Communing Sola

I love having my new swim buddies, can’t say it enough. But I also know that I still need to do solo swims. When I swim with people, it’s jolly to share the experience. But alone, I don’t get distracted and can’t help but be mindful. Going sola, I go to a kind of nature/water-church.

Monday was the first super sunny morning in ages. The first morning that it truly felt like it could be called summer-ish. Nothing warms a prairie girl’s heart or indeed most people’s hearts like a full-blown, blue-sky, sunny morning. I checked the tides on the pooter like Mancub calls it and I could already imagine the glory of my first Dublin-swimspot love: Seapoint. It was 13 degrees Celsius according to my car and only 9:33am.

No one was there except one older guy drying himself off. He was in no hurry to put on clothes and seemed to be settling down in his towel skirt for some morning sunbathing and reading the newspaper.

In some ways it’s a lonelier experience swimming at Seapoint. The size of the bay is much bigger and lends to a bit less intimacy than the swimming hole of Forty Foot. And though the city is closer it feels a bit wilder being out in the open far away from people.

I got in and felt colder than usual. Normally I’m distracted and in such a rush to catch up to C and the others that I barely experience the freezingness.

I swam a hundred yards out. Turning back to check my bag and stuff I spotted another potential swimmer disrobing.

At first I wonder why am I in the water? It’s freeze-your-boobs-off cold. And then I wonder, has the magic gone? Where’s my thrill? And then I flap about some more and the cold wears off a bit and I concentrate on being in the moment. And in this moment there is sunshine, pure sunshine on my wet face. I close my eyes and all I see are my giant orange eyelids. I did a baptismal dunk and came up again and relished shaking the deliciously fresh water off of my face, feeling ecstatic. When I re-surfaced the first thing I noticed a hundred yards away at the changing area was the cross on the Martello tower. Hmm, I wonder is Jesus sending me a sign? Was he saying, stop flaky dabbling with Buddhism and nature worship and come back to me. Actually I think he probably is a fan of Buddha too.

I very much enjoyed Glennon Melton’s essay on the problem with trying to carpe diem all the time. And I agreed. But I think what also needed mentioning is that living in the moment is an art. Something you have to practise, daily. Like during meditation when monkey mind takes over, you have to keep coming back to your breath, let it wander and keep coming back. You have to keep coming back to the present during your day and feel all the textures and layers. And sometimes you suck at it and sometimes you are there in the now more. I totally agree with sage people who say that happiness lies in slowing down and being totally present.

In the present I look over to see what’s taking the changing swimmer at the Martello tower so long.

Just then, facing Howth and the great big sea in front of him, he opened the towel around his waist and did a big, long, naked stretch.

He’s definitely not wearing togs, unless they are nude coloured. I turn away, trying to peek without it being obvious. And I determine he is not wearing togs for sure. As with other encounters with nudists on beaches I’m the one who is embarrassed. Like I’m intruding on them. Maybe my unconscious reckons they are part of the natural habitat.

He put his towel back on.

And then opened it again, sneaking another nudie, arms-up-high stretch.

I don’t want him to think I mind (not that I enjoy it, but I’m not against it philosophically) but how to convey this? I try never to turn in his direction but that’s a little limiting, I like to frolic here and there and take in the whole panoramic view while I float and noodle on my back, and if I can see him in detail then he can see me and which way I’m looking.

I’ve read that some nudists are compulsive about it. They just yearn to feel the air on their soft places and can’t resist. He probably deludes himself into thinking I can’t see him. You can tell that he doesn’t want to freak people out, by his perpetual covering himself back up. I wonder if the sunbathing pensioner in his towel has similar urges and that’s why he is still in his towel skirt rather than back in his civvies.

Little Chief and Mancub love to parade around the garden nude in this weather. Why should we grow out of that urge or resist it? It obviously feels lovely to be free if you can be unself-conscious as toddlers can.

Maybe Mr. Naked is doing what I’m doing. Communing. Maybe this is his holy-ish thing.

I stayed in the longest I’ve done since last August, I’m sure. A few others came and went doing their espresso shot swims, while I lingered in my extra long cappuccino dip. One older lady spent ages getting into her suit. When she finally approached the water’s edge she said aloud to herself, rolling her r: Looks dirty. Ooh it’s cold. I’ll just do 3 strokes and I’m out. And that’s what she did. And then she declared her swimming season for the year had now officially started. Onlookers said to her you’re right to start slow. Aren’t you good, they encouraged her.

A couple of joggers came in to dip their toes. One of them walked in the water all the way up to her cycling-shorts-clad butt. First taste of summer and everyone gets playful.

After a good long set of alternating stretching nude and covering himself with his towel, like a matador playing bullfighter and bull, Mr. Naked put back on all his clothes. He slung his trendy messenger bag across his shoulder, got on his bicycle and rode away, set for the day ahead no doubt.

When I get back out to change I realize it wasn’t a cross I’d spotted in my religious moment after all, but just a set of changing hooks.

I had stayed in the water the longest since last August. And so I had the chills even in the heat. What is the opposite of a meltdown. A freeze-up? A lot of chocolate and tea and coffee and clutching 3 consecutive hot water bottles and I was grand… I loved the weird dry feeling of having sea salt stuck to the skin just below my eyebrows throughout the day.

P.S. Speaking of wind on your soft places, here’s some vintage Hawksley Workman: Paper Shoes. HW is appearing in my upcoming novel: Cadillac Couches, out in September!

4 thoughts on “Communing Sola

  1. Still reading and loving the blog, Sophie. 😉 Really like this Hawksley Workman dude, any recommendations for an album? xxx Ciara

    • Thanks, Ciara!! All music by HW. But that first album is very special: For HIm and the Girls. If he ever comes back to Dublin maybe you’ll come to see him with me. His live shows are life changing and life affirming I find. xoxo

  2. I wouldn’t mind joining you for that HW gig if it happens lovely. xx
    Thanks for another lovely read. Particularly loved to read of your orange eyelids moment and your continued search for mindfulness. Also the photos are ace. xx

  3. hi sophie, this a brilliant sweet witty blog,i love it. i feel rather foolish now asking if you are still writing,i apologise unreservedly! And you have a novel coming out, bloody hell, well done. Can’t wait to read it. best wishes and love to the family, steve

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