Open water – life without lanes *
aturday morning, and I’m plunging my arms against the chopping water of West Grand Traverse Bay. Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, on the right, because the waves are rolling in from the left. Trying to progress toward the orange buoy ahead, the one being buffeted about by these same waves, cresting just shy of a whitecap.
Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke breathe, on the right again. The orange buoy marks the midway point, when I turn and this relentless current becomes my friend, pushing me back to the beach now almost half a mile behind me.
Almost. Maybe 100, 200 yards to the buoy? Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, lifting my head up this time, switching to breast stroke, to get a better visual of my floating target.
No progress. At least is doesn’t feel like it. Treading water, I lift my goggles, fogged because the water’s warmer than the 67-degree air. I’ve drifted, no surprise, off to the right. I’ll have to alternate to stay in a straight line.
So. Stroke, stroke, stroke, left. Stroke, stroke, stroke, right. OK. I’m doing all right. I’m encouraged to see another swimmer now, someone else stabbing their arms and legs into the gray water in perpetual motion, because, after all, that’s what you do in an open water swim. Stroke stroke, stroke, lef–
The wave smacks my face, filling my mouth with water. Instinctively I close it, rolling over to the relative shelter of the right. Gagging, I try to breathe air through my nose while water sloshes in my lungs. Coughing, I swing my legs vertical, treading water. My legs churn below, but I’m now a bobber in these waves, vulnerable to going under. Still coughing. I abandon treading and float on my back. Just keep swimming, Dory said. But first you’ve got to just keep breathing.
It works. Thirty seconds of floating and I’m breathing evenly again. But rolling over to swim again, I’m tired. I’ve lost the comforting sight of my comrade in the waves. Still, I just keep swimming.
Stroke, stroke, stroke, right. Stroke, stroke, stroke, THIS.
Off to, yes, the left, over Leelanau County. And there in the water, I feel like Noah. It’s not just been a rough half-mile. It’s been a rough week, this first week of school, with e-mails and phone calls over my son’s behavior, as turbulent as the bay right now. It’s been a rough summer, as I wrote below.
But I also recall re-reading an entry from my journal dated March 5, almost exactly six months ago, when the waters of life were glassy-smooth. “Doing great. A+ school conference,” I wrote about my son.”It’s a good place now.”
I look at the rainbow again. Two hundred yards til the good place, I coach myself. Almost there.
I just have to keep swimming. And I do.
* Thanks to Carol South for the “life without lanes” analogy.
* Slick “S” courtesy of Daily Drop Cap.