Every September our family and our extended family participates in the “Buck Island Swim.” From the Wisconsin shores of Camp Edwards to Buck Island the open water swim is l/2, 3/4 or 1 mile, depending on who is telling the tale. It takes place at 6:00AM just as the sun begins to rise. The swim was Doug’s first ever as a little kid at camp.
I have great photographs of this event because I’m never in it. I can’t swim. I can doggy paddle and play but can’t perform one definable stroke.
However, at the age of 50 I was in the best shape of my life and figured I’d join in the fun, knowing full well that I’d be the last one to the Island.
It took a little coaxing and a few dares but in I went and was right out of the gate the last in line. The seaweed was freaky and the sun rising was fabulous. There was a slight mist on the lake that made me wish I had a camera of the waterproof kind. The air was warm and the water was warmer.
My friend, Meg, hung back with me for most of the trip and encouraged me. Doug and Mack kind of circled to make sure all was well. Mack tread water around me and quietly announced, “Mom, we’re having a moment.” Meg and I got the giggles. We teared up a little at the beauty of it all. It was easy to understand, now, the draw of open water.
The end eventually arrived, definitely feeling more like the mile kind of swim, and everyone was congregated on the island chatting while a couple of life guards were on boats waiting for the last of the swimmers. There were probably 50 yards left and I caught up to a little girl. I started to assure her that she wouldn’t be the last one, I’d take that place. She didn’t respond to my teasing.
She was quietly wimpering. She was in over her head, so to speak.
Me: Hey, how old are you?
Me: Who is with you?
Her: My dad, he’s up there.
Me: What’s your name?
Me: What’s your middle name?
Me: Hey, my middle name is Ann too. Olivia Ann, let’s try this. Roll over on your back and look at the sky. It’s pretty this time of morning. We can rest this way. And breathe a little easier.
She did what I told her. She calmed down right away.
Me: This is a pretty cool thing we’re doing, Olivia Ann. Swimming in this pretty lake on this pretty morning. Let’s just lay here for a minute and breathe. This isn’t really a race. We just want to finish.
We did just that. I needed the rest just like she did. I figured I’d try to help her accomplish this task that was obviously on her young bucket list.
Me: You doin’ ok?
Me: OK, Olivia Ann, you brave, big 9 year old girl, let’s swim different ways so that we don’t get too tired.
We swam on our sides, we swam on our tummies, we swam on our backs. I did all the talking. She said nothing but her wimpering was behind us. We made it. I let her finish first. Her dad went to her and she cried. He had no idea she was in trouble.
I picked up a rock out of the water and gave it to her. “This is your souvenier, your proof of how brave you are. Keep it forever.”
I picked up a 2nd rock that I’ll keep forever.
While I’ll never swim to Buck Island again, I’ll always be in the boat taking beautiful pictures. And I’ll always keep an eye out for that 9 year old little girl.
Sometimes you do things and you don’t know why. I think I was in the right place at the right time on that morning to make a difference. If you can recognize those times and grab them it’s all good.
PS … The picture above is what you see as you approach Buck Island early on a September morning.