on swimming on sweet on salt

I’ve finally started swimming again. It’s so like writing. The hardest part is getting to the pool. And then it takes so long. And the sets can be so repititious. But afterwards, I feel so calm. I always read well after I swim.

I bought myself a Finis Swimp3 last summer. It tucks beneath the goggle straps and conducts sound underwater through the jawbone. I like that. Ear plugs are bothersome. I took it to Hawai’i last summer, thinking I’d use it to make getting to the finish line of the Waikiki Roughwater Swim easier. To make passing the time less repetitive. Stroking, breathing, kicking. Stroking, breathing, kicking. But when I arrived a few days before the race and started training in the ocean and was swimming with the turtles and the stick fish, I remembered once, swimming Waimea Bay a different year, I could hear the sound of whales in the distance, and listening to music underwater seemed wrong. The ocean is not a swimming pool.

I’ve started reading a collection of short stories by Megan Staffel, Lessons in Another Language, which I found when I went to the Four Way Books website to order C. Dale Young’s new collection of poetry Torn. Which I also like. But I’m not a poet. Poetry is a mystery. I like watching where a writer goes in a story. In a story I can see what they’re doing. I liked a story I read today called “Salt.” It’s an arid summer. An old man lifts a handful of earth to his mouth and tastes it.

My grandpa. Lived to be ninety-seven. Never left the country but once. He could taste the wind and tell you a hundred things. Some summers he called sweet. Others he called salt. This one’ll be salt.

I’ve been free for six days now. Still getting used to it. I keep waking up in the middle of the night. It’s dawn before four. I like walking around.  I like looking through the screen. Listening. Branches creaking, rubbing together. Before the birds and then the birds.

Yesterday, three times, I saw a sparrow rubbing its beak back and forth, first on a wooden post and twice on a cane of bamboo. Sharpening its beak. Like Plath’s poem, where she is sharpening her eyes against the night, was it?

And what if the sky here is no different,

And  it is my eyes that have been sharpening themselves?

–“Stars over the Dordogne” 

When I awoke later something came to me. That I don’t plan my days any more than I have planned the novel and in neither instance have I made progress.

In Bahasa Indonesia, as I understand it, the word not isn’t used. It’s belum, not yet.  It’s bukan, which is to say, that’s not quite it; I mean something else.

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2 Responses to on swimming on sweet on salt

  1. Lane says:

    Hey Jill, Sounds like your summer’s getting good. Enjoy the freedom, the swimming and the writing…Here we had summer in April and are having rainstorms now. x Lane

  2. Jill Widner says:

    Thanks, Lane. It’s so much easier to float than to stroke. I love rainstorms. We don’t get much rain east of the mountains.

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