At the mailbox this morning, the maples were so vivid against the dark rise of Mount Hallowell behind them. A friend emailed to say he was seeing the first snow on the Caren Range and I wrote back to say, Yes, we saw that snow as we drove home from our swim. The leaves are turning, the earth is rotating and revolving, and what about us? This morning as I swam my slow kilometre, I was thinking how much I miss my lake swims. I know I can still swim there, and I will, maybe once a week or so over the winter, but it’s not the same as an early summer morning, the kingfishers on the old snags, the sun not yet up when I begin but then rising over the mountain, the same mountain dusted with snow this morning, and how everything is reflected on the surface of the water.
The National Geographic site says this about rotation:
A very familiar kind of rotation is when a spherical, three-dimensional object turns around an invisible line inside its center. This center is called an axis. Spinning basketballs turn around an axis. Globes turn around an axis. The Earth itself spins on an axis.
Does an axis wish for a particular season? A place? Does it spin the earth through its 24 hour cycle, preferring the dark hours to the light, as it spins its heavy sphere ? In the water I am slightly lopsided because of injuries over the years. Fractured pelvis, tailbone… I notice how when I am swimming the backstroke, my body veers to one side, and I have to concentrate to stay in my lane. When I’m lake-swimming, sometimes (because I often swim with my eyes closed) I find myself quite far from shore. I hear my husband calling, Theresa, Theresa, come back! This summer I meant to swim to the island where we went for years with picnics, summer and winter, and where I imagine a version of ourselves lingers still on the grassy slope, but somehow I never got there.
In my forthcoming book, Blue Portugal, I write about the old injuries and how my body has accommodated them.
The Tipped Earth
Did you know that the Earth is tipped over? The Earth’s axis is not exactly up and down. It is actually a little sideways, like a tipped-over spinning top. It is tipped about 23.5 degrees.
How did the Earth get tipped over? Scientists are not quite sure. They think it happened when the solar system had just been formed. They theorize that a huge object the size of the planet Mars crashed into the Earth, tipping it on its side.
The huge thing that fractured my pelvis was my black Anglo-Arab gelding, who reared as I rode him up a hill, tumbling backwards and landing on my lap. And it was also gravity that resulted in the tailbone injury, my feet slipping out from under me as I walked on ice. In water I am as light as a strand of eelgrass but I still can’t swim a straight line for the life of me. The injuries are my own axial tilt. The earth’s 23.5° tilt is what causes our solstice and other solar declinations. I am the woman swimming all over the pool, her arms whirling like windmills.
But back to the leaves, the new snow, the sound of geese, the darkness coming earlier and earlier, everything closing in, shutting down, our chairs pulled closer to the fire, the soup pot steaming.