Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Yesterday I went swimming! In Dry Creek, in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, near the extinct gold mining town of Waldo. First I had to drive my poor little Nissan Sentra over about four and a half miles of gravel road - so, about nine miles round-trip, which is probably the longest stretch of gravel road I've ever driven it over. At the end of this gravel road, when I was sure I was miles from the nearest human being, I arrived at a dirt parking lot completely full of cars. (I wasn't entirely surprised, because I've been here before, though not alone, not as the person doing the driving, and it always turns out to be crowded.)

There's a swimming hole there, a very popular one with a huge rope swing dangling from an oak tree, which I had actually never personally seen before yesterday, although I was dimly aware of its existence from having seen photographs of it, and also a smaller, nearly always empty one a bit upstream of the other, which was where I always swam before. Yesterday I started out at the smaller one but wandered downstream (walking on the creek bottom) until I discovered the larger one. I then went back and forth repeatedly between the two. Unfortunately the trip from one to the other was a bit bothersome each time, because the creek is about one foot deep for much of the distance between them, so I had to walk most of it rather than swim it, and the rocks are hard to walk on, so I fell down many times. It never really hurt, though; I only ended up with a few tiny scratches on one knee and a bit of a bruise on that knee.

The smaller, empty swimming hole is under a bridge. The underside of the bridge is covered with hundreds of cliff swallow nests, from which the cliff swallows were coming and going continuously, one or a few at a time. I floated beneath the bridge and watched the cliff swallows, and watched various fish in the water, and watched dragonflies and damselflies and honeybees and, once, a hummingbird, visiting the flowers of the buttonbushes lining both sides of the river. I helped myself to the Himalayan blackberries and examined the non-native grapes, though the grapes weren't ripe yet. On my way to the larger swimming hole, I discovered some very large tadpoles, approaching frogness.

In the more popular swimming hole, I watched people swinging out over the water from the huge rope swing. They would hold onto the rope with their hands, jump off the high part of the riverbank, and swing out as far as they could over the water before letting go. Most people made this look easy, although there was one woman, similar in age to me, maybe a little younger, but heavier than me, who dragged her feet along the bank the first time she tried it and let go of the rope before even hardly reaching the water at all. She was immediately coached in how to do better, and the second time she tried it, she made a very passable effort.

Getting tired of being surrounded by people, I returned to the more private swimming hole. On my way upstream, I suddenly found myself face to face with a muskrat. It was swimming straight toward me from about two feet away. We both noticed each other at the same moment, and we both swerved to avoid colliding. The muskrat then dived underwater and did not resurface within sight of me.

Eventually everyone else went home. I then returned to the popular swimming hole to have a try at the rope swing myself, now that there was no one around to embarrass myself in front of. (I prefer to embarrass myself later by describing my misadventures on the Internet.) I did exactly the same thing that I had watched the other woman do earlier. Except that I didn't get any better on the second try . . . nor the third. I gave up. It was terrifying each time, even though I never got more than about an inch off the ground. I think the problem was that I simply don't seem to be capable of holding myself up with my arms, not even for the tiniest fraction of a second. I couldn't do it in high school P.E. classes either . . . I remember that we were supposed to climb ropes one day, and I simply couldn't do it, by which I do mean that I literally never got off the ground.

But . . . muskrat! Cliff swallows! Hummingbird! And so on. There was so much that was lovely. I should go back again soon. Though it does mean driving my not-at-all-off-road-worthy car over an awful lot of gravel.

I didn't bring my real camera with me, because I didn't want to risk leaving it sitting on the creekbank in the sun where it might melt or fall into the water or be stolen, but I did bring my iPhone and took this picture with it. This is the larger swimming hole, with the rope swing dangling from the tree.

I also attempted to photograph the cliff swallows and the fish and the scenery in general, but cellphone photographs tend not to turn out very well, so those aren't worth posting.

Today I have a slightly bruised little finger from the rope swing, a bruised knee from falling down in the shallow part of the creek, and very, very slightly sore arms and legs from the swimming. I'm glad about the sore arms and legs; I spent quite a few hours in the water but wasn't sure I spent enough time actively swimming for it to count as exercise. Apparently I did. Swimming is a very strange sensation for me these days, because I grew up with a swimming pool and am used to feeling like a competent swimmer, but I've been terribly out of practice for all my adult life and therefore feel strangely incompetent now. I haven't forgotten everything, though; I'm perfectly capable of remaining afloat, at least, which is the most important part. I've just lost a lot of my sense of confidence that I'm using the "right" motions to achieve the goals of moving through the water and staying afloat.

Also, I do not have a sunburn! Not even on my irradiated skin that now burns in 30 seconds flat (as opposed to five minutes, which is about how long it takes the rest of my skin to burn). I used up the remnants of three different tubes of sunscreen and now urgently need to buy more of it, but it did the job and prevented me from reacquiring the bizarre burn lines I had during radiation treatment. (They've shown up periodically since then, never severely, but just enough to make me realize that my irradiated skin really can burn in 30 seconds flat.) So, yay! Swimming was a success. Except for that rope swing.
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