Monday, June 19, 2017

swimming in grace

My shoes and feet and everything are tired of running. My fractured toe needs rest, and my knee protests another trail. So I dive into the pool and backstroke, staring at the uninspiring ceiling. I suppose the view from most lap lanes could never truly be called a vista, but these beige tiles seem particularly and spitefully bland. I think of old Roman baths with their ever-enduring mosaics, Turkish baths with their colorful domes, and I can't help but feel that contemporary America should up our gym ceiling game a bit.

Indicative of the population in the pool, Frank Sinatra is playing. I am miserable and my heart is heavier than a stone, which makes Sinatra sting like saltwater in a hangnail, and reminds my heavy legs, by contrast, of how poor chlorine is for buoying up one's spirit or its shell. As I watch my legs kick up a miniature wake, my toes just barely cresting the surface of the water, I think of how my legs floated on the surface of the Dead Sea. I smile (and swallow pool water accidentally) as I remember how the one-third salt water lifted up my legs so that they couldn't even kick. They would just splash impotently on the surface of the smooth sea. I remember my laughter as the water would roll me around and around, keeping me afloat, dependent on its mercy, despite my own attempts to stand. The Dead Sea feels like providence, and I was just rolling around in it.

I think of my last swim, in the Mediterranean, its marble blue-green waters rolling in thick, undulating waves. There, the piercing blue sky was the ceiling, and the lap lanes determined by the sharp spurs of rock, intermittent with the silky white sand floor. I dove under the waves, rolling around in the surf, glorying in the quiet, expansive intimacy of sea and sky. Experiencing myself as single, lone creature but not lonely, swallowed up in an infinite field of glory and wet, wild beauty.


Today, I ran again, my feet exploring the unbroken reaches of new running shoes, and the familiar, broken-in paths of familiar running trails.

But the sky was a sheer and startling blue, interrupted by molded white clouds, reflecting the golden radiance of the sun, perfectly gilded and shaded on their ruffled underbellies. The hot gold light burns my skin more lightly here. But the heavy air holds solar heat more permanently than the desert of Judea. I am landlocked, far from the sea. But, in the damp clashes of cold and hot storm fronts, I am still swimming in a wild sea of weather and grace.

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