on swimming holes

On Swimming Holes by Sarah Anne Childers

When you set out on a June afternoon to find a swimming hole at the little lake near home, make sure to pack double lunch because adventuring is hungry work.

Pedal fast in the lead of your caravan of two bicycles past the busy beach packed with swimmers. Wave to the lady leaning out the wide window of the concession stand where kids line up for hot dogs and rainbow snow cones. Do you think she wonders where you're headed with such purpose, and such an impish grin, too? 

Slow down as the lifeguards' calls to "stop that!" and "do this!" fade so you can pay close attention to the shoreline. See how in some places it's naked, just packed dirt? Those exposed patches are fine for others but not for you. You seek a real, honest-to-goodness swimming hole, and those gems are tucked away behind tall grass and stands of alders with leaves that shimmy jazz hands in the breeze. 

A subtle indent in the brush at the lake edge like the start of a deer trail is always worth a stop. Lay your bike down, and take a peek. 

Photo by Sarah Anne Childers

Photo by Sarah Anne Childers

If the lake is too weedy or too shallow or too shady with not enough dappled light, keep going. But if the water sparkles. If you feel like Lucy with her hand on the wardrobe door. If suddenly you want to yodel. Yodel! Yodel and yodel because good swimming holes inspire that sort of racket.

Did you wear your bathing suit under your clothes? Wonderful. Step into the lake. Feel the water's chill and the picking-up wind push waves at you. Look back for a moment to see what was invisible from the outside - the last of the native iris blooms and turquoise-tipped dragonflies everywhere, alighting even on your discarded sneaker that is part of their world now, just another perch.

Photo by Sarah Anne Childers

Photo by Sarah Anne Childers

Wade out over rocks that cede to squishy loam as you go deeper until you must balance en pointe as the bottom suddenly falls away.

Might you play there at the line of shallow and deep, known and unknown? There's mystery in the deep and possibility too. For what? Underwater flips of course! Backwards, forwards, backwards again. And games to dive down and touch the bottom, if there is a bottom, how can you know? It's wild there at the drop off, in the cold depths where sunlight won't go. Oh yes, you can swim back to the warm shallows anytime. The known world, it's there for you.

Roll onto your back. Now your view is only sky and your ears are in the water and you hear the muted whooshes of your arms gently flapping and fish fishing and water bugs bugging but little else. Float there, half-submerged, until it is time for more flips. Until it is time to race those bobbing yellow leaves with brown spots like banana slugs back to land to eat sandwiches, squished-warm and delicious. Float and memorize this place so that you might find it again all summer long before you pedal home up hills so steep you have to stand as you climb, your backpack heavy with the weight of a damp towel swaying you rhythmically side-to-side like the waves at the swimming hole you found.   

Sarah Anne Childers is the online editor at luciajournal.com where she happily toggles between curating creatives as an editor and creatively curating ideas and the words they live in as a writer.