Swimming in the rain is particular magical. In the summer there’s nothing better than jumping into the lake in a downpour; the water seemingly everywhere, you just an insignificant speck of nothing in the midst of mother earth’s joyous cleansing.
Sadly, we are advised against swimming in the bay for up to 72 hours after heavy rains. Water runs down streets and into storm drains, picking up all of the detritus of city life as it goes: garbage, dog poop, cigarette butts, oil, pesticides. The contents of those storm drains empty into the bay. In really big storms, sewage treatment facilities can become overloaded and release the excess swill into the bay before it’s fully treated. In October’s big storm this kept us out of the bay for weeks.
In principle, I get all of this. I imagine the summer fires, all that toxic dust from people’s burned down homes building up on our cars and houses and streets, washed clean by the first big rain and sent, along with the rest of the noxious sludge, into the bay. But what about now? We’ve been enjoying rain on and off for weeks. Surely whatever is emptying into the bay is pretty diluted by now? I think about all of those wild swimmers in England and Ireland. They don’t stop swimming with every rain fall. But is that because their storm water is dealt with differently? Or does constant rain ameliorate the problem?
Basically, I don’t understand the boundaries of this restriction and one of these days I’m determined to find out. But for today, I took my cue from the more seasoned open water swimmers on my google group lists who opted to give it a miss today and I swam at the pool.
Pool swimming has its benefits. I probably get more exercise, especially in the winter when the bay is too cold to stay in for very long. It’s also pretty meditative; the monotony of back and forth, back and forth; the kind of quiet that only underwater in a pool seems to provide. There is constant stimulation in the bay and nearly none in the pool, which lets me settle into a kind of mindlessness I don’t usually experience.
I remember the meditative power pool swimming had on my daughter, Eliza, when she was an angsty middle schooler. I would pick her up from school in a flurry of complaints and stressors; her day punctuated by bad interactions with teachers; difficult friend encounters; social mixups of every sort. The puzzles of tween norms and requirements as confounding as they were vital. I’d drop her off at swim practice, breathe a sigh of relief that she made it, and return an hour and a half later to a different girl. Calm and happy; at peace in her body and self. Part of it is the magic of exercise, but I also think all that lap swimming was a meditation for her. She’s an incredibly social person; highly attuned to the emotions of everyone around her. In the pool, she could finally let all of that go, decompress and just be. She also found it extremely boring (and was relieved a few years later to discover water polo), but I think the boredom is part of the magic. At least that’s how it is for me. When I swim in a pool my mind, without anything better to do, completely relaxes.
No picture of me swimming today because taking a selfie at the Y just seems weird. But here is a rainy day picture of the Albany pool where Eliza, Hazel and I all spent hours of our lives for years and years.