LEARN TO SWIM

 

By Chryseia Brennan

June brings the joy of weather finally warm enough for a swim. Slipping into clear, cool water, inch by cautious inch, perfect dive or all-out cannonball, frees us. Does being immersed reconnect us to life’s earliest, humble beginnings? Or is the simple act of cooling off on a hot day enough in itself, contemplation not required?

We float on the surface, faces to the sun, one of the few creatures to do this besides otters. Floating suspends gravity, buoys us in relaxation: a zen state free of tension. For those who sink like a stone, there are rafts and swim noodles, or just standing in water up to the neck. Water takes the weight of the world off us.

From dog paddlers and side strokers to gold medal free stylists, swimming moves every part of us: legs and arms, heart and lungs. It extends beyond the physical: studies show that swimming reduces anxiety and depression, and helps new brain cells grow in areas that atrophy under chronic stress. What better prescription for happiness than swimming on a warm day in June?

My mother feared water her entire life. As one of eight children living near a major dam on the Susquehanna, her mother could not monitor all those offspring all the time. To teach them to stay away from the river and avoid accidental drowning, she took her children to the water’s edge as police dredged the dam searching for bodies of suicide victims, a fairly common occurrence during Mom’s depression-era childhood, and warned them: “Stay away from the water!” I always thought it a crime that she could not enjoy a swim.

My father and his siblings would steal away to the river in the evening, hide their clothes on a bench or rock, and swim to a small island midstream. My father recalled the trouble they were in one night when their clothes were stolen and they returned home in underwear and confessed their crime. He and his brothers were in more trouble for losing their clothing than for swimming in the river at night.

Imagine being raised by this pair! Summer get-togethers at a local lake or river saw my mother avoiding the water at all costs. Her concern for us probably explains her early gray. Dad taught me to swim at four or five, throwing me in the river and yelling, “Swim to Uncle Joe.” I dog paddled furiously against the current, listening to my mother read him the riot act as I splashed. Definitely not a recommended swim lesson; luckily, I took to water like a fish.

I raised my sons in a house with a small pond in the back, bordered by a river in the front. Friends and family warned me to install a fence. They quoted statistics on accidental drowning of children; voiced how easily it could happen. They were right, of course, but I could not accept that approach. Instead, I taught them to swim.

My hope was that they, too, would learn to love the water, the tranquility and quiet of an underwater world, that they would find safety in their knowledge and ability, their training. They eventually swam well outside my “rescue zone,” giving me a few gray hairs when they surfed spectacular, bone-crushing waves in Hawaii.

The call to water on a warm day, the ability to enjoy it without fear, the freedom to feel the sun on our skin, the breeze in our hair without need of cover or fear of recrimination is a cherished right; the many beautiful waterways, lakes and ponds in our area, a gift to protect and savor. Caring for this abundant water goes beyond the Sturbridge Lake Association Committee (SLAC) and the Conservation Commission, who work to encourage the wise use of our lakes and educate us on keeping them environmentally sound. It rests on each of us.

Our ecosystem is forgiving, yet fragile, vulnerable to threats on many fronts: invasive species, man-made erosion from boating, phosphates from fertilizers, illegal dumping. Those who safeguard our waters swim upstream to do it. It is everyone’s mandate to protect and maintain our heritage, we all live upstream and downstream from someone else.

Keeping our lakes and waterways healthy, learning to swim, spending a day doing nothing but relaxing at the water’s edge can make us happier and healthier. Grab a watermelon and head to the lake! Enjoy this gift of June, of water, this integral part of our Sturbridge way of life.

The Sturbridge Times

 

The Sturbridge Times Magazine has been publishing 11 issues a year, with no January issue, since July, 2007. Our parent company, Strategen Advertising, Inc., is a healthcare marketing firm specializing in medical practice development and marketing medical equipment. Our publication is unique in that it offers agency-quality advertising creative services to our local advertisers.

The Sturbridge Times Magazine is mailed to every home in Sturbridge and Fiskdale and in selected homes in 10 other surrounding communities. For advertising information, contact Paul Carr at 508-296-9299 or 508-450-8198. Queries for editorial submissions should be directed to: editorial@sturbridgetimes.com.

Sturbridge, Massachusetts

 

Sturbridge, first settled in 1729, by settlers from Medfield, was officially incorporated in 1738. The town is situated with Route 20 ribboning through, and Interstate 90 (Mass Turnpike) and Interstate 84 (heading to Connecticut and beyond) meeting in town. In the 2000 census Sturbridge counted 7,837 residents in 3,066 households (34.2% of which had children under 18), with an average density of 89.1 per square mile. The median income for Sturbridge families was $64,455.

 

Places of Interest:

Sturbridge, located on Rt. 20, is a “living museum" that re-creates life in rural New England from 1790s to the 1830s

Old Sturbridge Village, located on Rt. 20, is a “living museum" that re-creates life in rural New England from 1790s to the 1830s.

Tantiusques is an open-space reservation and historic site here in town.

Wells State Park is a 1,400-acre (570 ha) woodland park and campground located on Rt. 49. The park includes 10 miles (16 km) of trails and Walker Pond, which offers a setting for fishing, canoeing, and swimming.

 

Sturbridge has become a dining destination for people who travel from Worcester and Hartford, with many popular dining establishments such as the famous Publick House, Cedar Street Grille and Avellino.