By Vita Forest
I was swimming back and forth across the pool. The pool edged in rocks and shells and soft green moss. I was swimming with my head above the water, legs moving like a frog below. I was feeling the wind on my face, and remembering how yesterday, the high seas had sent waves over the sides of the pool, pushing me away from the rock wall. How I laughed with a stranger as our bodies were swept back by the cold effervescent water that poured in from the sea. But today, the seas have calmed, have dropped back down to a more civilised level. The Surf Beach is open again, red and gold flags fluttering in the breeze, the whole bay no longer churning with white water.
I had swum in the surf with my kids, the waves still looking mighty big as they came roaring towards us. But the bay was not completely awash with white water. And the flags were out, and the lifesavers. So it seemed alright. But now I was back at the pool on the headland, stately stroking onwards in a kind of moving meditation. Above me, a pelican arced overhead like a kite, doing its own kind of laps, floating back and forth over the meandering edge of the black rock headland, wings outstretched, held up there between the sun and the sea.
There were a few of us crossing forwards and backwards along the far side of the pool. For exercise, for fitness, or was it a remnant of body memory from when we were kids? When swimming meant racing or squad training, counting the laps, watching the clock, pushing your body until it felt like it would explode. I have mellowed since then, but I still feel the need to swim up and down. Now I do it at lower speeds with my head out of the water so my ears don’t ache and I can look at the scenery as I go.
There were others in the pool who had obviously never been competitive swimmers, whose eyes didn’t automatically divide the water with invisible lines, straight and narrow. They splashed and floated across the pool, or hovered in pairs chatting by the rocky outcrops or leapt in right where I was about to swim. I could see the look of frustration on the face of a fellow lapper, but really, who was right? Why did we think that swimming should be done this way and not that? And we were on holidays after all. Did it really matter if we had to detour around the woman lounging on the blow-up bed holding herself in place with a hand cupped over a bulge of black rock? If speed and straightness was really what you were after, you could always go to the chlorinated indoor pool up the hill, with its lanes marked out with rows of black tiles and by rigid ropes strung tight between hooks at either end of its fifty metres.
But I prefer this pool with its unruly edges, its uneven rock floor and the occasional fish that floats beneath our feet, causing the boy with the goggles to shriek excitedly, “Two fish! Really big ones!” I prefer my fingers to stroke the green moss softening the jagged rocks on the pool’s edges, where you can stop and look out at the sea and perhaps catch a glimpse of a crab sidling along, emerging and submerging beneath the water.
When I climbed up the metal ladder and balanced my way across the concrete path, back to my towel, I heard a small girl announcing to her mother as she held up a shell, “Look! He’s still inside his egg. Look! He’s still there!” And they peered into the heart of the small rounded shell she had pulled from the rock pool at her feet, and I pulled on my hat and my clothes and walked up the hill and saw that pelican, still cruising back and forth along the rocky coastline below me.