Neoprene swim socks.
Neoprene swim cap.
I eye the lake. My intrepid companion, clad only in a shortie, sits nearby. How bad could it be, we reason. We might be pushing swim season just a hair, but surely we could stay in for thirty minutes...couldn't we?
Wallowa Lake is a glacially fed lake around which our lives sometimes revolve. In winter, it sometimes freezes over enough for skating. In summer, we swim, because we have no other place to go, the lone motel with a pool refusing us entry unless we rent a room. I've come to swimming late, a one-time victim of plantar fasciitis, and I have to admit that swimming is...boring. You stare at the bottom of the pool, thinking random thoughts and trying to pass the unsuspecting swimmers in the next lane for enjoyment. Swimming is not as interesting as hiking, or running, or biking. You don't get anywhere.
Unless you don't have anywhere to swim, suddenly, and you miss it. There's something about floating weightlessly, everything aligning to send you through the upper envelope of water in a way that really shouldn't be possible. That's why we swim in the lake, even though it's never warm, even though now, in May, it's borderline crazy.
We wade in. "It's not that bad!" we say. Until it is. My companion swims rapidly with her head out of the water, in a modified breaststroke she has perfected because of her fear of putting her head in and seeing fish. I can't keep up unless I swim the way I know how, head full in the water, and the chill makes me gasp. I flip on my back, I dogpaddle, and try again. We make for the buoy, which seems miles away. We get there.
When we finally reach shore, I am amazed to see that only ten minutes have passed. We later learn that the water temperature is 46 degrees. We suspect we are the first swimmers of the season. We sit aimlessly in the seventy degree sun, postponing return to our computers. We feel cold. We feel alive.