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Pickle Me This

July 24, 2020

122 Days

I don’t remember my last swim, though I remember the date. March 11, which stands out for many of us in all kinds of ways, and it was the last day of a lot of things—that evening I would run my cart through the grocery store heaped with cans of beans and bags of chips (necessary supplies for impending disaster). It was the last day my children were both at school, because Iris woke up with a cough on Thursday and I didn’t want to chance it. It was the last day of normal life still seeming like a possibility, through we had cancelled our trip to England, which was due to happen the following week. But on Wednesday March 11, we still weren’t sure we weren’t overreacting. By Thursday morning, I would be overwhelmed with dread and skipping my swim (why chance it?), my towel and bathing suit hanging over the railing in my bedroom where they would stay for the next four months.

I need to have a towel hanging on the railing, even when I’m not swimming at all.

But then last week at the cottage (I think it’s interesting the way we say “at the cottage” as though there were one, as though the specificity mattered in the slightest), there were towels hanging on the railing all week. There were bath towels too, but we didn’t even use them, because nobody is required to shower when you swim in the lake every day. Every day twice a day.

We’ve never had our own personal waterfront before, been just 47 steps from a swim. Though it wasn’t so much more than that in that 100-days-ago era, back when I used to swim every morning, when I would leave the house at 7:00am and be in the pool by 7:15, pushing off for my very first length, never once taking such an extraordinary privilege for granted.

But on summer holiday, there is no such need for early rising, and it’s far more vital to linger in bed with refilled cups of tea. Finally making our way down to the water mid-morning once the heat of the day had started rising, and leaping off the end of the dock. Every day I got to fly.

Truth be told, I’ve been able to fill the swimming void. We do yoga every morning and it makes my body feel the same way swimming does, stretched and limber. For exercise, I’ve been riding a stationary bicycle, which I don’t like—but at least it permits me to read at the same time. It turns out that as much as swimming itself, I missed the aesthetics of swimming. I saw an illustration of a blue circle back in the spring, and it moved me to tears. We bought a smallish pool for our backyard, and while I can’t swim in it, I can sit on an inflatable tube and float, which fulfills nearly all my aquatic needs.

But there is something about a lake, particularly one that’s 47 steps down from the door. A lake on such rugged terrain that there is no seaweed, but instead rock-faces, rocks themselves, and long lost tree trunks. The water so clear that I could see down to the bottom: a kitchen sink, a sunken rowboat.

Every day, I swam across our bay to the beach on the other side, equipped with goggles and earplugs. Last summer I could swim long distance, all the way to the island where we picnic, but now I’m out of practice. There was a point where our inflatable flamingo was taken by the wind, and I chased after it, caught it, so I’ve still got it, is what I’m saying. Not much of it, mind, but it was the most exhilarating swim of the holiday for sure.

I’d wondered about renting a cottage without a beach—it was a “con” as we were choosing a place. But it turned out to be the best thing ever—no sand, not a grain of it, which under normal cottage week situations would be caught up in my bed sheets by Tuesday, and I’d be sweeping the floor at least five times a day. Okay, we were still sweeping the floor, because whoever owned the place appears to have had a very, very fluffy white dog… But the lack of sand was amazing. Who needs sand anyway? Beaches are nothing compared with the end of a dock, the leap and the plunge. The kids who get to show off their swimming skills, nervous as the holiday began, but by the end of the week, they were fish.

We had one last swim before we left on Saturday. (I have completely forgotten about the horseflies, as I knew I would. You can’t see them in the photographs.) Like all the other swims, this one was perfect. Smallish lakes are always the nicest temperature in July, invigorating but inviting. When we got home that afternoon, the towels were still damp, like a memory.

2 thoughts on “122 Days”

  1. Very envious of your swimming. Water was vital to my recovery from whiplash and my body still misses it.

  2. Diane says:

    Oh my gosh, that sounds divine. It’s interesting that I’ve been desiring to do some open water swimming. And, recently (after following one of your gleanings), I discovered the most amazing person in Theresa Kishkan. And she does open water swimming as they live along a lake. All these coincidental readings about others swimming in lakes and such has me almost pining to do the same. But, enough about me, I so enjoyed reading this post — here’s to those memories and to making more.

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