Friday, June 14, 2013

Swimmer's soul and the Emperor's New Swim Trunks

Walnut Creek, California

"Where is the rest of me?"
    This is a question I like to ask myself, to check what aspects of my energy and identity may be lacking at a given time in my life, and which are abundantly present. It's a question I often ask people to journey on in my soul recovery workshops. What comes up often guides them - and me - to a younger self, or a greater self, or a parallel self, or a creative or animal spirit that we can now seek to lure back into our lives to provide more juice and more joy,
   It was no surprise to notice, recently, that the swimmer in me has been disaffected, because I have not been making enough time to get myself in the water where my body loves to be. I need my swimmer with me, because he can really go the distance. I can still swim 3 miles without pausing, doing the kind of freestyle we called the Australian crawl when I was a boy, staying very close to the water, minimizing resistance, turning the head no more than is necessary to take in air, loving the water and streaming with it. The poet William Stafford wrote a pretty good essay titled "Writing the Australian Crawl" and I most enjoy writing when it is like this way of moving with the element of water, which I have always known to be my primary element.
   So this morning, staying in a pleasant place in Walnut Creek CA where there are two pools bordered by palms, I got up early to swim. I was amazed and dismayed to find that I had not packed my swim trunks. I went through my suitcase three times. This was incomprehensible. I had taken my swim trunks everywhere all year long, to many, many places where I did not have the chance to swim or failed to make that happen - to Frankfurt and Barcelona, to Wisconsin and Lithuania, to Seattle and Ann Arbor. How could I have left my swim trunks at home, coming to sunny California?
    No worries. I had a pair of ocean-blue boxers that might pass for swim trunks if not inspected too closely by others. They even had a button in a strategic place to stop me flapping around, visibly, getting in or out of the pool.
    I chose the smaller and quieter of the two pools and swam for an hour before other people appeared in the enclosure. I stretched out on a recliner to catch some California sun. The pool lady moved closer and closer, hosing plants along the edges of the pool area. I noticed, to my horror, that I had failed to button my boxers at that strategic point. Any move to close the gap now might merely succeed in drawing attention to my aberrant swimwear.
    What to do? I chose the Emperor's New Swim Trunks approach, willing that nobody should notice there was anything amiss, not the lady with the toy dog who now appeared, not the building janitor, not the pool lady with the menacing hose. In due course, I wrapped a towel around my middle and made a dignified exit. I did not miss the metaphor. My missing swim trunks flagged the fact that I let a rather important soul part - that swimmer in me - go missing for far too long. Action plan: buy a new swim suit today so I don't have to cringe or clutch myself when getting my swimmer back into the water.

1 comment:

Mountain Lion Lady said...

Pretty funny! Reminds me of a long ago time when I was about thirteen and water skiing in Long Island Sound, pulled by an adolescent boy I had a crush on. The strap on my bathing suit top broke and suddenly, to my horror, I was topless. There was nothing I could do but keep skiing topless until the boat slowed down near the shore and I could sink into the water. The boy kindly threw me a towel and averted his eyes, but the people on the dock had gotten an eyeful. Such embarrassment! My conscious intention was to be covered up modestly, but ...