I won’t lie and tell you I don’t have some apprehension about swimming in Walden when the wind is gusting up to 20 mph. Especially as this morning (Thursday) the temperature is only just touching 60 degrees F and the water temperature has only just (despite it being a week into June) reached a comfortable level for me. Yes, I do swim in cooler water but I stopped wearing my shortie wetsuit over a week ago and it is SPRING … though two friends I talk to later in the day independently reference today’s weather with… “it’s as though it’s Fall,” and “this weather feels like the Fall” … and it certainly does remind me of fall swimming too.
I have arranged to meet a friend at the pond at 10 am, and with the overnight dipping into the 40’s I push back our meeting until 10.30am. For some reason I think every minute, every degree will make a difference.
I arrive at the pond, the main beach in shadow and the wind gusting. A part of me loves this challenge, pushing through the waves while they beat into my face, but I am still hoping for a little more warmth than the wind promises as it whips around my ears. My hands are pushed hard into the pockets of my jacket as I make my way across the sand. I have already noticed the red flags attached to the back of the lifeguard chairs. They sound like sails flapping in the breeze. The weekly water quality tests have indicated the bacteria levels are over the limit for safe swimming. Another obstacle to a carefree swim.
After talking to a lifeguard who tells me the bacteria level was only just over the limit, I decide to swim anyway. The lifeguard commends me on my courage, (not for swimming in the potentially unhealthy water, more because of the weather and wind conditions.) This acknowledgement of courage increases my desire to plunge in.
The water is fierce, and on my outward journey it lunges against me. I am invigorated by it, pressing forward so that somehow it seems I am flying. I even cease to feel the cold, I am so enthralled by the feeling of strength in my body. It translates into my psyche, taking over my whole person. On and on I go, the water on either side of me, when I can see the point on interface between it and the air, moving so quickly against me, I wonder how I am swimming so fast; my usual pace these days much more sedate.
But it is the journey back that I remember most: I decide to swim back in the center of the pond, thinking it will naturally be easier as I will be going in the same direction as the wind fueled waves. But this is not so. With approximately equal distance to the shore on my right and on my left, I am swamped in trough after trough of water. I do not know if I am moving forward or not. The beach house is still a small box with its two large eyes peering at me from the distance (when I can rise above the water enough to see it). My whole body is like an insect floundering as it tries to right itself in a mass of moving water; arms flailing, legs flapping uselessly. I am suddenly reminded of my helplessness: the helplessness of man in the face of the forces of nature. Once this thought enters my mind I relax. I even enjoy being at the mercy of the elements although I continue to eek out a path for myself, reminding myself that my daughter in Spirit in here with me, comforted by the knowledge. Knowing that even though she protects me, it is up to me to play my part in my own salvation. I think…THIS makes me know I am really alive. THIS is what it is to be alive, smiling all the time as I breathe in the air which sits just above water level and blow it out again just below.
Today (Sunday) I swim again. It is early and the wind is once more showing her strength in gusts of up to 20 mph. Once again I swim back across the middle of the pond. Once again I talk to Jesi in Spirit, but today something in the swell makes me feel she is there with me. ACTUALLY FEEL HER PRESENCE. And I want to stay there. I want to stay there flailing in the water; the tiny insignificant insect that I am… and be close to her forever.