The first time I took a breath through a regulator – on the pool deck of a local community pool – I couldn’t stop smiling. “I can breathe – anywhere!” I said to my PADI open water instructor. “Yeah,” he responded, looking a little bemused, “just wait until you try it in the water.”
April is Adult Learn to Swim month, as organized by the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation. Through my Masters group, this is my second year as a volunteer instructor and I can’t speak highly enough of the overall experience! The lessons are primarily one-on-one, meaning each student gets a lesson tailored to their individual needs while taking their particular history with swimming and the water into account.
In honor of Valentine’s Day this past week (and more specifically, in honor of the leftover candy I’m sitting here eating), I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about some things I’m loving lately. Definitely taking full advantage of this sugar high to try and kick start a return to writing regularly! So, with that said…
Until this year, I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about NOT swimming in the Charles River. I knew it had been horribly polluted in the past and I knew (thanks to a friendly duck boat driver!) that in recent years it has gotten much cleaner. A certain kind of duck is back, meaning a certain kind of fish is back, meaning pollution levels are not where they used to be. Great! But still, it’s hard not to think of the Charles as kind of gross – it runs through a major city and has large, multi-laned roads on either side, but, maybe most importantly, the Standells’ “Dirty Water” is played frequently and sung along to enthusiastically throughout the bars, stadiums, and streets of the city. Since I first moved to the Boston area in 2004, I’ve been singing about that dirty water, meaning I’ve had 13 years of internalizing the fact that our river may be beloved, but it is best loved from a distance.
I have always been a water person. Growing up an oblivious/imaginative kid in Rhode Island in the era of the Little Mermaid, my mom quickly realized that I needed to know how to keep myself afloat. I was never scared of the water, which in turn scared her immensely. According to her, the chances of me wandering in too deep without realizing were about equal to me waking up on any given morning, truly believing that I was a mermaid, and jumping in above my head without a second thought.