I sat in the back seat of my van, trying to make my cold weak fingers work enough that I could get my ankles out of my wetsuit. I had to laugh, being so drawn to Walden, to swimming, despite the water temperature dropping, probably below 60 degrees by now. The work of swimming is now less than the work of getting dressed and undressed for it.
It was Thursday. I had put woolly gloves on immediately after my swim, struggling to make my fingers work to get them through the correct spaces. It’s the cold. It makes them weak, perhaps arthritis, I’m not really sure.
There is another measure, the pinky finger on my left hand tends to stray. I can will it to return to lie alongside my left ring finger but the message doesn’t get “delivered.” The colder my hands get, the less able I am to bring my fingers together.
And the funny thing is, my swim friend has experienced the exact same symptom, also on her left hand.
The air was 57 degrees on my car thermometer when I parked just after 3.00pm. A lot warmer than it has been since. I have not swum since.
It’s not easy to give up though, and I have a criteria I tend to adhere to. Three swims when it just “isn’t fun anymore” and I literally throw in the towel for the year. That usually happens when I have to put gloves on. Just around the next water temperature plummet as denoted by a series of cold miserable weather days.
But I haven’t gotten there… yet. Tuesday and Wednesday almost made it. I was exhausted, and after a really great swim on Monday (I took Sunday off) my shoulder ached. The comparison didn’t feel good. But I was still swimming 30 to 40 minutes. And typically I cut down the distance and time I am in before I cut it out altogether.
At this point you are probably thinking “Why do you do this?”
I drove past Walden this morning. It was around 9.00 am and the air was 44 degrees. I looked down from the roadway, my eyes automatically drawn to the water. I could tell there was a slight breeze, the surface not totally mirror still. A portion of it was ruffled like slightly kinked hair. I immediately wanted to be in it. Especially when I spotted a swimmer coming back along the east shore. So I started thinking about what it is that draws me, because, to be honest, I don’t like the cold.
Recently I have had a fascination, wanting to understand what happens to the soul, the spirit, after the body expires. It is driven by wanting to know where my daughter went, the child I nurtured, cared for through four years of cancer. She passed away recently. Aged 16. I wonder if it is like this for all mothers who lose children. I know it is crazy as I believe she is no longer suffering. I believe the spirit she shared with all of us who knew her is now free. But I want to know that she is being cared for in the spirit world.
When I am freely floating in Walden, I am in another world. I no longer inhabit the world of man. There is harmony in bubble blowing, and the gasped mouth breathing. There is the balance of left, right, roll, rock. There is freedom in the floating and the gliding.
I am no longer tethered by gravity. I am in the outer space of water, an embryo in the womb of Walden.
I am fascinated by that other world.
So I go to Walden to look for her…