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by Linda Shoenberger

April 1, 2008

The opening lines of Walt Whitman’s great poem Song of the Open Road strike a familiar chord now that open water swimming season is almost here.  It’s always wonderful to experience longer days, a little sunshine and the prospect of heading out for a long swim in the open water.

song of the open road

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading

wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am


Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no

more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries,

querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.

The description afoot and light-hearted reminds me of swimmers standing barefoot on the beach in our bathing suits and matching caps gazing out at the body of water ahead of us.  Usually the sun has just come up and we’ve got goose bumps.  We’re healthy, free, a world of water (rough, calm, cold, warm, blue, turquoise) before us.  What a feeling!

The long brown path before me leading wherever I chooseYes, it’s true, we will not all follow the same path from buoy to buoy.  In fact, many of us “choose?” to zig zag, veer away from the pack, lollygag, do backstroke or breaststroke.  You name, we do it.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune…  Well, at least we hope we are in good enough shape (‘I myself am good-fortune’) to make it from beginning to end.  Whether it is 1 mile or 5 miles or something in between we have prepared ourselves to swim.  But if we misjudged our fitness level or ability to conquer the elements, there are lots of strong, well-trained lifeguards and swim competitors out in boats and on surfboards looking out for us.

We whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing… Ok, some of us do whimper.  Some postpone their start to avoid the rush of 40-year-old men elbowing their way down the beach and pounding through the first sprint.  And we certainly need goggles that don’t leak!

We’re in the fresh air, away from work and responsibilities.  We’re strong, having done our many laps to get fit and ready to face the world of wondrous wild open water.  What a way to go – Afoot and Light-hearted.