Wild Swimming

The water was like silk.

And so cool. I thought it would be colder. Even at eight in the morning it was an easy blood-warm swim and by evening I had to dive deep to feel even the faintest chill.  I saw the anchor roots of lilies then, which bloomed as sunshine on the surface.

When I looked, at noon, across the lake, the white heat of the day had scorched my horizons clean away, so that it looked as if the edge of the world had melted, as if you might tip right over it if you kept going – is that why the early explorers thought the world was flat. 

I wondered if, during the winter,  when the world is cold and cut crystal and brittle, I might see the furthest shores – where the water ends and Albania begins; somewhere in the glassy depths, which were mirror smooth when we were there, not even the faintest breeze to ruffle their surface, lies the line that separates Montenegro from its neighbour.

The beach at Godinje, Lake Skadar

I remember learning to swim. Mum taught me. In a frosty, older lady’s pool. She didn’t swim often; I knew that by the green slime and the frogs which, at six, gave me the creeps.  Here, on the lake, the frogs were the loudest I’ve ever heard; they struck up an evening chorus and at first I wondered at what they were: ducks, I thought.

It’s odd that mum taught me – she hated swimming, was afraid of the water, never put her head beneath it. And yet I love to, in the sea I love to hear the clicking conversation of coral, in a pool, the sound of my breath, on this lake the intermittent quarrel of herons, the lazy drone of dragon flies. 

I taught my own children. Except for my middle one, who learned simply by observation: watching carefully as I instructed her older brother. At 3 she nagged, ‘watch me, mama, watch me’ and I did and I was astounded as this small person doggy paddled her way across a whole width, her armbands abandoned. 

When I’ve swum, when I’ve ploughed my way through water, I feel stronger. And I feel more at peace, it’s as if my swim has drowned the noise of clamouring thoughts out.

And the world, when I get out and rub a rough towel against goose flesh skin, feels stilled.

2 Responses to “Wild Swimming”

  1. James Says:

    Albania? Headed to UK? Wee heads up if I got that bit right, Brit passport friend from Uganda just got busted on arrival at Luton from Albania on a flight that routed via somewhere else, they didn’t like that, now in quarantine near LHR…. She wrote it up, can send if you give me email jc@lubombo.net

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thanks James, no in Montenegro, headed to Ireland. Monte was removed from Ireland’s red list in May so thus far am good … we’ll see. things seem to change every two minutes!

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