Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Summer I turned into A Mermaid. My experience of 13 plus weeks of Swimming.

         It's been a very warm summer
And I've been busy doing a lot randomly weird art stuffs.

Hiding away from my writing. Seriously.

It's a wonder I'm coming out of my hobbit hole. Sometimes the world is a very big and scary place, and us hobbits like to stay in our burrow, and eat cheese, and scribble, and draw, and keep away from people, because it is very peopley out there.  And though I like people very much, they do make me tired.


"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on--"Louis' Amour.

Wise words. But frightening words.

What happens if you turn on the faucet and nothing, but sand comes out.

What then?

What if it's a drought in your brain. What if all the words are dried up, and stuck to inside of my skull, like sticky rice that's been heated and cooked, and then dehydrated in the fridge.

It takes a bit of courage to turn on a faucet that has been shut off for a while.  Dehydrated rice, and other derbies are likely to come out. And that's not pretty.

So, this is what I'm doing right now, turning on the faucet, in hopes that something resembling coherent words will flow, not drip out of this dry, faucet before it evaporates in the summer heat.

My thoughts are in constant competition with the to do list in my head. My brain keeps on telling me that it's been so many moons since my last entry you've all quite forgotten about me. And that I should just keep putting it off.

            But as of now, I'm telling my brain to chill, and that I AM WRITING!




            It sounds kind of quiet out there in cyber land. Hmmm. Oh dear.

Then comes the foreboding question. What to write about, since I've neglected you for so long. That's a very scary thought, actually, it's probably why I keep on shutting off my writing faucet in the first place.

There are too many things that want to be written down all at once, so it clogs me writing any words. How can I just pick one thing to write about, when I want to write about a million things?

            It's a tough decision---So tough that if I do happen to finish writing this post, I'll feel very proud, because it will mean that I've freed up some 'constipated' words, and maybe the writing faucet will work more smoothly. 

            I need some writer's Ex-Lax to free up the clogg-age in my brain........Hmmmm what is writer's Ex-Lax?  Think, think.. Ah HAH! Maybe it's the Alphabet. That's all words are, really. That's every book summed up in a few letters. Okay, ah.... let me get it out of my system. 

            (You may skip this part)

.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.... .....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyzv.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyzv.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz.....abcdefjghijklmnopqurstuvwxyz

Ahhhhhh. There.  That feels a little better....I think.

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, I think perhaps I can now write. I mean, look at the Alphabet, it's only 26 letters. Twenty-six! Anything I write has got to be more interesting that reading the alphabet over and over for an hour. So I guess I can venture forth, and hopefully not have a diarrhea of words now. That also is a little messy.

Oh dear. I sound kind of gross. But I can't help it. It's making me feel better, just being free with my thoughts, no matter how garbled.

Now, back on track, (hopefully)

Summer. It's been a hot one. And it's gone by FAST! Super, triple fast, in my opinion. Looking back over the past few months, I think I'm going to call this summer,

The Summer I was baptized in a thousand sunsets.

How does one be baptized by sunsets?

Well, I'll tell you. You swim out doors under the open sky, until the sun sets, and then you are bathed in silken purple robes, silvery Mercury sheets, Crimson reds, and vibrant oranges, rich deep yellows, and crystal clear blues, that darken, and glisten with contrast as the sun goes down.

My soul has been refreshed, renewed, and bathed in every color on the color wheel, and baptized by the descending sun, and moon-lit sky.    

Over the course of thirteen weeks, I've tried to make time to swim nearly every day, (Of course missed some days) with my sister, Bessie Skeem, to strengthen my injured arm, and help my mom with her sciatica hip pain. Sometimes it was a struggle to make time. Sometimes I'd end up swimming in the evenings just as the sun went down and the moon came up, and sometimes I'd end up swimming in the freezing cold, at six or seven in the morning

 My swimming obsession started out as a passing thought, that it might help me rehabilitate, and strengthen my flabby, stiff, painful arm, and help my mom who has been suffering from painful sciatica in her hips. My sister and I were worried my mom might need an operation, because she was getting so she could hardly walk. So we decided to motivate each other and try to swim every day.

            We have a local reservoir, that's really quite beautiful. That was our chosen place of swimming. But the water is cold, murky gray/green brown. And the bottom of the reservoir is muddy and squishy, and rather gross. You never know what you might step on. But we all thought that, despite its flaws, we liked the thought of swimming there, out under the sky, rather than swimming in a crowded  swimming pool that smells like chlorine.

            At first, I was terrified to swim. Honestly. I hadn't been swimming since my arm accident. I didn't know if I could swim, and if I would be able to swim out into the deep, far out to the buoys. Part of me didn't want to try. My mom was also afraid.  She has this dreaded fear of the water ever since she was young. She never learned to swim. And she protested the idea of swimming for so many reasons.

We couldn't get her to come with us, so my sister and I braved the water. And the first couple of times I just swam close to shore, and it gave me my arm a huge workout. It made my arm very sore. And because my arm was so sore, and popped and clunked, because of the scar tissue, I really didn't dare go out where I couldn't touch.

            I didn't have faith that I'd stay afloat.

            But gradually, after watching my sister swim far out away from me. I was determined to face my fears.  I got braver. I remember feeling very, very proud when I swam out to the buoys. It felt like a huge victory for me, because I had once thought I might never swim, like I had before. But I did!!! And once I was able to cross that barrier in my mind, I felt free. And I kept on swimming.

            After swimming and enjoying it so much. My sister and I were eventually able to smooth talk my mom into coming and trying out the water.  Luckily I read up on the health benefits of swimming in open, cold water, and this helped me to convince her.

            At first my mom's balance wasn't so good. We made sure to put a life jacket on her, so she'd feel safe. We slowly walked out into the water, and she held tightly onto my hand, like death-grip tight.

            I helped her walk. At first, she was very uncomfortable, and made faces. The water was cold, and it made her squeal.


            Then slowly, gradually as she grew accustomed to the water, and she began to smile, and relax, just a little. She loved how beautiful it was, and how the cold water took, took the pain out of her joints, and gave her more mobility.

Believe it or note, but my mom enjoyed that one trip to the water so much, that that one plunge into the cold water was all she needed to get motivated. Because after that, she wanted to go swimming nearly every day, since June.

Since then. We've been swimming nearly 13 weeks, we hardly missing a day. Rain, wind, cold or shine, early morning, late at evenings, sun set, sun rise. We've seen that reservoir in every weather condition, except snow. We've swam under a full moon reflected on the glistening surface of the water, and pink, and orange dream bar clouds above us, and reflected in the water around us.

     In the peak heat of the summer, when the water was starting to get warm, we decided to try out the water very early in the morning, to see if the water would be cooler.

   We went just as the sun was rising. Not a soul was around. The beach was deserted. Calm. Clear, as glass, like a mirror. The water was very cold. But it was refreshing. Once I took the initial plunge, my body got used to it.

            The cool water against my chin felt comforting. Being at eye level with the water, was like swimming in a mirror, and the only ripples that I could see were the ripples I made as I swam. That morning, my sister and I swam well out past the buoys because there were no boats around. It felt wonderful to swim past the boundaries, and explore other parts of the lake that we had not dared to swim in when there boats around.  I felt like Columbus, discovering a new land, except, in this case, I was discovering new water for myself. 

            That was one of the first morning swims of many.

            One morning, around six or seven. I remember waking up, with my mom standing above my bed. Fully garbed in her swim suit.

   "Ready to go swimming?" She asked.

            I moaned, and rolled over in bed, and then, she said, half joking, half serious. "Hmm. Maybe you should sleep in your swim suit."



            That is my happy thought. Because that's something I didn't think I'd ever hear from my mom.

We've been swimming in frigid storms. When no other soul dared touch their toes to the water because it's so cold.  We've swam when the wind was terrible, when the waves rolled over us, and punched us in the face, slapped our ears, and forced its way into our mouth nose, and lungs. We've swam when the rain pelted our eyes, and all we could do was put one arm in front of the other and swim, and keep our head above the water.

    We've been swimming so late in the day, that we've watched the moon rise over the mountains, and reflect on the water.

            We've swam when the water level was so low you could walk out to the buoys and back. When yucky pussy looking moss that looks like it's growing warts and teeth are floating over the water.  

            I've swam so much, that I feel like I own the reservoir. Because I know it. I know that there's a a res cat, that lives off of the junk food discarded by picnickers. I know where it's shallow, and deep. I know where the fish like to jump. I know that for the most part, adults do not swim. Only children.

            Adults just watch. Adults are afraid of the cold. And of being seen in their swim suit. I've seen a lot of teenagers, too, just sit on a bench with side by side, with cell phone in hand, staring at a screen.

            Children still have fun. They swim.

And the grown ups get more grown up by the second, when they could be swimming, and growing younger.


    I've swam as a white pelican watched me watch it as it floated on by. I've learned that the reservoir is not as nearly as popular as I once thought. I've also learned that it is mostly only occupied on the weekends, or holidays.   I've nearly been run over by a  large sail boat, with beautiful orange sails, that had caught the wind, and came barreling at me past the buoys at a frightening speed.

    It was funny, just the other day, I went swimming, and a big boat came by, and swamped me with waves. A little girl pointed at me from the boat, and said. "Look, mamma, that person is drowned."

I looked drowned? Seriously? I thought that was very funny. It made me chuckle to myself for the rest of the evening. I may have looked like my head was just above the water, but I was very far from being drowned.

 Once, while on the beach, I watched a large party of people push a homemade boat-thingy into the water, (it looked quite interesting) it had these cylinders on the bottom, that went in circles to power it. But sadly it just floundered in the water, and took 15 minutes to just do a half circle. I felt bad for the guy who built it. I couldn't help but identify with the feeling of embarrassment he must have felt after putting so much work into his project, and only to have it flounder in the water, while all his family stood around, with phones, and cameras raised, to record his inventions epic fail.

I've found many treasures at the bottom of the reservoir. I've someone's sunglasses. A dog toy. Several pop cans. Large chunks of cement. A lacy shirt. And several other things, that slipped from my hands before I could pull them out of the water. I've saved several tubes and rafts that the wind grabbed and zipped across the water, and returned them to their owner. 

            The one object that really disturbed me that we found was one my sister stubbed her toe on by the dock. It was when the water was very low. My sister started shouting out me that she thought she stubbed her toe on a car.

            A car? I thought. How? What?

I went over to where she had injured her toe, and she had me step on top of the object in question.

   It did feel weird. It had several long round pip-things that protruded up, like the exhaust pipe on the end of a tractor. The whole object felt like big hunk of cement, that was, in my opinion very dangerous to swimmers. Especially if someone fell onto it.

            Upon further inspection, my sister felt a long cable running from the object, that ran clear over to the dock.

We concluded that it must be the dock's anchor.

            I think that the water level got so low, that we found it. I'm hoping that now that the water level is higher, that it won't be any danger to anybody. But I'm still wondering, who to ask about this odd dangerous object. 

            We swim nearly two hours every time we go. At first I got very tired, my hips, my knees, my arms, my ankles---EVERYTHING hurt!


            Gradually I built up muscles, and got more flexible.  But, honestly, I still get sore, so after 13 weeks and still being sore, it's just something that I live with, because I enjoy the benefits than I'm afraid of the pain.

             I have learned never to eat banana shake while swimming, because it gives you acid baby burps.

            If I do eat before I swim, its something very easily digested. The water is so cold sometimes, I get really hungry when I get out of the water. And really sleepy. Which is good when we swim at the end of the day, because it relaxes my mind, and body, and puts me in a nice Zen sort of state. Swimming helps me not to think, but to be.

And that in itself puts me in a poet sort of state.


            My mom is gradually reducing her fear of the water. Her balance is much better. She doesn't feel as self conscious in her swim suit, like she first did. She's braver. She doesn't need me to hold her hand anymore, while water walking. She uses her life-jacket, and is able to go out farther by herself. I have high hopes of teaching her some basic swimming skills, when she's ready.

            Her hips still give her pain. But I believe that with time, and perseverance, her hips will heal. She has grown to love the water. It helps her not feel depressed, and to feel more happy. She's able to stand more straight than she used to. She's building muscle, and courage. The water is the only place that takes gravity off her hips, enough so she can exercise, and the cold water takes away the pain.

            She constantly amazes me. Some days, when I'm not feeling like swimming, she'll ask, "So are we going swimming?

     Days when I just don't want to dive into the water, she wakes in before me or my sister, and splashes in.


            At the beginning, when I was trying to get my mom to get excited about swimming, I told her. Maybe all you need is to bathe in the river, like in the scripture story. Maybe it's that simple.


            Maybe it is.

            All I know is, now my mom has faith that is helping her.

            As for myself. Even if it didn't have any physical benefits, I'd still swim. It makes my soul very happy, and gives me a huge endorphin high, especially after swimming in really cold water. 

            I have more endurance, and strength. It didn't happen in a day, or weeks. But months. Now I'm able to swam from the one end of the reservoir to the other several times. The other day, I was proud to say that I did six laps across from one end to of the reservoir the other. 

            Did I get sore? Yes. But it was worth it. I'm a happier person for swimming. My sister and I have concluded that we'd rather make time in our busy day to swim, because it makes our days more worth living. 

            My arm is stronger because I swim. Yes, it still pains me. But I'm getting stronger. It's the one exercise I can do that makes me feel like I am strengthening my arm, and body, with light resistance.


      I have been baptized by a thousand sunsets. Washed by the light of the moon. Bathed in sunlight, and moonbeams, rainbows, and strengthened by waves, and stormy water.

            I feel reborn in
the womb of the water. I feel stronger mentally, and physically.

  I think Aerial had it wrong.

            Who wouldn't want to be a mermaid?

            Water is one place you can fly, and be weightless.

            I may never walk on the moon, but I have swam with it, weightless, and immortal for a moment.

            I may never walk on water.

            But I have stepped out into it.

            And swam through the storms, and waves.

            Who knows?

            That initial cold, bone chilling splash that you dread, may be the one thing that will take your pain away, and strengthen your arms.

  Waves. Cold. Water. Fear of the unknown. The sharks, the derbies at the bottom. Feeling venerable. Wearing a swim suit.

 These are the things that hold us back. 
 The unknown scary things.
The squishy mud.

The germs.

What if I can't float? 

What if I can't swim?

What If I sink?

            What if I drown?

            What if?

            What if you were brave?

            What if you decided to go beyond just sticking your toes in the water, and take the plunge, despite everything inside of you that says that it's too cold, that it wont work.

What if you had faith?

            What if you actually enjoyed it? What if you discovered that walking into your fears, stepping out of the boat, into the 'water' whatever your water is may, is the first and best thing you can do to strengthen not only your body, but your spirit.

Once the shock of the cold wears off, I promise you, you will begin to see the beauty your fears have been keeping you from.

            The oceans. The Lakes. The pools. The reservoirs. The rivers.

It will unfold like rippling water, reflecting the sky, and you will be amazed at the beautiful thing you see, once you stepped away from the shore, and looked out beyond the horizon.
The moment you take the plunge, will be free, and made strong.  It will be the season you will be baptized by the open sky, and renewed by things that cannot be bought, or earned.

   But experienced. 
Note all photo credits in this particular blog post were taken by my mom, Jeanette Skeem of the reservoir. 


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