Last night I went swimming in the moonlight. I do that every chance I get. I’ve swum at night in rivers and lakes and once in the ocean, though that time I kept thinking about sharks, and I can’t say it was much fun.
Night swimming is a different sort of pleasure from swimming by day. If you can’t see what’s in front of you, or behind or below, if you don’t know what might be lurking out of sight, it requires a substantial act of faith.
Even in a swimming pool in your own backyard. Who knows what could be hiding in there?
My husband loves to tell the story of how, as a boy, he and his buddies cannonballed into the deep end of the public pool one morning only to discover, just below them, a shark.
It was dead, dumped apparently the previous night by vandals. The fact that the boys didn’t know it was dead makes it a better story. That, plus the fact that the pool had to be closed for some, um, major cleaning.
I don’t worry much about sharks in my backyard. But what about birds or rabbits or, hepmejeezes, roaches? They fall in and drown, then float around dead waiting for me to find them. I feel for them, yes, but I do not want to find them.
Fear should never hinder us from things that make us happy. I’m proud to say it doesn’t stop me. I just make my husband go in first and skim the pool.
So there I was last night, floating in bath-warm water, with a breeze ruffling the palm trees, city lights in the distance, a sky full of stars, a fat desert moon and a good man nearby to scoop up floating carcasses.
I felt lucky. As well I should. Life is good and I am grateful.
There’ve been times in my life, as there may have been in yours, when I did not feel lucky at all, when I feared waking up to face some long-dreaded news.
The loss of a job. The end of a dream. The worry for a child. The anguish for a friend. The death of someone I couldn’t fathom living without.
Heartache, like happiness, is part of life. Live long enough, and you’ll likely see some of both. They tend to come in waves — uneven, unpredictable and entirely uncontrollable.
Some say it all balances out in the end. Maybe so. But I’ve known too many good people who seemed to get a lot more heartache than happiness.
What I remembered last night in the moonlight was something my stepfather once told me.
Our family had been through a “hard spell,” a 10-year ordeal of worry and waiting, hospitals and surgeries and long, sleepless nights, leading to the deaths, two years apart, of my mother and then my first husband.
Three years after the last funeral, we sat on his porch, my stepdad and I, enjoying a rare visit just for pleasure.
Cicadas sang in the hickory trees. Thunder rumbled off the mountain. Sweat rolled down my neck. Finally, he spoke.
“We’ve been through some hard times,” he said, steadying his voice, “but this is a good time right now in our family. Nobody’s got cancer. Nobody’s suffering. Everybody’s got work. We’re doing all right. It’s a good time. We need to remember it.”
Three years later, my brother would lose his wife to cancer. And two years after that, my stepfather would be gone.
At his funeral, and often since, just as I did last night, I thought of what he said to me on the porch. He was right. You can’t help noticing bad times; they scream for attention. But good times are easy to miss.
To see one clearly, you need to slow down, pay attention and watch closely. When you spot it coming, reach out and grab it. Hang on tight. Clutch it to your heart. Lift it up for all to see. Point it out like a shooting star, stand in awe and watch it shine.
Life is like a moonlight swim. Scary, yes. An act of faith, to be sure. But oh, what a pleasure.
This is a good time for my family. I need to remember it. I hope it is for yours, as well.