I am no Hemingway…
But like the Old Man of his Pulitzer winning novel, I have long had a problematic relationship with large bodies of water.
Sea water and pool water.
As a child – by the sea, by the beautiful sea – my fair, freckled skin would fry to a crisp. Bright red and hot to the touch – it took just 15 minutes splashing around in the waves – until I was thoroughly cooked.
Slathered with Solarcaine I was waylaid on the sand. To shield me from the sun, I had to wear my father’s t-shirt and my mother’s floppy hat – while my siblings boogie-boarded and had a grand old time.
The sea was not my friend — but neither was the neighborhood pool.
My older sister, Maureen, once she reached driving age, chauffeured us in a fish-tailed Plymouth station wagon to our swimming lessons.
I flunked swimming lessons three times.
Terrified of heights, I never learned to dive. The best I managed to do was doggy paddle the length of the pool. By the time I finally passed, I was at least a head taller than all of the other pollywogs in my class.
Yes, I have long had a problematic relationship with water.
Water won. I lost.
So water and I made a deal.
“I’ll wear my swim suit, Water, but I will never get it wet.”
Be it by the pool or by the sea, I would find a comfortable chair, slather my fair and freckled skin with SPF 100, sit under an umbrella and read a book – or two – or three.
Slather, rinse, repeat.
And that is how I thought it was going to be –for all eternity — with water and me…
Cross training for my first half marathon, I signed up for twice weekly water aerobics at the local rec center.
Now most people think water aerobics is just a bunch of old ladies splashing around in the pool.
Nothing is further from the truth.
Barbara, the instructor, works us like a drill sergeant. The routine is demanding and never boring. Armed with noodles and styrofoam barbells, water shoes and swimming gloves:
Like frogs we skim the surface.
Like divers we explore the depths.
Like cyclists we pedal the length, the breadth.
Like bells in a belfry we swing both to and fro.
Like flying fish we shoot out of the water.
Like dancers we pivot and turn.
Like soldiers we march.
Like taskmasters we kick our butts.
Like yogis we stretch.
Like runners we run.
Like rowers we row ourselves ashore.
Like dolphins we submerge and rise again.
Water is buoyant – it bolsters my spirit and lifts my mood.
Water is a solvent – solving and dissolving my daily cares.
Water is a liquid –it pools my soul.
Water crashes in waves – washing over me and making me clean.
Water ebbs and flows – its moods and mine obeying the moon.
And now these summer days, you will find me likewise swimming like a fish in my neighborhood pool.
Water. Baptismal water.
Thank you, Lord God of the Universe, for the gift of water. Over it the Spirit moved at the dawn of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan.
And in these baptismal waters — twice weekly — and on the weekends — I die and rise again.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.