Intruders, swimmers, and a wild dog

Someone, sometwo or somethree have been sneaking onto my blog and registering as users when my back was turned. I’ve swept them out the door and removed the option to register from my log-in page. The lesson, I think, is to spend a little more time in the blog-garden myself. Unmown lawns and clambering weeds have always looked enticing to strays.

What do you think about when you swim up and down lanes? I realised this morning that for me it depends on the stroke. My friend and sister-in-law recently passed on tips from her lessons so doing overarm I’m fully absorbed imprinting the new technique, drawing the straight arm and lightly cupped hand across the midline and all the way down to the outer thigh, rolling rather than twisting for a breath, trying to relax so I don’t sink. Backstroking, I think about raising the thumb first, then swiveling the arm so that the pinky re-enters the water then — revelation! — rather than throwing the arm back and scooping, pushing it directly to one’s side, . You can feel the acceleration. Breaststroking, I just bob along. I haven’t had the lesson tips yet so my mind goes wandering across the lanes (gosh, hairy shoulders! I wonder if my cap’s as bunched as a cook’s turban, like hers; eergh! sticking plaster; R’s stroke’s improving; uh-oh, here comes The Splasher with his three-foot flippers). Deep stuff.

Yesterday I had a meeting with a dog that shook me up I realised when I woke this morning with the sense that it had entered my dreams as well. I was at my aunt’s when a friend I hadn’t seen for years turned up with her two-year-old female Rhodesian Ridgeback, a slight, muscular animal (very small for her breed, said J) with black eyes that burned above the muzzle holding her in check as they entered the room. ‘The thing with this breed is not to make eye contact,’ J said. Too late. I’d been scorched. Amber was ready to tear my throat. Nevertheless, I sat while J brought her to meet me. ‘They don’t like being touched, either.’ But my hand had already responded to the soft, enquiring snout. Stones rumbled in her throat. I sat still, willing myself to relax as Amber walked around me, sniffed once more and went to lie down. ‘She’s never accepted someone so readily,’ J said. ‘Thanks for allowing the experiment; most of my friends are too scared.’ This was a very different beast from the lamb in dog’s clothing, the Ridgeback-Lab cross, that we’d minded in April. Amber must be a constant liability to her carers; she would allow for no casual visitors, no careless walking out with dog unrestrained. And yet that something in her, so raw and fierce, so well beyond the timbre of everyday, left its mark on my psyche and I find myself almost hankering to meet her again.

4 responses to “Intruders, swimmers, and a wild dog”

  1. Any time the children were preoccupied with their own business was time for a mother to think her own thoughts, I reckon. But I wonder if swimmers and runners solve great problems while training, other than the ‘problem’ of improving the style, or reaching the other end, or the end of the road. Nice to meet you here, Adele.

  2. Reading this reminds me of the days and years when my two daughters swam competitively, and how for what seemed like many thousands of hours each day…I watched them swim all of these strokes…propelling toward perfection. Yet never once did it occur to me…what exactly do my two little darlings think about while swimming “up and down these lanes”? I almost feel guilty now, for not having asked them…but I suppose I was preoccupied with what was sloshing around in my own head at the time. Your notice of how each different stoke provoked various ways of thinking…and how perspective may have been pivotal in that process. Then of course, the obvious…the strokes themselves…the mechanics of how the swimmer…swims…not to mention how one looks in the pool from a spectator advantage…all terribly mundane but important stuff as one works their way just a little closer to those Olympic trials times. Thanks so much, Penelope, for the backstroke into days gone by…a pleasant memory or two I savored here. And a reminder that when our bodies are fully engaged…the mind is always part of that adventure, too!

  3. Gosh, potent memories indeed. I quite understand the aversion. So much seems to depend on the dog knowing its place in the hierarchy of beings.

  4. Snakes, spiders I can cope with and have learned to loved antechinuses (those creatures whose rat-like appearance is only redeemed by their Australianness), but a friend’s Rhodesian ridgeback…the line was drawn, and I cowered in terror. Dogs. So many memories associated with them, and only a few good. I see my father hitting Spot, the work dog, with a bar, and my mother screaming at him to stop, and tears are rolling down my cheeks. Then, the little dog on the beach that I, a 12-y-o, bent down to pat, and it bit me on the upper lip, leaving a scar still visible. My first thought: my father will be so angry with me. The dog/father brand seared into me.