The moon is hangs in the sky, continuing its night watch
A few star linger. Some of those “lingering stars” turn out to be planes bringing people home from adventures and carrying others to new ones.
An orange line paints the bottom of the horizon, promising to bring an end to the darkness, promising that a new day is almost here.
I sit and take it all in. As I observe, my companions begin to join me. As we gather, the energy builds. We note the colors of the sky, talk about how far we will go this morning, how cold the water might be.
Soon, the layers of outer clothing comes off, under armor shirts, caps and goggles go on. One by one we climb down the ladders and into the water. When it is my turn, I climb down and stand for a second before immersing myself in the water. As I do, I feel my lungs tighten and constrict a bit and the goose-bumps cover my body. It is cold. Keeping my head above water, working to take a few deep breathes, I start doing a half doggy paddle, half breast stroke and the thought crosses my mind
“What am I doing out here? This is crazy!”
I pause a few strokes from shore to find my companions in their bright pink swimming caps and we take off.
I can feel my body relax and ease into the familiar pattern and I start to warm up. As I make my way across the lake, with each breath I watch the colors begin to expand from the thin orange strip and they paint the sky with purples, pinks, oranges, reds.
Eventually, I reach the pier, our meeting point. We stand on submerged rocks and wait for everybody to gather, continuing to observe the colors that are painting the sky
“Look at the way the tips of the clouds are painted pink”
“Oh…see that oranges”
“Isn’t this wonderful”
Then it is time to head back and I find that familiar pattern again, continuing to watch the color show in the sky.
As I reach the point, I climb up the ladder I rush to grab my towel to bundle up in the hopes that I can warm up a bit, joining the swimmers who have already finished in waiting for the few still making their way back.
“It was definitely warmer in the middle of the lake”
“Wasn’t that a great swim?”
“Doesn’t it feel good?”
As we all gather, we dry off, put on warmer, drier clothes and get ready for the day, continuing to watch the colors paint the sky. Soon the moment we have been waiting for comes. The pink smudge appears on the horizon where lake and sky meet. That smudge grows larger and larger until the sun is fully up. Having successfully supervised the sun’s rising, we all pack up our bags and say our goodbyes, promising to be back again soon for the next swim.
“Wasn’t that just great!”
“Those colors were beautiful”
“What a great way to start the day”
“See you tomorrow”
The past ten months I have had the joy and honor of swimming with these Point Swimmers. The group is made of a variety of swimmers from a variety of places in life. We are mostly women, but there are a few men. We are fabric artists, painters, lawyers, teachers, architects, chaplains, retirees, bereavement counselors. We are triathletes, serious competitive swimmers and recreational just for fun swimmers. We range in age from 26 to 85 and everywhere in between. We are not a group of people you would expect to gather except that we all hear the call of the lake inviting us to come and greet the new day by swimming in its waters.
As I swam my last swim in the Lake on Saturday I thought about all that has happened since my first swim. From that first swim in August when getting in the water and making it only a couple buoys out seemed like a great and daring feat to my last swim on Saturday morning making it all the way to the pier and back and every swim in between, these swimmers have challenged and supported me into being a braver, stronger and more confident swimmer and by extension a braver, stronger and more confident woman. We have swam in choppy dark waters and calm clear waters, reminding me that with a supportive community swimming with me, a willingness to be aware but not trying to control everything and good breathing habits, I can take on whatever kind of waters life brings. I don't know what this past year would have looked like without that support system that, in the midst of stress and chaos, continued to ground me in the waters that give me life but I am beyond grateful that they were there.
Because for me this time in the lake was not just about the workout, it was sacred time. As I moved against and through the waves, I am reminded of that in the beginning “The spirit of God hovered over the waters” and that God called creation good. As I find the familiar breathing pattern, I am reminded that God breathed the breath of life into the first man. As I pause in the middle of the lake, removed from the crowdedness of the city and the noise of Lakeshore, I am reminded of the God who came to Elijah not in the wind, earthquake or fire but in silence. As I watch the sunrise and the colors paint the sky, I am reminded that our God is continually creating, promising to make all things new. As I submerge myself in the living water of Lake Michigan, I am reminded of the living water I was blessed with as infant in my baptism. In the all as I stood on the rocks surrounded by trees with leaves that are starting to change colors and in the spring as I watched new leaves bud, I am reminded that we, along with all of creation, are in a constant cycle of death and resurrection.
This is holy time. This is where God revels Godself. God has artist, creator, renewer, life force. And when school and life seem overwhelming, even though it may start as only a small orange strip on where choppy waters meet dark, night skies, God promises that a new day will dawn with brilliant colors and the light will paint our skies again. 1…2…3…breathe