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Summer solstice swim

The longest day of the year when the sun is at its highest position in the sky. In the northern hemisphere, the earth’s pole has its maximum tilt towards the sun. As the Lockdown draws on, there is but a glimmer of hope. Slightly larger groups are allowed to assemble at a safe distance.

The Lock to Lock 4K swim series is cancelled, June 21st, Father’s Day. The day has now become completely empty, with no jobs or organisation for all the wonderful wild swimmers, who make their way downstream in the upper reaches of the Thames. The Swim Oxford Open event has been called the “UK’s best kept swim secret”.

Midsummer’s delights

Most swimmers have seen their usual swimming opportunities and training sessions vanish.

We are all in this together. With flippers, goggles and swim hats at hand, we dream of the water; it calls to us at night from the subconscious depths of longing. Dreaming of water symbolizes the unconscious. As with bodies of water, we often see the surface, but cannot easily see into the depths. Also, the vastness of the ocean symbolizes the vastness of the unconscious mind. Jung observed long ago that the unconscious mind was much vaster than the conscious portion.

The River

One of the most frequently encountered of water symbols in dreams is the river. Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of a river is the power of water flowing in a definite direction.

The river as symbol embodies the flow of life: the “teleology”, as Jungian therapy says, or goal-directedness of the psyche. It also embodies the fatefully powerful direction of that flow — the flow of our lives.

Above some extracts from Brain Collison. (Jungian Therapy)

The Tao by Lao Tzu always brings our attentions to the constant ebb and flow of water.

“One never swims in the same river twice”.

My unconscious longings still crave the cool waters with my dear swim pod friends.

A small group of Swim Oxford’s friends and staff gather on the banks on this fine midsummer morning, with rays of joyful sunbeams warming our hearts. Social distance rules applied and respected, we ready ourselves for a gentle reconnection with a primal and visceral harmony with water.

Once in the water, we are amazed at the high temperature. Most of us are in skins. Some of us are from the winter swimming group, when the temperature goes down to 5c, for a short screech…. Others are in wetsuits, ready for an upstream swim under the medieval stone arched bridge; we have all come to love this shape and the light that bounces off the underside curves, only visible from our river position.

The kayak waits, seeing us all through the arches safely, upstream towards the meandering banks and darting swifts and flycatchers swoop. The perspective from the water’s surface as a swimmer is a unique position; very seldom does one have the opportunity to witness the natural habitat being 90% submerged in it. Firstly, most things look very daunting, like the size of a male swam with wings on full display.

After a short moment we all became very relaxed and slowed down to glide through the water, catching a glimpse of a fellow swimmer as you take a breath.

It became strongly apparent how swimming in a pod is an incredible shared experience. With limited sight and no real communication, it is remarkable how connected you feel. On this particular morning, my youngest son, 14 years old, swam with us. He made a point of talking about this amazing feeling of swimming in a group, with swimmers in front to the sides and behind. All doing similar but very different things. I was intrigued to hear his first-time experience of this. The feeling was very much like being in a dolphin pod he reported. “I had no idea it would feel like that”.

There are many elements to swimming in groups; whilst in the water a shared kinship and appreciations of open water wild swimming. This includes looking out for fellow swimmers who may be behind, to the side or in the distance ahead of you. Ready to flag any issues or report amazing spectacles like herons flying just over-head. It always feels comforting to sight and spot a swimmer in the distance, marking the meandering turns of the river.

Midsummer celebrations have been deep in our history, knowing the change of seasons the coming of longer days and warmer weather. The relationship with the natural world, with its own rhythm and a pulse easily missed from a distance. The connection to our natural landscape, the rivers, woodlands and open fields. We felt this on our way back towards the start point of our swim. The kinship, the wellbeing, we did appreciate this open swimming joy; very grateful for the opportunity to once again feel the joy of swimming in a pod.


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