I miss swimming. Especially in the ocean. When I was younger my mum used to take my siblings and I on many spontaneous trips to the beach. My dad too. I remember one summer, when my mum was transitioning between jobs and my cousins were visiting from Canada, she took us to the beach every day the entire month they were with us.
When my family wasn’t at the beach, we were at my grandparents’ house, in their pool. Many a party was held in their backyard. When I was a very young girl we lived in a community of condos with a pool at the centre, and we spent a lot of time and had parties there too. That might even be where I learned to swim. My best friend and I whiled away countless hours in that pool, until our skin itched and her hair turned green from the chlorine.
As I got older, earned my driver’s license and greater independence, I would go to the beach with friends. Summers home from college were synonymous with at least weekly trips to “Cabbage” in particular, with its wide sandy beach and big, aggressive waves. I would go for quick swims on my own too, the same way I saw my mum doing as I grew up. Sometimes we’d wake up and she wouldn’t be home, or she’d take longer than expected to return from work. Her absence was always explained by the fact that she was at the beach.
I haven’t been home for the summer, and I was away all of last summer too. I haven’t been swimming in so long that I don’t even have a swimsuit anymore. The elastic in my old one dried up and I threw it away. There are public pools here, but I haven’t visited one, in large part because of a shoulder injury.
Thankfully, I live next to the Hudson River, and I go and see it at least once a week. It’s amazing how much joy it brings me; my whole life opens up, my chest feels lighter and fuller and my day is immediately brighter. I didn’t know I had such a need to be near water until I went to graduate school. At one point on an out of town trip with classmates we drove past a river, and I yelped in happiness. “Island girl!”, one of them said to me. I grinned. I missed the water so much! I just hadn’t realised. My undergrad school had a lake in the middle of campus, so that must have satisfied me those four years.
As nice as the Hudson is, I long for the ocean: its mesmerizing, awe-inducing beauty and boundless expanse; swimming out as far as I dare from the shore; propelling myself from the sandy bottom into front and back flips and full body spirals; treading salty water as I’m buffeted by the waves; playing and talking with friends and family as they do the same weightless dance; walking along the shore; lying on the sand with a book. I miss the hunger brought on by a day at the beach and the way the whole inside of my mouth would be puckered and wrinkled by salt water. I miss the gentle swaying sensation of being pushed and pulled by the current that my body would remember at night, lulling me to a sweet, beach day sleep.
The aquamarine and cerulean blues are like another member of my family, and I hope these long absences aren’t indicative of what our relationship is going to be like in the future. Until we meet again, I’ll continue to visit the river, and I’m considering buying one of those little water features for my home. I’m surprised at how strongly connected to the ocean I feel, and am intrigued by the ways it, and water in general, have influenced my personality and feeling of being, of positioning, in the world. It’s a question I’ll continue to ponder. I’d trade the answer for a day at the beach though.