and propel with my legs, I float. I cannot be concerned with much more than my movements and the way the water embraces me.
Throughout life, I have ventured into fresh and salt water bodies, all the while relishing a singular connection with the natural world.
I swam in Hinckley Reservoir as a child, the lake near Centerville Mills Summer Camp, and Lake Erie off my big brother’s boat, and this past summer I swam Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Rivers have welcomed me, too, Mohican and Tippecanoe.
I swam once a week in the Gulf of Mexico from Clearwater Beach the year I lived in Tampa, Florida.
I swam in the Atlantic Ocean during a Spring Break trip to The Florida Keys, a visit to my Uncle George’s apartment in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and a post-grad school trip Bermuda. While in Ireland, I dipped my feet in the north Atlantic, which according to legend, means I will return there someday.
I encountered the powerful water of the Pacific off the coast of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, realizing that the cautionary advice from my tour guides was well-founded.
Ease in water is a lifelong gift granting access to alien atmosphere like none other. More importantly, knowing how to swim can offer some protection from the hazards.
I recently had the pleasure of encouraging my friend and her daughter to swim in Lake Michigan. After some initial reluctance, we frolicked all afternoon, getting happily knocked down by wave after wave.
Water possesses a truly awesome power, made evident when the waves grow from inviting to foreboding, or flood waters rise. A reverence for the astonishing power emerges in those intimately acquainted with water; a close relationship deepens the respect.
Entering water, walking or jumping, plunging or diving, means entering into a wholly other physical space, an utterly transformative sensation. Movement changes; speed and sound follow different rules.
Standing in front of the ocean has often been described as the utmost awareness of our personal insignificance, but I feel completely connected, entirely myself, one unique life amidst millions of other lives, whether particles of chlorine in a pool, or insects skimming the surface of a lake, or spirited fish flashing around me in the ocean.
People seek escape from ordinary life, longing for the mysterious; all while surrounded by miles over miles of unknown.
Next time your are standing on shore, jump in.