“Swimming might be the closest to flying
a human being can get. There is something
about your body displacing water
in order to propel through space that makes you feel
Godtouched. That makes me understand evolution,
that we really must have crawled up from the sea.”
― Elizabeth Acevedo, Clap When You Land
My first memory of water was when I was about three years old I think. A wave washed me over on a family holiday. I can close my eyes and see the froth and bubble and my mother’s hands as she searched for me in the surf. I had no fear, just fascination for the sounds and the sea. It lasted seconds. My next childhood memory was being brought to Dun Laoghaire baths for swimming lessons. The teacher wanted me to hold my breath underwater for as long as I could. So I did. I wondered as I watched from below the water why they all looked frantic – I stayed longer than I should apparently, and they were worried. Swimming lessons it seems, were not for me.
My siblings and I are all swimmers. We swam as kids – anywhere there was beach – usually Sandycove, Dun Laoghaire Baths, Brittas Bay, Silver Strand, or any of the many beaches we frequented on trips away as a family. I swam as a teen, all day every day, camped out at the Vico Bathing Place (Up the Ramps!) with huge packed lunches and a bunch of friends. I was always at home in the water, at peace there. It was second nature. I’ve always lived beside the sea. I went to school beside the sea. It was never an option to live away from the sea for either myself or my husband. Work and life get busy though and somewhere in adulting I lost the brave that overrides the comfortable feeling of being warm! I lost the urge to push past that. But the sea; on it, in it, by it, has always been and will always be my happy place. My husband knows this too – opting to either run a bath or take me to the beach when I get grumpy and out of sorts. He instinctively knows. It’s where my calm is. It’s where I find myself.
My daughters love the sea. One is always at the harbour with her friends and my youngest is always with me when I swim. It was her love of the sea and her enthusiasm for staying in and diving and playing that brought me reluctantly back into the sea this year. There was a day, foggy, misty and magic, that I got particularly cold and full of aches and pain after my swim. I was devastated to think that I needed to rethink my approach to the beach and a swim – but find it I did! The next day I brought a spare pair of togs to change into if the weather didn’t dry me out. I brought socks and oversized sweatshirt. And tea. It worked. I think I’d two swims that day and went home feeling better than I had so far this year.
Then a dear friend expressed a wish to get into the sea and start swimming. We said we’d give it a shot. No pressure. No aim in mind other than enjoyment. I’ve been swimming nearly every day since and never been to the beach alone. We’ve very quickly morphed from a vague commitment to pushing ourselves into a beautifully casual group of women who organise times daily on WhatsApp for the next swim.
Since then I’ve resurrected the brave. It’s pushed me out of bed in the mornings, out of the armchair in the evenings and out of my comfort zone daily. I used to take about 10 minutes to get my shoulders wet but now, when I get to the beach, I march into the sea like my life depends on it. In fact, it’s my joy that does. There is always Joy. Joy at peeling the layers of clothes off to go swimming. Joy at the invisible comfort/self-doubt/fear barrier I imagine at the water’s edge. Joy at the cold as I stride into the waves and feel the water as it creeps and splashes it’s way over my body. The biggest joy is the dive – head first into the sea as soon as it’s deep enough. Surfacing new, replenished, bathed, alive and JOYFUL. It’s like coming home. In the water I feel graceful, young, agile, nimble, at peace. I’m water in water. It’s part of me and I’m part of it. I’m lolling about on waves chatting, diving and swimming and jumping and giving my daughter piggy backs. She’s giving me piggy backs! (How old am I? I forget in the water!) There is laughter, yahooing, bad language and no holds barred conversations that are funny, insightful, educational, moving and enriching. Everything is steeped in Joy. And in In the words of an amazing woman “… if you can get to Joy just once today, and then once again tomorrow and the next day…you will start to create grooves to your Soul — a map to Joy. You’ll remember your way back to your natural state when you slip out of it — which you will. And you’ll do whatever it takes to stay in Joy as long as you can — even if you have to fight for it.” Danielle LaPorte
We’ve joined up with The Bluetit Chill Swimmers and formed a Wicklow Group – The Wicklow Bluetits. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Get in touch by message and we can notify you of swims as they happen.