We can't let summer leave without acknowledgement of the joy of summer swims. Or if not swims, at least time at the lake or shore. We all have our share of memories of favorite times and places. Let these snapshots bring back yours......
Growing up in Stoneham Massachusetts, my family frequently went to "The Lake" - Lake Quannapowett in Wakefield. They were magical times. Climbing on trees over the water with my brother and little sisters, skipping rocks, swimming, picnicking.
My family took a vacation in Pelham New Hampshire one summer. I was very young. I loved fishing for the tiny fish off the end of the dock, and going out to fish in the rowboat. It took a week's worth of fishing to have enough to make a small meal. I remember our fantasizing about buying The Windham Playhouse - a defunct theater and home, and reviving the playhouse. (My mum had been involved in the theater.) Don't we all do that - dream about living at our vacation spots?
I'm not the best swimmer, and as a boy was afraid of having my head under water. But that never stopped me from loving to be in the water. As a boy about 12, I still was afraid of going under water. I was invited to spend a week at my friend Al Petto's family cottage at Lake Winnepesauki in New Hampshire. That meant we'd be spending a lot of time in the lake, and I didn't want to admit I was afraid. So I started practicing putting my head under the water in my bathroom sink at home. I'd fill it up, hold my breath and stick it in there. I'd come up gasping like I had spent 10 minutes in the bottom of the ocean, like in the movie The Abyss. But over time I got used to it, and was able to go to Al's no longer afraid.
We swam and we sailed around the lake on a Sunfish. One would be at the back sailing, and the other would sit in front of the mast. This resulted in lots of spills, since the Sunfish was designed as a one-person boat. The one in front would be tumbled into the water, and more often than not would get put under the sail, and have to swim down and around to get out. It was lucky that I had gotten over my fear. Without the fear, I was able to swim well enough to do this comfortably.
When I was 15 we moved to Nahant - an amazing piece of geography on the North Shore above Boston. Nahant is essentially two small but connected islands, linked to the mainland by a mile-long causeway. The length of that causeway is all one beautiful beach. I can't say I was happy there; I never made friends like I had before. But I sure did love the beaches and the ocean. I spent a lot of time down at the water, sunbathing and body surfing. Sometimes my friend Pete would come to visit. I remember building fires in the sand when it started to cool in the evenings.
As it turned out, the rest of the family wasn't happy in Nahant either, despite the great location, and we moved back to Stoneham. That meant years more of times at the lake, but now often with my friends and even a girl friend. We still had a lot of outings to the shore, and very often to the Nahant causeway.
The funniest swimming story came on a trip to Europe when I was 20, traveling with friends. I traveled for six months, and turned 21 in Paris. My friends and I were driving from Paris to Casablanca in Morocco so that we could visit with the uncle of one of my companions. We drove down the east coast of Spain. These were the days of Franco. Seeing military men all the time carrying machine guns on the back of open jeeps was definitely not something we were used to and was quite unsettling.
When we reached Barcelona we decided to sleep on the beach to the south of the city. To my amazement, my friends didn't want to go into the gorgeous clean water, they just wanted to lay down and go to sleep. We carried sleeping bags so we could sleep outside whenever the situation allowed. But we'd been traveling since early morning in the hot sun - in an old Morris Oxford car we'd bought second-hand. There was a full moon straight out over the Mediterranean. I couldn't wait to get in there. So I stripped off my clothes (no one else was around) and went alone.
I went into the water and stayed a long time. The water was just the right temperature. The air was beautiful. The moon was amazing. I was happy as a clam. This was livin'.
You know how when you're in the water a while you tend to lose track of exactly where you came in? Well I also have always worn glasses, but didn't have them on. So when I was finally coming out of the water, I was pretty unsure of where my friends were. But as I hit the beach, I saw some figures ahead. I was surprised that apparently some of my friends were still up. I ran up to them.
Oops, not my friends. I was within a few feet of them before I realized that I was running naked up to two fully-armed members of Franco's military police. What could I do? I waved (my hand) and said "Hey how are you doing? Just having a swim. Gotta go now." And I ran off in the direction I guessed my friends were. Have you ever actually seen jaws drop? I think they figured I had just swum from America. Whatever they thought, they didn't stop me or follow me, to my great relief.
Summer swimming: You never know what adventures it will bring. Don't let it end! Save clean water.