No water, no life. No blue, no green*.

I know a place where no one ever goes
There’s peace and quiet, beauty and repose
It’s hidden in a valley beside a mountain stream
And lying there beside it
I find that I can dream.

All my life I’ve had a love affair with water. Swimming lessons and wading pools were only the beginning.

Vacations almost always included bodies of water. My grandmother’s home in North Carolina had the coldest mountain stream running past it. Hours were spent creating pools and tiny waterfalls with the rocks we found. If we went to visit her in Florida or Texas, the trip was planned around how many days could be spent at the beach. As a child I would tirelessly chase the retreating frothy waves into the ocean, excitedly running towards safety as the water would turn back and nip at my ankles.

Every summer was spent at the pool, days and days swimming, splashing, floating and diving. Stripped bare of everything but a small yet modest suit, I was me. Not confined by cliques made in the classroom, I was unafraid to ask a nearby boy or girl to play catch, tag, chicken fight or other silly game. Those early years the water was a welcome companion, buoying me when I was sad, cooling me on a hot day.

Summers between college semesters my love of water led me to lead all the aquatic activities at camp as a counselor. Soon I was a trained lifeguard and canoeing instructor. We snorkeled in the shallow end, we tried (and failed miserably) synchronized swimming. We took the older girls for a week on the river, with only our canoes, sleeping bags and food. Later I would manage a municipal pool, watching children play and splash and learn their way in the water.

After college every vacation, every free weekend, I would find my way to the water, find myself whole again. I made a pact with my boyfriend to always put our faces in a natural body of water that was presented to us. Driving across country, pit stops were planned around proximity to trails for walking, in the hopes of finding a stream. A camping trip wasn’t complete if someone wasn’t doused with bracing cold water. The ocean once again became a place to get away, to reconnect, to find calm in the face of the dramatic crashing waves.

Swimming continued to be a passion, even as its purpose changed from recreation to exercise. At first the tediousness of the laps would wear me down, feeling the inefficiency of my movements, the loss of time that could be spent doing something else.  As I became more skilled, I had to train my brain to stay. First I would distract myself with to do lists, shopping lists, replaying arguments or jokes. But then that all changed. I once again connected with the water, the freedom, the weightlessness and let go. Swimming became cathartic, it was my absolution, my cleansing, my release.

While now my connection to water is more likely to be plunging toilets, doing dishes, bathing a toddler and rushing through a shower, I still hold fast to my love. I long for the days of lounging in a warm bath. Cherish the moments with a refreshing glass of water haven’t been spent fighting off a cat or avoiding an ornery daughter’s hands. And as I sit here, typing by my child’s bath, I sing the song again:

I know a place where no one ever goes
There’s peace and quiet, beauty and repose
It’s hidden in a valley beside a mountain stream
And lying there beside it
I find that I can dream.

*quote by Sylvia Earle

Another Red Dress club post. The prompt: Water gives life. It also takes it away.  Please, your constructive criticism is more than welcome.

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