There’s my tree. Grand in stature with its pale, almost-white, silken trunk standing tall to support the bushy canopy of loose, dangling sprays of gum leaves, commanding and protecting far above me as I take a breath and glide by it for the third time. It was here well before I first came more than thirty years ago. The grandfather of this place.
I touch the wall, turn and head back down. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breath. And again, past my gum watching over as we lap up and down. It’s comforting to know that it’s watching over son two this morning as well.
I always feel at peace in this pool and know life’s good, gliding through water, suspended and supported by rhythmic stroke, getting lost in the splashing and gurgling around me. It’s a meditation where no matter how hard I try to count my laps, I always forget what number I’m up to! But life’s especially good this dawning morning with son two swimming behind me.
Two nights ago when he said he’d like to do a few laps with me at the local pool, I never imagined how good a morning could start.
‘Let’s go before school,’ he said.
‘Really? You’re going to get up early?’ I scoffed at the thought of this sixteen year old boy who likes to sleep until eleven on weekends or on school holidays and gets up with no more than twenty minutes to get ready for school – that’s up, dressed in shirt, tie and blazer, breakfast, hair gunked, teeth brushed and lunch packed.
‘Yes. I can get up early if I want to. I just choose not to.’
Still, I didn’t really believe he’d get up.
‘Let’s go on Thursday because it’ll be hot on Wednesday and it’ll probably be hot overnight,’ he’d said.
Okay was all I could say. He was keen and I didn’t want to crush that enthusiasm.
So it came as a big surprise this morning when he came into me dressed in shorts and a t-shirt while I was tapping away at my computer at 6.30. ‘You’re up!’
‘I said I would.’ He flicked his thick, floppy fringe up and away from his eyes. ‘We’re still going?’
I saw he was truly awake. ‘Yes, okay. Get ready and let’s go.’ Although I didn’t feel like going as I’d been out with friends the night before and got to bed late for the early morning starts I like to have as it’s my most fruitful time to write, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to go swimming with my boy.
We were at the pool fifteen minutes later, a glorious pool of fifty metre Olympic size, outdoors with the chill taken off the water’s temperature and surrounded by huge gum trees. It’s in a pocket of town away from traffic and people. The swim team had finished their training and although quiet now, you can feel the energy that had just been.
I reached the end of my third lap and stopped, although I normally like to keep going for forty or fifty minutes without a break. Son two was behind me and I knew he’d need a rest as this was his first swim for the season.
I stand and wait for him to finish. Swimming after a restless sleep seems perfect. It’s still warm and humid and the water is so tantalisingly fresh that you know you’re alive. The breaking sun is trying to push through dark and patchy clouds. There are only three or four others splashing and slapping up and down lanes.
Son two reaches me. Panting, he lifts his goggles.
‘It’s beautiful at this time of the morning,’ I say.
‘Yeah, quiet,’ he gasps. ‘Swimming under the lights is cool. But it’s hard.’
‘You’re doing well for your first swim in more than a year,’ I say. ‘You’ve got a nice stroke. You only need practice and you’ll be better at it.’
‘Let’s go next week again.’
Wow, this is my teenage son! He wants to swim with me, his mother, and wake up early to do so! I watch him take off again and I bask in the morning under the lights that shine high above to light the pool. It’s almost eerie and yet deliciously ambient, as if the whole world hasn’t woken yet and we’re at the brink of watching it wake.
He’s half way and I take off. We swim together for almost half an hour, stopping occasionally to chat about this and that, under the granddaddy of trees. What a perfect start to a day.