Sunday, June 19, 2011


Swimming in the ocean is my daily rite of manhood.
Its wildness forces me to accept and understand my own wildness.
When I am surrounded by its power, it's potential for violence,
My own violence drains away into humility and awe.

I believe that my body now craves that daily battle,
The water burning every inch of my skin,
Fighting the terror of unseen teeth in the murk,
The imagined cramps, riptides,
Drowning far from land.

Too many days without it
Makes my stomach twist,
People feel too close, I get angry,
Yearn for danger, conflict, and physical challenge.

Now that summer is here, I find that a simple dip is not enough. The warmth of the water is a disappointment. (Warmth is relative - I still haven't seen anyone else swimming on the beaches.)

I try to make every swim a challenge. I like it when it's windy and the waves are high. In Vancouver, I would swim far out from the beach, trying to overcome my fears of currents, big boats, sudden cramps, drowning.

One night last week it was too late to swim in the ocean, so I went to a pool at UBC. There was thirty minutes until closing time. With a lifeguard on duty, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to test one of my worst deep-water imaginings. What would happen if I cramped up badly. Could I swim it out?

I swam as hard as I could for fifteen or twenty minutes until my side cramped up, then my right leg. I glanced back at the lifeguard to make she was watching. Yes, she was watching - trying to look calm, sort of staring past me, well aware that I was now struggling - swimming oddly sideways, kicking with only one leg and treading water with my arms.

I tried to give her a calm smile and went about my business. It took me a few minutes of deep breaths and slow movement to swim it off, then I was fine.

Good to know.

(Last thought - I think it's bullshit that Aquaman is depicted as a hairless, fatless young man. Like every other sea mammal, Aquaman should have a healthy layer of either hair or fat or both. That would be way cooler.)

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