July 4, 2018

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

When the night sky is completely dark, and the lights in the neighborhood start to flicker off as people go to sleep, I head into our backyard, shed my daytime clothes, and slip into the pool.

It is time for nightswimming.

This is a new ritual for me: having a pool in our backyard means that I can end my summer days by submerging myself in water and watching the world around me start to shut down for the night. These days, I nightswim three or four times a week, just before heading to bed myself.

Mostly, my nightswims consist of a few lengths of breast stroke to begin, and then several minutes of floating about aimlessly as I reflect upon my day and express gratitude for the people I love. It is a quiet, solitary, introspective ritual; it is a beautiful, restful way to usher in the night.

Two nights ago, I decided to count the stars above me; I would not be able to count the ones hiding behind the branches of the trees that perch over the pool, but at least I could try counting the ones in the wide expanse of dark sky between the treetops. I lay on my back, floating leisurely, and began to count, slowly. I made it to 147 before I became confused and turned around, knowing full well that I had only accounted for at most a third of the scintillating points in the darkness.

Shortly after giving up on the counting, I tracked a quickly-moving bright dot—a satellite, most likely—flying in a straight line between the stars. It emerged from behind the cedar hedge and sped through the sky until it disappeared from my sight line. I tracked four more in the next few minutes as I remained floating on my back, each one on its own trajectory across the cosmos.

Occasionally, I hear a car whizz by on the road not far from us, but mostly, the only sounds are chirping of the crickets in a dissonant symphony with the croaking of the frogs. Every few minutes, I hear rustling above me and wonder if, this time, it is a bird in the many nests in our tree, or one of the dozens of chipmunks and squirrels that have made a home in our backyard. One night, I popped my head up from the water to see two bunnies hop by; I waved a wet hand to let them know they were welcome here, poolside, too.

Upon hearing of my new evening habit, my dearest friend Anna introduced me to R.E.M.’s Nightswimming; I have taken to humming the haunting song as I float aimlessly at the end of my nightly swims. My hums join the nighttime nature’s chorus; the stars continue to dance and sparkle above my head as I float in circles.

Remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?

That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming

I can not stay in the pool all night, no matter just how restful and peaceful It is to be in there after the sun has gone down.

I swim for two lengths, front crawl, before emerging from the pool. When it is excessively warm, like it has been this week, I dry off quickly and naturally from the heat as I walk across the patio. On less sticky days, I quickly towel off before putting on pyjamas and heading inside to brush my teeth.

The surface of the pool settles and becomes still. The stars continue to shine, and the crickets and frogs continue their symphony. My head hits the pillow and I sleep, deeply and soundly. In a day or two, another nightswim awaits.