A place to escape

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This has been the week of my Inner Recluse.

Maybe it's the fall -- the dying season, the sleeping season -- when the sap slides out of the tree branches and settles into the roots. For the next five months, the trees will be hollow bodies.

I feel the changing of the season happening to me. My self is getting further away from the bark, preparing to hibernate. I look out of my eyes at you as if I am looking through a window.

My Inner Recluse and I spend a lot of time at the swimming pool, doing laps. It's the closest thing I can find to an isolation tank.

I watch the shadow of my hand on the bottom of the pool and the shadow of the ripples that each finger makes as I push through the water.

For a moment, I am Mersault -- from "The Stranger" by Albert Camus --looking back at the beach. Watching the sun sparkle on the surface of the water.

On the next lap, I try to hold my breath all the way across the pool until my lungs shake me to the surface.

I touch the wall of the pool and push away for another lap. This time, I only come up for air on every third stroke. I try to keep my face in the water.

The only connection I have to the outside world is the bite of the cold on the back of my head.

No one can touch me here, or talk to me. There will be no small talk while I am underwater.

Next to me in the pool, one lane over, there is a woman swimming.

I am aware of her the entire time. Her body is entirely underwater. Her only connection with the outside world is the tube of a snorkel and my awareness of her.

She was further away from the world than I.

It's so quiet under there, she said later.

I am not the only one who feels like hiding.

It's the way of this place.

When people say, "I came to ski for a season," nine times out of 10, they mean, "I came to get away from the rest of the world."

They'll stay, they say, for one winter, but soon they are another drop melting into this little puddle of people.

Even if life is harder here financially, it is safer in a thousand other ways.

It is a lap pool where we can quietly pace.

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