I have been returning to the swimming pool of my childhood this summer as it is only a couple miles from my Mom’s nursing home. “Rec” pool has changed very little in the last 40 years. Even the old popcorn popper in the concession stand looks like it has never been replaced.
As a kid, I spent most of my summer days at this pool. There was little parental supervision, but we all felt safe. The lifeguards were strict about the rules – no running, no splashing, and no dunking each other. On the hour, we were required to get out of the pool and take a break.
It was interesting to return as an adult for the first time. As I gazed at the pool’s orderly lap lanes and noticed the guards perched high up in their chairs, I felt confident that it is still a secure place to swim.
The pool is long, and there are typically only two people per lane, so there is plenty of space. The water is warm and peaceful. I am easily able to focus on my breathing, let my thoughts quiet and enjoy a meditative swim. I can even take a hot shower in the locker room afterwards.
Lake Michigan continues to beckon. When my schedule allows, I respond by arriving well before the beach is officially open, the lifeguards arrive, and the rules about staying in the designated swim area take effect.
Don’t worry – I do take precautions. I consult with an online lake safety report, attach an embarrassingly bright yellow, plastic buoy to my waist, and swim with a buddy.
When I reach the beach, I know that the open water is where I belong. Of course, I never hurry in. The lake can be shockingly cold, so I enter gradually, noticing the firm sand beneath my feet. Eventually, I get up the courage to duck under and immediately know that I am alive.
The lake is unpredictable. On its gentle days, it feels like I’m participating in a meditation in motion. As I concentrate on my breathing, my thoughts slow and sometimes even disappear for a short time. On its playful days, the lake tosses me about, leaving me a bit disoriented. Regardless of its mood, there is always a moment or two, when I know that I am in the flow, that the lake and I are one.
The Pool and the Lake.
So, where to swim? The expansive and unsettling lake? The safe and secure pool of my childhood?
Honestly, I love them both and continue to swim in each of them depending on my schedule. Sometimes, the pool is simply more convenient, and yet, the call of the lake never goes away.
There is a continuing invitation deep within me to move beyond the tidy lanes and well enforced rules of childhood and explore a more expansive way of being. To experience the divine in everything, everywhere, in the pool, in the lake, and even in me.
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