Molly Fisk: Be Joyful Though You Have Considered All the Facts

I went swimming today, as I often do, in a lake 20 minutes from my house. It’s a human-made lake, not a true natural lake, which you can tell because there’s a dam at one end they let water out of all summer, lowering the surface and therefore the boat dock by several feet each week. Now, in early September, a stretch of red dirt shows all along the edges and large tree stumps have been revealed on the shore. A little aspen  took root a few years ago beside the dock, or rather, it’s beside the dock when we start swimming in late May. Now it’s half-way up the ramp. Being of a literary and a sentimental bent, I sometimes wonder, when I’m swimming back toward the dock, whether it misses its tree at this time of year. They are reunited a month after the rains begin, when the lake fills up again.

Yeah, I know, I’m a sap.

In one way I have the ideal swimming body: I’m buoyant in the extreme. I’m also strong in the shoulders, so even though there’s a lot of me to haul around, I eventually get where I’m going. At this lake, I’m going to the left, toward what we call the Santa Fe House because it’s made of adobe. I like to think the distance is a third of a mile from dock to beach, so I can say I’ve swum two thirds of a mile, but I don’t really know. And I never actually touch land. I would if it were sandy, but it’s rocks and soggy, slimy dirt, a.k.a mud. Everyone has their phobias and mine is oookiness underfoot. So I swim close to shore but stay over my head, and then turn around and swim back. I don’t sit on the bank to rest, but sometimes I float on my back and look at the clouds. Being buoyant, my feet come zooming up from below me and I have a chance to admire the fact that my toenail polish matches the lake. Then my midsection rises and blocks out the sight of my toes, and I sigh and think, “I wonder if I’ll ever lose any weight?” Then I think, “Who knows?!?” and look at the clouds again. There’s no point in ruining a beautiful cool relaxing invigorating refreshing and fabulous swim by thinking about your weight.

Today, I was alone. No friends came with me, no motorboats were out. The two kayakers disappeared in the other direction and the paddle boarder walked up the ramp to his car. I righted myself and twirled slowly to get a 360-degree view. It’s a fine lake. When your face is that close to the water, it’s a dark turquoise-teal color that makes me inordinately happy. Suddenly I though of Wendell Berry’s great line: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

“This is what it feels like to be happy,” I said aloud.

“I’m still thinking of the wildfires and smoke, Houston’s flood wreckage, the huge hurricane headed straight for Miami. I haven’t forgotten South Asia’s monsoons or melting polar ice. But right now, here, in this blue lake, nothing is wrong, and I’m lucky, and grateful, and wet, and happy.”

I hope you can find your happiness, too.

The title is a line from Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto”

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  • Jan Hersh September 30, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    A buoyant piece indeed and heeded by a fellow buoyant swimmer!

    • Molly Fisk September 30, 2017 at 11:19 pm

      I will think of you tomorrow around noon, when I descend into the freezing waters… I think I have about another two weeks before it’s going to foil me with its chilliness. 😉

  • Laurel Clohossey September 30, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    I’m sure the dock and tree have a love story. How wonderful of you to tell us about it. Maybe you were alone in the moments of this swim. But now you’ve take us there with you and I feel the water sliding over your beautiful belly and am refreshed.

  • Shirley Harrison September 30, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Love Wendell Berry’s writing. Very contemplative. Is that the right word?

    • Molly Fisk September 30, 2017 at 11:18 pm

      I think so, but we need an English teacher to be sure… 😉

  • Mickey M. September 30, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Thank you, Molly. Be joyful. Hugs.

    • Molly Fisk September 30, 2017 at 11:17 pm

      You, too, Mickey! 😉