Why I Swim

I love to swim.  I love to feel the cooling, therapeutic resistance of the water.  I love to feel the fluid strength of the ribbons of currents as they wrap around me.  I love the gentle struggle against the challenge of the water’s pressure, goading my muscles into movement and future strengths.

I swim the way I dance; with little style but with great enthusiasm.  Remnants of distant lessons still remain: breast, butterfly and side stroke combine to provide an extraordinary passage through ocean or pool.   And when I float, I still listen to the water gurgle and whisper in my ear, like the faint dialogues of naiads and sylphs.

When the water splashes around me, I can visualize its disruption.  I see it freeze for a moment into a crystal palace of waves before it dissolves into itself to await the next interruption.  It is like being surrounded by a lithe mosaic, which glitters into life only briefly before its diaphanous vanishes.

In the swimming pool, it amuses me see my arms and legs beneath the water, distorted by the fun house trickery of the mischievous water.  The effect is heightened by the sunlight, melting like diamonds in the tiny valleys between the chattering ripples and curls.  Light and water join together in a conspiracy of delight and deceit.

But when I swim in the ocean, I can only imagine what is below the surface.  I visualize my legs, reaching out with toes en pointe, hovering over the turrets of grottoes and the sea-swept dunes of sand and shell.  I glide and tread in dark colors, my skin awash in mystery.

When in the throes of summer, swimming is my cold comfort.  During the thick, enervating days and the nervous, sweaty nights the thought of its cooling recklessness is all I have.  Swimming is innocent and disruptive, guileless and graceless, childlike in its joy in the water’s benign acceptance.  It invites and encourages nothing but spontaneous happiness.

I really do love to swim.

BB

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8 responses to “Why I Swim

  1. Happy swimming.. All the way in swimming pool to ocean.. 🙂

  2. I swam outdoors for the first time in decades yesterday. I tried to do the backstroke but kept getting off track and bumping into either the wall or the floating lane marker. I was thrown off by the bright white sky…which doesn’t have lines painted on it like the ceiling at my indoor pool.

    I might try again today!

  3. I’ve never been such a comfortable swimmer. When I still was in grade school, I went to the Y for swimming lessons. I accidentally was placed in a class for those who already knew how to swim, and when the instructor told us to jump in, I did. I went straight to the bottom. Clearly, they got me out, since I’m here, but I was terrified of water for years.

    Eventually — by high school — I was going to the pool with friends, and even attempting an occasional dive. But it wasn’t until fifteen years ago, when I first got to the Caribbean, that I began to understand the kind of swimming you describe. I was nervous about snorkeling, too, but eventually was able to enjoy the wonders of the reef — and even dove Thunderball Cave, of James Bond fame.

  4. I love the weightlessness of swimming, of floating and being carried by the tide (or more often the wave machine in the local pool!). Your prose captures that sensation beautifully.

  5. Me too. But I haven’t done it for years.

  6. Waqar – If only I was there right now!

    M—–l – I was swimming in the ocean a couple of days ago; I didn’t mind being knocked about by the waves; it seemed like a far more gentler experience than lying on Boyfriend’s surfboard and hanging on for dear life. Did you ever go back?

    shoreacres – I’m sorry you had such a terrible start – and yet you ended up in Thunderball Cave! I remember my first swimming lessons; in order to pass one had to perform all the usual strokes, side, back, butterfly…but I couldn’t dive in! So my instructor took me by the ankles and speared me into the pool – and in that way I passed my swimming test. I also will never be able to dive into pool or ocean.

    fifepsychogeography – Thank you; when you want to do something so desparately, it’s easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself doing it. And I really want to be in the water, not in the hot city with three more hours still to be had at work!

    Gallivanta – Sorry to hear this; what keeps you?

  7. Yes. I cat sat for three days and went swimming each day. I’m going to go again today, but in my usual indoor pool instead of the outdoor one I used that weekend.

  8. I love to swim but it’s literally been years since I’ve done it… too dangerous to go the beach alone; no access to a decent swimming pool. Maybe my layoff will allow me time to hit up some public pools!

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