Around here, the water has begun to tuck itself in for the winter. I was marveling at the ice forming a thin layer across the top of every single body of water along the two and a half hour commute between home and work. I frowned, discouraged. I guess, maybe, finally… open water swimming for this year, for me, is over.
Thanksgiving Day had been the last swim, then, I suppose. It hadn’t been much of a swim, just a quick waltz into the swimming hole near my parent’s house. The conversation at Thanksgiving dinner went like this:
“Hey Aaron,” I said to my twenty-year-old brother, “want to watch me get into the River?”
“No,” Aaron said.
“Well,” my Dad said, matter-of-factly, “one of you has to watch your sister get into the River.”
Aaron sighed. (That means he is almost convinced.)
“Please, Aaron?!!??!” I begged.
“It’s not like you have to kayak for her,” Caleb, sixteen, pointed out.
“Yeah,” Aaron said, still bitter about sinking Plucky during Kingdom Swim 2012. “Because then I wouldn’t do it.”
I leaned over to Aaron and rubbed my forehead against his shoulder, much in the same way that a bear will rub his back against a tree. This is our special sign of love and endearment.
“All right,” Aaron conceded.
Thus, I went for my Thanksgiving swim, in between dinner and dessert. I like Thanksgiving as a holiday. It doesn’t have a sketchy past. You don’t have to wonder about where it came from and whether or not confused people sacrificed each other in bizarre rituals. It’s young enough that it’s still innocent. All you have to do is be grateful. Appreciate your life! Appreciate your family! Think of all the wonderful things that brought you to the place where you are – and make sure that you make mention of them. Let your heart fill up and beam out of your eyes with every easy smile and laugh!
I am very grateful for swimming. I love swimming! Watching the ice forming over everything… it’s very sad. You see, swimming is fun. It’s exciting. It’s thrilling. It’s wonderful. Just being cold, on the other hand, is miserable! It’s the swimming that makes the challenge of the cold truly fun. There is nothing romantic or charming or exciting about getting into a cold shower (quite the opposite, in fact!). When faced with the options of getting into 40 degree open water or to take a 55 degree shower, I will always choose the open water option. I hate cold showers.
I really hate cold showers. I hate them so much, that for a moment I caught myself studying the ice. It’s not really that thick, you know. I could probably break it. Probably. It wouldn’t take much. It wouldn’t. I’d just have to access my genes – the hardy brutes who lived in huts in Germany and Ireland. The Huns and Celts, I guess. Maybe the Vikings. Before we were civilized. (Maybe we’re still waiting to be civilized…?) Back when we didn’t have Thanksgiving and probably sacrificed others in bizarre rituals. I bet there were ships in those days. I bet there were raiding Viking ships. And on one of those Viking ships was a swimmer. A great and terrible Viking, Hun, Celt swimmer. With red hair in dreadlocks. And maybe a fur bikini.
It was her job to stealthily slip into the water, a hatchet clenched between her teeth. The hatchet had been held this way so many times that her teeth had worn grooves in the wooden handle. Nobody judged her for her overbite. She would swim ahead of the ship, wielding the hatchet, breaking the ice in its path. She afforded the raiding party the opportunity to get through the ice and loot the enemy and pillage and fight. She was a hero. A Viking, Hun, Celt hero. With an overbite.
Goodness! I could do that! Swim with a hatchet between my teeth, wielding it at the appropriate moments to break the ice and afford myself a swimming path! That would work fine. Just fine –
I was lost in the daydream-y plan, smiling stupidly to myself. Then I realized that my Viking, Hun, Celt ancestor hero with the overbite and dreadlocks in the fur bikini would have had to breaststroke to pull all that off. Visions of my floundering, slow, poor technique, terrible kick breaststroking brought the daydream to a tragic end.
Alas, I will not be breaking any ice with any hatchet – regardless of my ancestry. The water will be left to hibernate and bundle up until the Springtime. I suppose I can be patient. I suppose I can get in my miles in the pool and my cold water experience in the shower.
…maybe at Thanksgiving next year, I will be grateful for becoming really good at breaststroke…