Summer Weather, Swimming and Dreaming at Walden Pond.

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Last night I dreamt about my physical therapist.

Why are you telling me this, you ask?

With the weather suddenly launching Boston into summer this week; yesterday we registered the new record highest temperature of 95 degrees F for May, I have begun to swim in earnest. That means no more “in and outs” in only my bathing suit. No more “ten minute getting acclimatized to swimming again” the only protective neoprene being my bathing cap and gloves, which too large and full of the too cold water for this time of year swell and almost float off the ends of my hands…

Yesterday I did my first “real swim.” Making it down the length of the pond from the main beach, past Red Cross Beach and Sandy Point to where the wind which had been buffeting waves at my head for the first two thirds of the swim suddenly dropped and the water flattened. I could run my eye along its surface and watch the sun-like-twinkling-stars dance as I heaved and pulled my aching shoulder over and under my body… I knew I was moving forward only because the sky, an uninterrupted rich blue arced overhead and the two toned forest green which ran along the shore line left its trail on both sides of me as I edged my way onward. Then there was that welcome patch of warmer water as I neared the far end of the pond, and the con commit cold that I gritted my teeth against as I churned my arms harder to escape after I turned and moved away from the distant shore.

And the swim back.

Did I overdo it? That first swim? Heaving and pulling for over thirty minutes without a rest.

I have not seen my physical therapist since January.

Last year I spent the entire summer going to PT for my shoulder injury. For months I did this exercise and that. And then in January I got lazy, and I got discharged from PT. I knew what I should be doing so it was really up to me. But I wasn’t swimming so I wasn’t motivated. And maybe the childish part of me was rebelling because I still feel the memory of being chided for not doing my exercises. “That’s what happens in PT. If you don’t do your exercises, you get discharged,” the chiropractor I saw earlier this year told me when I relayed the story to him.

So now, back in the pond I remember my PT, enough that she visits me in my dreams. But she did not come in my dream to massage my aching muscles. She did not come to stretch out the tight bands of connective tissue in my upper arm. She presented me with a self evaluation and left me alone in a room to fill it out.

So I ask you now … What is the message there?

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Crafting a Story on Water

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As the week draws to a close I find my sojourns in Walden become focused not only around swimming, but also around what to write about swimming, or at least what to write about my experiences in and out of the water. And today is no exception. So by the time the initial euphoria with which I have greeted the water subsides, and a plethora of thoughts have bombarded me, none of which seem worthy, here I am writing about challenges both in the water and on the page.

Yet all those thoughts do not go nowhere. Sometimes there are days of them stored up in my phone (if I remember after I get out of the water enough to note them down, and for this, a quiet uninterrupted walk back to the car and time to sit in the parking lot before I head to my next commitment is inordinately helpful). Alternately there needs to be enough rhythm in my body that I can repeat and rehearse the phrases which seem so delightful to me whilst I am swimming to remember them when I get out!
Needless to say, often they seem much paler when transcribed than they do when the magic of the pond initiates them.

In any case, here are a couple from this week:

All this week I have been fascinated by the sky.
Now that the curtain of cloud has lifted it has revealed far beyond it, the most amazing succession of blue-domed-days. For a number of years I have wondered why it is that the sky seems so far away in summer? If I stretched my arm out forever I still would never reach it. It is so far beyond the rich ribbon of green which surrounds the pond (now the foliage has all swelled to take up all space between the trucks of trees) that it is a stage backdrop to the play of life which performs under it.
I guess then, Shakespeare was right. “All the world’s a stage.”

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Today I am acutely aware of the sink like shape beneath me where water and earth meet. So much so that by the time I am half way between shore and shore, where I know the depth of water under me is greatest, I start to imagine I am being drawn into it as if all the water were going down some enormous plug hole and I am going with it. This thought takes hold (which is not very consoling) such that I do not know whether in actual fact I am no longer kicking along, but rather my legs and feet are submerged under the water. I even do a check to see which of these is an accurate assessment of the situation, by sensing whether my feet are making a splash and how loud it is.
It seems easier and easier to be obsessed these days with thoughts which could be terrifying if I didn’t keep a firm hold on them!

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Another of my growing obsessions (for more than just this week) has been the pain in my shoulders. Perhaps this self monitoring is smart, perhaps it serves just to distract me from being carefree and enjoying the immense beauty that surrounds me. For there is nothing better than the feeling of freedom I get from being in the middle of the pond. Yet I notice today that feeling only strikes me when I am on my return journey, facing the main beach (although I do not look up much to see it), not on the outward journey.
Obviously this has no correlation to my shoulder pain (my right a rotator cuff injury which has plagued me for years, my left a relatively new issue with the anterior deltoid, which today morphed into rhomboid pain) because I can get all the way “over” without it kicking in, it is the way back when I feel the best that I also feel the worst.
So to end with a Shakespeare quote again
“There’s the rub.”