Lazy Shark.

I pick my way through the weed covered boulders, and lower myself onto the surface of the salt water. It’s a warm day, and I’d like to plunge, but there are too many rocks hidden among the seagrass and I’m worried about broken bones, especially these days.

I stretch out into a lazy crawl, and pull myself past the bathers who wade knee-deep, waist-deep, and shoulder-deep. 

I roll over to say goodbye to my little dog who’s escorted me out to about the 25 yard point, then he banks off, and returns to base like a jet fighter.

Once I’m sure that the dog is safe, I use a head-up breast stroke to take me into deeper water.

I’m swimming in the ocean in mid-coast Maine, two days after a tragic and fatal shark attack less than fifty miles away.

Can a great white shark travel 50 miles in a day? I actually don’t know, but it’s an irrelevant question, as there’s almost certainly more than one.

Am I a fool? I would guess that a lot of people would say so.

Am I being inconsiderate? If I get attacked by a shark, then I’m going to cause an immense amount of work for an already overstretched emergency service. 

The water ripples away from me, like a newly-laundered bed sheet. For mid-coast Maine the temperature is about as warm as it’s going to get. It’s not bone chilling, but it’s cold enough to be refreshing.

I use my head-above-water swimming stroke to weave between sailboats and fishing boats, and gaze up at the granite heights that surround me on three sides. This is my hike for today. I love looking at the boats and the little houses perched on top of the rocks like seabirds waiting to dive in.

I’ve only seen one shark here: a 20 foot basking shark., and I was onshore at the time. Basking sharks are––as their name suggests––very lazy sharks, and never attack anything bigger than a sardine. All the same I’d prefer not to meet one while I’m actually swimming.

Now I really am in danger. I swim into an icy patch. The cold grabs hold of me like a giant’s fist. I swing into a crawl, through a thick patch of surface weed, and reach warmer water again. 

I’m at my favorite lobster boat, which marks the limit of my swim. I roll onto my back and study the clouds. With my arms outstretched I drift and revolve on the salty surface.

I feel (as TS Eliot says––or maybe it was St. Paul) a little lower than the angels. Weightless as an astronaut, somewhere between heaven and earth. I am the lazy shark. 

In fifteen minutes I will be back in waist deep water. My feet will connect with sand, and I will once again retrieve the burden of my aging 175 pound body.

And now––and only now––begins the time when I have to worry about what’s lying in wait for me.

If what awaits is a glass of beer and a plate of grilled sardines then I’ve got little to complain about.