Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Monday, August 13, 2012

What I talk about when I talk about swimming

It starts the moment I step on deck: anticipation in the smell of chlorine, antiseptic and biting, the echoing of splash and slap of bare feet. My breathing slows, despite the slight sick pit of my stomach. I know it will hurt. Maybe I’ll just skip it today. But by the time I’m in the water, it’s too late. The rhythm of the workout is already marching lockstep across jagged brainwaves, smoothing out ragged peaks into slow, smooth curves. Stroke, stroke, breathe, easy and loose.

All my thoughts disappear. Long ruminations, sentences, paragraphs, truncate into mantras, repetitive phrases, snippets of songs. The ache of my shoulders, the burn in my legs, they sing to me, too, my whole body become a verb, a motion in the water. The black line in tile along the bottom of the pool is a road above which I fly, hardly conscious except of the water, and my cutting through it.

The water is silk, medium and vehicle, that which I move through and that which I use to move. I don’t feel like working out today? Bullshit. Workouts are like Christmas, or being stoned. They are their own time, each time continuous with the previous instance, so that they form a single timestream, independent of my daily life, waiting for me to come back. Suspended until next time I step out on the deck, the next shock of the cold water as I dive in and begin to swim, disappearing into that long blue space between words and silence.

I finish the workout, and climb out clean, nothing but white noise between my ears.

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