Like a mermaid, I breaststroke my way through the water. Each gliding movement takes me closer to a state of inner peace. I feel at home. In my mind I block out the stench of chlorine, the florescent lighting, the screaming and dive-bombing kids, and roudy testosterone-filled swim strokes around me. When I swim, if I close my eyes, I’m no longer in my local swimming pool but back to the wild swimming of childhood in rural Australia.
Blessed to be raised on 700 hundred acres of beautiful bushland in South East Queensland, much of my wild swimming was done in muddy man-made dams, and the pure water of a dam at the end of a creek which wound its way down our mountain.
It didn’t matter to me and my siblings if the water was muddy. That was half the fun. Clothes ripped off, in we ran and splashed about. Sometimes we’d ride our horses through. Just for fun. Everything was about fun. Not that my mother had that word running through her mind when we arrived back covered in mud.
The dam at the bottom of the creek. Oh how I dream of that place. I wonder if it is anything like that of my treasured memories? I long to go back. The creek flowed over granite rocks from a secret spring high in the eucalyptus-covered mountains. At the end of the waterfall, were bowers of maiden-hair ferns. We’d jump off the head of the waterfall with complete confidence. No one had ever reached the bottom of the dam. As far as we knew, it had no bottom. The leeches were the only danger. Those little suckers! Ruthless! But boy was it worth it. Not that our town friends agreed.
I would often head to the creek by myself, and sit next to the wild lemon tree for hours ~ dreaming about life, love and the Universe.
My first memory of wild swimming was before we moved to the countryside. We lived on the outskirts of Brisbane, and would go to a place called Dead Horse Creek. I don’t recall any dead horses. Thankfully.
One of the things that really makes me laugh is how desperate my daughter is to have a 100% attendance record at school. She reminds me, when she’s ill and I say she should stay home, that I couldn’t possibly understand the need for 100% when I spent so much of my school days not at school, but down the river swimming naked with the boys. In fact, the other day my brother sent me a photo of my old High School and my first thought was that I didn’t remember it looking so good (especially compared to the local high school here). Of course I couldn’t remember. I was barely there!
Swimming by the weir of the Condamine River was an invaluable part of my childhood. I loved to swim at the open-air swimming pool too, and I often won the breaststroke races (in the days before I actually had breasts!) but nothing compared to wild swimming.
And talking of water, this Sunday (March 1st) I begin walking 5-miles-a-day for a week to raise funds for Walk In Her Shoes.
Walk in Her Shoes: Please help me raise funds for this campaign to bring fresh water and wells to people with no ready access to clean water. Many women and children walk five miles a day carrying up to 20 litres of water. Let’s make a difference to their lives.