I pity anyone who sees me swim. I had lessons as a child but I was more preoccupied with my rainbow-hued costume than actually learning how to swim. One thing I did master however, was floating on my back, using virtually no energy and staring at the sky while I magically drifted along. On the last day of our swimming course, all our parents were invited to come see our progress as we swam two lengths of a small pool. Some were better than others but none were as stupendously brilliant as me. I started out with no problems, kicking off the edge, gliding for as long as possible but I soon hit trouble. Panic gradually took over with each furious kick, smashing my way across half of the pool in my version of the front crawl. My arms and legs exhausted from this unusual amount of co-ordinated activity, I simply turned 180º and back-floated my way to the end, exhaling every breath that I had been mysteriously storing up until then.
My downfall was in my apparent inability to breath out the air underwater that I had frantically gasped in with every 3rd stroke. There’s only so many gasps a 7 year old’s lungs can handle. I didn’t take this to heart because I was the best back-floater in my class. My older brother failed every time he tried to switch from a front crawl to a back-float, rotating 360º to find himself face-down in the water again. I was so proud of my rare skill, having fine-tuned the art of turning and relaxing so well, that I began to focus on the clouds and pick out shapes to humour myself on the slow journey to the end.
While at a lake recently, I looked up to see Snoopy back-floating his way across the sky and somehow I feel even more validated. In my case, the idea is to just keep floating. At some point, I’ll reach the end.