Sunday, August 11, 2019

Swimming wild in Britain

One of the best articles I've ever seen in the Guardian.  Extraordinary writers describe their love of swimming in wild locations.

A sample (from Rachel Edwards):
I love our river. It is ours not because we live on it (we don’t), or because we covet ownership of a beauty spot, but because this water flows through our family life. Our stretch of river lies between London and Oxford; it is technically the Thames and not quite the Isis; it is a gentle roar, a rushing calm, a city-country icon that feels deeply personal.

 When I first moved to our south Oxfordshire hamlet, 16 years ago, the river’s appeal was clear: every yard of it is picture perfect. Cross the weir, past the mill house and over the lock, past the weeping willow. Walk on with fields to your right and the river to your left, fringed by greenery that is mature yet exuberant (like many of the locals) and tiny beaches where anglers sit, nodding away the dogs who come sniffing at their bait.

I go in the water whenever the mood takes me: I have dunked myself to chill out a fraught afternoon and to commune with the dawn. I have been in with boat-weary friends, my husband, and – ill-advised, of course – alone (usually an angler is within shouting distance). To have a regular routine would kill the magic for me. The impulse, like the water, must be wild and free. When I do go in, it is always in summer – I marvel at those with hardy, moon-white bodies who smear themselves in goose fat and launch into wintry seas. I will never be one of their number. Even in a heatwave I mince in, arms bent and aloft, waiting for the cold water to stun my broiling core. Waist depth is optimum; I feel freed but embraced; I think about dipping my head under for a while. No earrings, no watch, offline. I’m ready.

I emerge each time alive but more so, skin teased and tingling, braids dripping, my mind washed of dark clutter; I am, if not quite reborn, then absolved by unseen river gods for as long as the water drips down my calves. Our river restores, rewarding even the most timid dip with cool inspiration. And so, in I go.

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