Claiming to be a sea swimmer leaves impressions of risk taking, endurance and ‘braving it’ qualities. Which, of course, can be true…unless you’re me, who actually freezes like a bunny in headlights, at waves any higher than a pottery wheel! Yeah, I can’t sea-swim but that didn’t prevent me purchasing the wetsuit, gloves, booties, cap and the couture Dry Robe. The robe being essential; it’s not PC to wear the fur coat, casting ’rabbit in the lights’ tuft, all over the place.
As I sprint from the beach carpark, I try to make it look like decathlon training, while in my (too tight swim-cap) head, thoughts are just ’hurry quick, it’s foundering!’ Reaching the water, having checked the swell is zero for the 100th time, I tiptoe in a drunken ballerina pointe (not quite Swan Lake’s – Margo Fonteyn) then sink down, as the water hits my knees. I proceed to sideways crab-crawl with hands on the sandy bottom, while my head is still clear of any salty water ripples. All the time hoping this looks 5ft deeper from the shore line.
No shame in this. The shame lies in the primary 7 swim lessons, which have come back to shiver me. As a 10yr old, I was cute enough to work out, if I leaned back in the 1.2m Lisnagelvin pool, while keeping feet on the tiled bottom and flinging my arms around, I could convince the swim coach it was the back stroke. This stroke of luck earned me a 400m badge that guiltily was never sown to the swim-gear. Of course, catholic confession was all the rage in those days and the conscience was religiously purified. Whereas now, the splashing about in the shallows, is, the spiritual experience. The cold brings me into the Now (as Echart Tolle tells us) and thoughts of the not-so-distant- shoreline, recedes. There’s definite awareness of the breath as the puckered mouth sucks in and out, making child labour noises. And there it is – A time of just being. It’s similar to wheel throwing, when nothing else but water and the feel of clay, exists.
The beauty of individuality, is that, we all reach that space through different mediums. Ideally, we’d love to take it with us on our daily journey but, unlike the Zen monks who can meditate into the night, I had to return to a locked car. Of course the spouse has the keys at the far end of the beach. The setter has sprinted back and is pawing sand over my numbed nakedness. The numbing reality bites and the urgency of living returns.
Eventually, after barking louder than the setter, I find comfort in the cosy Dry Robe and remind myself, it’s alright to literally get my knickers in a twist, that happens when braving it.