We’re visiting John’s family for the 4th of July in New Hampshire, and it is hot, hot, HOT up here. His brother has a lovely place in Peterborough where we met up for dinner last night. We then moved on to spend the night with his sister, whose house in Jaffrey overlooks Thorndike Pond. Both homes have beautiful distant views of different faces of Mount Monadnock.
When we arrived in Peterborough late yesterday afternoon, everyone quickly migrated from the sweltering kitchen to the swimming pool. Across the pool, my 18 year-old niece lolled happily on a float, while her mom and I sat semi-submerged on a shelf in broad-brimmed sunhats, catching up on family news. We both have perfected the middle-aged lady’s fine art of breast-stroking across the water without getting our hair or hats wet, although the ribbon on mine bobbed in the water behind me like a baby otter eager to catch up.
Today in Jaffrey, we worked up a sweat kayaking around the perimeter of Thorndike Pond, and then broiled on the dock a bit before our swim. I was first in. The water slipping across my hot skin was soft and balmy, and I paddled happily, finding my way through cool columns and warm layers in the dark water. On the dock, John and his sister talked about this and that. I listened idly from thirty feet out, treading water, as their voices rang out across the surface of the pond.
All told, I must have wallowed in the water for over an hour, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. In childhood, I spent hours like this, swimming in our family’s pool, innocently enjoying the sensations of weightlessness, submersion, suspension. Underwater was another world, a dreamscape, a cool, silent space where my imagination could wander unchecked. A springboard punctuated the deep end. My friends and I could pass an entire day bouncing on the end of the board, telling stories and playing games, then cannonballing in and swimming to the side ladder, sleek as seals. Mom would call out from the house that I was going to turn into a prune and had to come out and dry off. But I’d ignore her, her wraithlike voice drifting to me on the hot Long Island breezes seemed far less real than the watery world of our pool. Who cared that my lips were turning blue, my fingers and toes wrinkly and pale?
I felt that seal-like quality in my body again today, slicing through the water in fat spirals, rolling in and out of cool patches, diving under to open my eyes in the murky depths. John and Roberta eventually dove in; John reclined on a neon colored floating toy, and Roberta swam purposefully along the shoreline. When it was time to head up to the house for lunch, we emerged from the pond, droplets sparkling on our arms and backs, bodies and spirits refreshed.