Swimming the other day a man in the lane next to me said, “You are a veritable dolphin, it’s way cool”. The word, ‘veritable’ felt like the water—lyrical, mutable, changing with movement. The music of the word itself made me happy. But due diligence pulled me to the dictionary and I was pleasantly surprised by its meaning.
absolute: used to emphasize a figurative concept.
Honestly being an ’emphasized figurative concept’ made me feel like a superstar. But then again I am abstracting. The thing is, swimming is a discipline for me. Something I connoisseur – (ie. the daily choices; which suit is best for sprints, which goggles, the best hair goo to fight the chlorine, etc) into action almost daily. It’s a place where I mitigate input from the outside world. It’s a place for play and cheating in gymnastics because gravity has no say or influence in the kind of disasters that would otherwise happen out of water doing the same somersaults and back flips. It’s a freedom; forgiveness of the hard things in life; the soothing mother of hard objects and knotted thoughts.
I suppose part of my addiction to swimming and water in general has to do with old pride. I never learned to swim as a child, and was challenged by a roommate years back in Palo Alto to join him in Masters Swimming at Stanford. I was a disaster. But once I realized the swimmers were hitting my feet to pass me in the pool not because they were picking a fight in water (really? some new martial art?) I got mad enough to be competitive and then I couldn’t stop until I learned. The coach was a sweetheart. He worked me twice a day. I was swimming 3-4 hours per day, going through a suit every two weeks. Now when I see people at the pool wait for their own lane I’m a little disoriented. I guess I got the Chinese version of swimming society in my first years of swimming. Very crowded; an ecosystem of sorts.
So, if I’m being languid, veritable, dolphin-esque it’s because I feel spoiled rotten by having my own lane. It’s like going on a date with someone really hot, who adores me and whom I adore; being taken to dinner, ending up in Venice Italy where there are no cars, and having my favorite silk robe delivered to me. Adn then wearing it to sit cross legged on the bed and talking all night while munching on yummy Italian food and wine, and waking up knowing I have the full freedom of a day or more without structure and I’m where I want to be with the person I want to be with. Okay, so I went a little overboard on that metaphor. I started writing and my fingers got out of control. Typical!
Swimming is a great luxury in life. I doubt I’ll ever stop. It reminds me how much reward comes from discipline. Because even after ten years of swimming 4 + times per week, I still drag myself down there and avoid it as long as possible before I go. But once in the water I don’t understand why all of life isn’t this way.
I did swim with a veritable dolphin once, in the most absolute sense of the word. I swear it was a boy dolphin and I swear he was messin’ with my head (in a good way). It was in Hawaii and I lost my group in the ocean. A school of dolphins came to them, I could hear them screeching about it but couldn’t see them. Suddenly something very soft and gentle was nuzzling my toes. I thought it was a shark being coy and screamed. Then he came out of the water and laughed the way dolphins do. I looked down. He was doing circles around me. I tried to out-swim him for fun. Yeah right! He was having a blast though. He’d get within inches of my face and blow little bubbles and then come behind me for a little surprise nudge on my calf or ankle. I pretended to drown to see if he would save me, he just kind of hung out and looked at me like I was silly. You can’t fool animals.
When I told the group this story they were jealous. I guess none of the dolphins hung out with them and that’s what they were really after. “Maybe he was a sheperd dolphin, sheperding me back to the group”. “Or maybe” said this guy in our group “he was just a guy in the water flirting with the girl in the tight suit”.
Anyway, Dakota our fearless rabbit says “Fish stink but if you need an identity that bad, I’ll go with Veritable Dolphin for a time, a very short time”.
I can live with that.