January swimming in small-town Saskatchewan

Friday, January 8, 2016

Most people don't go to small-town Saskatchewan to swim, especially in January, and though swimming wasn't my primary intention when I went in 2012, it's what I did a lot of.

I went with some wonderful artists to work as a writer on a project about home. During the week I taught at a high school in Yorkton and worked on a script and on the weekends, I walked along railway tracks and tromped through snow-covered fields in my huge winter boots and poked around abandoned farm houses that housed birds and coyotes and all sorts of things that terrified me. 

The days and the evenings were full, with teaching and rehearsing and writing and editing. There was so much writing, I knew I needed to swim.

I found a pool that was about 2km from the school -- The Gallagher Centre. It was huge. There were two pools, one with waterslides, another for length swim, a lazy river, a sauna, steam room. It was a veritable swimming utopia. It wasn't cheap, and it wasn't close, but it was heaven.

I swam in the fast lane with a bunch of retired farmers who would stand around the shallow end and talk about the weather, which is usually boring, except when it's 40 below, -50 with the windchill, and you've never felt cold like that in all of your life, it's actually quite fascinating. They were most impressed that the city girl from Toronto knew how to dress for the cold. 

I'd get a ride up when our morning classes were done and then I'd walk back after my swim, listening to the Deep Dark Woods and marvelling at the sun dogs. There were afternoons when I'd get stuck on the wrong side of the train tracks, waiting for a huge never-ending train go by. (Does it get any more Prairie than that?)

I learned pretty quickly that even with a balaclava and a hat and a hood, I had to dry my hair completely before heading out into the cold. I also realized that mascara would freeze in tiny beads on the tips of my eyelashes and then as soon as I got back to school, it would drip down my cheeks. The students thought it was hilarious -- the city girl who thought she could wear mascara walking around in a Saskatchewan winter.

Those swims kept me grounded in a whirlwind month of creation (though I still wish I had gone down the twirly slide!)

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