Bonnie Tsui's WHY WE SWIM: Introduction

Recently I listened to an interview with Bonnie Tsui on the Longform Podcast which I highly recommend. Her book Why We Swim just came out in paperback. It's a topic she has thought a lot about over the years since she swims nearly every day and swam competitively when younger. I started reading it this week and included an excerpt here from the Introduction:

I felt the draw of liquid early on: that slide into lovely immersion, that spiraling weightlessness, that privileged access to a muted underworld. Entry was granted to me there at Jones Beach, where we passed the hours within shouting distance of our moms’ blue-flowered beach towels. In between swims, we gave each other wedgies and buried ourselves in the sand. I liked how the ocean seemed to draw breath, lying placid one moment and rearing up the next, moving us in one rippling mass to and from the horizon. Once, a big wave came and smacked me from behind. Surprise overturning, ass over teakettle. Then, a liquid, green room, clouded by sand. Me, swimming and swimming toward nothing. Which way is up? Four feet isn’t very much water, but it’s deep enough to drown in.

Time stretched. I wondered about the press of my burning lungs, wishing for air. 

Time restarted with an accidental kick to the head, from my cousin swimming not two feet away. Gifted this reference point, I scrambled to the surface, my hair wrapped around my face like kelp. Embarrassed and gasping, I looked around. When I realized that no one had noticed I was in trouble, I pretended that I never was. And I turned right back into the sea.  

Tsui, Bonnie. Why We Swim (p. 8). Algonquin Books. Kindle Edition. 

So much is happening here with just a handful of sentences-
Humor and Play: "ass over teakettle," being buried in the sand, 
"wedgies." 
Mystery: "muted underworld; 
"liquid green room." 
Vivid descriptions: "blue- flowered beach towels"; "hair wrapped around my face like kelp."

Yet, Tsui doesn't stop there. No matter how funny or playful or inviting a day at the beach can be, violence is always near: Getting "smacked... from behind" along with a "kick to the head."

So is downright danger: "Which way is up?" and "Four feet isn't very much water, but it's deep enough to drown in."   

Here we're lured in, thinking it's another day at the beach... and it is but not just another day.  No matter how much fun or relaxing we may think swimming and immersing ourselves in water is, we're reminded that any day at the beach could be our last day at the beach. And yet, even when we do realize this, what happens? We turn "right back into the sea."

I'm excited to start (dive into?) Tusi's book and I'll continue to post quotes. 


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