{ Essay }

Away from Shore

Here’s the truth. You think you know a place inside out. You think you can’t change your perspective, but you can. You think you’re alone, but you’re not.

By Ana Maria Spagna

When I was a kid , I swam all summer in backyard pools and at the city park, lessons in the morning, wildness all afternoon. My bare feet grew calluses, my hair turned brittle green, my shoulders got broad, my Lycra suits disintegrated. And then I left home.

I’ve lived in this mountain town for a very long time now. There’s no pool here, no pool for miles. There is a beautiful lake, sure, gorgeous. The water reflects tall firs and blue sky and mossy cliffs, but it is very cold. Jump in on the hottest August day, and you’ll lose your breath. You can’t stay in five minutes. Sometimes you can’t jump in at all.

There are problems with living in one place too long. You know everyone, and they know you. You carry grudges from battles long forgotten. Sometimes you get bored. Sometimes you sit around the campfire telling stories about people and realize they have all left or died, and you think: I am way too young for this. Something has to change.

Last summer, something did.

A friend persuaded me to sign up for a triathlon. And since there’s no pool in town, that meant I’d have to train in the lake. I’d owned a wetsuit before, a kid-sized Spider-Man getup for which I’d traded a raincoat, but it wasn’t very warm. This time, I got serious. I bought a new wetsuit, thick and sleek and buoyant, and added booties, gloves and a heavy scuba hood. Suddenly, I could stay in…


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