When I look back I see it was the water,
salted, green and cool,
sluicing in and out of the river with the tide,
that shaped us.
It was the pull of the current on our skin that cleansed us.
A baptism of sunshine and seawater.
We jumped from heights, waded in, dove headlong.
We were gently cooked by the sun’s benevolent rays.
Summer in the north is transitory;
ephemeral as hummingbirds, lady slippers and northern lights.
Long winter chased us into hiding.
Hiding out in snow suits with Baffin boots.
Swaddled in scarves, mittens and toques.
Some of us (if not all of us) pined for the long light of July days.
The sun warmed water accepted us.
Smoothed us like sandpaper.
Swimming was the first taste of real freedom.
Independence in an alternate medium where not even gravity constrained.
We rose to the surface like corks.
Joy was baked into our minds on summer days that stretched like weeks from sunup to sundown.
Discovery at the beach of our peers;
those who would become lifelong friends, acquaintances and even rivals.
There were dares and cautions.
Knees quaked before launching from the quay.
Legs pumped in the air before crashing like a cymbal in the water.
Looking back there are triumphs and hardships in abundance.
Nothing can erase the joy of being young and alive in the water
which has had the most profound influence of all.