I was a lifeguard summers during college. It was important to my mother that my brother and I learn to swim because she hadn’t taken lessons as a child. Although she learned to swim as an adult, it still scares her to be around deep water.
She transported us to swim lessons at the private pool, waited while I learned to “pull, kick, glide” and breathe. My memory of those years of lessons is of the cold water. They scheduled the classes in the early mornings before the pool opened, and it was a horror to enter the night-chilled water before the body had been glazed with a shell of sunlight.
Of course, it was all worth it once I was swinging a whistle and staring into the slick turquoise nights, working pool parties with my friend Christopher, and getting paid for it.
Our pool was located a few miles outside town, and its deck and tennis courts were surrounded by hills of hay and cattle. I flipped concession hamburgers during my breaks and listened for thunder from my perches.
I begin with this history to remind myself that while it feels like I have “always” been comfortable in water—so much so that I wonder if I wasn’t a fish in another lifetime—I know it could have been different if my mother had not prioritized that comfortable relationship.
When I lay my head back on a lake, inflate my lungs and exhale slowly, it is one of the great joys of my life—to be held aloft by the water. I am a poet who believes in metaphor to help us comprehend this world. The universe is fluid and ether, matter and awareness, daughter and mother. And I am thankful how it tilts me up and carries me on.