june 15/SWIM

2 miles/ 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
82 degrees

The first open swim! The first open swim! A perfect evening for it. The course was slightly different this year. There were the usual 3 orange buoys in a straight diagonal line from the north end of the big beach to the little beach, but there were also 2 bright green buoys a little further south. Huh? I had to ask another swimmer who looked like she knew what she was doing–actually, I heard her tell someone else that she had swam this course last year. They’ve changed up the course a little to make it safer and longer. Instead of always having the buoys on your left like they’ve done in the past, they are always on your right. The path is a straight shot from the northern end of the big beach to the little beach using the orange buoys. But on the way back, you travel much wider, using the invisible (to me) green buoys, and aim for the southern end of the main beach.

When I started swimming, I thought this new route would be a problem for me and how I’ve learned to swim without seeing that much, but I quickly got used to it, and decided that I liked it better. I like how it’s longer and that it’s wider. I can’t see the color green at all in the water, so the return buoys, if I manage to “see” them are just big, smudged hulks (and sometimes I confuse them with the similar shaped smudge of a sail from a sailboat further south), but I can use the silvery white rooftop at the big beach to guide me back to shore. I’m grateful for such a big landmark.

I didn’t run into any other swimmers, and I didn’t get way off course. At one point, I stopped to try and sight where I was, and a person swimming to my left stopped too. I think they were following me, hoping I would guide them the right way. I did. So strange and amazing and delightful to be able to navigate with such minimal, fleeting signals. How difficult was it for other people to see? When they looked straight ahead, just barely lifting out of the water, could they see the orange buoys clearly, a beacon in the empty blue and green? Or, were they like me, who was only able to see the smear of orange when I turned my head so that I could view what was straight from the side? Most of the time, the orange dot disappeared when I looked at it directly. Only once or twice, when it hit just right, did it appear. I was reminded of how much my sighting and seeing is based on trusting my straight strokes and learning to effectively and efficiently use the scant clues I have from what I do see. Open water swimming is a great confidence boost for me, and a reminder of how much I can still function. When I lose my central vision completely (which will almost surely happen soon), will it get worse, or have I learned to see mostly through my periphery already? I don’t know. For now, I’m happy to be swimming and not panicking, feeling strong and confident and at home in the water.

Searching for poetry about buoys, I found this awesome post by a poet-in-residence at a boat yard–Underfall Yard. They’re exploring the area, reading about boats and buoys and swimming and water, leading poetry workshops for visitors, planning poetry readings. I would love to do something like this! Wow. Very cool and inspiring!

And, a poem about orange buoys!