My body moves in water more like thick, embroidery floss through a needlepoint canvas than a dolphin crossing oceans. I am not a proficient swimmer but water feels familiar and lap swimming is as much a spiritual practice for me as exercise. Only after completing a restless hour swimming on Monday the 15th did I become aware that day, July 15th, marked three months since I took my first steps on the shores of Scotland. I couldn’t settle into the present moment of water flowing over my shoulders, spilling down my spine, and splashing behind my kicking feet, but I didn’t know why. Instead I was distracted by the pain in my left leg that lingers since I fell hiking over two weeks ago; frustrated I can’t walk this land and reacquaint myself with these trees and hills. Distracted by strands of past conversations that dropped into my head, following them into thickets of brambles that poked and scratched me and serve no purpose but to hurt. Back and forth I swam, trying to release the distractions.
My half-open eyes see a cathedral in the darkness of my bedroom before I realize I am home. I hear the first notes of birdsong as the light peaks over the horizon and I float with them across the ocean to another land I also call home. What was familiar seems out of place and old routines lie in a jumble on the floor. In my first week home I lost cash, my spare prescription glasses, and my patience while driving. One of the few things that feels grounding is returning to lap swimming. Somehow the fluidity of water settles me. Crossing the threshold home after Sojourning with Grief has brought me into an old place with new eyes. The familiar is now unfamiliar. I am disoriented.
Ever have a bee buzzing around your ear. You move away concerned it might sting you, only to have it follow. Back and forth, back and forth you tussle until you resign to let it go. Soon, the buzz becomes part of the melody of the day and the fear subsides as you realize the fear of getting stung was greater than the actual risk. Following the path of the bee, listening to the melody was a gift waiting to be accepted. That gift was freedom from the fear.
Sometimes I challenge myself in small ways. For example by turning right instead of left on my walk. (This seems like it would be simple but I am a creature of habit, so have to literally tell myself “turn right!”) I did this the other day and noticed a small dead end street hidden from view when I came from the other direction. And the shrubs, flowers, even the shading of the houses looked different. Same houses, same flowers, same shrubs but a subtle difference in lighting and angles because my way of looking had changed.