Underwater Circus

Many people, when I tell them how long and how far I swim, think that I’m absolutely nuts.  It is the craziest thing they have ever heard, spending hours swimming.  And then they ask me tons of questions, and oftentimes they ask me this one:

“What do you think about while you’re swimming?”

I have decided that my thoughts naturally gravitate to four separate areas.

1.) Swimming.  This is the easiest answer and the one with which I am most likely to answer this question.  I think about my arms, my shoulders, my head, my neck, my breathing, my hips, my feet.  I think about the way the water moves around me and seek to interpret its motion.  In that way, I feel myself participating in a language and a conversation with creation that few have opportunity to feel.  Most people think that this is very, very boring.  And they tell me that they would get bored.  I don’t argue with them, I let them be bored.

2.)  My friends, family, and others.  I think a lot about all the people and things I am grateful for.  I consider their lives and try to figure out how I can be of use to them or just encourage them or just be a better part of who they are and what they are doing.

3.) Building an Aquatic Center in Rutland, Vermont.  …I think about this a lot.

AND!  Last, but not least:

4.) A place of wondrous and vibrant imagination which I have historically referred to as Bethanyland.  However – ever since a recent soliloquy on Facebook – I have decided to re-name this place Ethany Bay, instead.  (I didn’t actually decide so much as it naturally happened within myself.)

This post will now illustrate for you the vast and wonderful world of Ethany Bay and show you why I am never bored when I swim.

It was 10-mile PrEaster swim this past Saturday.  When we got to Pico, there were lots of people swimming.  (This always makes me ridiculously happy… because it means that people in the Rutland area swim!)  But it meant that David and I had to start out sharing a lane.

The first mile went something like this in my head:

Gosh, David is fast.  He is really good at this whole swimming thing.  He’s like a ping pong ball bouncing off these walls.  And I am like a slightly longer, larger, slower ping pong ball.  How come nobody ever wrote any textbooks with word problems with swimmers in them?  When I write a textbook, it will have a problem based on this.

The Math Textbook:

If two swimmers are swimming for 33 minutes and one of them is swimming at 1:40/100 yards and one of them is swimming at 1:20/100 yards, how far will each swimmer go (in statute miles) in the allotted timeframe? 

If two swimmers leave the wall at approximately the same time, one moving at 1:20/100 yards and one moving at 1:40/100 yards, how long will it take each swimmer to get to 1 Statute Mile? 

The Science Textbook:

If two swimmers are swimming side by side, which one is more likely to crash into the wall or the other person first? What are the names of the forces that would have to act upon the swimmer doing the crashing?  What are the names of the forces that would have to act upon the swimmer (or wall) being crashed into?

The Philosophy Textbook:

 If two swimmers are swimming side by side, which one is happier- the one closer to the wall or the one closer to the lane line? 

The Theoretical Math Textbook:

If two swimmers are swimming side by side, how many ping pong balls (rounding down to the nearest whole number) would they have to maneuver through over the course of 1800 yards if the standard 25 yard pool was filled with ping pong balls?

That was the first mile.  The pool thinned out and David and I no longer had to share a lane, so he was no longer immediately in my frame of reference.  We did pause on the same interval, though and the 20 seconds rest provided just enough conversation to feed my imagination.

The following is an excerpt from miles 2 and on:

I can’t believe I never did flipturns before.  I wonder why?  Maybe I was just being rebellious.  Maybe it was my way of trying not to be a pool swimmer… even though I mostly swim in a pool.  I do like flipturns!  I hate walls, but flipturns make coming to the walls kind of fun!

This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to being an acrobat on a flying trapeze.  Not that I wouldn’t try it!  But who gets the chance? All those threats to run away and join the circus… maybe I should have done it.  Psh.  And be the only Viking Barbarian flying trapeze artist? Highly improbable.  I could have gone to clown school.

Do acrobats ever cross-train in the water?  It seems like that would be helpful.  Flipturns and all.

“Do acrobats ever practice in the water?”


What?  No underwater practicing?  I guess they probably just practice flipping through the air over their safety net.  And they have to practice falling, too.  Because there’s an art to landing, even when you’re just falling.  I guess that makes sense.

Ha!  But acrobats would practice under water if we had an UNDERWATER CIRCUS!

“That’s why swimmers have more fun.”

“…but they would practice underwater in the UNDERWATER CIRCUS!”

Oh my goodness!  The acrobats – they would flip and float and swim with perfect symmetry.  They’d have to be good at breaststroke.  Those bright colored suits!  Would they still wear tights?  Do you think?  What would that do to increase drag?  They’d have to train with and account for that.  The amazing way they would swim in choreographed unison! 

But they would still have to flip in the air, too!  We could have the circus partially submerged, so they could dive into the water!  They could be acrobat diver swimmers!  Oh my goodness… we’d need somebody with some serious experience in synchronized swimming and dancing and circus arts.  Where would we find somebody like that?  Probably on Craigslist.

We’d have to have all the normal circus animals and all of that, too.  Elephants.  Horses.  We’d need some serious breathing apparatus for the elephants.

“Could we have dogs in the Underwater Circus?”

“Why, YES!  We must have all animals… they just need some kind of breathing apparatus.”

“What about ants?”


“But no grasshoppers.”

Definitely has to be partially submerged.  But we have to call it Underwater Circus because Partially-Submerged Circus doesn’t sound the same.  Anyway, the ants are too small to hook them each up to a breathing apparatus. Oh!  We could paint the ants different colors.  We could train them to walk around the part of the tent that’s dry and spell different things with their different colors!  How cool would that be!?  Multi-colored ants trained to write words!  They must make body paint for ants.  They have body paint for costume parties on nudist colonies, after all.

But the elephants.  That’s going to be tricky, with their trunk, figuring out how to get them to breathe.  I’m going to need some official scientists on this job.

Wait.  Wait just a second.

“Why can’t we have grasshoppers?”

“They don’t like the ants.  Didn’t you watch A Bug’s Life?  They never get along with the ants.”


But I like grasshoppers.  They are green.  And they jump.  And I think that all creatures that jump are fascinating.  Because they have to land, too!  Their bodies have to absorb that impact!  And they go flying through the air and make landing look so easy!  And I fly airplanes and landing isn’t always so easy in all those conditions out there.  But they just do it.  Do they think about it?  Do they account for the conditions?  Wind direction? That’s a lot of math for a little bug.  Anyway, I think they’re cool.

So we’ll have to get the grasshoppers and the ants to get along, somehow.  Jumping creatures are incredible.  Maybe we could get the grasshoppers to light up, or to leave a light trail behind them… semi-circling the ants in beautiful arcs of color.  All while the acrobat swimmers flip and dive and swim.



We must have fish!  FLYING FISH!

And birds!  SWIMMING BIRDS! 

And not just penguins, I mean, birds that can fly and dive and swim, too!  How amazing would that be?

“Earth to Bethany!”

“Oh!  I’m late!  Sorry – I was thinking about the circus.”

Swimming, Bethany… swimming.  Focus.

…But, do you think we could build this thing?  How would people view the show?  Because of the distortion, people couldn’t sit underwater and see the acrobats flipping in the air.  No, we’d have to have it built like an aquarium.  The seating would have to be from behind a glass panel.  And the panel could go down to below the water level.  And then people would be able to see clearly (or at least mostly) everything that is happening.

That’s a feat of engineering in and of itself.

So we need scientists to do the breathing apparatus that can fit everything from an acrobat to an elephant.  And we need some engineers to build a semi-submerged circus tent with a glass viewing panel.

This UNDERWATER CIRCUS is so exciting!

To be honest… I totally lost track of what mile I was on at some point.  I normally pay very close attention to that.  But this time, I just didn’t, really.  This is an excerpt from sometime between mile 5 and mile 8

Water is so great.  So gentle.  So forgiving.

Why don’t people live underwater?  I mean, really?  There’s so much water on this planet.  Why don’t we live underwater?  Why do we live on ground?  Why do we breathe air?  Breathing is weird. 

Air is a fluid, though, too.  Probably if we lived underwater, we’d just take it for granted.  If we breathed water or lived underwater, maybe it would be phenomenal for us to run on ground the way that it’s phenomenal for us to swim.  It would be an extreme sport, going on land.  Landgoing.  Maybe that’s what we would call it.  Golanding.  Maybe that’s a better name.

It’s such an alien thing, to swim.  It really is.  You take yourself out of your regular medium where you spend all day supported by feet, mostly.  And then you lie on your stomach and use your core and your arms to pull you through the water.  It’s as close to an alien environment as it is possible to get, I think.

Sometimes I feel like an alien.  When it’s all working together, gosh swimming just feels so incredible!  I feel ten feet tall.  Like my body is stretching into some other dimension.  Like… Amazon woman.  Or maybe just Sigourney Weaver.   Tall.  Strong.  Like I could kill a wildebeest with my bare hands.  Why would I do that?  I don’t know.  Did Sigourney Weaver ever kill a wildebeest?

I don’t think so.  But she was in Alien.  


I never saw that movie.  I wonder if I should…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s