On July 28, 2021

Taking it all in

By Merisa Sherman

It had been a crazy day, with whitecaps rolling across the reservoir at a speed we had never seen before. With the water so high, the waves were splashing up and over the waterside fire pit. The rocky beach, which normally has plenty of room to relax and enjoy, was almost completely covered. As we docked our canoes on the shoreline, they waves vigorously rocked the boat and the water came up and over the sides. We were forced to move quickly in hopes of saving the canoe from any damage as it was pushed against the rocks. Once on shore, we were forced to stay back in the trees, hidden from the afternoon sun.

By Stevan Geiger, Jr.
Swimming in the pristine Chittenden Reservoir is a refreshing, invigorating experience.

And so we waited. Waited until the sun move across the sky, until the end of the day brought the calming of the winds. Every hour, the waves got smaller, flatter and more distant from each other. Soon, only slight ripples could be seen, and we knew the time had come. There was a sense of peace developing, as if the earth itself was calming down for a good night’s sleep. The chatter of birds reduced to a few random caws and only the haunting cry of the loons broke the silence, echoing across the reservoir and down the valley.

Well rested from an afternoon hiding in the shade, we walked slowly into the water as far as we could tolerate. A few steps at a time, giving our bodies a moment or two to adapt to the change in atmosphere. This is the hardest part, transitioning from a world of air to one of water, where the vastness surrounds you rather than just being above in the sky. Once in the water, the bottom will no longer be directly at our feet, and we’ll be floating in an abyss — or something like the three dimensional world of deep space.

It’s pure freedom. A big open space with the ability to swim anywhere we choose: around the island, across to the big rock, over to the picked clean deer carcass. The destination didn’t matter; we were just going to swim out into the water until we wanted to turn around. And then we would. It was as simple as that. Or maybe we were going to swim in one big loop, or a zig zag. The only limits were our imaginations and our willingness to go forth.

In some ways, there is nothing more simple than heading out for an open water swim. The expanse, the freedom … and the eerie feeling of being shorter than loons. Just a small head floating along the water, looking slightly tantalizing to the bald eagle soaring overhead. We are no longer sitting above the water, our boat protecting us from nature. Now we are actually a part of it, our bodies under the water. Just another tiny animal making its way.

The reservoir seems so massive, the shoreline so far away as we swim so slowly. We chat and laugh, our relaxed breast strokes moving us ever so slowly along. I love the feeling of my legs moving through the water, the skin and fat floating away from my body, and I can feel the muscles underneath. The strength propelled me forward, and I have nothing to prevent me from sinking other than my own relationship with my body and the water.

We swim for what seems like forever, lost in the rhythm of our bodies in the water and the gorgeousness of the moment. Somehow, it feels like we could just go on forever, lost in conversation and observation. But suddenly, there is a group of four loons straight ahead of us, and we realize that this was probably an opportune time to turn around and head back to shore — which looked surprisingly far away. We could see the full moon beginning to rise in the distance, climbing its way up Pico Mountain. It was probably one of the most peaceful, awe inspiring moments of my entire life.

Upon our return, we simply just stood there, lost in the glory of it all. Halfway in the reservoir, we gazed out across the water and simply took it all in. In our exhaustion, we watched the pinks as they began to dominate the sky, as the nighttime pastels marked the end of the day. We were done swimming, but could not convince our bodies to yet make the transition back to land. The moment was there, just too perfect to leave, as we let our breathing come back to normal from quick sprinting out of the water to our towels, childish laughter flowing behind us.

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