The summer of jumping in

Last summer, mid-way through July, I finally took the plunge (quite literally) and started jumping in instead of hanging off the dock ladder FOREVER before getting in... (cliff jumping, diving tower jumping, and just plain ol' joyful jumping...)

It's now been a full year and I'm officially a full-fledged JUMPER-INNER. I love it. LOVE IT. Everything about it. #cantstopwontstop

And I played the animal game where the person on the dock counts down from three and when you are mid-air yells the name of an animal you have to make in the air. (ps: BEST. GAME. EVER).

A snake:

I even tried a canon ball (though truth be told it's not my fav):

Here's to more jumps to round out the summer!

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Swimlit: Gillian Best’s The Last Wave is a love letter to the sea

I don’t understand the sea. Not one bit. I grew up in my neighbourhood pool, and in Ontario lakes, and the thought of a shifting shoreline, not to mention undertows, is disorienting, terrifying even. I also can’t read a tide table to save my life. When I hiked the West Coast Trail at 18, I got caught not once, not twice, but three times on the beach with the tides coming in, scrambling up slippery ladders, soaked to my knees.

But if there’s anyone who could convince me of sea swimming, it’s Canadian-born, Bristol-based author Gillian Best. In her debut novel, The Last Wave, Martha, a devoted ocean swimmer who wears the second skin of her bathing suit tan for most of her life, never once steps foot in a pool. “The sea is alive, expansive; a pool is dead and confining. The sea is freedom. There is nothing in a pool: no current, no tide, no waves, and most of all, no history,” Best writes.

In the book, Martha swims to escape just about everything—the drudgery of motherhood, the mind numbingly boring tasks of being a housewife and is so well crafted, when I spoke to Best this week, I had to keep myself from asking how Martha was doing.

Best laughed. “She’s like an imaginary friend to me, too,” she says. “She’s good, she’s doing well.”

Martha doesn’t just swim in the sea, she crosses the English Channel nine (!) times (with one failed attempt). The book traces her swimming journey from 1947 until the present day and includes her Channel swims, estrangement, dementia and a devastating cancer diagnosis.

Best writes: “Gliding through the water almost completely submerged had always been a retreat to a different world for me. Swimming front crawl allowed me to focus inward, blocking everything else out—and the absolute quiet it afforded was unique. No other solitude—not going to the library, not sitting on a bench by myself—allowed my mind to wander so freely, roaming the wilds of my fantasies and the hundreds of other lives I imagined for myself.”

Swimming has also provided sanctuary for Best, the sea omnipresent in her life as well. As a 12-year-old, she spent time visiting San Francisco with her father. “I was always the first one in the ocean and the last one dragged out,” she says. She would collect small bottles of seawater and take them back to land-locked Waterloo with her so she could smell the briny sea during the “grim” Ontario winters and “be transported.”

She believed for years she’d be a professional surfer – something she laughs about now – but realized that it wasn’t surfing she was obsessed with, but the ocean. “It’s a holy experience, how people relate to water,” she says.

After years of swimming competitively, and lifeguarding and teaching swimming, Best moved to Toronto for university and was diagnosed with painful arthritis, a type in which, she describes, her spine and hips are trying to fuse. She began swimming again and says it has saved her time and time again. “I can be limping and hobbling on land, but as soon as I’m in the water, I can move again.”

“For me, water is physical freedom,” she says.

Though Best wrote about the English Channel, and ocean swimming and the power and fortitude of the sea, she admits she’s a pool swimmer herself.

“When I was living in London, I used to swim at London Fields Lido,” she says, a 50m outdoor pool in east London. It’s heated, year round and Best tells me about swimming in the snow on the few snowy days in London. (Check out these amazing photos from The Guardian!) 

“I prefer the wonderful incongruity of a pool in downtown London to Hampstead Heath or the Pond,” she says.

And because I ask every swimmer I met, I asked her if she has any other favourite swimming holes:
1). Her brother’s secret swimming hole in Guelph that he takes her to every time she’s home for a visit (I press for details, but she says she has no directional sense so this one remains a secret!)

2). The Hart House Pool at the University of Toronto: “It’s just so beautiful,” she says.

3). The 25m outdoor pool in her mom’s neighbourhood in Waterloo. “I went for a swim the day I arrived from the UK,” she says. “And it’ll be the last thing I do when I leave, on my way to the airport."

A swimming kindred spirit if I’ve ever known one.


Best will be launching the book in Toronto or Waterloo next week (swimwear option!):

Toronto: Monday, August 14 at 7pm at Glad Day Bookshop (499 Church St).
Free event; everyone is welcome.

Waterloo: Tuesday, August 15th at 7pm at Wordsworth Books (96 King Street South

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, August 11, 2017

Buckskin Lake revisited

I jumped in minutes after arriving at the cottage we've rented for the last two years, leaving everything packed, except my bathing suit, gin for a pair of docktails and some chips.

We were going to leave for the cottage after lunch, to coordinate with the toddler's nap, but my fella and I were up long before the kids (going to the cottage morning is apparently our Christmas morning) so we headed out the moment we could get everything stuffed into our wee car.

The lake was darker than I remember it. And colder this summer than last.

I immediately started swimming across the lake, leaving my family waving on the dock. But three quarters of the way there, I suddenly didn't know the lake and the dark water was made even darker by the tint of my new goggles. I turned around, treading water and clearing my goggles. But there was something in seeing my little family from across the lake that unsettled me.

Last year, I swam the "L" at least daily – across the lake, and the along the far shoreline until the red buoy – but this year, the "L" felt too far. The lake was empty except for the four of us (and one of them depending solely on me for survival) and somehow having a baby, not just a toddler on the dock. The what-if-something-happened thoughts started looming.

That's not to say I didn't swim – I did, just on our side of the lake – an "I" instead of an "L".

There was one beautiful post-dinner swim, where the sun burned the top of the water, and my legs kicked hard against the cold, an early morning swim before the wind had woken up when the water carried an exact replica of the sky, and another perfect mid-day swim where both kids slept and my post-swim snack was s'mores and beer.

There were molars and growth spurts and fevers and rainy days – not exactly the most relaxing vacation, but there was that lake, and a stack of books and docktails no matter what the weather.

Still, I was surprised at how hard it was to say goodbye to the lake I just started getting to know, knowing I might not ever see it again.

Farewell, Buckskin Lake.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Guest Post: Anne-Michelle Tessier, the accidental swimmer

I didn’t intend to be much of a swimmer this summer.

For nearly a decade, I’ve been a runner. An all-season, at least three times a week runner. A road race, trail race, 5k 10k 21k (and one 42k!) runner. I’ve run throughout in January in Edmonton and August in Montreal . I’ve run to the Space Needle and across Deception Bridge and through New Orleans and Manhattan and Port Moody and Hamilton; I’ve run through the Rockies and under the Detroit river, and last season I ran races in both Hell and Paradise, Michigan. Ok, I’m bragging, but you’ll see in a minute while these are merit badges I need to hold onto these days. Running is the primary way I keep sane, keep my body moving forward and my monkey brain at bay.

Then at the beginning of July I badly strained a muscle in my foot. It happened right before a race that I obviously shouldn’t have run, but I did, and so found myself sidelined for at least a month. AN ENTIRE MONTH WITHOUT RUNNING. CUE THE VIOLINS. … And so I took a deep (bilateral) breath and got ready to swim.

In recent years, my summers often involve a membership to the outdoor aquamarine gem of Michigan State University, where grad student triathletes and emeritus breast strokers do steady laps at wildly different speeds. My routine is: slip in, goggles on, breast stroke 50m to the end, one breath, and then front crawl back, for as long as I can stand it. Usually that means no more than half an hour, when either my breathing gets too ragged or my thoughts get beyond bored – normally, both. I long to be one of those dolphins doing flip turns and never stopping but somehow my oxygen levels can’t support it. Occasionally I read blog posts on more efficient swimming, and I remember things I’ve forgotten since swim team for 8 year olds, but trying to implement them at the pool only makes me feel more off-kilter.

Still: with running on hold, there was nothing else to do. In between stretching and strength cross-training and icing like a yeti, I have been going to the pool at least three days a week, and I made it up to 1km with little stopping (but still only 60% front crawl). Every trip to the pool, the lanes first looked cool and inviting, but three laps in they were liquid drudgery.

Then, last week, my friend Cheryl heard about my swimming progress and insisted we go swim in a lake together (well, first she insisted we go swim a FIVE KILOMETRE LAKE RACE together, but I vetoed that pretty fast.) While I’ve been a fair number of lakes, and the odd sea and ocean, my open water swimming has previously been about bobbing, paddling and generalized splashing about. This, however, was to be Actual Open Water Swim. Cheryl wanted to train for the above-mentioned 5k insanity, and I wanted to not look like an idiot behind her.

So yesterday, I pulled on my big girl suit and goggles, and drove half an hour north of the Michigan capital to a beachy lake surrounded by random farming fields, and got ready to swim the unknown. On a Tuesday afternoon, there were probably 30 people on the beach, but most of them were children playing and adults on towels, and those in the water were doing that bobbing and splashing I’ve already discussed. But Cheryl had heard of this lake from triathlete friends, and sure enough there was a woman with a latex head and an underwater watch out beyond the ropes, powering through the little waves. I hoped her location meant the whole rest of the lake wasn’t a mess of weeds? (Which it wasn’t, though they weren’t entirely missing.)

Well, gulp. No getting out of this now.

I told Cheryl I’d actually never swum with a swim cap before and had bought one just for this event, and so I dunked my head a bit like she did and then clumsily pulled it down to my ears. I kind of felt like a robot now, with this sleek new skull? And Cheryl said let’s just swim down to the end and I couldn’t see how to say otherwise, so I nodded and she started swimming away and I followed.
AND. Suddenly, I was swimming and it was so easy. The lake bottom wasn’t too deep, mixed with sand and plants, and the water was sun warmed in places and chilly in others.  And somehow I was front crawling through it, rhythmically, smoothly, barely having to think.  How was this happening? Why was it so effortless? Cheryl looked back frequently to make sure I was fine, but I was, and so we continued. Our laps drew a rectangle in the main section of the lake, back and forth and up and down, and in the end Cheryl’s wrist says we swam about 1.3k although I don’t see how we could have gone that far. It was so little effort.

I remained a little anxious about weeds looming up to slither at me, or maybe running into a fish. But the whole event was over in 40 minutes which felt like only 5, and it seemed I could have swum forever. Was it a miracle caused by wearing a swim cap? I did feel like the prow of a rubbery ship. Or does Motz County Park have secret watery powers of oxygenation? I am not yet sure, but there is clearly something to be accounted for.

… That swim was yesterday. Today marked two weeks from the day the doctor suggested I let the sprain heal two more weeks before trying any running, and so in fact I am writing this post while riding the high following my first, gingerly two mile run. It wasn’t pretty, but it mostly didn’t hurt, and we are going to call that a solid WIN.  Now back home, with my foot pro-actively iced under frozen peas and yesterday’s beach towel still drying in the hall, I’m thinking about a particular feeling I haven’t had in quite a while. It requires a very specific childhood dinosaur memory, so just bear with me for a minute.

When I was a kid, the Royal Ontario Museum had a dinosaur exhibit unparalleled anywhere else in the world (by which I mean, I had only ever seen that one dinosaur exhibit, so it was the best.) One thing that I will insist WAS the best, actually, was this one dark corner of underwater dinosaur diorama, in which a skeletal ichthyosaurus was suspended, under attack by two smaller prehistoric fish (?) (mini-sharks?), and all made to look submerged with flickering navy blue lighting. Although I was intrigued by the bones and the fight scene, in retrospect I was most affected by the light show – under their influence, I felt like I too was at the bottom of this dangerous primordial ocean, and especially when visiting on a hot Toronto summer day, it was both thrilling and refreshing.

Fast forward 25 or so years, to my best summer runs. It is hours after sunset, and I am gleaming with bug spray and pounding the sidewalks. The air is cooling off, though still sticky, and all around me the streetlights and traffic noises and city haze and neighbourhood chatter blend together. And if all the stars align: at some point, my pounding footsteps blur into a single rhythm, and I feel that I’m riding a wave. The light turns navy blue and the air is liquid and I am unstoppable. I’m night-swimming.

Maybe by the end of the summer, my foot will heal enough to go swimming on the pavement again.

In the meantime, we’re finding another lake to swim next week.

It’s turning out to be a good summer.


AMT is a linguist, a runner, a writer, a professor, a swing dancer, and possibly a swimmer. She lives, works and tries to keep moving forward in and around Michigan, but some months is easier found in Vancouver or Toronto. Her household includes another linguist and a dog, both of whom would rather chase the squirrels while she is in the pool.
  • Lindsay
  • Sunday, August 6, 2017

22 weeks till Christmas

It's been a bit of a disappointing summer on the swimming front. I can't even count the number of times I've gotten myself suited up, only to arrive at the pool and be turned away – thunder, often, and the occasional fouling. I have a a 4-month-old which makes mid-day swims tricky (anyone want to walk my baby up and down the boardwalk while I swim??) And I also have a 2.5-year-old which, combined with the baby, makes zipping off for a 7-8pm length swim near impossible. Oh, and then, on a glorious sunny day, I organized all the kids to be taken care of and flew down to the pool, and then was verbally assaulted and it was horrible to say the least. So yah, swimming + me + summer are not jiving like usual.

BUT, I went swimming this morning. The sky was beyond blue and the sun sparkled off the lake like handfuls of tossed diamonds. I walked on deck with a pair of women who I overheard saying, "It's already August, summer's almost over."

"NOT OVER!" I couldn't help but almost-yell (there was definitely panic in my voice).

"You know what I read today on Facebook?" the other woman asked. "It's only 22 weeks till Christmas."


Swim number one was filled with lovely, respectful fast lane swimmers and swim two took place under an increasingly ominous sky. It was my 4-month-old's very first pool experience and it was wonderful, though very short-lived because after dipping her toes in, there was thunder AND lightning and the pool closed*.

Still, SWIMMING. Twice. With tacos and paletas and patio cocktails in between. Because summer**.

* Note to self: don't ever bother getting the kids in sunscreen and swim diapers and bathing suits with packed snacks and water and towels and hats and get excited about a family dip because there will inevitably be thunder and/or lightning and you will end up at home in your not-wet suit making dark and stormy cocktails AGAIN...

**Thirty-three days until the outdoor pools close. I'm going as often as humanly possible.
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The non-inflatable (ahem) Olympic-sized backyard wading pool

My almost-two-and-a-half-year-old hasn't been all that thrilled with swimming this summer. It breaks my swimming heart, though I really can't blame him – it hasn't been all that warm and the wading pools are so cold I barely last three minutes up to my ankles!

To bridge the gap between the months ago swimming lessons and the lake we're heading to shortly, we got a small, blow-up wading pool for the backyard, and I decided to set it up while he napped.

I thought we had gotten a small, maybe three foot wide pool, but it turns out we got the Olympic-sized backyard wading pool. It's over two metres wide and is the entire width of our yard. It's pretty much a small above ground pool.

And then I tried for a full 45 minutes to inflate this way too big pool, wearing my sleeping three-month-old. After a LOT of cursing and flipping this ginormous plastic pool over and over again, it turns out, it turns out it's not an inflatable pool after all. (I only learned this through Instagram. Thanks Kerry and Carolyn for the tip!)  You just unroll it – also not easy – and fill it with GALLONS of water.

I wasn't sure how it was going to go over, so I only filled it a few inches, but after some getting used to it, Jack was all over it. Kicking, splashing, making "coffee soup"...

And when my fella came home, he hopped in too.  Gin and tonics poolside? Positively delightful! (Though I am going to make a dollar store trip and get one that is significantly smaller...!)

And then I took the baby to the Toronto launch of Jessica Lee's swim memoir, Turning, and got to meet her and Lindsey Sutherland, another on-line swimming pal in person, and it was all sorts of wonderful!

ps: if you're looking for the perfect book to read beside a lake/pool/river/backyard wading pool this summer, I can't recommend Turning enough.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, July 12, 2017

On the swim-less days

Summer has finally arrived in Toronto. It has been gloriously sunny for days – perfect swimming weather – but I have a three-month-old and leaving her on the side of the pool in a car seat like my mom did with me back in the early 80s is probably not going to fly. So instead of swimming every day like I want to, I've decided to write about swimming every day that the outdoor pools are open in Toronto. I started on June 17th and will keep on until Labour Day.

Some days are long meandering tales of swimming and water and lakes and rivers, other days are just a few words. Some days I write about swimmable puddles, other days are about lifeguarding. It really is the next best thing to swimming...

June 18
I want my arms to be too tired to hold anything, my legs too heavy to carry the weight of me.

June 19
Four years ago today I sat on a beach made out of rock that clacked under foot, a dry, dull clack that competed with the carousel's song and the waves against the shore. I sat on the stones and wondered if this was the Atlantic, or the sea (I still don't know). I wondered if the tide was coming in or going out – I come from a world of lakes and find the idea of a shifting shoreline disorienting. I sat and debated going around and around on the carousel.

I let the sun sink into my shoulders and slipped sun-warmed stones into my pockets so I wouldn't forget the afternoon.

I wish I had gone swimming in Brighton.

June 26
I want my arms to be too tired to hold anything, my legs too heavy to carry the weight of me. I want to lose count and lost time and feel the calm flood my lungs, the calm that settled into the rhythm of my arms, my breath – 1-2-3-breath, a glimpse of the lane rope, 1-2-3-breath, a glimpse of the tiled edge.

July 1
Underneath the lifeguard chair, between the pool and the deck,
the smallest bit of green watches the sun shift turquoise and blinding.

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rainy day swimming

The only place I can swim today is a puddle in the driveway – a single stroke wide, with a gasoline rainbow separating the deep end from the shallow end.
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, June 29, 2017

The first Sunnyside swim of 2017!

After a less-than-successful first attempt at swimming outdoors last Saturday, followed by a feverish Sunday trapped in bed while the sun shone, I FINALLY made it to Sunnyside this weekend – my very favourite pool to swim in. I had butterflies in my stomach, I was so excited. It felt like Christmas morning, but with chlorine instead of presents under the tree.

The pool was fouling-free and sun-full and I got there right when it opened.

After a lifetime of taking FOREVER to get in the water, my swimming ladies encouraged me to jump in last summer, and so what better way to enter the 2017 summer swimming season than with the biggest jump I could muster.

("Mama jump in swimming pool!" my toddler is still saying. I beam every time!)

The fast lane was SO fast – with a U of T swimmer who was tearing it up, and an older man who apparently was on the national team in the 70s – that I had to marvel at their speed one lane over in the medium lane. I will never tire of watching fast, efficient swimmers. That and watching the across the floor jumping combinations in a dance class are two of my favourite things to witness.

The water didn't have the thick layer of sunscreen like it will by August, but was crisp and perfectly turquoise, warmer than the air. My mind drifted and rambled as it only can during a wonderful swim and when I was done, I made sure to float on my back in the centre of the deep end, letting the huge blue sky full my lungs.

And if that wasn't wonderful enough, I ran into a guard who recognized me from my very pregnant swimming days before I had my daughter a few months ago. He had been guarding the day before I gave birth and got a glimpse of my little girl in her stroller.

It's been thunderstorming ever since (grrrrr), but I have my fingers crossed for sunny swimming days ahead!

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Yesterday/ Today

yesterday's lake was quantum mechanics.
a whale-shaped rock.
a red guitar.
a too-shy bathing suit.
a new romance (not mine).


today's lake was a reminder.
it was not gentle.

  • Laura
  • Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Fouling: A sad swimming tale and a cocktail

I must've done something to piss off the swimming gods.

Granted, I got to talk about swimming in Toronto on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, but after that the week went downhill. There was food poisoning, a lot of vomiting in the hospital bathroom, exhausting solo parenting and not a lot of sleep. But it was all going to be okay because the pools were opening on Saturday and I was going to swim outdoors at my beloved Sunnyside Pool.

I couldn't swim the minute the pool opened – kids, scheduling, etc., etc. – but I finally got my kids fed and down for simultaneous naps (!!), packed my bags, hopped on my bike and biked through High Park. I was so gloriously excited for the first outdoor dip of the season.

When I got to the waterfront trail, I saw an older man strutting along in a Speedo and sandals, a towel around his neck. I asked him how the water was.

“Wonderful,” he replied, “but the pool is closed.”

“Closed?” I asked, bewildered. It wasn’t supposed to close for another two hours.

“Closed,” he said motioning that someone had vomited in the pool. They would re-open in an hour, he promised.

At 3. The pool was supposed to re-open at 3, except my two-month-old would need to nurse at 3:30.

Not gonna lie, I sat on the to beach (grateful I packed a picnic blanket!) and I almost cried. It was a terribly self-pity moment – the week had been so long and so hard and this swim was the only thing keeping me together.

I stared at the lake that looked like an ocean and made a sad Instagram story and eavesdropped on a first date, and watched a couple do mesmerizing things with hula hoops.

I tried to read my book as the sky darkened and got two texts – one from my sister and one from my fella. They’d both heard thunder.

And thunder means lightning and pools have to close.

I called Sunnyside (at 2:56), but they were still opening at 3. Whew! I biked over as fast as I could. I was going to be the first one in.

Except when I got there, there was a lifeguard standing at the door. “Thunder,” she said over and over again to *very * disappointed would-be swimmers.

I couldn’t hold back. I actually sobbed on the beach. In the rain. It was so sad and pathetic it almost makes me laugh now (almost…I’m not quite over it).

I biked home in the torrential rain, thunder rumbling, lightning spiking. I was actually relieved it was an actual thunderstorm and not just a wayward grumble.

I got home soaked and freezing. My fella had a pile of towels at the ready and handed me a hot toddy.

Of course the sun came out later, and the pool reopened (after my kid-free window had closed, of course), so I decided the only thing to do was make a happy hour cocktail to commemorate this ridiculousness of the afternoon.

May I present, “The Fouling” – a dark and stormy (ginger beer, rum and lime) with a chocolate garnish:

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 19, 2017

A Swimming Holes We Have Known approved summer swimming pool checklist

The pools (well, some pools!) open this coming Saturday and I'll be chatting about swimming in Toronto on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on June 13th at 7:25am. I could not be more excited! 

Ten outdoor pools are opening on the 17th on evenings and weekends (including my beloved Sunnyside Pool!) and the rest of the pools open on June 24th (evenings and weekends) and then it's a swimming bonanza when summer schedules go into effect on Friday June 30th!

Here's a list of all the City pools and their opening dates (and links to each pool's page!)

In case it's been a while since you last swam outdoors, here's a Swimming Holes We Have Known approved summer swimming pool checklist:

Don't forget...
- your suit
- a quarter for a locker (and an extra in case the locker eats the first one/a fellow swimmer has forgotten one)
- flip flops
- waterproof sunscreen
- sunglasses
- goggles
- towel(s)
- underpants (Laura made this handy reminder)
- a book for on-deck reading (Note: no newspapers allowed!)
- extra hair elastics if you're of the long-haired persuasion
- a water bottle
- a small Ziploc baggie for your phone
- extra swim diapers if you're swimming with a toddler
- a plastic bag for post-swim wet suits/towels
- swim snacks for the post-swim hungries (Rhya's go-to is Doritos. I'm a fan of the swim biscuit)

Sunnyside Pool is full and ready to go!!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 12, 2017

The generosity of water: Jessica J. Lee's swim memoir, Turning

In the weeks after my daughter was born, I wasn’t allowed to swim. I missed it desperately though and those eight swimless postpartum weeks felt like months. BUT, one Saturday, I was hauling children and car seats and emptied boxes of raisins out of the car and a woman showed up on my front lawn – a friend of swimmer/writer Jessica J. Lee, who had a book for me – Lee's swim memoir Turning: A Year in the Water, sent all the way from Berlin.

I e-met Lee months ago through Twitter (thanks Shawn!) and have been inspired by her swim-ventures ever since. I was fascinated and dumbstruck by her tweets about swimming in the coldest days of winter, packing a hammer and a toque (and I interviewed her here!)

"I'm at home in the water, and I'm not scared to be alone here," she writes.

In a single year, Lee decided to swim in 52 lakes around Berlin, in part to heal her broken heart, in part to reclaim the geography as her own. There is something so healing about submerging yourself in a different element – I can't count the number of times I have swam through deep grief, my goggles filling with tears I would have to empty in the shallow end. It is the closest thing to meditation as I have ever known and has saved me on too many occasions to count – broken hearts, lost loved ones, a failed dance career, debilitating injuries, postpartum chaos…

"There's a kind of offering in the generosity of water holding you afloat. In the way water holds feeling, how the body is most alive submerged and enveloped, there's the fullness of grace given freely,” Lee writes. Yes yes yes, I nodded while reading. Yes yes.

The rules for the project were: no swimming pools, no wetsuits. All the lakes had to be reachable by public transport, bike, or on foot. All had to be reasonable distances (i.e. day trips) from central Berlin.

Lee writes with depth and eloquence, weaving together her personal relationship to swimming and lakes, to the complications relationships of the geography of the lakes she swims in (swimming in lakes near former Nazi bunkers, and a lake that was once divided into East and West Germany by a line through its centre). It is a beautiful meditation on swimming and water and what it is to heal and find your strength once again

I am a fair-weather swimmer when it comes to outdoor swimming. I'm a summer swimmer, and even then it can take me forever to get in the water. I’ve never once even considered doing a polar bear dip, but Lee talks about the endorphin rush of swimming in the winter lakes, literally hammering her way through the ice, toque on, counting out her strokes, and I would find myself reading these winter passages faster, wanting to get the same rush vicariously through her winter swimming. I didn’t ever think that swimming in a frozen lake could be romanticized, but I caught myself dreaming of a trip to Germany next winter – toque, suit and hammer packed…

In reading Turning, I learned more about water than I have all my life – the physiology of lakes, the biology of lakes, how the temperature changes, how wind and depth and algae determine the quality of the water.

Until we three swimmers were swimming in the Gatineau River last summer, I hadn’t thought much about the different textures of water, but Rhya was fascinated by how silky the dark river water felt (turns out it comes from the many, many sunken and decomposing logs at the bottom of the river). And of course Lee explores the different textures of the water she swims in. “The water I grew up with was hard, cutting...the lake a whetted blade,” she writes of the Canadian lakes of her childhood. “The water in Berlin has a softness to it. Maybe it's the sands buffing the edges of the water like splinters from a beam. It slips over you like a blanket.”

“There's a safety in this feeling. In the lakes here, there's a feeling of enclosure and security that Canada can't replicate.”

(This is where it took all of my will power not to buy a plane ticket to Berlin…)

After swimming through heartbreak, three seasons in, Lee develops a friendship with another wild swimmer, Anne. Their connection is deep and generous in a way that swimming friendships are. I’m not exactly sure why, but swimming friendships are special, different somehow than other types of friendships. And as the two of them sought out the last few lakes in the 52-lake year, their friendship deepening and widening, the lakes: "became points of light in the landscape, generous, steady and incalculably beautiful.”

Jessica’s coming to Toronto this summer and we’re going to go swimming. I truly can’t wait.

You can buy the book here, or at your fav indie book shop!

Tuesday, July 11 from 6-8pm

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Countdown to the First Outdoor Swim of the Summer

This winter was cold, gray and loooonnnnnnng.

I sometimes plan a trip somewhere south to shake the February blues, but this year I was working on a big project – the launch of – and I couldn't get away from my design shackles.

So, I decided instead to pass the cold months with a countdown to the first outdoor swim of the summer -- arguably the greatest swim of the year, especially in Ontario. My countdown was a #tbt series on Instagram, revisiting of some of the best & worst swimming holes I have known in the past.

For those of you who missed them on Insta, here's the recap... and at the end... well let's just say Summer 2017 has BEGUN... with a SPLASH!!


1. March 23 #TBT -- Provence:

That time we all lived at Poor Peter's Chateau in Provence. (*this is Chateau de Massillon in Uchaux. Spectacular place. Was there doing a photoshoot with Rob Howard for Butterfield & Robinson. Chris T was an exceptional sport and dove into this pool about a million times for the camera. Poor, poor Chris. Luckily, CHAMPAGNE afterwards.)


2. March 28 #TBT -- Puglia:
This one had ancient olive trees and palm covered chairs to fall asleep in. Puglia, Italy. (*Can't recall the name of the hotel at the moment. But it was the first time I had burrata and I. WENT. BANANAS. (Photo: Rob Howard)


3. April 6 #TBT -- Tulum:

This was Tulum. I went on a retreat to this beautiful place called Amansala, for which they refurbished Pablo Escobar's former beach house. Magnificent place. (Relocated due to sad and terrifying mafia story two weeks after I left). Wish I was reading and jumping into those waves from that swinging bed today....


4. April 12 #TBT -- Santorini:

This swimming hole was a real-life fantasy. The infinity pool at the Perivolas Hotel on Santorini overlooks where they say the Lost Atlantis dwells. Arguably the most beautiful place in the world. I can hardly believe I came home.  


5. April 20 #TBT -- Baja:

This was Baja and you weren't really supposed to swim on this particular beach. There was a menacing Undertoad, as Garp would say. (Plus schools of stingrays and the occasional dolphin / whale). But we did swim here, just briefly enough to be reminded of the awesome power of Big Water. Big beach. Big sky. Big feels. I loved Baja.  


6. April 27 #TBT -- Marrakech:

This is Jnane Tamsna, in the Palmerie just outside of Marrakech, which I ended up at because Carmen and I had a impulsive late night bidding session on LuxuryLink a few years ago... oops! Gorgeous, elegant place, look it up! (Photo credit: Hip Hotels)

7. May 4 #TBT -- Aruba:

This was Aruba, where I went with my mom a couple of Februaries ago. I was extremely exhausted when I got there so I slept on a lounge chair everyday with this as my view and a few times a day I would slip in and swim back and forth beside that breakwall. It was quiet and so beautiful. UNTIL around 5pm when the tide went out and these little holes in the sand underwater would appear and all these toilet-papery ribbons filled the bay... took a moment to realize they were CREATURES of some kind (eeeek!!!) but we just took that as our signal that happy hour was upon us and we'd go for a cocktail and get ready for dinner. 


8. May 11 #TBT -- Costa Rica:

This was Costa Rica. I stayed in this nice teeny hotel owned by a Canadian couple with a good wine cellar, and you had to walk down (and then back UP!) this steep hill to get to the beach. I regret to inform you that I did not have a good time at this swimming hole... it wasn't its fault though -- it had a great beach shack with cold beer and fish sandwiches, and I read an excellent book there (The Shadow of the Wind). But my companion was really mean to me on that trip and you all know that I don't like meanies. So, I guess I need a Do Over, Costa Rica... and I have a plan... 


8. May 18 #TBT -- Tuscany:

My fave day of the week, the Swimming Hole Countdown! with a look back to Tuscany and the insane view from the infinity pool at winemaker Roberto Cipresso's agriturismo.


9. May 24 #TBT -- Lake of Bays:

The big question of the day is: will the Swimming Hole Countdown end this weekend??? Will the Paper Crown Queen end up IN THE LAKE IN MAY for the second year in a row?? Stay tuned... but in the meantime, THIS Swimming Hole I Have Known is the Lake of Bays which I have loved for many reasons... there is a very nice boat from which to jump off the back, and that same very nice boat often has margaritas hand-delivered to it while we read twin copies of the same book and I ask my friend Don all the questions I can think of.


10. And the countdown brings us to Georgian Bay, May 28, 2017:


Parka: 1. Bathing suit: 0. 

Wool socks with sandals: 1. Bathing suit: 0.


Found in cottage closet: wetsuits circa 1983. And our inner Charlie's Angels.  


WE ARE IN!!!!  

May 28, 2017. Bone Island, Georgian Bay. The water temperature was below 60° C.

Summer has officially begun. Get in!

  • Laura
  • Friday, June 2, 2017

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