Tag Archives: recovery

Swimming in Joy: Fresh Water, Fresh Perspective

I feel like I’ve come out of a long, dark tunnel. I’m not referring only to the many days in electronic darkness, but that of my last three decades.

I will swim in still* (fresh) water after my laundry is done — for the second time in 30 years. My last still water swim prior to a dip in a pool two weeks ago was in my parents’ pool in Pearland, Texas. They moved out in the mid 90s but my pool rights were revoked in ‘91 (by emotional pressure vs verbal demand).

I began to swim again in 2016 but only in the gulf and with a full-body swimsuit. Never alone. Usually, in fact, I swam while surf fishing with the man I was married to at the time. We rarely went into the surf just to swim.

I don’t swim in much less now, capris and long sleeves because — old. Regardless of one man’s overly kind opinion, this old frame is just not bikini-worthy.

This lake is clear and cool but not cold and unlike the Kentucky lake of last week, not stagnant and covered in cottonwood snow. I’m anxious to submerge myself in it and feel that joy again. At the pool I dipped in, littles were everywhere. Maybe a lake isn’t much healthier, but I know what toddlers do in pools.

Laundry Interlude

I stepped onto wet, broken slate and other stones that serve as the “beach” at this park. The rocks, largely “chips” of stone, really, aren’t sharp but nor are they sand smooth. There’s something comforting about that; perhaps it’s the knowledge that crabs and stingrays won’t be burrowed into those hard slivers and chunks of stone.

As a recent boat wake subsided, I waded out carefully until I was thigh deep. I checked my sunglasses** to make sure the strap was snug, and dove under.

I came up damn near sobbing with joy.

The “pool” at sunset.

The water was cool but not cold, like April coastal beach temps, and soft as silk. It slipped around me without seaweed or sand or other slithery bits. I began a breast stroke out to the buoy that demarcated the swimming area for swimmers and boaters alike. I found the gentle slope just at my height, turned and did a clumsy, half-remembered back-stroke (college swim class) to one side of the buoy, turned and did side strokes, first right (awful) then left (much better). Finally I simply flipped on my back and floated a while; looking up into deep blue summer sky with scattered cumulus clouds and a soft breeze chilling my exposed parts.

After years of not being able to float like my mom, I’ve found in recent years that I can. I always assumed it was because of the salt water at the coast. Nah. I’m just fluffy. Higher body fat percentage makes for good floating. HA!

I repeated the above twice, floating in between to catch my breath. Then decided I should get back to Sam.

In my childhood, Momma could never get me out of the pool. I had sunburns that made me sick and miserable but wanted to be back in the water the next day. As soon as I got back to Blanche, I was wishing I’d stayed in the water.

To be honest, it wasn’t just the obligation of Sam that brought me home. The lingering discomfort with “showing” my body in public, even though almost no skin was visible, just my generous curves, was the greater drive that pulled me out of the water. A young couple camping at the top of the hill, certainly not the least bit interested in an old woman doing laps, kept getting in my head without so much as being within earshot.

Obviously, I have yet another “wound” to sort out and have known that since I left. I am female and have curves. It isn’t up to me to police what men (or anyone for that matter) see or find offensive. It is only up to me to be comfortable in my skin. I have changed my style of dress somewhat since leaving him, but I still don’t show cleavage or wear pants or dresses that fall above my knees. I have twice worn a bikini top with my capris (no long-sleeved rash guard) and felt extremely uncomfortable, but that was more because I am fluffy than because I was showing cleavage.

Still, while I am definitely too old for a bikini, I would love to move from being two steps shy of a burqini. My health allows for that now and my sanity demands it. The very fact that I am even considering this, says I have progressed significantly out of that dark tunnel mentioned above.

*the lake has waves, of course, but compared to a gulf or ocean shoreline, it is “still.”

**I need sun/swim goggles.

Saving the Wounded: Balancing Independence and Support

I know.

I know that this will get better – this masked, COVID-19 isolation after seventeen years in a desolate bubble.

I know because I began to break that bubble in the last two years and walk a path of personal growth.

I began to rescue and transport animals in my community in 2018. In the collage above are (clockwise from top left: baby raccoon, immature Northern gannet, White-tailed deer fawn, Screech owlets, baby opossum, and immature Brown pelican).

By spring of 2019, I had done several transports and releases. Transportation of smallish wild animals is fairly straight-forward: go to someone’s home or business, scoop up a box, get a form filled out by said person, drive animal to rehabilitator. All done with minimal contact with people.

Rescue, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking at first. I had no formal training and the one rescue I’d helped with was that of a sick and weak pelican that wasn’t up for a fight. Complicating matters, I have always been shy and called myself an introvert. I was uncertain how future rescues would go if I was working without a fellow rescuer.

On my first solo pelican rescue, the pelican was hungry and wanted my shad. I lured her in and grabbed her by myself. Other pelican rescues were a mixed bag. Some went great (for me, not so much the bird). Some failed completely as the birds could still fly enough to escape even four or five well-intentioned, but sometimes intimidated, helpers I recruited on the beach.

But always, if there are people on the beach, I have learned to recruit. I’ve done so with other sea birds and Black vultures, as well. In so doing, I’ve learned I’m no introvert. I am shy, yes, but I actually like working with and getting to know people.

In turn, people are almost always willing to help even if they find the larger birds a bit frightening. I am not prideful. I don’t have to do things myself to prove that I am capable or special.

If a large bird can’t be lured, it sometimes has to be rounded up by several of us like closing purse strings. We try to do this quickly to reduce stress on the bird. Sometimes an injured bird can be flushed toward me by one or two helpers so I can then grab it easily. Sometimes, it’s just helpful for someone to distract a sickly, scared gannet so I don’t lose a finger.

Other times, rescues fail and the bird flaps away. The bird will either heal on its own or it will get worse and we may catch it later.

Whatever the circumstances, I always prefer to work with people nearby. This makes them feel good, teaches them about the animals, and gives me a better chance for success. It also connects me to the community. We have a cheerful exchange as they bubble with the excitement of having helped a little furry or feathery life and I love seeing them brighten with joy and pride.

In all rescues, I treat all parties, the animal in need of being saved and the “recruits,” with respect and I work to gain the trust of both.

We all, volunteers, me, and animal, have to work together.

In recent years I have sought personal autonomy (self-government) and some in my life have interpreted this as a need on my part to do everything single-handedly.

I don’t want to stand alone.

I don’t want to walk this life without support. I simply want the right to choose when, how, and who I ask for support.

If I am lonely or hurting, I would like all the normal things lonely people need: affection, attention, someone who has my back.

If I am angry, give me space. My spicy language will give you a clue and I may say outright, “I’m angry. Back off.”

If I’m grieving, well, grief is a strange monster. I’ve been dealing with a great deal of grief in the last several years. I have tried to communicate my needs. I have sometimes succeeded, sometimes failed. People have sometimes just failed me.

Grief has at times closed me off to people and yet opened me up to rediscovering who I used to be.

I can tell you it is harder to know how to help the grieving. I can tell you that leaving someone to flounder in their grief is not a solution, nor is making promises you can’t keep.

I can tell you that I give what I get: Respect, trust, honesty, love, and friendship.

Respect. Trust. Honesty.

Sometimes, as I grieve now, it seems I am the bird healing myself or waiting for things to get bad enough to be caught. Perhaps I just need to be distracted (socialized) so someone can grab me and help me. Probably, it is a bit of both.

I’m still learning how to socialize my shy self after many years of being hidden and wounded. I will figure it out — with help — even if I have to do it with a mask on.

I know.