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By Laurel Pattenden

Summer is soon here and let us live it with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.

I love to swim. Many years ago, I belonged to a Masters swim club and would work out regularly with other adults who had a passion for swimming.

The few times I raced, it would be the breaststroke. I found the breaststroke to be the friendliest stroke for me. It allowed me to be really, really excited, adrenaline pumping and still be able to breathe rhythmically. In other words, to be able to see where I was going without gagging on water.

Now when it came to freestyle (front crawl) I could swim for long lengths at a steady pace. The butterfly stroke is the one stroke that I didn’t even bother to try. Only specially designed human beings are able to do this stroke with any efficiency.

Next is the backstroke. The backstroke was also not one of my favourites. You had to start the race in the water, arching back and then do some dolphin kicks underwater before surfacing. Dolphin kicks are the same kick as in the butterfly stroke just upside down. One also has to pay attention for the flags that are placed five meters from the end of the pool to let you know where the end of the pool is. Way too much to think about.  

Plus, if you didn’t keep your chin somewhat tucked in, guess where the water went? Right up your nose! Painful!

Each swim stroke has its own efficiency and speed. Looking up the world records for women the freestyle is the fastest, with breaststroke being the slowest by about 14 seconds, the butterfly stroke second, and then backstroke third fastest.

Now when it comes to my records, albeit just a tad slower or more, freestyle would be fastest with breaststroke following as the slowest. As far as the butterfly stroke, I would have been disqualified for an unidentifiable stroke. Excruciating nasal and sinus pain would have stopped my backstroke, even if I could have figured out the upside-down dolphin kick. Which I wouldn’t have figured out while underwater holding my breath. No one can hold their breath that long.

Many years have passed since my Masters swim club days, but I still love swimming. I have also changed my attitude towards the backstroke. (No attitude change for the butterfly!) The backstroke is quite unique compared to the others and has its own life lessons. Yes, life lessons.  

There are so many benefits in life to continue to look up. Looking up to the sky, to the heavens helps us to ponder the world. Getting our heads out of the water, or sand, opens us up for so much more of God. Keeping our chins tucked down may keep us from raising them up in arrogance.

Just like the flags marking the end of the pool, we need to continue to look for signs of the Holy Spirit no matter how hurried we are. We don’t need to worry about being the fastest, nor do we need to worry if we stop - because we will just be floating on our backs resting, looking up and breathing in the breath of God.

Other backstrokes, like that used in paddling a canoe, only take us backwards. That is what is so marvelous about swimming the backstroke. We can go forward with a backstroke. It is marvelous that we can go forward when we are looking up to God.  

Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.