The beach is a place of dreams and liquid laughter spills from the mouths of all those who bathe in the waters of time, making the swimming hole a favourite pastime for those in need of cooling down and old-fashioned fun. Beach time was always one of my favourite ways of enjoying the lazy, endless days of summer.
Checking the weather forecast, I would catch a rare weather notice, brilliant sunshine! What sunshine isn’t? I suppose that in meteorological terms, it means that it will be cloud-free with few of those upper atmosphere smoggy particles to block the sun from reaching your skin. UV indicators will probably shoot sky high, making beach time a dangerous time for fair-skinned mermaids.
The beach, no matter where, brings out the extremes of one’s self consciousness for the first futile hours. The timid are more timid than ever, and the extroverted are willingly more exposed to the elements and tend to overshadow those who have just got sand kicked in their faces by some 98-pound weakling-turned-muscle-bound lifeguard-from-hell. Whatever the case may be, nearly everyone enjoys a good dip in the pool or lake.
Swimming isn’t something that comes easy to the Cree of James and Hudson’s Bays. Their brethren to the south have plenty of lakes with pristine beaches to enjoy during a hot nouchmi summer. But the waters of the north don’t warm up enough even during the hottest days. With an average temperature of one to three degrees Celsius, diving into the brackish waters is better left to seals and whales.
An old saying is that when a man enters the waters of the bays, he returns a much smaller man, equivalent to two raisins and another bellybutton, so to speak. It doesn’t matter if you dare to dip the arctic waters in July since it is so cold, but paradoxically, you can keep your hands warm during the cold of winter in the same water, which is warmer than the winter air.
Another new development is the indoor pool. This has spawned a new era of swimming safely; where trained people are available to kick start your heart in case you go under too long, or in case some over-eager beaver torments you by pulling you under over and over again until your snot becomes part of the chlorine and your tears burn within your goggled specs.
Swimming indoors has its virtues. There are no rocks to crack your head open when diving off the docks, no blood suckers clinging to your gonads, no enormous flies with jaws that look somewhat like a bulldog, no sun to burn your skin through the natural magnifying glass of drops of water on your body. The downside of indoor pools is that the ritual of applying sunscreen is moot, the ugly hair caps and goggles to prevent chlorine burns, and the fact that the swim cannot go further than the edge of the pool.
Back in the day, swimmers were hardier, choosing natural and man made sites as choice places to go for a dip.
I even have a picture of a good friend swimming with the ice of the river still floating by in the back ground. Much to our incredulous admiration for this brave soul, he actually crawled on the ice looking like an Inuit merman for a moment. Other places I have seen people swim is in a sand pit, gravel pit, rock pit, in the ditch and in large puddles.
Gone are those days, and we now have the days of swimming year round. But it’s funny – I miss the feeling of sand between my toes and swatting off the feeding flies from my body.