Love it or Hate it: Swimming

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Love itI don’t love being in EVERY body of water. Lakes are the exception. They are stagnant and sort of claustrophobic, just sitting there, all unmoving. They’re murky. There’s seaweed and an array of questionable squishy stuff to tread on.

But pools are glorious. If you grew up spending your afternoons in backyard suburban swimming pools as I did, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The glimmers of sunlight filtering down through the turquoise. The sweet chemical scent of chlorine that never leaves your fingertips. The brightly colored pool toys that smell of pinkness and plastic. (Remember noodles? You could ride on them OR spray water at your friends through the hole.) And if you take an enormous breath and dive down to the bottom of the deep end, you’ll experience a completely different world – one that’s serene and quiet. Stay down as long as you can, until your ears scream under the pressure.

Swimming in the ocean might take the cake, though. It all depends on what ocean you’re in, or in which part of the country it’s located. But that diversity is wonderful; some oceans are violent and wild, some gentle and mild. And nothing beats the salty, briny air, the screech of seagulls, the soothing thunder of waves, all penetrating your senses whilst you soak in Homer’s “wine-dark sea.” It’s a natural sensation akin to being an embryo in the womb again. If you float on your back, you can’t really hear anything. You just lie there, look at the sky, and find comfort in weightlessness.

— Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldHate itIt’s not because I very nearly drowned twice in one weekend swimming in two different sections of the wider-than-it-looks Housatonic River in Connecticut, gasping and choking while being pulled to safety by a woman who weighed 50 pounds less than me, which compelled me to wear water wings for the rest of my days (OK, not true, though I do now wear a not-so-cool/manly life jacket when in any natural body of water).

No, when it comes to swimming and often just hanging out in water, I hate it because I’m simply not very good at it. I’m an apt athlete and can pick up most sports quickly. Except swimming. I could never do it, despite hours and hours of practice, seemingly always exerting twice as much energy as everyone else around me. I’ll be hanging with friends in a lake and they all can tread water forever, just chitchatting nonchalantly. Or some can simply lie in the water and float. Meanwhile, I sink like a stone and nearly drown.

Or maybe it’s that one of my first conscious memories was dunking my head in a baby pool and water painfully shooting up my nose. Or the time I tried body surfing at Oahu’s famed North Shore and getting yanked out into the surf, tossed around like a toy puppy in a washing machine, dragged on the ocean floor and then spit out onto the beach with sand packing every orifice on my body.

Yeah, I think I’ll just stay out at this point.

— David Holub


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