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.