washes me clean
clears my lungs
refreshes my soul
i kiss the water with each breath
thank it for another day
I swam in the sea today. 2 kilometers – about. From one lifeguard post to the next and back again. It was a lazy swim. Breast stroke, turning to a dolphin-kicked, breast-pull, to free style, back stroke, back again to breast stroke and on. I didn’t realize how far I’d swum, face in water, looking down at the pebbles passing beneath me until suddenly, there was the next lifeguard post. I’d lost myself and all sense of time, gazing at the bottom of the sea, while I swam rhythmically on the surface.
It’s rare to see the bottom of the sea here. So often it’s churned up by the rolling waves, but we’ve had a few calm days and the sea has been as smooth as cling film stretched over a…over a ‘what’? …over a bowl of not quite set jelly? Almost as smooth as that.
And so I enjoyed my swim, watching schools of minnows – barely an inch long – hundreds of them, passing beneath me as I swam from groyne to groyne to groyne to groyne. How many groynes did I pass? I didn’t count.
Shallow on one side of a groyne, able to touch bottom if I want, and on the other side, deep and murky – and on I swam, watching and listening.
The Under Water Chorus
listen to the sea
hear the pebbles gently rub together
as the sea inches them up the beach
then pulls them in again
water fingers cling to each pebble, sing
Come with me come with me come with me
I’ll take you far out to sea
Maybe, whisper pebbles, we’ll come with you a way.
A dance, a tease
We will come we will come we will come
No no no,
we will stay, we will stay, we will stay.
We are of the land,
we will always be this way
can’t you hear us tapping,
knocking one against the other
While you wrap wrap wrap
your fingers in and out and all around about.
Come away come away come away
No No No
We will stay we will stay we will stay
Lie here on the beach
Yet another day, yet another day.
Swim Inspired Poems
The first poem, The Swim, is from my collection of swimming poems, written over roughly a 10-year period, from 1988-1998. It describes much the way I felt today while swimming. In today’s swim I recaptured the wonderful, easy meditation that first drew me to the swim when I would swim for hours up and down the pool, sometimes twice a day, often writing poems in my head.
Then for 10-12 years I trained for competition, with teams and coaches. In those years the swim changed from a solitary meditation to an athletic workout. I grew to need my team, my coach, my drills, my workouts – sometimes written on the pool-side blackboard, sometimes murmured to me by the all-knowing coach, sometimes hastily passed on by a team-mate in a split second’s rest at the end of the lane, just before pushing off to do another lap in a tightly paced set. I needed to swim hard and fast, to make my heart pound, my lungs scream for air, my legs and arms to ache. I needed to train every time I got in the water, or not to swim at all. When I left Canada, I lost my swim team, and eventually lost my swim.
The second poem The Underwater Chorus came from today’s swim. I recaptured that meditative, rhythmic state. I listened.
I wonder, will I recapture the athlete? Do I want to? Or do I just want to enjoy the swim as a peaceful meditation? What about you? Do you swim to workout or do you swim to chill out?
- My swimming range in Tramore Bay (loneswimmer.com)
- Summer reads: Waterlog by Roger Deakin (guardian.co.uk)
- Blue Peter’s Andy in record deep-sea swim (bbc.co.uk)