In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 20.
My body remembers this kind of water: a steaming hot spring on a hill that brings a flush to my skin and surprises all my tiny hairs as soon as I slip into it. The pressure of that water on fat, muscle and bone is such that when I sit submerged up to my chin, my lungs strain with precision and exuberance like a weightlifter just starting to feel the burn. And the burn of the hot spring’s source trickles from the rocky ledge to mix with the slightly cooler pool. I stay submerged as I glide over my friend’s floating, outstretched legs. I stay submerged and tilt my neck toward the star-heavy sky. Everything is deliciously weighted.
This is not an entirely new thing, only a rare enough thing that I like to mark it: this communion of bodies, water, heat and wide-spread stars.
My body also remembers this kind of water: a chlorine-soaked indoor pool, loud with echoes. My bathing suit pinches my butt. I am the youngest one in the water besides a handful of toddlers learning to swim. Everywhere around me is a sea of bald and gray heads bobbing to the instructions of a woman in leggings at the side of the pool. They bob to Journey, Bon Jovi, Adele while I walk in circles against a mechanical current, waiting.
When the lap swim lanes are rebuilt, I push off and let my body remember this as well: the way my right foot won’t turn out properly when doing breaststroke, the way my lungs ache within seconds of doing freestyle, the way my legs love the backstroke and slice me through the water like a well-designed ship. And then also this: the aftermath of swimming where muscle, stomach, blood and especially lung are all tired and hungry and scrubbed bright with a wash of clean chemical. Everything is deliciously weighted.
This was not a new thing either, though it’s been ages since I swam laps in a pool and even more ages since I swam enough to feel it in my body. But it was a new place – a huge community pool close enough to my house that I should have been in it long before this. I sit here all happy and exhausted hoping to return often enough that it’s not a rare thing but a common communion of body and water and weight.