The First Lake Swim of the Summer

I look forward ALL winter to summer in Ontario.

Summer in Ontario is Cottage Season, with a Capital Awesome.

It's kind of a badge of honour to see how early in the season you can jump in the lake. April is for crazy people. May is for daredevils. June is for lake lovers. July is for my Mom.

So this weekend when I went up to Bone Island in Georgian Bay, I was feeling all madcap and audacious as I prepared for my Big First Jump. Mid-flight between dock and water I let out a big yelp, bracing myself for the polar-bear shock.

To my complete and utter delight though, the water was INCREDIBLE.

Instead of shivering and cursing while racing across the dock for a big Hudson’s Bay towel to wrap up in, I stayed in. I swam. I STARFISHED. I daydreamed about how great this summer is going to be.

It was the best first jump in, ever. I can’t wait for more. 

  • Laura
  • Sunday, May 29, 2016

An unremarkable (and still delightful) swimming week

This week has been fairly typical as far as swimming weeks go. Two swims on the weekend and one on Monday evening. And though there were ginormous male egos in the fast lane for a few of those swims, (it's really a surprise there was room for anyone else in that lane!), on Monday night I had the lane to myself for 20 minutes and the entire pool to myself for a full 10. It was glorious.

I have also kept up with my 10 minutes sprinting regime. I hate it, and I love it. And I love it so much.

I tried to swim twice on Saturday, once during length swim (check!), and once with my kid (uncheck). We had forgotten that the Gardiner was closed so traffic was insane and we didn't make it to the pool before it closed. Instead we stumbled on a (free!) Daniel Lanois concert and had mojitos instead.

But mid-week, I biked to the lake with my kid. It was the longest ride we've ever done as a pair. And the view of that lake is something else. I showed him where the horizon was and we marvelled at how blue the water was, and also how transparent. Seagulls dive-bombed the surface, entertaining my kid to no end and it took everything I had not to go running into the shallows.

This week I also spotted City of Toronto trucks parked outside High Park pool, and workers standing in the deep end, readying it for summer (SOON!) The countdown to outdoor city swimming is on.

Oh, and I also learned that chips are not the best pre-swim snack, nor is homemade chocolate ice cream though you probably all know that already...
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Moon Shaped Pool

Three new poems inspired by the title of Radiohead's new album, A Moon Shaped Pool.

* * * * * * *


Something like regret gnaws at the edges of his stomach as he walks through his field, the once groomed path now plagued by those sharp dandelions that make bare feet impossible.

A song was written here, about a fingernail moon that hung on a dark night over this field, once her field… the pond, still hers and somehow always will be. The blackbirds want it this way. They will mind her future, and the windmill will remember the score.


Something like hunger hovers at the edges of her stomach as she walks through her new garden, a green constellation connected overhead by strings, soft moss held in place.

She has built water into the plan again, this time with less abandon, carefully reflecting between beachcombed rocks under her planted web. The same moon, a different pool, a changed face, new stars.


* * * * * * *


Pre Flight.

With a bend and dip,
I graze my toes across the surface of the pool.

In the night, my skin flashes the color of bleached bone.
My foot, now a parched and prehistoric creature,
Searching for respite under the wet crust rippling before me.

A blinking galaxy falls in strands behind me.
Tiny stars snapping and sparking
The sound of fire and breaking branches.

I stand at the edge of the undiscovered world,
With flip flops, and crackling hair,
The scent of molding patio furniture and damp towels,
Hanging heavy in the air.


One deep breath
One brave step
One descent.

A sinking rocket,
A muted skeleton,
Rushing down,

To claim the floor of the watery moon as home.



* * * * * * *


Front crawl when it's waxing,
breaststroke when it's waning,
and butterfly when the moon is full,
gasping wings around the craters.


* * * * * * *

  • Laura
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The only way to go fast is to go fast

I am not fast. I prefer slow and steady – with swimming, running when I used to run, biking, even writing. I prefer the half marathon to the 5K, novel writing and an hour of the same steady stroke in the pool.

My fast lane friend is a sprinter. He does 50m as hard as possible, then catches his breath in the shallow end. He does that for almost an hour and I realized on Saturday it has been years since I sprinted. Probably since a coach insisted I do it (and that would've been in high school!)

But I wrote a short story the other week (with the really short deadline!) I worked hard, really early in the mornings and it was exhilarating and surprisingly fun. After a week I pressed "send" and decided it was time to do the swimming version of short story writing. Now for the last 10 minutes of every swim, I sprint. It is hard and I feel a bit like vomiting, my lungs aching, my heart pounding.

"The only way to go fast is to go fast," my triathlete fast lane friend noted and it's true. Outside of technique, all my slow and steady lengths can't really prepare me for these mad bursts, but it is time to go fast, at least for 10 minutes at a time. Because I can, because why not, because it's surprisingly fun to feel my heart thudding in my throat.
  • Lindsay
  • Monday, May 9, 2016

Cinema Piscine

Last night I went to see an art film installation called Pools… it was a film about a swimmer, and it was screened IN a pool. Like, they actually drained the water and put in a projection screen and a bunch of chairs and we all sat on the bottom of the pool and watched the film.

It’s amazing to me how many people make art about swimming.

We 3 swimmers are all currently drooling over one of our favourite artists, Lisa Congdon’s new illustrated book called The Joy of Swimming, and for many months now, we have been collecting and posting some of our favourite swimming art on our Pinterest board.

Our respective homes have been filling up with new pieces for our collections, and it's an ongoing thrill to see other blogs, like the Jealous Curator, feature some phenomenal swim art. I am currently OBSESSED with the work of Slovakian photographer Mária Svarbová.

The thing about this film I saw last night was that I was actually swimming through someone else's eyes... the artist went to some beautiful pools in London and Finland and Iceland with a GoPro camera strapped to his bathing cap.

And so, through the lens of this other person cutting their way through the blue, I turned my head when he did, I breathed when he did, I bobbed up to see the view of the old lady in the pink bathing suit at the end of the lane when he did. And I marvelled at how different his hands finished his strokes from how I do mine.

There was a little turn of the wrist that I don't do.

He doesn't breathe out bubbles the way I do.

He looks around at the bottom of the pool differently than I do.

It was an interesting experience, this borrowed, goggled viewpoint.

I felt a little seasick by the time the lights went up and I was happy to gulp in the spring night air on my bike ride home. It was then that I realized that it was the first time I have ever been in a public pool without my bathing suit on.*

 * * * * * * * * *

Pierre Tremblay’s Pools, screened at Ryerson University in Toronto on May 4, 2016 

From Lisa Congdon’s The Joy of Swimming: A Celebration of Our Love For Getting in the Water


From Mária Svarbová’s In Swimming Pool series

 * * * * * * * * *

*Special hat tip to Natalie Roth who invited me to see Pools with her (and for the rousing post-show discussion and observations.)

  • Laura
  • Thursday, May 5, 2016

Missing my work-pool fast lane

I used to swim at lunch in a pool near my work. I don’t know how I got away with goggle marks around my eyes for every afternoon meeting for 5+ years, reeking of chlorine, but somehow I managed. The pool wasn’t great—the water was often waaaaaay too hot, and the change rooms were grimy, but it was a pool with a lane swim during my lunch hour and was close enough to walk to from my office.

The pool had the archetypes that every pool has – the bobbing breast stroke ladies, the triathlete, the bossy know-it-all (this particular guy was the slimiest swimmer I have ever met. I swam in the medium lane whenever he showed up).

I’m not a big talker when I’m swimming. I don’t really hang around the shallow end chit-chatting, but over the years, I got to know the other fast lane swimmers:
* The guy who had a fancy waterproof case on his phone who timed how long each 50m took him to swim.
* The really fast swimmer who looked so much like my ex, I pulled off my goggles the first time I saw him to make sure it wasn’t him.
* The white-haired angry guy who yelled at anyone who didn’t follow the rules, and would intentionally crash into people who were swimming the wrong direction.
* The tall, kind man with the large Celtic tattoo on his upper back who used a striped pull buoy and did a lot of arms only.
* The bald guy with a wicked whip kick and blue eyes who worked at a hospital nearby.
* And the one woman, a kind, soft-spoken woman who only swam in the fast lane occasionally. She did yoga before getting in the pool and rolled her eyes with me at the male egos that occasionally overtook the fast lane.

We were all there to swim and didn’t really talk beyond a cursory “hello,” or “enjoy your swim.” But that changed when I was pregnant. It took a long while for me to show, even in a bathing suit, and for months no one said anything. I was grateful on one hand for not having to talk about my body, or pregnancy (which, when you’re pregnant most people want to do), but it also felt strange to be in a bathing suit, with this flip turning baby that no one seemed to notice.

I was 30 weeks along before anyone said anything. I had to stop in the deep end and get my son’s foot out from under my rib and it was the tall man with the Celtic tattoo who asked. “I was wondering,” he said, noting he had seen me using the ladder to get out of the pool instead of hopping out.

And all of a sudden this silent group of swimmers became chatty, even the white-haired angry guy. They told me about their kids’ births, about their wives’ pregnancies, about their family trips, and the trips they took without their kids, missing them the whole time. They buoyed me when the last thing I wanted to do was pull a bathing suit on over my belly and get in the water and I looked forward not only to swimming, but also to chatting in the shallow end with this motley crew of fast lane swimmers.

But I haven’t seen them since my son arrived. I didn’t go back to work post-mat leave, and the pool is nowhere near my home and I realized today in my neighbourhood fast lane, that I miss those guys whose names I never knew, that weird five+ year fast lane family.

I want to tell them about Jack, about how I was swimming the day I went into labour. I want to tell them they were right, it has been the best and hardest and most wonderful year, and that as Celtic Tattoo predicted, swimming got me through it.
  • Lindsay
  • Monday, May 2, 2016

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