Self-Care in the US, July 2020


It is so hot today. The air is dense and wet. Sweat is dripping down my spine, making me feel achy and tired.

Paul and I decide in the mid-afternoon to give ourselves a break. We drive across town to our local state park, stopping in the nearly empty lot, leaving our glasses and our wallets in the car.

There are two families swimming in the tiny roped off “safe area” of the pond. The air smells of pine resin and wood smoke, drifting from the little campground across the pond.

I drop my towel on the gritty sand. I shed my shorts and sweaty tee-shirt. My glasses land on the pile. I draw in one deep resonant breath.

I am in the water, well past the ropes. I am on my back, my arms and legs loose and boneless around me. The water surrounds my face like the cowl of a nun.

With water in my ears, I can’t hear the world. I can’t hear the angry yells or the complaints or the demands. I am deaf to everything except the beating of my own heart. I listen to the silence. My body relaxes.

I lie with my vision limited to a circle right above me. Smooth blue sky. Silky blue. Two small puffed clouds. Nothing else. I let my eyes relax, I let them stop trying to focus.

I drift.

Afloat on the gentlest of currents, my arms are floating at my sides. The top of the water is warm. Liquid sunlight fills my palms. An inch lower, and that same current brings water so cold that my bone marrows thickens.

I swirl my hands and my arms through the green water of the pond. Warm, cold, sunlight and ice. I cannot hear the world, I cannot see the world.

But I feel the earth around me. I smell the trees and the mud and the tiny green frogs that jump out of the grass. A dragonfly lands on my forehead, decides that I am neither flower nor insect, and bursts away across the top of the water.

I float. The sun hits my skin.

I am carried by the water, and for the first time in weeks, I feel no pain. My joints are loose, my muscles free. No part of me catches or clutches or aches.

I float. The breeze brushes my lashes.

Here in this tiny pond, in this small American town, I am free. I am neither too much nor too little. I am none of the things that pull on my mind and my heart. I am not needed, or depended upon, or subject to anybody’s judgment.

Here in this cool/warm sunkissed water, I am only one more floating organism, drifting on the current, touched by the sky, held up by mother nature for no particular reason.

Here in this silken green water, I don’t have to think about the left or the right or the virus or the stock market. Here in the arms of this water spirit, I am not fighting or struggling or arguing or trying to change the world.

Right now, in this small pond, in this small town, I am only a woman taking a break from the heat and the worry and the world.

This is self care. This is how I can take care of me.

I hope that you have all found a similar way to turn off this human mess and embrace the real world around us.

Let the Autumn Come


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It was a September Tuesday.  It should have been fresh and brisk outside.  Our small New England town should have been feeling the oncoming change of seasons.

It was nearly 90 degrees outside, and as humid as a typical July day in Massachusetts.  My friend and I, both retired as of July 1st, decided to spend the day kayaking on a local lake. When we made the plan, of course, we knew that it would be a “weather permitting” event.

Well.  The weather certainly permitted today!

I woke up early, showered, dressed in a bathing suit and shorts, cleaned out my kayak, and found my paddles and jacket.  I filled a water bottle, walked the dogs, and waited for Lesley to arrive.

So funny!  My dear friend, with her graying hair that matches mine, arrived in a big old pickup truck, her kayak tied safely into the back. We did what ladies our age always do (we used the bathroom before we left), then piled into the truck and headed to the lake.

The place where I took my friend is a good sized lake about ten minutes from my house. It is common in that it is a lake in a region of many lakes. It is unusual in that it is nearly uninhabited, except for a big boy scout camp on one side.

Because it is September, and schools have opened, the camp was empty when we arrived. We parked the truck, unloaded our kayaks and happily headed out into the beautiful green waters of the lake.  We paddled our way around the cove, passing the boarded up camp cabins.  We made our way to a few of the small islands that dot the lake.

We let ourselves float for a bit, watching a family of loons as they fished in the cool water.  We looked at an abandoned beaver lodge, admired the water lilies, watched a graceful blue heron groom his wings.

The sun beat down on our backs.  The sky was a perfectly clear, dry blue.  The water kept calling us.

We put the boats ashore at a tiny beach that was most likely part of the Scout Camp. We let ourselves fall into the cool, clear water.  We floated.

There were no other humans in sight.  We heard only the loons, the gently lapping waves, and breeze in the pines.

How did we get so lucky, we kept asking ourselves, grinning at each other as we lay on our backs in the middle of the lake.  How did we ever find ourselves in such a perfect place, on such a perfect day?

We closed our eyes.  We let the water carry us.  We smelled the metallic herbal tang of the water all around us.  We watched a hawk circle, high over head.

My friend and I, two women who have worked together for many years, allowed ourselves to steep in the perfect heat and cool of the moment.  We paddled our way back to shore.  We loaded the boats and went home for lunch.

Let Autumn come, we told each other.  Today was the most perfect celebration of the Summer.