This morning’s swim was glorious. The water was as smooth and reflective as a mirror; the cabins across the cove reflected in it.
No one was in the water. No one. Just like I like it.
So, I went a bit further and longer, stroking out to where the cove meets the lake and towards the dam in the opposite direction.
I rolled over and watched a plane create a contrail in the perfectly puffed sky.
As I lay on my back, I thought about my parents’ fears. Whenever I talk to my dad, he asks if I swim alone. Yes! He is worried. What if something happens? Something is happening, and it is beautiful. The water rocks me and holds me the more I hold out my arms and lean back. The sun kisses me. I feel a cool spring underneath.
I realize I am not my parents’ fears and I think of my mother. She was never comfortable in water, having learned how to swim in college as a requirement for graduation. But, being the Strong Lady that she is, she made sure I took swimming lessons at the age of five.
I think back at my time in the YMCA pool. I barely remember that.
I do remember my time in the sauna. It was quiet and an education of sorts, sitting with a tiny room of naked women, many older and their bodies revealing what time will do to skin, muscle, limbs. Those women sat unashamed, sweating, chatting on occasion. It was a place of peace and quiet acceptance that I recall. These woman felt pleasure in their bodies, no matter the condition or age.
That same feeling comes upon me in the water. Comfort in this body and place. Peace as the water holds me.
There was a time I shared my father’s fear. What if something happened and I started to choke? I realize that what I need to fear is panic. If I panic, something could go wrong. If I stay in that place of peace, all is wonderful. When I get tired, I simply roll onto my back and feel held. It is lovely.
How did I outgrow that fear? By facing it. Moving towards it, and walking out into the lake that first day. It is like any fear I have had to face – moving across the country, moving into a place of my own, starting a job, going back to school. I can sit in that place of fear and panic or move towards it, embrace it, and watch it diminish.
I choose the latter.
Why? I wondered today.
I think once again of my mother. Raised in rural PA and the oldest of nine, she knew the horrors a farm family felt when they lost a child to drowning in the heat of summer. It was all too common. Children who were never given a swimming lesson looking to cool off venture out a bit to far in a farm pond. Tragedy results.
After yet another tragic loss during the heat of summer, she decided to change the system. She petitioned the school board, talked to the owner of the only large private pool in the district and pushed to create swimming lessons for all the children. Free of charge.
The phys ed teacher taught them from 9-noon before the pool opened. School buses picked children up from all over the district and delivered them to the pool, where volunteers played with the little ones in the water, teaching basic safety.
All this from a woman who had her own healthy fear of water. I don’t think she ever loved to swim, but she made sure others learned the skill. She saw what the lack did.
I think of Stew Leonard Jr. who lost a child to drowning. It is still too common. He started a foundation https://stewietheduck.org/ to educate people about this.
When I compare the resources my mother had available to her and what she produced, it is all the more impressive.
Besides teaching rural children a life skill, she gave me a source of joy.
As I lay in the water, I hear Wim Hof say, “Let the body do what the body is capable of doing.” https://www.wimhofmethod.com/breathing-exercises
Yes. The body is capable of enjoying a swim in a lake, daily.
My mother’s fear became a source of real pleasure for me.
Fear is a liar. Know this.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1srs1YoTVzs
I go back to my dad’s fear, what if something happens?
Something will happen. I think he is referring to death. I know death will happen, some day. All our stories end the same. The real question is, are you afraid of death? What if I face it in a drowning? I think that would not be so bad; it beats languishing in a nursing home.
Surrounded by nature, feeling held, being thankful for life and my body. Yes, something may happen and that may be death, but how glorious! lying in a beautiful body of water with my face turned towards heaven.
To me, that would be a great way to go.
I don’t know if I can explain this to my dad.