Just the other morning, I was in my bathing suit and standing at the edge of Walden Pond. I was finding it difficult to start my swim. I was thinking I would be more comfortable on shore wearing a jacket. Was I losing my edge? I started to think back to that April, when I was thirteen or fourteen years old, and had jumped in the cold water, and kept swimming.
My Aunt Ann loved the water. She and I were canoeing toward the end of April on Mossy Pond. It was a hot day and we wore our bathing suits. As we paddled, we bemoaned the fact that it would not be swim season for another month. “I can’t wait until we can jump in,” I said. My Aunt Ann smiled and teased, “You are all fish.” We pulled in at our favorite beach and admired the day. She kicked at the water and said, “I dare you.” I shrugged my shoulders and told her, “Darers go first.” In she went. So what could I do?
We plunged into the cold water and came up without encountering heart failure. That much done, we decided to take a swim. “To the island,” we dared each other. Between our giggles and squeals, we ferociously kicked and stroked. I don’t think either of us could believe we were doing this. But neither of us wanted to be the first one to turn back. We swam to the island and back, a little over a half mile. Almost back to the canoe, we kept up our furious pace in the pinching water. It didn’t seem to be a choice.
Once we reached the shore, my heart was pounding. Shifting from foot to foot and pulling ever tighter on the towel wrapped around me, I tried to work through the icy pain. Slowly, my senses calmed down. Our loud shivering turned into laughter. We had swum in April! After skimming a few stones and squabbling over whose crazy idea that had been, we set about canoeing back in the sun. We paddled against the rolling waves, keeping cadence with loud shouts of “Stroke. Stroke.” We were soon warm enough. Every so often, we would exchange jubilant smiles. We did it!
Within a week, I had come down with a cold. But I was adamant that I would do it again. Now, so far from my teenage years, would I do it again? I hoped so. But on that morning at Walden Pond, I found myself hesitating at the water’s edge, all too conscious of the cool wind on my back and the cold sand under my feet. I watched the little fish swimming near the shoreline. They glided closer to me as if offering their moral support. I snapped out of my reverie and thought, “This is June, for Pete’s sake!” I strode out into the water, and I swam.
Do you ever time travel in your mind?
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