Testing the waters

The past two mornings, I have kept my head in the human world, above the water. The impetus for this choice has little to do with being present and far more with physical sustainability and the desire to keep my hair dry so I don’t have to walk around the remainder of the pond trail with dripping locks.

With my head bobbing just above the surface of the pond, I do receive the gift of being a part of two worlds at once. The only other time I can recall taking this bold step was at one of my orthodox relative’s weddings. At these events, there is something tangible to keep the men on one side of the room and the women on the other. I believe that at one such celebration, there was a plush velvet divider, the kind that can be clipped onto golden stands placed at intermittent distances across a large room. Something you would find at an opera house or symphony.

At least, this is how it appears in my memory. So, I am going with it. At said event, I believe that I straddle the plush velvet divider and placed one foot in each world. My sister wrote a comedy piece about it at one point; otherwise, the memory might have faded altogether.

Testing the waters of cultural realms was likely more dangerous than my small rebellious self realized at the time. Swimming with body immersed below the water and my head lifted above, I feel more at home. I belong to both worlds, even if I can only survive in one for as long my stamina will allow me to continue moving and my body can endure the falling temperature.

It is not the summer heat that continues to draw me to the waters of Walden. If I walk briskly and evade the temptation to pick up rocks, leaves, and feathers leaves along the way, I warm up enough to entertain the notion that getting in the water will be relief. By the time I take off my many layers of polyester, I am reminded of the changing of the season.

This morning, I stepped gingerly from the gravel onto a rock before feigning boldness and immersing my legs up to my calves and walking out to the small submerged rock island just beyond the shore.

“Waaaaaaah. Coooooooold,” I sung out in operatic tones. “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

I talked to myself for encouragement as I walked into deeper water.

I forgot how clearly sound travels across water, but I imagine that the two walkers who passed by had heard my musical shrieking because they smiled and waved from the trail.

“Hi!” I called out to them. “It’s cooooooooold.”

They laughed and smiled.

Was I always this weird? Or is it the more comfortable I am in my own body the less inclined I feel to observe cultural mores and behave in a more reserved, filtered manner?

Life’s too short.

I’m too short.

The temperature felt less alarmingly cold as I found my swimming rhythm. I love the feeling of propelling myself through the water by the strength of my own body. I remember my first time backpacking and feeling empowered and independent carrying everything I needed on my back. I could go anywhere and do anything.

I have long since traded more rigorous athletics for those that are kinder on my body. Swimming is a perfect fit.

I like the solitude it provides. Just the falling leaves, scissor kicking water strider, and kingfisher that excretes something as it flies by—I guess if you are kingfisher, it is ok to pee in the pond—and me.

The wind was with me today, so apart from cold feet and hands, I felt pretty good.

One of my dissertation committee members told me recently, “Just keep moving.” Since I seem to have taken up residence in the land where adrenaline and endorphins never rest, I guess I am doing my part for the team.

While my arms and legs form underwater circles, my eyes follow the pattern of light on the surface, and my mind composes sentences.

Rhythm.

Groove.

Meditation.

Breath.

My feet are cold.

How much time has passed?

If that old guy can swim without a
wetsuit, then I sure as hell can.

Is that a bug on the surface?

No, just a wisp of seed.

My bag looks so far away.

What if I am too cold to make it back to my bag?

Just keep swimming. You are fine. Focus on your breath. Watch you hands and fingers rise up in front of you like dolphins coursing beneath the surface through the light and ripples of water.

Can I touch the bottom yet?

Almost there.

Will the wasp be where I left it by the rock?

I am fucking freezing!

Hey, that’s a cool rock! Marieke, you have picked up enough rocks for one day.

But I like this one.

Just one more.

Okay.

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