Earlier this summer I swam in Lac Léman, in icy-cold, ice-like transparent water. It was a hot, hot day at a villa in Chambésy where we stayed for one night, and from where we could see the lake, and could see Geneva and its tall white fountain at a distance. We reached the lake in the evening, and from the shore it looked piercingly blue, aquamarine, bottle-blue, bottle-green, deep sea blue and a thousand other shades. But up close, it was like liquid green amber, and diving in it was sheer pleasure. A few steps away from the rocky shore it suddenly went deep steeply, as if falling through into its own dreams. The next day I flew to Russia, and for two more days I smelled the crisp, deep smell of Lac Léman in my hair, until I washed it away with tap water, shampoo and a tinge of regret.
They say the summers in the North are fleeting, but how profound they are! As if you have dived through the translucent, sun-pierced water to the very, very bottom. They fall on you like an enormous soft ball full of vibrant greens and blues, whispers and murmurs, and bury you in their complete abandonment.
Yesterday we swam in the Baltic Sea, in a small narrow bay which comes close to where we live in a northern suburb of Stockholm. The water was opaque, full of algae, ducks, children and their fathers (feathers?). I heard at least four languages: Swedish, Farsi, Spanish and English – which we spoke. The shore was covered with grass and reeds, and strewn with bodies, bikes, books, balls, balloons, bottles and buoys. Muslim mothers, fully clothed and with their heads covered, beckoned their naked children screaming with excitement to come close. We swam and then I changed right there, under my clothes, and we continued to bike along the shore. The lightness in the body as we biked and as the wind embraced us was heavenly.
But Sweden has two seas in swim in, and I experienced the other one, too. A few years back I went to the West Coast in June, and my friend and I went to a sauna, where it was just her and me, sitting on the hot wood and enjoying the view of the sea which looked like a royal velvet dress: deep blue and majestic, and cold, even in summer. After a while I went out and dove. Stepping into that water was like falling into an abyss of awe. The fear and delight I experienced at that moment I will carry with me till the end of my life.