Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lenten Diary 2

Making the Best of Bad Weather

     March 7 was a dismal day in Norfolk, VA. It felt like a nor’easter, wild winds blowing off the Chesapeake Bay with something, I swear, near hurricane force. Naturally I had to be out in it, duty called. But it was serious March weather, much more winter than spring.
     Everyone I talk to or overhear lately is tired of winter. A guy in the bank told me he didn’t care how hot it gets this summer, he’s looking forward to it. I know what he means. But to myself I wonder if we’re not in for a really hot summer, like some we’ve had before, where it’s an effort to walk down the street. Personally, I wouldn’t like that. I don’t know anyone who would, not even the guy in the bank, I bet.
     In these parts we put up with a little winter because spring is so nice for so long. But it usually comes sooner than this. This year winter’s hanging on like an attack dog. It’s starting to feel a little punishing for us who are used to mild weather when the Sun’s at this point in the southern sky.
     But it makes Lent, a time for spiritual reflection, feel a little more real. Bad weather tends to do that for many people, myself included, by driving us indoors, forcing even extroverts to face some self-reflection. Often self-reflection leads to painful thoughts, which is why it’s generally discouraged.
     But in Lent it’s the order of business.
     Contemporary thinkers might say Lent is just an outdated practice, hanging on from a discredited religion. But I think it’s bestowed on us by the season. We are caught in the  undeniable cosmic divide between the winds of winter and the winds of spring. And what a difference it makes in how we feel and move about when, each year, spring prevails again, usually by Passover, and by Easter.
     Currently, the triumph of spring is not clear yet, even if temperatures are not so cold at night and a little warmer by day than they were two weeks ago. We know a change is in the making. It’s the waiting for tangible results that beats down our spirits. We drink too much and then regret it, watch too much trash on TV. Or...whatever. Escapism runs high this time of year, which might be why people speak of giving up escapist habits for Lent.
     But on March 7, faithful to my practice and despite the bone-chilling wind slapping rain in my face, I went to the pool for my Friday swim. I stuffed down the unpleasant thought of getting out of all my clothes to jump into a cool swimming pool. It was in my best interests, I reminded myself, that I exercise and stay in shape—the mind-over-matter approach.
     No one was in the pool when I arrived. I guessed no one was crazy enough to want to be. A life guard sat blearily in one of the chairs. It was steamy hot and quiet, the water motionless—every lane empty, just waiting for me.
     I went into the locker room and, shuddering at the thought, got undressed.
     Fortunately the required pre-swim shower was warm, but the pool...not so much. I took a deep breath and set out, all by myself, with two life guards watching out for me. Thirty-six, thirty-five, thirty-four laps to go, and I just wasn’t into it.
     So I stopped counting. I just swam, and it was a little like I swam out of a dirty skin into clear water. I let go of all those laps and began swimming for the fun of it. I quit counting. I didn’t try to pace myself for the long haul. If I felt like swimming fast, I swam fast. If I felt like swimming like a lazy dolphin in a pond, I stretched out and swam at a crawl.
     And when my body said stop, I stopped. It was a most enjoyable swim. If I were to guess, I’d say I swam ten or twelve laps, not counting the ones I’d swum before my conversion.
     “You’re done already?” the one life guard called out as I got out of the water. He knows my habits.
     “It’s Friday night!” I replied, leaving him and a co-worker alone by the vacant, still waters as I headed for the lockers. I hoped I wasn’t just making an excuse for being lazy. Should I have swum more laps?
     Outside, the wind still roared, dashing rain in my face. I felt out of time, and for awhile I couldn’t find my watch. But I wasn’t as cold as when I went in, and the rain didn’t seem as unkind. I made it through the Friday traffic to a warm, well-lit hearth where I am guaranteed shelter from the storm. But also where, once more on this stormy night, I can’t escape reflection.
     What could be more Lenten? Mother Nature seems to be enforcing it more stringently this year. I suppose she has her reasons.


At 9:40 PM , Blogger Conrad Bishop said...

Lovely post. Thank you.


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