At Home in the Water

I like to think about home, about what it is to feel at home in a place, about what it is to feel at home in our own body. I  consider the question “Why do some places (and some people) feel like home instantly while others do not touch us to the core in this same way?” I have no answers really, it is a question I enjoy turning over in my mind, mulling over, asking others…

I am just back from my longest ever stay near my birth home – our family cottage in Algonquin Territory in Eastern Ontario, a place where the Canadian Shield is at its most southern location mixing lake, rock and white pine with maples, cedar, birch and farmland. It is a place where I am privileged to swim every morning in clear, relatively clean waters. I feel so at home in those waters and can easily evoke my childhood delight at the freeing and floating feeling of water surrounding my body, the joy of doing deep dives under the water, the beauty of water bubbles, the miracle of sun sparkling on the water’s surface, of arms slicing through water so easily. My body needs to swim.

IMG_1206Last year, I did not visit the cottage and while I swam last summer, I did not swim nearly enough. To swim is like a certain kind of breathing. Arriving this year, at the beginning of June, my body felt hungry for immersion in that beautiful water. It was very cold at the beginning of June. I often stood in the water up to my waist, just thinking about diving in for the longest time, putting it off, gazing out at the lake interminably. Thinking about the word itself, lake. My dad had a way of saying lake, a way of extending the “a” and holding the “k” sound in his mouth a little longer than most. Kind of how you would say cake if you were savouring its deliciousness as you spoke its name. When I learned the word lake, this was the lake. There was no other. That word lake for me is full of meanings and associations – the first view of blue as we came around the corner at the hill at Stile’s cottage, the ever changing panaroma from our vantage place the top of a high point of land, it was the feel of the water as you put your toe in first, the pungent odour of decaying seaweed and organic stuff that floated in over night.  It was swimming so much as a child that our skin wrinkled up and was fascinating to our touch, although it looked wizened and grotesque! The way my father said “lake” brings the particular freshness and moistness of a lake breeze to mind and to nostrils! I think I would know it blindfolded. In that lake air, something in my body relaxes, my edges dissipate….I am home.