Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Big Blue
When I wake, I look out my bedroom window to the sea. This morning, two white motor boats lay at anchor, rolling gently, close to the fall line of the inshore surf. Surf Life Savers on jet skis skimmed by them. There was a mass of small shapes, constantly breaking the surface of the water. I got up and went to the window. The beach was crowded with people. At first, I thought they were watching a pod of dolphins, or a pack of thrashing sharks. Then I realised it was a large group of men and women in coloured bathing caps, swimming freestyle towards the steep rocky headland. It was The Big Swim, a 2.7km endurance race through open ocean, from my local beach to another. I haven't been physically active for years and I'm not interested in most forms of competitive sport. But for a while, in my early 20s, I was interested in sports psychology. When I left art school, after being told that I wouldn't become an artist, I referred to sports psychology techniques to help my focus, self belief, discipline and mental stamina. It worked for a short while.I thought about this as I watched 800 or so participants swim relentlessly through a stretch of dark, heaving water where, on other days, I've seen dolphins, whales and, occasionally, large sharks. Some people were so tired they strayed off course and had to be re-directed by the life savers.It's easier to stop, to pause, to get distracted, or just to give up, when on land. There's nothing life-threatening about it. Often, I find it difficult to do a number of things at once but the freedom and independence I desire requires that I do more than my art every day. Ocean swimming is unpredictable and can be dangerous and demanding. So people prepare by training – practising the different parts of the required skill all at once and increasing their stamina. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed, lately, by all the things I have to do. But all that's really required is to approach them as if I'm swim training – to be aware of the different actions that are required to make the whole and to make sure I am doing each properly. The only problem is, I'm already way out in the deep, blue sea.