Thursday, March 30, 2017

Swimming Home

Haifa feels like home because of the people we have met and the mountainous trails with views that stretch for miles. I could find home in a progressive western town if that were all but what brings me the most joy is the sea.

I went for a beautiful, and a bit exciting, 40 minute swim in the sea at 6:20 this morning with my friend Max. The air temperature was a deceivingly pleasant 65F; however, we were both grateful for wetsuits (he a full and I a farmer johns) upon entering the water and both wished for hoods as it was painful acclimating our foreheads to the cold water. Before our heads could acclimate, we saw a couple large (1 foot in diameter) pale, blue-clear jellyfish. The waves were small but on a period of 2s with a strong wind that made them forceful and choppy such that finding a rhythmic breathing pattern was impossible. The sun rose shortly after we entered the water but we could not tell with the grey, overcast clouds that filled the sky. Thick rain could be seen a few kilometers out to sea and the dim light made spotting jellyfish tricky; however, two 55-60 year-old men began swimming just before us in regular swimsuits so we had no choice but to head toward one of the orange buoys bobbing 300m offshore. We then turned south to head into the current, which was pulling to the northwest, with fresh arms. Once the water got beyond 15' deep, the jellies seemed to remain in the 10-20' layer below the surface so our concentration turned to breathing in the chop, trying to keep the current from knocking us into each other, and Max's developing sighting ability, which added extra zig-zagging and bumping to the already pushy current. Just as we were nearing the shore at the end of the swim, I put my face back in the water only to discover a very large jellyfish what looks like 9 inches below my face. I swam as shallowly as possible. Max watched my jelly with concern, poking the top of a jelly to his other side. Once out of the water, we were both smiling with relief and contentment as we parted to enjoy the newly installed hot-water, beachside showers.

My swims last fall were not nearly as exciting but just as fulfilling. The feeling afterward is much like the runners high I remember from my running days before kids. As the days get warmer, I'm looking forward to spending many long afternoons at the beach with the rest of my family as playing in the sand or splashing in the water with the kids fills me with peace as well.

What will I find in Blacksburg to fill the void of all I have found here? Will the pull of this place be enough for me to take the plunge and try to move my family here for good some time in the future? If the opportunity arose, the two things that would need the deepest consideration are the discrimination my non-Jewish children would face and the new medical system Shayna would reside in.

When the sea is more inviting to surfers than swimmers, there are beautiful, flat paths along the shoreline. I am now the owner of 5 bikes but Maya is not yet proficient enough to do more than a few circles on hers, with training wheels, so she happily catches a ride with me.

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