feb 2/SWIM

1.2 miles
ywca pool

Met my almost 17 year-old daughter at the pool and then we swam together. She’s swimming for online gym. I love swimming with my kids. This summer I swam at the lake with my 19 year-old son, now I get to swim at the pool with my daughter. I try to stay chill and not scare them with my enthusiasm, but it’s difficult.

Tried using a pull buoy for the first time in a few years. So much easier to breath when my body is higher up on the water. I should probably find some more drills to help with keeping me higher.

A few laps in I noticed an oval of bright light on the pool floor, not near the windowed wall, but the windowless one. A strange, beautiful thing to see.

I pushed off the wall underwater for my first lap ritual and swam just above the pool bottom. Noticed a black thread or hair floating right below my nose. A strange, ugly thing to see. Lots of crud in the water this afternoon. Nothing big or too gross, but small bits of something that made the water cloudy.

Later in the swim, I noticed lines of light on the bottom close to the window. Remembered to look up above the water as I flipped at the wall. Today above the surface looked pink to me. Forgot to notice the moving shadows on the pool floor.

At the beginning of the swim, when there was only one other person in the water, I heard some splashing or sloshing underwater. Was it from me? I don’t think so.

Later, after the swim, in the hot tub with Scott, I noticed another woman sitting in the corner, miming freestyle strokes in the hot water.

Also in the hot tub: crouching down, my chin just above the surface, I watched the light catch the spray of water made by one of the jets, making the spray look like fizz from my favorite grapefruit seltzer. Below, the jet made the water look like swirling smoke.

not a cabinet of curiosities

Talked to Scott about my class and my week on wonder as curiosity, which is coming up in a few weeks. There’s a quote by Thoreau that I’m interested in challenging. Well, maybe not challenging, but imagining curiosity against?

[24] In winter, nature is a cabinet of curiosities, full of dried specimens, in their natural order and position.

A Winter Walk/ Thoreau

Thoreau is describing a particular type of western scientific attention: study the natural world as individual things (specimens) to be isolated, classified, and categorized. To learn about, not from. To see non-human beings only as objects, never subjects.

I want to contrast this cabinet of curiosities with Robin Wall Kimmerer and her expanded understanding of knowing:

I would describe my journey as a circle, moving out into academia but coming back to the way that I knew plants as a child. I grew up in a rural area much like where we’re sitting today, and I was interacting every day with plants in the garden, the woods, or the wetlands. I couldn’t go outside without being surprised and amazed by some small green life. I suppose it was their great diversity of form that first drew my interest: that on a small patch of ground there could be so many different ways to exist. Each plant seemed to have its own sense of self, yet they fit together as a community. And each had a home, a place where I knew I could find it. This inspired my curiosity.

From as far back as I can remember, I had this notion of plants as companions and teachers, neighbors and friends. Then, when I went to college, a shift occurred for me. As an aspiring botany major, I was pressured to adopt the scientific worldview; to conceive of these living beings as mere objects; to ask not, “Who are you?” but, “How does it work?” This was a real challenge for me. But I was madly in love with plants, so I worked hard to accommodate myself to this new approach.

Later in my career, after I’d gotten my PhD and started teaching, I was invited to sit among indigenous knowledge holders who understood plants as beings with their own songs and sensibilities. In their presence, and in the presence of the plants themselves, I woke from the sleep I’d fallen into. I was reminded of what I’d always known in my core: that my primary relationship with plants was one of apprenticeship. I’m learning from plants, as opposed to only learning about them.

I was especially moved by an elderly Diné woman who told the biographies of each plant in her valley: its gifts, its responsibilities, its history, and its relationships — both friendships and animosities. As a scientist I had learned only about plants’ physical attributes. Her stories reminded me of how I had encountered plants as a young person. That’s why I say I’m coming full circle after all these years — because I’m able to stop speaking of plants as objects.

2 Ways of Knowing/ Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’m struggling to turn all of my thoughts about curiosity and wonder into a pithy, coherent statement for a lecture. So much time spent circling around these ideas. Frustrating.