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Warm Patches, Strong currents and Constant Vigilance. Wednesday August 31, 2016

Oh, it's been a glorious summer!

We've had day after day of warm sunshine and day after day the children have swum out to the surfboard moored fifty meters out in the bay. They sit on that surfboard for hours at a time; talking, laughing, pushing each other off, swimming round to climb back on again...

Sometimes there are only two of them, discussing the topic of the hour with eager intensity. Sometimes there are as many as eight. I think the record is thirteen, but I can't imagine how they all squashed on.

"What do they talk about for all that time?" the parents wonder, staring out at the figures that sway with the movement of the waves. The younger adults, who can remember, just laugh.

Sometimes we swim out there too. Swimming in the sea is different from swimming in a pool. There is so much more of it. It tastes different and feels different. There is seaweed and the occasional jelly fish. The temperature is different. If high tide is late afternoon, then the water rushes over the mudflats which have been warmed all day by the sun picking up heat on the way. There are warm patches in the sea and then cold ones. Sometimes your arms will be in warm water while your legs below feel freezing. You bring your legs up and float in that warm patch. It's blissful. You close your eyes and just drift away for a few moments; only to open them again and find that you have literally drifted away – the current had taken you further than you thought.

The currents are strong around here. By the time the tide is high enough to swim, the surfboard is tugged toward the harbour. You can't swim directly towards it, because you will be dragged away and washed up on the spit of sand that separates us from the port. We always swim when the tide is rising just for that reason. When the tide is going out then, if you don't make Second Beach, five hundred meters down, it's next stop Belgium! All children wear Buoyancy Aids.

And someone is always watching. None of us underestimate the sea, or trust her for an instant. People can drown. People do drown – two of them locally just last weekend. Here on the sea wall there is always an adult with a rowing boat or kayak, ready to effect a rescue or offer assistance if necessary.

Our troubled family life this summer has been just like the sea. We have been swimming in a strong current, hoping to land on safe ground. We have clung onto temporary refuges and we have talked and talked and talked. It's been pretty cold, but we have enjoyed the warm patches. And we have needed constant vigilance to keep holding onto what we know is good and right and true.

The Summer is drawing to a close, but we're still swimming.

It's fortunate that, mostly, we quite like swimming.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Duma Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 6:24am

I remember swimming, so far out (in the med) that I passeed the line of the continental shelf.

Suddenly the water was cold, so I turned around and swam the three kilometres back to the beach.

I was fourteen, and I loved the water.

Nowadays, with all the resistance training and speed work that I have done, I am much denser.

I tend to sink, if I exhale. Kinda puts me off swimming.

Your piece made me very nostalgic. Thank you for for that Mary.

Cheers, Duma.

LillyPet Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 7:20am

Thankyou for such a beautifully written blog Mary. I was almost there watching the kids having fun with the surfboard! Loved the contrast with how tough the sea can be and the analogy with family life.
I'm wanting to distance myself from parents and siblings, but keep getting drawn in.
Feeling very disorganised at home. But motivated to sort it out bit by bit. Thanks for the reminder to just keep swimming and sometimes just float in the warm water! Feeling grattitude for another beautiful warm sunny day in London. Warm sunshiny smiles to all! LPxx

Orangeblossom Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 8:01am

Thanks as ever for your heartening blog. Written in the midst of the ebb & flow of difficulties. It is a tremendous example to me!

Andrew Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 9:00am

Hi Mary
What a lovely image - I too adore the feel of water and can truly identify with the vivid analogy you make between the ebbs and flows, currents and waves, colds and warms of the sea and the tides of every day life. My favourite past time when possible is to lie on my back (in pool or sea) with my legs crossed, and arms doing just enough to keep me afloat, and drift......allowing my senses to become fully atuned to the feel, temperature, sounds and smells of the water enveloping and supporting me. I find this truly therapeutic. And I once had a session in one of those floating pools in a posh spa somewhere....where the water is so salty that you float naturally, without needing to move at all.
Take care in those currents - both literal and metaphorical....

the room above the garage Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 9:26am

Hello Mary, this sounds like a page out of Swallows and Amazons, wonderful! I felt very relaxed reading it. Did you end up on holiday with the family after all or was that separate? Childhood and young teenhood is made of these memories and i'm glad (like me) you are making sure they have these opportunities in a world where they can be sorely lacking. Love it all. Good to see you and I hope life is treating you kind, love ratg x.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 10:11am

Wow! Thank you for that comment! I love the Swallows and Amazons books and where we stay each summer is only just round the coast from the place where Secret Water was set. In fact, if you go there, you can find every island and inlet just as Arthur Ransome described. Our friends (the ones with the plague of shrimps last year) did just that at the beginning of the holidays. I was so envious!

the room above the garage Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 3:54pm

That sounds amazing! My son suffers bad anxiety and, although he reads book after book, I reinstated reading a book to him at night because the closeness and the calm really helps him unwind. We started Sw&Am about 18 months sago and have yet to finish due to the way our evenings run...we are desperately trying to finish it before the film comes out! I'd love to visit that coastline, hope you enjoy the rest of the break xxx.

Fiona Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 11:05am

Thank you, that's a beautiful passage. I quite often check what the daily blog is first thing, to see if I want to read it then to set my day off. Reading this has put me in a happy place, I love water (being a Cancerian?) and it's one of my desires in life. I feel free, floating, diving down under the surface and coming up somewhere else, childhood memories of pretending to be a mermaid. We can move through water so gracefully and unrestricted. The tides and currents you talk of scare me so I avoid them, and don't swim in the sea very often. A bit like life I think a&d crushes my confidence to step out and get swimming in society, look for a job etc. I think I need to gain more confidence and knowledge to navigate safely and cope with changes in currents, instead of sitting safely at home, and missing out on the pleasure of swimming. Again, thank you.x

Mary Wednesday Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 10:39pm

No pretending. I think we can all be mermaids (mermen?) if we want! On the days we are not unicorns. that is!

The Gardener Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 11:42am

Hello Mary - so glad that the 'bright periods' in your not too easy life have been so bright. Sea images abound - like treacle off Lummut, Malaysia - pure crystal in St Barthelemy (caribbean) lovely beaches, super surf but sea which needs a lot of respect in most of Australia. Our bay, Mt St Michel, is so tidal that at very low tide the safest place means walking a kilometre out to sea to get up to your knees. I am clinging to images and market day friends and acquaintances, in brilliant sun. Mr G has hit a new low, now rude to everybody. A huge sadness, youngest child (adopted daughter) birthday today - and she has not spoken to us for 5 years. She blames us for the break up of her marriage (was her intolerance). She's never accepted the adoption - however many people explain that her mother could NOT keep her, and did what she thought best for her baby. Looking through albums - the happiest, brightest of children - her 21st birthday was fabulous, all scarlet and gold, marquee in the garden. I think, statistically, adoption has the risk that it gives people an excuse not to make the best of themselves - or, as in this case, blame everything that has gone wrong in life on the fact that you were rejected by your mother. It IS tough, but she would probably have gone into care, as mixed-race children were not always welcomed with open arms in the 1960', Sorry to be glum, it's a lovely day and misery is all round me.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 10:07pm

Never glum. You can only do what you can do. And yes - we think we could always have done more. My hope and expectation is that, at the final reckoning, we will find that what we did (for good) far, far outweighed the missed opportunities for doing good. (The bad is washed away and forgotten entirely. Our children at some point or another take on responsibility for who they are, as we all do. I often think life is a game of Bridge: we can only play the hand we are dealt. It's no good bidding Spades when we hold a run of Clubs. Hmmm - now there's another blog, I feel!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 10:33pm

Oh, and I have longed to visit Mt San Michel since I read Helen McInnis' Assignment in Brittany... One day maybe...

Rosie Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 12:40pm

Hi Mary... So you changed your mind, and went on holiday with the family after all?! Glad you are feeling better! Love to all x

Anonymous Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 12:42pm

So evocative, Mary. From the first sentence, I knew I was in for a treat today - and that you would provide it. Thank you, as ever for your inspiration. Go well.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Aug 31st 2016 @ 10:38pm

Thank you. I appreciate your comment very much.

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