Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Why We Swim" by Bonnie Tsui

Not terribly long ago, I had a couple long weekend stays visiting my daughter. There were certain parameters to the hotels I chose to stay in. Free wifi. ✅ Breakfast included. ✅ Good proximity. ✅ Indoor pool. ✅✅✅

The latter was truly the first and foremost of importance. Especially in the wintery and early spring months where the outdoor temps (of both air and water) were too chilly, and an indoor pool was paramount. 

Fitting too, some of my poolside reading was Bonnie Tsui's 2020 book Why We Swim. I've talked a lot in the past about #BlueMind and how my backyard pool is my home away from home (see here and here). Hydrotherapy is indeed one of my greatest escapes and mental equalizers. It's where I can move with ease (regardless of achy knees or hip acts up). It's where I fully unplug and have moving meditations, achieving total Zen moments. It's where I have no problem being "that crazy bouncing lady in the pool, even with a mask" if the pool starts getting crowded here in Covid America--I don't care. It is truly my happy place, and I will not be deterred from being there!

Here are some of the other great takeaways I got from Bonnie Tsui's book:

🏊🏻‍♀️We are "land creatures with an aquatic past." (page 5)

🏊🏻‍♀️With approximately 70% of the planet being water, it's not a surprise that 40% of the world's population lives less than 60 miles from a coast. 

🏊🏻‍♀️She referenced Charles Tomlinson's poem "Swimming Chenango Lake." I didn't know this poem and looked it up. They both reference swimming as "moving in the embrace of water, but mindfully" (Tsui, page 36), being free and in the flow. 

🏊🏻‍♀️On page 54, while visiting Iceland, she mentioned "swimming as liturgy." Later too (page 65) she quotes Kim Chambers: "The water has been my teacher. It is my come to the water and feel cleansed." Swimming indeed strikes that chord for me--it becomes a place of worship and one of my closest moments to God, higher power, spirituality and self-awareness. It has me at "Buoyancy, floating, weightlessness. Freedom." (p. 74) Renewal comes in that water! As does escape.

🏊🏻‍♀️I'm a splasher who is constantly in movement, maybe more in a water aerobics kind of way. But even so, this strikes me: "For many swimmers, the act of swimming is a tonic, in that old-fashioned sense of the word: it is restorative, a stimulant, undertaken for a feeling of vigor and well-being." (page 62)

🏊🏻‍♀️Swimming is forgiving with an agelessness to it. Because of the water, you can do things there that you (well, maybe me) can't always do on land. The water resistance and weightlessness makes it possible to keep you moving, pain free, in a multitude of ways that other on-land exercise can't. Add in too, it reminds us how to play. (page 110)

🏊🏻‍♀️"After experiencing awe, we are more likely to help others and to be relaxed and satisfied with life." (page 102)

🏊🏻‍♀️"Swimming is the second most popular recreational activity in America, outranked only by walking." (page 109)

🏊🏻‍♀️She quoted Wallace J. Nichols (Blue Mind author) stating that "Being around water provides a sensory rich environment with enough 'soft fascination' to let our focused attention rest and the default-mode network kick in." (p. 221) It's like being mindful and mindless simultaneously. "wimming was an ideal time to ruminate, to noodle for noodling's sake, to compose in one's head." (p. 222) Yes! Yes! Yes! No doubt, being in and under the water, and how sounds shift in those moments (as does light on the water) can bring about a meditative state where you are one with your own space and place.

🏊🏻‍♀️"There is a seductiveness to water. From afar, it gleams and glistens, a shiny liquid jewel. It is inviting. It swirls, fans, and coalesces, embracing you. It holds you and yet cannot be held by you. When we immerse ourselves, something is awakened." (page 248) This feels like poetry in motion, and my pool experience every time. 

Maybe it's all of these reasons why I not only had hotel pool aqua bliss, but why the book also spoke to me. As I look back on my reflection here, it could perhaps been seen as a romantic love affair with water and ode to eau. It's interesting too how the pool became a true adult passion and later discovery. I think it just goes to show you that beauty and wonder are there, always to be discovered. May you discover yours, in whatever form it takes!

Pool Image from my camera. Book cover from

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