Thunderheads punch white pillars into blue sky. The towering clouds float at a distance in suspended animation, slowly morphing from rock features to dragons. It’s not a warm summer on the Keweenaw but no one is complaining and it’s a bumper crop of sweet cherries and field-grown strawberries. Nights are pleasantly cool.
Nokomis Gichigami, Grandmother Big Sea, is frigid.
Yesterday, Lake Superior recorded 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday, I swam with Mause.
Let me back up to explain “swimming.” I’m fine paddling about in a kayak or in water with my head scoping the path forward. At one time in my life — age 13 — I sufficiently overcame my terror of getting my head submerged to have joined the county swim team. My coach told me to wear nose plugs. Since then, I’ve regressed and won’t submerge my head.
But a friend of mine floats and I want to float, too. Last year, I decided to try the water on one of our boat rides (her partner has a beautiful pontoon boat for cruising our vast Portage Canal and edges of Lake Superior). I climbed down the back ladder and clung to the boat, hyperventilating. I’m a pro at meditation, though and I began to calm and deepen my breath.
Then my leg cramped and I got scared and thought maybe floating wasn’t for me. Yet.
This summer, I’ve returned to yoga and I’m working on those hamstrings (the ones that cramp). I also bought an apparatus that I remember using to learn different strokes when swimming — a kickboard. Mine is purple with the tiniest smattering of turquoise glitter. A vast improvement over the plain white boards of the ’70s.
That’s how I came to be in the water, watching thunderheads expand vertically. My friend’s boat is the happy place for many of us. He generously takes guests on weekend cruises, and I’m fortunate to be a frequent-boater-future-floater. This time, he invited a local massage therapist who lives off-grid with her husband. They’re both in their seventies, near eighties. She loves to float but shares my fear. She wears a life vest.
This time, I felt confident going into the water. Panic hit but I was ready for it and countered my breaths until I felt calm. Then I dared to push away from the boat and my kickboard glided. We had stopped in a cove not far from White City, the beach that once entertained miners’ families with amusements and picnics. Only the Portage lighthouses and breakwall remains.
At some point, I relaxed enough to rest my chin on the board, my arms forward like in child-pose, and suddenly, I felt it. Buoyancy. I breathed into the feeling and let my body float. Glorious water held me. I floated into a warm spot and among my friends, one on her back, the other floating like a bobber in her vest. We spoke to each other as we floated. Sometimes we fell silent.
In one of those silent moments, another boat coasted into the cove and met up with our captain. We heard a new voice remark, “Are those corpses?” followed by laughter from the other boats that had also pulled in without our notice. I suppose we made an odd sight. But none of us cared and we floated until called back to the boat.
That’s how I arrived at the moment of swimming with Mause yesterday. Mause’s swim history is much shorter and begins yesterday.
It’s hit or miss with a German Shorthaired Pointers. Either they love water or they loathe it. Last summer, Mause was a young puppy (now she’s an elder puppy). We introduced her to water, but she never swam. She chased waves and rocks. It’s been too cold to swim this year, as noted by the Lake’s chilly temperature. Still, the sun heats surface water and it’s warmer where the waves blow to shore.
The day was hot and we decided to cool off at McLeans. I poked around among the rock bars, getting my ankles adjusted to the cold. Mause chased rocks, and I waded deeper. Having plunged my arm deep to retrieve an interesting rock or two, I felt ready to repeat my floating experience. I grabbed my kickboard from the shore and glided across the waves.
It’s more difficult to float with rock shoes weighing down my feet and waves battering my board. I thrust across the waves testing my memory of swim kicks when I heard a rhythmic plunging approach. Mause had swam out to me on her own! Her expression of surprise in her eyes and ears changed to joy and I knew we had a swimmer GSP. I crooned and encouraged her. She swam circles around me. It was as good as floating!
What floats your boat? Or your dandelion fluff, or ever-changing cloud cover?
July 18, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about floating. Who is floating, where, and in what? Is the floating real or felt internally? Whatever floats your boat, go where the prompt leads!
- Submit by July 23, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
- Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
- Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
- Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
- Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.
Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.