I travel twelve hours by car, and six back, through five days and nights before I swim again.
And it is not the green waters of Walden, warmed by the Boston sun, but the surprisingly cooler and aqua clear water of a fifty meter pool in Paoli Pennsylvania that breaks the longest fast in my feast of summer swimming.
Kari is now moved into her college dorm and Chris, a senior at Lehigh moved into his off campus housing. I am visiting a girlfriend in Malvern, west of Philadelphia.
What I notice first, after the delightful temperature of the water is that the habit I have adopted of raising my head to the right (despite breathing to the left) to enjoy the scenery in Walden causes me to swerve chaotically close to the lane dividers, those nasty plastic floats which leave quite a sting if one’s fingers or toes get entangled in them. I very quickly amend my stroke to ‘swimming pool style’, raising my head to the left only to breathe.
Having to turn each 50 meters does not bother me, and I set about counting laps, determined to swim a mile. This is approximately what I swim in Walden. I zone out. Also what I do in Walden. And although I watch the black line, generally attempting to stay to the right of it, as the laps progress I wander over to the left.
I have a bad habit, fostered by all the space at my disposal in Walden, of not looking up very regularly. In Walden I tend to rely on scanning the water surface for spray formed by swimmer’s arms breaking the surface, or to rely on sensing swirls of water stirred up by other bodies moving close to me. After I have done at least half a mile and am nearing the end of the pool, I look up to see three or four pairs of legs dangling below the water surface. I have no choice but to stop. A woman pops out in front of me.
“You’re swimming in the middle of the lane. Come swim with me,” she directs, pointing to the adjacent lane.
Quite startled I mumble an apology and duck under the lane divider, thinking of all the responses I could have, but didn’t make. I’m not used to lanes, I can’t remember when I swam in a pool last, I’m a pond swimmer… Instead I obediently follow her and continue swimming.
Apparently I’ve been swimming in the fast lane, happily allowing the women, now parked at the end of the pool, to pass me. Perhaps they have not been so happy!!!
Now in the medium paced lane, I amble on and finish my laps.
This morning I return to Walden. What is interesting, is that after only two sessions in the pool, I have to readjust back to my Walden swimming style. And it takes a few strokes to do so. To look both to my right and my left to admire the crisp blue morning. Water, sand, trees. Water, sand, trees. They seem to slip by effortlessly.