Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Praise of Swimming

6 x 6" collage on wood
I grew up swimming. I was on swim teams from age 8 to 18. I had a pond in my backyard and spent much of my summer diving into its cool and murky depths. One of my first jobs was teaching swimming. Then I was a lifeguard for many years. When I spent too much time away from the water, I swam laps in my dreams. When I felt lost and depressed as a young adult, the pool is where I found myself.

I've been swimming three days a week, like clockwork, for a decade. I swam through breast cancer. During chemotherapy, it was the one thing that suppressed the nausea. I had to take a break for my mastectomy, but as soon as I was healed enough, I was back at it. It was the best thing for me, so they told me—the lymph nodes removed from under my arm put me at risk of lymphedema, or chronic swelling in my arm.

I was terrified of lymphedema. It got to the point where I was actually afraid to stop swimming. I ignored the pain in my shoulders. Of course the pain got worse and finally I had to fold. It's been almost two months now since I stopped swimming. My arm hasn't swollen. Even when I crashed my bicycle and scraped up my elbow last week, I've been okay.

Speaking of biking, without swimming I've had more time to ride. I've been sleeping more. My creative life is expanding. I no longer fear vacation (it's true, I feared not swimming).

But I do love swimming, and I do miss the meditation of it.

So here's a little piece of art in tribute to the sport. Thank you, swimming, for all the good you've brought into my life. All the amazing people. All the hours of lazy-brain daydreaming, losing count of the laps. All the moments I've floated in the middle of a lake on a summer morning thinking about how lucky I am.

Hopefully I'll be back with you soon.