First day of master swim. Dawn arrived thick, warm already, hardly any breeze. The sky was grayish-blue. The lane lines formed, we entered the water wordlessly, pushed off from the edge of the pool to swim a length and back and again.
By the end of the hour, the sun glowed diamond-brilliant, its rays glistening on the near horizon. Last night was a super moon, or so it seemed, and this morning the world began again, as it always does, my head dipping beneath the water’s surface like a daily baptism, a ritual bath renewal, a community of people trying for a new start.
“Getting up and swimming at 6 a.m. is not normal,” the coach said with a flutter-laugh as he introduced the idea of master swim. Not normal. I never said I wanted to be normal, did I?
I wait all year for this time. A time of early morning, of moving my body because I absolutely can, of camaraderie with people whose names I do not know nor do I care to know but we are there together, eager to feel alive.
And tomorrow, we row. All the things I love come together at once. And then, come fall, it all ends, and I yearn for the time of year when I can go outside at dawn without bundling into layers, when the light is up before I am, when the day seems to last forever.
This bliss surely can exist year-round, can’t it?
It’s just that in colder months, I have to try harder to feel it. To live it. To be it.
I keep asking myself why I don’t have packed days of work this week, why it seems manageable, the appointments and meetings and obligations. My to-do list isn’t as insufferably long as usual. Why not?
As if I seek the punishment of being overwhelmed and overbooked.
This morning, I swam the whole hour. This is my third summer of master swim and the first time I stayed for the whole session. What’s more, by the end, I didn’t even feel exhausted. I didn’t have to stop so many times like in years past. I didn’t feel that it was beyond my abilities.
I just kept going and peeling the water back with my hand, breathing in and breathing out, in such huge exhales, knowing with every push, every kick, every breath I am incredibly alive.
I asked the coach why it is so much easier for me to breathe on the right side than take a breath on the left.
“Swimmers have a dominant breath side,” he said. “That’s not unusual.”
He walked me through how to train myself to breathe on the left, too, during lap swim, and I will try it but just to know that it is inherently, innately normal of me to favor one side over the other was a reassurance in itself.
It’s not normal to wake this early and come to swim.
Maybe not. But I believe there is far more normal about living with the rhythms of the natural world, digging in the dirt just to smell the earth and know you are a part of something incredible.
The zucchini and radishes in our garden are bursting with growth. In such short order, they have blossomed bigger than we could have imagined. Even though the swiss chard, carrots and beets are slower to bloom, I feel optimistic that something is working around us, that in some way we are in tune with nature and all is as it should be.