Monday, August 15, 2011

On swimming

It's hot, y'all.

I warned you there would be a lot of complaining about the heat, right? Because it's HOT. Like, really, really hot. All the time. And muggy. So very, very muggy.

And here's one thing that pisses me off about this. Everyone told me all this humidity would be great for my skin. I expected to glow. So why do I have scaly patches spreading across my face? Oh, right. Because it's too frigging hot to go outside and soak up the humidity.

I spent one night at my friends place at the south end of the beach (farther away from me but, from what I understand, slightly preferred to the resorty madness in Myrtle Beach). We did make it to the beach. It was nice. Stiff salt breeze, hilarious people watching of mahogany-colored blond girls who will doubtless end up looking like old luggage one day. Waves. Honestly, if I lived near the beach, I imagine I'd go there with some regularity. And since I wear sunscreen, my dry lizard skin might go away. But a) I don't live near the beach and b) have I mentioned that I'm kind of afraid of swimming in the ocean?

It's not that I'm not a swimmer. I love swimming. I was on a swim team for awhile when I was a kid, and I actually would have been good if I'd had a drop of competitive spirit in my blood (I've since developed that drive, but not related to physical pursuits. For the only race I've ever participated in, a half marathon, my only goal was finishing. I don't even like competitive ping-pong. But get me on a monopoly board and I will make you my bitch - or pout when I lose).

It's not that I fear swimming in natural bodies of water, necessarily. I grew up swimming in rivers and lakes. I have very distinct memories of swimming in the Santiam River with my sister when I was a kid. There was one swift channel that the little kids were too scared to swim across, and I remember with pride the first time I made it. I was finally big enough to hang with my big sister and the older cousins on the far bank. My older cousins were awesome.

However, where I'm from, you do not swim in the ocean. First of all, it's cold. Year-round. Frigid. Numbing. There's also the fact that there's usually a giant, terrifying break far away, dangerous riptides, something called a sneaker wave, and great white sharks. But really, it's the cold. When you're a kid, you wade in until the water comes up to maybe your hips, you laugh and splash for about five minutes, daring your sister to go out a little father, then your feet turn blue so you return to your sandcastle. Before long, it's off to Moe's for some chowder. And that's if it's not raining on the day you make it to the beach, which it usually is, year-round.

My first experience swimming in the ocean was in Mexico when I was in my early 20s. I didn't know that when a wave was coming for your head you were supposed to dive under it, so I just closed my eyes and got knocked into the sand. When I recovered, my top was around my neck and my sunglasses were floating toward my boyfriend's dad. Sweet.

Plus. Jellyfish. Ugh.

While explaining the ins and outs and complications relating to my many excuses for taking constant shelter in the loving, frigid arms of central air, a friend asked me why I don't go swimming in the river near my house.

That's fucking hilarious.

Here's an illustrative anecdote: Roomie and I recently tried to take an early morning kayak trip on the Waccamaw River. Not only was it 90 degrees by 9 am, but the river is largely swamp. So, you know, gross. And the parts that aren't totally swampy are still blackwater. As in, the color of black tea. I know I've covered this, but it bears repeating. The Santiam, when you stand above it, is green, but when you're in the water, it's clear. You can't see your own boobs in blackwater. In the Santiam, or the Deschutes, you can watch trout swimming by. You can check out the periwinkles nestled in the rocks.

I hope the "where I come from" rant hasn't gotten old, but if you haven't been, have you at least seen pictures of Oregon? Just google Crater Lake. I'll give you a sec. Or, another of my favorites, Clear Lake. Crystal clear mountain runoff, kids. This is what I'm used to.

And the thing is, no one can say that there's nothing to fear in the blackwater! Snakes! Venemous ones! Vicious biting turtles! Fucking alligators! No, for real. We had to turn around on our little kayak outing last weekend when we saw a 6-footer ahead of us.

I'm not sure what to do except whine, moisturize, and wait for autumn. I'll be the one sitting inside with the blinds drawn, dreaming of scarves, sweaters, boots, and pumpkin pies.