Tuesday, June 15, 2010

First Swim of the Summer


It’s been swimming weather for a good, solid month now, but as you might have detected from my posts, I’ve been stretched a bit thin the last few weeks. But my day arrived on the very best day, which is today, or any today, if you get what I’m saying. But my today happened to be this today.

Attikoulamou sailed down the hills, darting between taxis, speeding up at red lights and going down one way streets the other way round. She was so excited to go to the sea that she couldn’t help herself.

Just past a place called Paleo Faliro, historically important due to a botched Naval battle in the 18oo’s, there is a parking lot built around the Tae Kwon Do stadium, built for the Olympic games of 2004. In one corner there is a gypsy camp. In the 1800s I imagine they were in colorful wagons. Now they’re in white vans and pick up trucks, bright on the inside and loaded up in the back with other people’s junk: laundry machines and speakers, spare parts and scrap metal. I sped past a green truck with a brown skinned, big eyed-eyed baby, her face obscured by a pacifier staring at me from the passenger-side window, four of her relatives stuffed alongside of her and one thick arm around her as a human safety belt.

Just further there’s a marina called Flisvos. A long pedestrian road stretches all along the rocky edge of the sea with people jogging, strolling, Pakistani men loaded up like sherpas selling beach towels and sarapis. There are a few openings on the seawall to climb down onto the rocks, flip flops off, six more steps, careful... careful.... and the feet finally hit the water where you can bend over and plunge in, surging out toward the great curviture of the earth, the place where the islands turn misty and uninhabited and sea monsters are hiding in dark caverns where they’ve been sleeping for two millenia.

My system is just that. Start swimming. Keep going. Get as far beyond the noise of the world as possible and just when it’s a dim blur, dip just the ears under the surface of the water while treading so that those strange clicks and misty buzzing fills me with empty space.

I thought of my Indian meditation teacher and what he said about being the sea and not the wave. It’s been since last September that I’ve been able to hear this noise that reminds me exactly what I’m aiming for, this blur that dissipates your sense of self. You just turn into water, remembering you’re just one more thing floating around miraculously held back from dropping off the earth entirely by a wondrous invention known as gravity. How convenient that we’re just the right scale so that we don’t go too far into the sky where gravity stops working. Otherwise we when we stood up to our full height, we would just topple and fall off into the stratosphere. Then what?

And imagine if one day, the universe said, “to hell with gravity and all other natural laws,” and suddenly all of the seas spill out, along with anything or anyone else that isn’t rooted into the earth. So now we have to thank earth, also, for being there as a backup and admire trees for their superior design in case of emergency.

At least that’s how physics look in my mind. I never claimed to be a scientist.

Once out, I looked down through the water, all the way to my ghost-white toes, down past moss covered rocks and all the way to the stones.

Well, in moments like these I have to say to myself, Paigey, you’re a lucky girl. Here you are in sea water that is not only still collected in the giant swimming pool called the Aegean, but you’re in one of the oldest cities in the world with a horrible pollution problem, yet look. You can still see your toes.”

But to my little niece, Scarlett, my second cousin, Lilly, Despina’s two girls and Nicole’s still-cooking son, I wish it for you also. I hope your generation gets to enjoy some fruits of mine, if mine is clever enough to do the maintenance required so you’re able to see your toes in the Aegean when you’re 30 and I'm 60,
because the Gulf of Mexico is shit out of luck.