My Bones Drank Water

Swimming at Cedar Lake, South Beach – Minneapolis

Morning Swim

by Maxine Kumin

Into my empty head there come
a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom

I set out, oily and nude
through mist, in chilly solitude.

There was no line, no roof or floor
to tell the water from the air.

Night fog thick as terry cloth
closed me in its fuzzy growth.

I hung my bathrobe on two pegs.
I took the lake between my legs.

Invaded and invader, I
went overhand on that flat sky.

Fish twitched beneath me, quick and tame.
In their green zone they sang my name

and in the rhythm of the swim
I hummed a two-four-time slow hymn.

I hummed “Abide With Me.” The beat
rose in the fine thrash of my feet,

rose in the bubbles I put out
slantwise, trailing through my mouth.

My bones drank water; water fell
through all my doors. I was the well

that fed the lake that met my sea
in which I sang “Abide With Me.”


One of the simple pleasures of summers in Minnesota is swimming in the neighborhood lake.   There is a quality to swimming in a clean lake that is unmatched, compared to the ocean or a pool.   The water is soft and inviting, the unexpected interactions with the little fish that nibble on your skin and the pleasant sounds of families and children playing in the sand and water.  When my children were small we went swimming during July and August as often as possible, probably 3 to 5 times a week.  There was a local pond that was stream fed, that had once been a gravel pit that sprang a leak and it had a sandy beach, clean water and no lifeguard, so we could do all the fun things we wanted to do, like leap off the rope swing tied in the tree and have the kids jump off my shoulders. It was exactly the kind of fun I had as a child and it was delightful to re-experience it again with my children.

Today I am swimming at a neighborhood lake and beach that my grandfather used to swim at regularly as an adult when he lived in the same neighborhood I live today 60 years ago.  I am blessed to have a partner who loves to swim and we love to head over after dinner and swim for about an hour as the sun goes down.  It is a short window for swimming in Minnesota but we are in its prime and we need to savor every opportunity we can to get in the water.

Do you have favorite memories of swimming as a child? Wast it at a pool, at a lake, in a river or the ocean?   Where do you swim today?  If its been awhile, throw modesty to the wind, find a swim suit that mostly fits and get out there in the water and enjoy.


Why I Am Happy

by William Stafford

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
gracefully.

I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
The lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.

And I know where it is.