The mist was wicking up off the lake as it had almost 20 years ago. It looked inviting, but cold. What would happen if she dove in and tried to swim out, all alone? Would she stay inside the cordoned off swimming area? What was the point of that? The morning mists were further out, so were the depths. The whole point was to get in, naked, to get into the cold and swim like mad until it didn't feel cold anymore. To go far enough to actually swim and float in that mist. To know and feel the risk, and go anyway.
She remembered the clear baby blue of seeing the morning sky through the wisps of gauzy clouds passing above her as she did her backstroke. She loved moving backwards, on her back with the crown of her head and the tips of her fingers cutting into watery space. Here she could stroke backward without the fear of banging her head or of having to stop this flow of freedom because of a wall. She could go and go and go. Gliding over the water she rested her mind and let body merge with the water. She could feel the strength and power in her arms. She could feel the pressure and volume of the water and its soft resistance in her cupped palms with each and every stroke. And as her ears slipped just beneath the surface there was muffled silence. Here was weight and weightlessness. Here was sound and soundlessness. This lake was a portal to a secret knowing, and a secret world.
It was there that she slipped into her body and the power in that body. She was choosing to risk, without a cover, morning after morning for the joy of it, the exhilaration of it. She was breaking the cardinal rule: "don't swim alone." But it was summer’s end and everyone else was sleeping.
Twenty years had passed since those secret swims. Now she had responsibilities. And priorities, people and work she genuinely cared about. And there wasn't really enough time to jump into the lake that morning, and still prepare the day’s lesson. It was a different lake. And she was a different person. But she looked, she looked long and hard enough to remember. She looked long enough for the flickering light and the still wicking mists to remind her of what freedom felt like. Though this gaze might have lasted only seconds it felt like it held an eternity. The light on the water was like laughter. She smiled and felt a pang of sadness. Who was that girl? Who is she now? Could she still go out in the lake, far out, alone and naked, knowing she could get a muscle cramp and maybe even drown? Could she let the water touch her hair and scalp like fingers. Could she swim out alone, and in her own skin? How different she felt in her own skin. That was the feeling of freedom that the lake gave her.
That is the beauty of water, and the beauty of the lake. It had changed her from inside. The water had woken her up to something. And she remembered. Once she had entered the lake, the lake entered her, and it no longer felt safe on the dock, or free on the shore.