Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Strong Enough

Mornings like this one remind me of being a young girl, getting out of bed and shivering into a swimsuit (and then another, and another), slipping on shorts and sweatshirt and padding downstairs. I don't remember anyone being awake, but in reality my dad was probably long gone to work. It's possible my mom and brothers were still asleep. I'd get my swim bag and sling it over my back and head out the door, flip flops flopping. My bike would be dewy and the air cold on my face. I'd wonder how on earth I was going to get in the pool. The morning stillness, the Michigan mid-July coolness before the heat, only broken by the tk-tk-tk-tk of my bike when I'd glide down a hill. At the swim club, I'd huddle underneath a blanket on the concrete because all the deck chairs would be wet with dew. Swim coaches wearing dark glasses would hustle us into the pool. "Warm-up!" "Get in the water" and then some big tall boys in speedos would be the first ones in, arching their bodies out over the water, throwing up their heads before going in. Eventually we'd all be there, in the cool pool that was still warmer than the air and steamed peacefully before we all churned it up, and the sun would come up higher into the air and glint into our eyes when we turned our heads to breathe. The smell of chlorine like coffee to me for many years of my life. Mornings spent waking up sprinting butterfly or ending with no breathers. How not breathing for one length, pushing it to one and a half, trying for two-- terrified and exhilarated. Practice ended and we'd linger in the diving well, playing Pom Pom, a game that I am surprised we all didn't drown playing. Even now I can remember running barefoot and flying out over the water before diving deep down into the 12 feet, swimming hard, pushing off the sloped bottom of the pool at angles in order to not be caught. The feeling of someone grabbing me and trying to pull me up to the surface. Slipping away like fish, kicking out of their grasp. At end it was always me or Danny Birney left at the end-- no one could catch us. And the knowledge I didn't know, but still knew, that I was strong enough, strong enough to do anything at all in the world.

Mornings like this I can sometimes grasp that feeling. And on mornings like this I want more than a grasp of it: I want it full again around me, like the feeling of water rushing over my head as I dive deep into water, knowing I can slide past anything, strong legs kicking.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Bree said...

Absolutely beautiful writing. I can picture myself there. It makes me miss swim team and being that strong.

1:38 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

you know, i have just been thinking a lot about swimming as a kid--i suppose it's all the michael phelps. something about the water is so amazing--takes you out of your life but puts you into yourself, somehow. one of the funny things to me is that, even knowing how great swimming is for me, I still have to work to get myself to the beach, which is a whole TWO BLOCKS AWAY. I don't know why it can be so hard to take care of yourself, even when you know how.

i'm glad to see you back blogging again!

4:58 PM  
Blogger agoodlistener said...

Loved your description of those July mornings. You captured every nuance. Very glad you survived Pom Pom.

10:25 PM  
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