In a Nebraskan quarry: Back floats

Monday, August 17, 2015



I didn't do any research before I went, but it turns out Nebraska gets really hot in the summer. Really windy, and really hot. My room was on the third floor of an old house and had one window that opened, and one window that didn't. I have never been so hot in all my life.

When Charles or Adele were also too hot from making sculptures and collecting seeds from native plants in the mid-day sun to stand it anymore, we would pile in one of their cars and drive past fields of seed corn and feed corn, across the bridge that spanned a shallow brown river to an old quarry. The beach was long and the water was so deep no one ever dove to the bottom and if you swam to the centre of it, you could see telephone poles and the empty highway. 

I swam the width of the quarry, back and forth and back and forth, and thought about different types of grief until my arms were too tired to keep going and then I would lie in the too-hot sand and listen to Adele talk about architecture and Japan and the rare snake she and her grandmother found once and kept in the deep freezer. That, or breaststroke to where Charles lay on his back, floating. I had never known a man who could float until I met Charles, lying on his back, eyes closed, as close to asleep as you could be while in water.

You have to fill your lungs and find your fulcrum, he said. And I practiced and practiced in that cold Nebraskan quarry. I practiced until I found that hinge, somewhere above my hipbones, and figured out how to keep my lungs three-quarters full. 

I have never been able to float on my back like that, entirely still and nearly asleep, ever since. 

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