bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
75 degrees
5:00 / 7:00 pm

Biked to Lake Nokomis for the last open swim of the season. Hooray for being able to see enough to bike safely! Hooray for having a trail for the whole way, and never having to ride in the road! Saw at least one surrey, a roller skier, some high school cross country runners, a little girl biking on her own (I thought about asking if she was okay, but she looked fine and I’m sure she was), a person on a blanket — or were they wrapped in a blanket? I couldn’t tell as I biked past — napping at the corner where you turn away from Hiawatha and towards the creek. This seemed like a strange place to stop and hang out. When I returned 2 hours later, they were still there. I mentioned this to Scott and he said he has seen a person at that spot too. He mentioned they were possible unhoused (which I learned from Scott is the term used now instead of homeless).

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees
5:30 pm

The final open swim of the year. I thought there would be one tomorrow — the calendar says there is — but the lifeguards announced that tonight was it. Glad I was able to make it. All season (and in seasons past, too), I’ve wanted to swim later, until the sun was lower on the water. Usually, I swim for an hour than I’m done. Tonight I stayed later (and the sun dropped sooner). I imagined the beautiful glow of a softening sun on the water as I neared the big beach. Instead, it was a harsh, overwhelmingly bright sun concealing all my sighting landmarks. I still knew where to go, but this time I was completely blind. When I looked up, all I saw was shine. No worries. I still made it with no problem (and no panic).

I tried to absorb as much of the swim as I could for the long winter and the spring, especially the image I’ve chosen to haunt me: rounding the second green buoy, swimming parallel to the beach, reaching for the small orange dot of a buoy far off in the distance. Tonight I noticed how the lake was empty in front of me until I reached a certain point, then the orange dot appeared, disappeared, then appeared again. So far, until suddenly it wasn’t.

10 Things to Remember When the Water is Iced Over

  1. finishing a loop, swimming parallel to the big beach: a row of giant swans (boats) stretching across the lake
  2. how the water darkens right under the buoy as I round it
  3. the silver flashes below
  4. a vee of geese just above the water
  5. before entering the water: standing on the shore, lining up the orange buoys — 1 2 3 in a row
  6. starting my workout out, waiting a few seconds, then diving down into the water as I start my strokes
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left
  8. the confidence (and complete lack of doubt) over where the buoy is — knowing even when I can’t see it, I’m swimming straight to it
  9. the gentle rocking of the choppy water
  10. on the rare day without wind when the water is still and quiet and I feel like I’m out there almost alone — just me, the fish, and the water

9 months until I get to do this again. As I stood in the shallow water at the end of my swim, I overheard one swimmer say to another: “I’m thinking of joining a pool for the off-season, but it’s not the same.” It isn’t the same, but I’m thinking of doing that too. I feel this urge to swim all winter. It’s harder. More expensive, difficult to get to a pool (especially when you can’t drive, like me), too many flip turns, harsh chlorine, crowded lanes.

Anything else I noticed? A swimming duck, a roaring military plane, 2 paddle boarders crossing right in front of me, the (too) straight arms of a stroking swimmer as they neared the first orange buoy, the completely opaque water — almost yellow. I tried to see my hand in front of me as it entered the water, but I couldn’t, how the far white buoy kept getting farther and farther away as I swam towards it.

It was a great season. Lots of loops. Felt strong and confident and happy. Was able to share some of it with my son. Could still see well enough to bike. Only missed a few days. Reached my goal of 100 loops. Only lost one nose plug (and a swim cap).

about buoys

 buoys are liminal. Both immersed in the water and bobbing in air. They are both warning and protection. Buoys indicate boundaries which are dynamic rather than fixed—boundaries comprised of light and imagination and mutual agreement. No hard lines, no barriers, no fence of barbwire and concrete…

Bright Buoy, Dark Sea/ Lauren K. Carlson