'Prepare to be immersed in the heat and vibrancy of Florida's natural world, full of such sensual detail that to read it is to breathe it in.' -Jo Shapcott [review of Greyhound Night Service]

'Peut-être que l'hiver ne l'aurait pas brisée' / Maybe the winter would not have broken

Today my teaching day seemed very long indeed: two seminars separated by a much-needed two-hour break in which to feed and nourish myself--cottage pie in the postgrad / staff cafe and a blissful read of my current detective novel. But each side of lunch was a whopper of a class--twenty students in each group and three-quarters of these staunchly 'not poets', or so they declared last week at the start of lessons.  Let's just say that by 4pm I was exhausted and ready for home...and then I remembered that I'd promised myself I'd go to the gym after work.  

I drove back toward home longing to put my feet up and have a nap but decided to go anyway as the gym is right on my way home and it was getting difficult to ignore the nagging feeling that I hadn't been in over a week due to last week's back-to-term workload.

And thankfully I did go.  Given my exhaustion I decided not to do my regular jogging / weights routine but to swim. And I realised as I took my first huge breath and pushed off the side, head under, that I hadn't swum properly in...well, years I think!  I had been a regular at my previous gym for a number of years, only using the pool there, but I know it has been, at best guess, 3-4 years since I last swam in a way that was more deliberate than doggy paddling or treading water or soaking in a hot tub.

Lap after lap I looked at my hands under water, remembering how, in the early years of my writing group, I'd brought a poem about swimming and how my hands looked beneath the surface as they came together and separated, came together again and again, propelling me forward. It felt good, it felt great to move through water, to breathe in rhythm to my own strokes and to focus on nothing but this...

and the day just fell away.  All of the stress of new classes, their worries about poetry and my own worries about this.  My exhaustion fell away, the heaviness that this winter has brought with the flooding and blowing down of our fence (twice) of the decisions on whether to insulate the loft and how and when, of redecorating the house and always being busy busy busy.  In the pool there was stillness, there was peace: an abstraction we talked about today in class: peace.  But I found it and it didn't feel abstract.  It felt full and as warm as the water in the pool.  It felt as if, as suddenly as I've begun to recognise that the days are getting longer and the light lighter, as if winter had broken...all because I took some time out to breathe and look at my hands.

Blog title credit: Christophe Mae


  1. I stumbled across your words surfing this morning. Oh, they are familiar. I just wanted to share with you their beauty and importance to me, and to urge you to share more when time allows.


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