For more swimming stories, photos and videos, click on Swimming as Meditation, on right. 

 
 
As summer wears on, I’m very aware that good swimming days are numbered. Soon, the nights will turn so cool, the water won’t heat up enough during the day to make it comfortable to slip into the lake or even some outdoor pools. That’s when I reluctantly return to the Y pool, which I love in the winter, but would rather not go to in August or even September.

For the swimmers among us, here are links to some interesting swimming stories:

The difficulties and expense some people are willing to go to, just to find water http://nyti.ms/qEi2YK

Pool wars in one city’s big, new municipal pool
http://wapo.st/o7C67T

Jane Brody reminds us water heals, but can also harm   
http://nyti.ms/nQETBQ

Be mindful when you swim
http://bit.ly/9ynPvs

Practice swimming as meditation
http://bit.ly/oIHZS8 



For much, much more on this topic, click on Swimming as Meditation on the right.

 
 
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Over the past few months -- while I was in the hospital, nursing home and at home recovering -- the dream I had most often involved floating in water. The doctor wouldn't let me take a shower for three weeks after each surgery, so the amount of aqua  deprivation I experienced was pretty severe, especially for a swimmer. 

It doesn’t matter what you do in water. It’s all meditation. You can just play around  or make a beeline to a destination. In the buoyancy and liquidity of water, only the phrase “different strokes for different folks” has traction. Do whatever you want and you’ll get where you’re going, painlessly.  

In case you haven’t had a chance to indulge in open water for a while, here’s some video shot at Lake Whitingham in Wilmington, Vermont last week.   



 
 

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.

Oh, wow, here’s something I don’t want to miss on public television next week. I just hope I can stay up late enough to watch it. The perfect way to begin a new year!

Independent Lens: Men Who Swim
Tuesday, January 4, 10-11pm

In the midst of a mid-life crisis, filmmaker Dylan Williams tries to cheer himself up by joining an all-male synchronized swim team. He discovers a dozen other men struggling with the indignities of age and the uncertainty of a life half-lived. “Men Who Swim” looks at an unlikely brotherhood of beer bellies, wet suits and occasional underwater grace.


 
 
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Adams Reservoir, Woodford, VT
Water holds a mystical power over me, more today than when I was younger. I swim, I kayak, I soak in a hot tub, I take showers whenever my joints cry to be soothed or my soul needs an energizing boost.    
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In Vermont, ponds and even pools are cool, almost cold, even on the hottest days. Once you’re in and moving, the crisp temperature is all you could ever ask for, but don’t go in one toe at a time.


I have access to outdoor swimming pools and a dozen ponds or reservoirs in two states, so I carry gear in the back seat of the car that lets me swim on a whim. Rubber-soled “lake shoes” keep my feet safe from rocks and muck. If the sun is high, I wear full-length rashers to block UV from my ultra-sensitive skin and wacky immune system. Kids gawk at the sight of an old lady in surfer garb, but I just smile and, on the way out of the water, I comment on how the waves suck at this beach.

Sometimes I don’t even swim, but  just go out up to my neck, letting let currents pull me from side to side. If I need to build up strength in my severely arthritic lower body, I cross country ski in the deep stuff, or bicycle back and forth across the pool. Then I do side stroke and back stroke, both very meditative forms of swimming.  

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Green River, Halifax VT, Spring 2010
A doomed Piscean, I’d rather be IN water than not, but if I’m on land, chances are I’m looking at one body of blue stuff or another. Our walls are filled with artwork I’ve collected over the years, most of it involving something aqueous. After all, I spent some years living and working on Long Island, New York, where I wrote a book about life on that (very crowded) Atlantic sandbar. 

My husband loves boats, so we’re drawn to coasts and marinas when we travel. Up here in the mountains, we can always find streams or lakes to play in or photograph, any time of the year, frozen or liquid.  

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Lake George NY, August 2009
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Monterey Bay CA, May 2010
Here are some photos and video I took in and around the Monterey Bay Aquarium this spring.

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Pacifica CA, May 2010
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Tuna at MBA, May 2010
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Leafy Sea Dragon at MBA
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Moon Jellyfish at MBA
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Black Sea Nettles at MBA, May 2010
For mesmerizing video of jellyfish and sea nettles, go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's own video at
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/efc/efc_se/se_jellies_mv_blue.html

If you want to swim with the fishes without getting wet, go to the MBA kelp forest exhibit and sway with the water plants and animals to hypnotic music. Try not to go when it’s busy, like we did. Too many people making too much noise, but click on the arrow and enjoy the show anyway. See the shark?
For more in this series, click on Swimming as Meditation in the index on the right.
Also, see Cari Shane Parvin's Zen of Swim at http://www.usmsswimmer.com/200511/zenofswim.pdf 

 
 
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National Aquarium, Baltimore MD
Silver flash times two, 
Eyes and fins slide by in waves,
whosh -- to you, then me. 

 
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Aquarium, California Academy of Science, May 2009
If we added up all the sunny days we’ve had this summer, I bet we could count them on two hands, maybe one.

Without hesitation, I've crossed off from my must-see list Seattle, Ireland, and anywhere else it rains 4 days out of 5. Yes, it’s nice to have lush grass and flowers that never need additional water. I’m happy for the white-water river rafters. What I worry about is rust, on me! 

If we must live underwater, let us have fish and coral and lifelines to the surface.  
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My neighbor's grandkids have the right idea.

 


 
 
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For years, I’ve tried to meditate, and failed.

I get distracted and lose my concentration. Background music doesn’t help, because I listen to it. The sounds of nature work the same way. But finally, after decades of trying , I’ve found the perfect meditation mechanism for me, and it’s swimming.

I do laps and laps and laps, all in easy strokes, like side stroke, back stroke, sometimes breast stroke. I’m in no hurry and have no set number of laps to do each time I go the pool. Our YMCA swimming pool is so small, it’s more like being in an aquarium than a people pool. I can see how a fish would get pretty neurotic running into walls all day! 

After a few laps, I lose track of time. Rhythmic breathing and soothing sounds of water put me in a meditative state, no matter what’s going in my life or in adjoining lanes at the pool. I'm out there! 

I love the feel of the water on my skin. I figure I’m getting a good cardiac workout, pulling a certain number of pounds against the water. The greatest benefit, of course, is that swimming doesn’t put much pressure on my poor arthritic hips, feet or hands. Some have Achilles’ heels; I have Achilles’ wrists. After my swim, I sit in the hot tub for a few minutes right over the jets, if possible. 

What do you do to reach your meditative state? 

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Photos taken May 3, 2009, at California Academy of Sciences