When I returned to Maine, I began a slow process of reconnecting to the land, water and people I left behind. Pieces of this came together from three separate practices: rowing, swimming, and yoga.
I learned to row when I left Maine to attend university. I needed the muscular exertion, the time on the river, to keep muscles and heart in balance with the training of my mind. Now I row at dawn from a few weeks after the ice melts in April, to late october when ice begins to form at the edges of the beach. I row across the cove, then down to the isthmus. As I practice keeping my balance on the water in a boat that's less than a foot wide and 26 feet long, I keep my eyes on the hills, and trees and boulders on the horizon, and on the changes of the season. Some days there's a wind that skims over the water. Other days, it's rain or fog, or still water with a motorboat's wake. I feel all the changes in the water's energy. No day is ever like any other. The act of balancing is always a challenge.
Swimming in a lake is like a slow full-body tango. There is no place water will not touch, seep, flow. And unlike a pool, everything in the lake is alive and feels. My friend Vera told me there is a tremendous energy in deep water lakes, that a great spirit presides. To swim, is to open to this spirit, to feel muscle and energy and will dissolve at the boundary of skin and water. It is to feel, intensely, but without the usual burden of self-contained ego. When I swim, I belong to the water, and the water to me. When I swim, I am the lake, in one of its fluid forms.
I swim the first few strokes numb with cold, until a thin layer of warmth forms over my skin. I pass over a huge boulder that watches my approach, then the Namegos nests at mid-cove, then the deeper water of the far shore. Here, I greet the huge, garage-sized boulder I call Pahko. I pull myself up on the ledge along her steep side and whack her very hard to be sure she can hear me. She is a slow mover, slower than trees, slower than centuries. When I am near, I have to slow down. When she awakens, I speak, and then I lay my face against her rough cool side and listen. Sometimes she is quiet, other times tones resonate in my heart which I try to follow. The meanings are deeper that consciousness. I let them sink into my dreams. Pahko's twin looms beneath the water, I pass over him as I swim back across the cove. I have seen loon darting underwater here, shadows in the shadowed water.
Back on the dock, I dry off (especially if the air is still cool), then begin a Yoga Sun Salutation. I face east, spread my arms, lift my face to the sun, and breathe in. I gather the energy into my hands, then face them first away, into the cove, the trees, the rocks, the water, and then toward my heart. I greet what is before me and within me, and feel their connection. After this the mountain pose, then warrior, downward dog, cobra, mountain. With this ceremony I reclaim my body from the cove, like putting on my clothes, and I run up the path to make breakfast for my children.