Below the Berkshire mountains, and the sound of geese, I’m dipping my toes in the waters edge, thinking about swimming out to the red buoy; about half a football field.
There’s no lifeguard on the stand. It’s less than 70-something, and I rub my goosebumps. But it’s the last swim of the summer and my bones are screaming, Do it!
Two women under the golden trees, chat and take photos.
One calls out, “Do it! Go for it! Go!”
“Yikes. It’s cold,” I say.
“Nonsense!” says the other.
“You’re right,” I say and tip-toe to the lifeguard stand, leaving my stretch pants, sweater, towel and sunglasses.
“C-ooo-old,” I whine.
“Who cares. We got your back,” says the one taking pictures.
“Okay, here goes.”
I wade into the gravelly sand.
“Yikes. Cold. Go!” I say, lifting my shoulders and sucking in my stomach. One more deep breath and I lounge forward and begin to paddle, head up and dry. I’m kicking and breathing and stroking.
“Whoo-hoo!” I call out.
“Whoo-hoo!” they echo.
Six years ago I swam out and around the same buoy while attending a writing workshop at Kripalu. Now I was co-leading a retreat called Being Fully Alive with Cara Bradley at Kripalu and leading a meditation and writing workshop.
Earlier that day, while checking-in at the front desk, I noticed my name tag said: Faculty.
I kick, breathe and sink my head under the water and say Heaven. It sounds like: Haa-bin.
Rounding the buoy, I backstroke. A fireworks of autumn trees frames the lake. I’m in no rush for shore.
Magnificent, I say to the sky.
My eyes, face and lips descend into the water and towards the fire of leaves again and again as I crawl towards shore.
I wait until the last possible moment to touch bottom, icky, gooey.
The taller of the two women, take my picture before I grab my towel and says, “Amazing and worth every minute, right?”
Before the gold flame dims, we take each others pictures and turn to walk up the hill.
Five days later I find and read this poem by David Whyte.
Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again
on an open sky.
has to be
so you can find
the one line
Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out
someone has written
in the ashes
of your life.
You are not leaving.
Even as the light
fades quickly now,
you are arriving.