Swim 10 - Dec 14th 2015   2015


Funny how often I do this on Monday. I have noticed that Monday is often cluttered with jobs/activities that I’d thought would be done over the weekend. Maybe I need to adjust my idea of a weekend.

I don’t want this to be the last swim of the year. Even as I got into the water I thought perhaps this is my solstice swim, but I hope not. I hope I’ll go on Sunday which will be the darkest swim and then I can swim on 27th which would be my last for the year. 

Anyway - back to the present moment of running and swimming. The present moment that I can never stay with. It was raining when I woke up, and I saw it was low tide at 12.45 so I thought ok if it stops I’ll go at 11am when Kate leaves, but then I didn’t - too occupied with worrying over the details of the steel work and putting it together in my space. I got too hungry while I worked, but the sun came out at 1.30. That low pale lemon light, so weak and silvery like catkins. So I ran at the last possible moment if I am to be back by the end of school - ten past two.  

It was hard at first. My body clomped stiffly out along the road along the top edge of the recreation ground. I haven’t been running the football field burnt corner way assuming the mud will be encumbering. Wide puddles on the road. I feel small and oppressed by the physicality of existence. As I run I think of the flowers that were blooming in Trengwainton Gardens on Sunday - how the winter never really has full sway. I think too how much I like bare branches. The structure of the trees is so clear in winter. I think of the line from The Mouse and his Child ‘high in the winter light’ and again I feel constructed. I read in the way I have been taught to read. My feelings are based on these readings, and all of it was shaped before I was 20 years old. Constructed like the weave of a basket threading a shape together from small lines. How do I feel about that. Maybe it’s like a corset, which I would dread to wear, but perhaps could feel comforting, a carapace to hide from the light when it’s too raw.

I pass Malcolm and his dogs. Maybe Olaf is dead, or maybe he is too old to go out walking any more. I take the stony path down, and run over the footbridge. I take the slight way that dodges to the west to join the long path higher up. It’s my favourite way for now and certainly the fastest. Deep leaves on that narrow steep path. Of course I think of TS Eliot. Urgh - it’s so stupid in so may ways.

Weaving weaving - weaving a vessel of meaningfulness for myself.

So there I am. I see myself pause at the top of the cliff looking out to the blue lagoon. I assess it as alright - bit rough - but the only option. No water in the round pool anyway. The light is striking from the west and Sennen is in a misty white light. I take off my shoes on the first smooth stone. As I run barefoot over the rise and fall of the extraordinary rock base on the shore I think that the only time worth being successful in is now - and success is to feel that you are living a life which is as fulfilling as it can be. Those artists who achieve recognition after death - and are miserable and un-resourced in life - that’s no good at all. 

I clamber over the rock wall that separates the round pool from the blue lagoon. Really it’s in three distinct parts - all smoothed by the sea and oddly easy for me to cross. I stand on the spit of rock that runs like a ledge parallel to the sea, and quickly undress. I scan the cliff and Carne Gloose - but there is nobody in sight so I move quickly to the waters edge without my costume on and slide into the glassy heaving water feet first - uncurling like a prawn. I gasp and breathe fast fast then I lie on my back and kick my feet up and laugh in a gasping way to myself. Then I count slowly to ten - turning onto my front and then flipping onto my back, trying to stay in one place as the sea pushes past me to the East - to the West. Then I wait a bit more, looking carefully at the clear green water, and the dry rocks. Looking at the pale cold sunlight glancing weakly off the surfaces it can touch. There’s absolutely no warmth in it - just a brightness.

I find my feet carefully and crawl back up onto the rock. I shake myself a bit and stand completely erect facing the sea. I feel tall - detaching myself from the heavy level of the water in the sucking pool and gaining the height of the rock. It is as if I were a seal and therefore it should be impossible for me to stand full height - as if this were a miracle. I go to the edge of the rock, facing out to sea and I urinate. I did that last time and somehow it’s good. Maybe it’s a cleansing impulse or about ridding myself of liquid, or about my physicality being invisibly left here. 

I pull my T-shirt on before I look about again at the spray and the rocks and the heavy water. Dressing fast then, I step lightly over to the place where the sea-smoothed granite becomes gritty and jagged, and I sit to pull on my shoes and socks. As I do this, looking at the water pouring itself to and fro infront of me - I think that perhaps this is my religion. That perhaps this weekly ablution is a quasi-religious ritual that I’ve instigated only for myself. 

I climb the cliff surprised as I ever am by how friable the surface of the granite is, rotting so visibly and rapidly. Gaining the top of the rise I take a look back at the light blazing coldly from Longships before I begin to run back up the long straight path, puddled with a strip of water in the centre, so I straddle and hop across the path to find the least splashy areas.

On the way back up I notice that bracken is more vivid in the shade, so on a dull day it shouts louder. The sunlight makes it flare but in a pale light. The sun takes the richness out and flattens the extreme texture of the teeth of the russet bracken against the other colours and textures of the land. Maybe the cliffs and fields of Penwith look at their best in the sombre grey light of a dull winter day.

I recognise Rachel on the top road by her green conical fleece hat and baggy dykey jeans, and I catch her up and walk with her and Flash a little way. She suggests we swim on New Years day.

Home - with ten minutes still for a shower before I collect the children. I didn’t lock the door.

 PS I did run on 20th, meaning to go in at the Cot valley, but the tide was far too high. So - this swim was the last of the year.