appreciation

Pools apart

Inside a building two pools side by side separated by glass. But looking is not the same as seeing. There is a sense of separation and a dissolution of barriers. It is a beautiful contradiction hidden to most but the curving corners of my mouth betray the fluid intensity before me and the surge of joy and appreciation at witnessing so many bodies in various states of motion and becoming.

Young bodies expand and explore the depths of movement with eagerness and energy while larger bodies next door also move with purpose and focus. Technique and a desire to improve and become a better swimmer the shared experience. Feedback from coaches refining the co-ordination of limbs in various combinations, careful additions, subtractions correcting strokes of a body with spokes. Goggles on, prosthetics off and time running the same for everyone. Standing in the shallow water those beginning to appreciate and assemble the skills to move through this alien medium peer through to the other side with a mix of awe and respect. No, it is ‘not over their heads’, they know intuitively the work and effort that is perhaps the only thing that might represent a distinction between them. Perhaps from the others side, there is an awareness, a sense of the mirror and recognising the journey taken. The simple act of a smile, a wave crossing time and space to reach through illusions of separation rendering a fluidity of now and exacting a perfect moment of immanence.

Like superheroes without capes casting aside previous limits and rescuing role model images from the clutches of neurotic gendered stereotypes that prevail through more traditional sports. Not a body hair in sight yet no masculinity was in question or of concern to these guys in tight fitting body wear. Women as broad and powerful with their physicality and proudly sporting body art displaying achievements. But none were immune to goggle eyes and cap hair. These finely tuned biological machines and machines within machines, metallic eyes and cybernetic limbs assembled together as aquatic mammals.

A place where butterflies exist without a chrysalis. Although there might just be a hint of caterpillar at times.

[Written after watching the New Zealand Open Swimming Champs from the confines of the learn to swim pool next door – best free sports viewing ever, although it is rather steamy and hot…the air temperature!]

Less visibility means you might see more

Fog doesn’t conjure up warm images or seem to offer much to those seeking motivating imagery. I’d go as far to suggest the ‘fog’ metaphor is probably more frequently applied negatively to imply a block or barrier to seeing clearly, or being able to operate at full capacity (whatever that is) such as the term ‘mental fog’. It’s also wet and cold – like rain – only much more stealthy and an umbrella won’t help.

It occurred to me that fog is a wonderful phenomenon that provides a useful opportunity to slow down both literally and metaphorically, take a different sensory lens to the world and ‘see’ what we might not have observed before. Fog reduces visibility or more accurately optical (visual) acuity, you lose the ability to pick up fine detail or the ‘sh*^t I can’t see anything’ factor. Driving is probably the activity most people would associate with impairment due to fog. What is immediately in front of you becomes lost in the murky soup of condensation and should mean an adjustment in awareness or at least some modification of speed and following distance. More often than not I suspect it is met with gritted teeth, reluctant braking and the dilemma of whether to have your lights dipped or on full. People rarely embrace the opportunity to focus in a new way or even notice how things appear in this new ‘muted’ light. They just want to get through it and out the other side.

I’ve noticed when running just how often I expect to get to the top of Mt Eden and look out over the city. My expectation is based on a preference for the view being panoramic but I have come to appreciate the beauty and contrast foggy mornings bring. Trees become silhouettes and lights become orbs and it always feels like I hear more. Breaking through at the summit, the city makes noise beneath the fleece of white cloud and other landmarks form a temporary new perspective of ‘ground level’.

So whether your are driving or just going about life generally if ‘fog’ appears either metaphorically or literally – take a moment to adjust and see what appears to emerge that might have come forward for noticing now that the usual background detail has blurred.

But if you are on a bike in the fog – just get over the ego and go high viz – become a Dutch football fan if you need an excuse, or go all the way and get a vest – embody Emmet from The Lego Movie…either way there are times when it pays to stand out and not blend into the background.