Route and Repetition
This read was a lovely surprise. Thank you so much. It resonated deeply… For I too swim nonstop for an hour and 5 or 10 minutes every day, save the weekends. It’s part of me and I look forward to it everyday. In the summer months when I’m on the north Atlantic coast of Spain in Asturias, it’s an open ocean swim in 21 degree Celsius water (just shy of 70 degrees Fahrenheit). No wetsuit or fins needed. Just my swimming bonnet and goggles are used. And it’s 7 in the morning with nary a soul…it’s my morning prayer ritual, beginning with the sign of the cross, as I carefully make my way into the sea by foot, always surveying, assessing and observing the mood, rhythm and force of the sea, splashing past shore breaks and once safely clear, then plunging forward into the water and beginning my trek on past the final outside break. You immediately sense the power of nature enveloping you…it’s a force you’ve come to respect and learned to harness to your advantage. The saltwater helps with buoyancy as you now begin your nonstop swimming stroke, kick and breathing routine. Depending on the day and sea conditions, the next hour you are carried, pitched and rolled by currents, swells and wind, 200 or 300 meters offshore, depending on the tide. That solid hour is my prayer time as my breathing becomes more central and a conduit to my head, heart and soul reaching out in solemn prayer, my stroke and kick already syncopated and running on autopilot. I’ve intentionally drifted into a zone ready to commune with my Creator. I always begin with the Lords Prayer followed by either a makeshift yet meditative rosary or a penitential Jesus Prayer. Just the other day as I was finishing my hour swim, I was cycling through the Jesus Prayer and inadvertently spilled out in my head the word “swimmer” in place of “sinner”…
“Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a swimmer….”
The pleasing irony and humour it fostered right then and there has since kept me all smiles and grins in joyous cheer, regardless of fog, rain or wind. The Cantabrian Sea is indeed a force to reckon with, her myriad moods and temperament change willy nilly, pell mell, and sans arrête…yet when the sea is calm, those open ocean summer swims have cast a spell on me unlike any hour in an indoor, heated pool in the throes of winter will ever do.
Beautiful piece that certainly resonates with me.
I also swim 4-5 days a week during the summers for 45 minutes in a pond in Massachusetts, albeit a more crowded one than yours - Stiles Pond in Boxford, MA. It’s a similar ritual for me although the landmarks are different - a shed with a red door, a small curved bay, a shallow section where I can watch the fish playing and a single hidden boulder keeps me guessing as it looms up to meet me an inch or two below the waterline, and finally a small rocky islet half a mile across where I typically tread water for a few minutes before turning around. I’m no particularly strong swimmer either and I consistently pull a bit to the right, but somehow it’s a similar ritual for me that clears my mind and gives me space to think about things that otherwise don’t seem to enter my mind.
Winters are a depressing time, I’m not one for the pool. In April I get hopeful and start sticking my thermometer into the waters. By September I’m grieving. One last swim, usually in October, as the trees on the shoreline are turning and an occasional scarlet leaf floating on the surface reminds me it’s time to pack it in and hunker down.
What a transcendent way to go deep creatively. My biggest regret is not having developed that kind of daily discipline/ritual/practice. I'm inspired.
How inspiring! I understand the kind of thinking you refer to do when swimming...the creative flow, the metered breath, the sensory deprivation of the world trying to get to you, and instead, getting into the world. Very meditative. Thank you for sharing!
I personally enjoy walking in cities and built environments as my meditation. As my Taoist teacher often remarks “A Good Monk Lives in the Forest. But a Great Monk Lives in the City.”
Really enjoyed reading this and the link between routine / spirituality / creativity
Have I found my tribe? Just having finished 64 Florida springs for my 64th birthday and have experienced the same washing, renewing and rejuvenation in long swims in natural bodies of water. Also meditate on the word of God while swimming. A regular washing away of my iniquity. Would love some of the top recommendations. For me, Vortex Springs, Florida, Honeymoon Beach USVI, Laguna de Apollo Nicaragua and Rainbow River Florida. Thanks.
Agree, the rain man thing helps me to wander in a lost sense, that reveals nuggets of who I am.
Shilo when i was young. I have a favorite hiking trail in the winter. thanks for sharing. we are not alone.
Beautiful. I’m an artist and I too have a meditative action before painting. I don’t swim but walk the same walk but different routes. Its very familiar like visiting my friends. Through the wood going past the same stream or tree and by the lake. Each walk is taken in a new .. it is my inspiration. This is where I connect with creative spirit.
I love this! What a beautiful experience and connection to what IS-nature. And you are part of all that is. I can’t even imagine the natural high physically and mentally you have after “your swim”.
I had a pool when I lived in a hotter climate. I miss swimming so much (of course not the same as a nature swim).
Beautiful. How long do you swim? I swim 20 minutes a day - but I'm doing laps in the pool. I bet 20 minutes of lake swimming would be much more arduous, especially on a windy day.
There is a similar Goose Pond in NH.
Cool water, just right for thinking and dreaming.
Maybe try meditation instead?
That brings back memories.