Monday, June 11, 2012

Learning to Swim

I remember learning how to swim for the first time. Putting all the moves together. Age somewhere between four and six years old. I did it myself.

Our family, plus the high school kids in my dad’s choirs, had traveled by bus to a place in central Florida called Lake Ellen. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to locate a Lake Ellen in Florida again. It was beautiful and the lake was huge and fresh and clear. There was a sandy beach that sloped very gently into deeper water. A diving platform out in the deep water was popular with the teenagers. My brother and sister, David and Diane, were along on the trip, of course.

I was in love with that water. I wanted to get in it and just stay there – it was fresh (not salty like the Gulf) and really clear so you could see things. If I’d been allowed, I would have eaten my peanut butter and banana sandwich while sitting waist-deep in the lake.

I was experimenting with swimming a lot that day. I could already dog-paddle around and I’d watch big people to see how they swam. My mother had a very distinctive version of the crawl, the main purpose of it to never get her hair wet. She would pull each arm out of the water crisply with her elbows high and then kick vigorously so she could keep herself as high in the water as possible. I would occasionally try to copy her, but I couldn’t pull it off. Besides, I wanted to get my hair wet.

Most of my swimming was done underwater, and no dog-paddling. I was definitely doing the breaststroke with my arms. And trying hard to coordinate my leg movements with what I was doing with my arms. At one point, I brought both legs up toward my chest with knees bent and then pushed them out and back so they met and were straight again. At the same time, I was pulling back my arms in my well-practiced breaststroke. I realized I was really swimming and moving forward with what I learned much later was a frog-kick. The Whole Breaststroke. I knew I had mastered swimming.

I kept it up for a couple more coordinated strokes, ran out of air, then leaped up and shouted, “I can swim! I can swim!” I had to find my brother and show him.

Learning takes place like that for me. If I want to learn something – to do it, to just know it – I dive in and mess around with it myself until I do make some sense of it. Oh, I took swimming lessons later on. And I took piano lessons for years. I have taken a lot of writing classes and written together in groups. But it really depends on my heart, my passion, my curiosity, my energy to learn something new. I loved the water, I adored the piano and music, I crave writing and telling stories. And so that is what I have done.  

What is your heart telling you? Where does your passion lie? What are you truly curious about? What energizes you endlessly? I’d love to hear from you.