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Swimming Through the Night
May 2, 2000

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I worked yesterday, as you know. Then, I went for a long ride, which I enjoy doing. I rode to Center Ossipie, then up and around back country roads for a while, eventually traveling through Tuftonboro to Wolfeboro and home.

It was a nice ride, full of nature. There were several roaring brooks and streams in either directions from the road, and trees. Many trees. It was then I realized I was in the deep woods, like the woods of the town I grew up in, or the land my parents used to have some distance out of town. Woods that felt ancient. Woods where there wasn't any sign of humanity.

I climbed out of the car, left on the dirt road (of course it was dirt by then), and walked to a stream. It was rocky, so the water seemed to bubble over it. The air smelled sweet -- the sweet stink of rotting sod. The frozen Earth had melted, leaving organic material to decompose and feed next year's organic material. I could hear birds, but no wind in the trees. There aren't enough leaves for that, yet.

Back in the car, I felt tired. I'd felt tired all day, and "off." It was worse by the time I got home. I more or less spent the evening and night asleep, with occasional lurches to the bathroom, where I wished I would die.

In sleeping, I dreamed of death, and of woods, and of water. Rushing water. Torrents of water. And I was watching it. Watching bits and pieces of wood and leaves sweep by. Water has always fascinated me. When I was a little boy I used to jump in sprinklers and the "penny pools" in malls. Once, when my family was driving to Utah (where my father took his Doctorate), I jumped in the deep end of the pool. I was two years old at the time, and my parents freaked. My dad leapt into the water, fully clothed, to save me.

From all accounts, I was holding my breath, perfectly happy.

Throughout my youth, I loved to swim -- I would spend ten to twelve hours a day in the water outside my Grandmother's house on the lake. Grammie still talks about it. So do my cousins. It was the same when I stayed at my friend Louis's camp on Eagle Lake. And all summer in Fort Kent I'd go to the pool every day and swim for the whole "free swim," coming home with blood red eyes from the chlorine.

I don't swim any more. It started in Ithaca, when I got a hideous case of swimmer's ear that had me on Karen's couch for a week, unable to walk because of balance troubles. That week (which delayed my trip back to Fort Kent with a fellow named Kevin) actually led to my moving to Ithaca, led to my first going to the Renaissance Festival that dominated my summers for a number of years. Dominated them in lieu of swimming, I'd add.

Now? I swim every now and again. I'm body conscious (being that I'm a freakin' whale) in a way I never was as a child -- which was part of the wonder of the water for me. It was an entirely different world with entirely different rules. For all intents and purposes, it inverted dry land. The surface was above the Earth, not on the Earth. You had to "fly" to the bottom, which resisted your approach -- your body wanting to float. I learned the trick of getting most of the way, blowing most of my air out to plummet down, recentering on the bottom, and kicking up into the water to break the surface at an early age.

Much of the time, I pretended I was flying when I swam. As a result, when I dream of flying now, the rules are like swimming -- I kick up into the air with my legs, and soar with momentum. The higher I go, the slower I am, and I need to dive back down in a swoop to build up speed, then swim back up into the air.

Dreaming of water last night, I didn't dream of swimming. Just watching. I also didn't fly.

Today, I feel as badly as I did yesterday. And I feel like I didn't sleep at all, despite pulling in at least nine hours despite bathroom runs. But, the workday calls and then I entertain....

I'd rather be swimming.

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