Taking time to breathe

takhlak lake mt adams dusk

I learned to swim in a mountain lake high in the Sierra Nevada range of California. I remember the granite pebbles that made the beach’s sand, I remember my swim instructor throwing larger stones into the water of the shallow shoreline for me to fetch. That’s how I learned to hold my breath underwater. Now, it seems I hold my breath (figuratively) most of the time-most of my everyday life. Breathing deeply is reserved for cycling excursions or being in the woods, the desert, or at the sea.

I needed to exhale and had a hankering to sit on the beach of a lake.  So, that’s what I did. There’s a rutted, washboard gravel stretch of road  that slowed my progress to the lake a bit but I was still there and had the tent up in time for cocktail hour. As the sun set, I sipped a lovely beverage with my lovely husband and stared at this lovely volcano – Mt. Adams.

The next morning my coffee mug and I sat a spell more. Sip. Stare. Sip. Stare. Stare. Stare. Sip. You get the idea. Just me, the view, and the birdsong filling the alder behind me. I turn to see flashes of yellow: a mixed flock of warblers.  I watch, taking note of species or identifying marks. At least four different species, including some fledglings,dazzle me with their hunting skills. I turn back to face the lake,  my breathing now constant and deep, and in unison with the ripples on the water.

But the longer I sat the more I wanted to swim. A strong vision of myself treading water in the middle of the lake emerged.  A dip in the lake is a likely prospect until the clouds that had been lurking through the early morning hours decided to fully cover the sky. Without the sun in this high mountain environment the swim is a no-go.

But then, that’s not why I came.

takhlak lake morning3


5 thoughts on “Taking time to breathe

  1. I can so identify with the need to sip, stare routine. I would like to add “absorb”. Tranquility is something I hanker for so often, I wish I could bottle the tranquility of scenes such as this, and have a little sip every now and again!

  2. Hm. I am overdue to start learning the paths of Qigong. I would like to be more mindful about my breath and breathing.

    I remember Mt. Adams. Usually it was by way of Snoqualmie Pass (or Chinook, or… I forget), being able to see Adams and Rainier in the distance together. I remember too that mountain side lakes can be freezing cold. But I was young then, and even in the heat of the day, I don’t think I can do something like that now.

    • Later this day the clouds parted and when it happened I was in a wilderness area at another lake. The swim happened and the water temp was perfect. Cool but not cold and perfect for an afternoon dip.
      I too have lost my tolerance for swimming in icy water; I think my younger self crazy for some of the lakes (and ocean) swims I once did.
      Ah, but back then I didn’t know my breath or my Qi like I do now. Qigong, meditation, yoga, and athletic pursuits have all taught me lessons about breath, each different yet valuable So while cold water is less attractive I guess one benefit to aging is the ability to dive into my inner self – breath and thoughts and feelings – to depths I could never have imagined as a young swimmer.

      • I can tolerate cold water up to a point– I never got cold quickly like one of my water exercise instructors, and if the water was too warm (90-95F) I hit pain fast and would have to retreat to a colder pool. (The class was combinations of people with MS and arthritis.)

        Before that, when we still lived in an apartment complex, I’d be in the little pool when the whole neighborhood thought it too cold.

        I just worry if it was ever too cold… I couldn’t bounce back like a younger me could. It’s not quite a tolerance thing, at least, yet.

        Interesting thoughts about aging, by the way. I do agree that with reflection and life experience, introspection seems to get easier.

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