Today I completed a commitment to swim in natural water every day in September. Summer in Maine this year was uncharacteristically hot and dry. I enjoyed swimming as I have not in 16 years of living here. On September 5th, after a spectacular swim in Hobbs Pond, I decided that I would swim every day till September 30 in natural water in Maine.
As goals go, it was not particularly challenging or dramatic. The weather held, and it’s been a mild equinox, though the ocean, river, and pond are much colder than they were on Labor Day. When my car was broken I had to walk from my house to Hobbs Pond, down the long hill on Hatchet Mountain, and back up again. I thought it would be hard, but it was a piece of cake, just over a mile one way. I’d have done it more often except I usally swam before or after a trip to town on errands. I swam mostly in Hobbs Pond because it is close to home. I went to Lincolnville Beach an average of once a week, when the weather was sunny, and I could catch the tide right for swimming. Megunticook River off Shirt Tail Point was fun for variety. I visited a friend on China Lake for a good sunset swim, and on a trip down to Brunswick, I swam in the lagoon at Reid State Park. The ocean, lake, and river all had a different energy and feeling. They all have in common they are living, wild water.
I love the way my body changed over the 26 days. Swimming every day, my body sculpted and stretched and I see and feel muscles in my legs, arms, and torso I haven’t seen since my twenties. I feel better than I have in my whole life. Nothing hurts anywhere. I remember how much I love to swim and be in the water. My swim conditioning makes me want to swim farther and be in the water longer, even as falling temperatures make long swims unwise. I am so comfortable in the water I cavort! I feel otter-like. (The otters roll their eyes at me when they read this.)
It was never about the exercise. It was about doing something I enjoy for as long as I can. It was about being in the water. It became about being with the water.
I realized that I love the water because of touch. The water touches me everywhere. My body hides no secrets from the water. I noticed how different water touches me. The ocean, river, and lake all touch me in a different way. Wind-whipped water has a different hand than placid, smooth water. Cold touches differently than warm, salt than fresh. Morning, afternoon and night water feel different.
Water carries. It lifts. It supports me as I move through it. It makes room for me. I float.
It is easy to swim in the ocean. The ocean, even on a quiet day, is always actively lifting and carrying. One windy day in Hobbs Pond I felt lifted like that. The more relaxed I am the more the water carries me. It touches me all over and carries me.
Megunticook River at Shirt Tail Point
In the waters, I became part of the changing season. I learned the personality of the beach in Lincolnville, the tides, the rocks, plants, and animals. I enjoyed the work of swimming in Megunticook River. It’s a small river, but swimming upriver I felt myself pull against the current. The moving water has a delicious energy. I loved swimming in the colored water as the river reflected the leaves changing color on the banks. I love how available the river is, grateful to the Town of Camden for making a public park access. In late September, I had it to myself.
I found an affection for Hobbs Pond for the first time in my 16 years in Hope. I learned its moods, the way the wind whips up its length to the public landing, and how placid it can be in the morning. I felt the colors on Hatchet Mountain and the pond shores change along with the water temperature. I love how swimming out from shore feels exciting and energized, and swimming back in to shore feels a little flat and dull. I’ll meet Hobbs Pond earlier next season. I want to swim to somewhere. I’d like to swim its length.
My description is deliberately simple. It was simple to show up everyday to swim. What is not so simple is the depth of the medicine. Without planning it, I became intimate with water. I became a Mer person. Day after day, it embraced and sustained me through a difficult passage. I felt the rapture of water.
When you commit to something, it becomes a spiritual practice. It took me till today to get that. For the first time in my life, I get that. The beauty of it as that I didn’t have to do anything but swim and enjoy myself everyday to have the spiritual practice.