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Commentary: Life is better when it’s shallow, this La Cañadan says

I know regular readers of this page will have had enough of the story of my summer’s swimming routine but I’m sure they have had more than enough of my stories of hiking so please indulge me for a few moments.

When I wrote about the misery swimming has always been to me — nasty, brutish and long — it was in the form of an epitaph. I was traveling to Korea the day after it appeared and was quite sure the weather would be cold enough when I came back that it would be eminently reasonable if I discontinued my heroic daily regimen of 16 laps.

I feel bound to confess again that by laps I don’t mean 16 times the length of the pool but across and at the shallow end — so that I could stand up the instant cramp, high anxiety, heart attack, old age or just plain fed-upness struck. Even I — I assure you — can see how ridiculous this sounds.

Instead of autumn chill, however, I came back to days so warm that my excuse melted away. “Are you a man or a mouse,?” I asked myself. “You know the answer to that,” I stammered out. “But even the most timorous mouse swims with more style than I do.”


However, since my mousehood had been challenged, slowly, hesitantly, reluctantly I took my trunks out of mothballs and waded in. The water, instead of the summer’s mid-90s, was a bone-chilling 82 degrees. But I was in. “I’ll just do once and back,” I promised myself and began.

But then a miracle happened: I found myself swimming easily and confidently and, when I got to the other side, instead of gazing in dismay at the bouncing waves my untidy swimming had made, I turned round and headed back.

I felt so good when I got there that I turned round and did it again. And again! Twenty times! Twenty-five percent more than what I’d struggled to achieve all summer. I felt like Supermouse.

Our planetary system has moved on since I began this routine and the sun, instead of boring down from overhead, is now behind the trees and the shallow end is in shadow at the time I go in. So maybe, maybe, the warm bath feeling I’ve craved all my life is a burden rather than a help. Cool, I’ve decided, is cool.


Next stop: the New Year’s Day Coney Island polar bear plunge.

REG GREEN lives in La Cañada. He is the author of “The Nicholas Effect: A Boy’s Gift to the World.”