Summertime encourages most of us to the water's edge. Even those of us who are not skilled swimmers or who chill at the very thought of entering the water past our knees.
Whether we choose to merely sit on the edge within splashing distance, dangle our legs into the water or dive in completely, the cooling, tranquil liquid lures us like a siren's call. On balmy, late summer afternoons there is almost nothing more satisfying or summer-like, except perhaps hailing the ice cream truck down along the way.
Ever noticed how water simulates grace? Beneath its surface even the massive hippos and bumbling manitees appear as elegant as debuttantes and as refined as ballerinas.
Water in motion captivates and charms. Observing the waves quickly lulls my raucous mind. The gentle ebb of surf across sand or tide lapping rocky shore soothes my wounded soul. Cradled in the current of ocean or stream I can relax and allow my body to flow with the natural rhythms of the universe. Effortless.
Pools are a brilliant creation, especially for those weathering the heat in a land-locked state like that of my childhood home. However without the purposeful rhythm of laps or a rousing game of marco polo, one is simply left to simulating movement in still water. The work is fruitless, disconnected, ineffective. Work = Force x Distance (or Displacement). If I'm not making any progress or moving D, Distance, on any particular path, then I am simply treading water, buying time. In a contained pool, I find I am constantly having to paddle or tread to create my own movement, my own sense of some elusive forward progress. While in fact I'm simply keeping busy.
Once upon a time, I spent several days at the Loews Santa Monica hotel. In the evenings I would shed the day by submersing myself in the outdoor pool overlooking the beach. On these warm spring evenings, the piano bar, which bordered one full length of the pool, stripped open its dramatic floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Each night I eagerly returned to the dark stillness of what seemed my own private pool. I swam endless laps accompanied by silky renditions of Someone to Watch Over Me and old jazz standards.
As of late I've rediscovered the joy of floating. In my daughter's swimming lessons this was known as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Spread your arms and legs wide apart, like the points of a star. Inhale a generous belly breath. Lean back. Release your chin away from your chest. Close your eyes. Allow the water to support you. Hum the tune to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, optional.
I vividly recall a scene in film The Immortal Beloved in which the young Beethoven floats effortlessly on a serene lake with the starlit sky reflected upon it's surface. Ansel Adams captured a photograph of Mount McKinley with a lake in the foreground whose surface appears such a flawless, eager canvas for the sky. Floating renders the mind such a canvas.
Now I savour the pleasures and grace that accompany stillness. My limbs are powerful but remain motionless. My only effort comes in softening, surrendering to the delicate buoyancy of lungs and belly. The gentle rush of water against ear drums drowns out all external distractions, encouraging my inward retreat. Sanctuary.
In gratitude for my shepherd pianist and the memories of his tender accompaniment. I am no longer "lost in the woods..."