Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Art of Floating

When I was young, my father would take the family to the beach at Shippan Point in Stamford on summer weekends.   Papa Callan taught me how to swim there--in Long Island Sound.

I remember that I had a cotton madras one-piece bathing suit (not the one I'm wearing in this photo, alas), and my father had a pair of madras trunks, and we matched!  He didn't seem to this was such an amazing thing, but I was so proud to match Papa Callan and I imagined that this father-daughter ensemble gave me the power to be a good swimmer. 

Papa Callan was an excellent swimmer.  He did a lot of swimming in the boy scouts and at the summer camp on the Hudson River and later,  when he served in the Navy and was stationed in the Pacific, ending up on Okinawa Island.

But to be honest, mostly he liked to float.  

I have a vivid memory of Papa Callan in the pool at the Key Ambassador Motel.  We stayed in Key West during the summers in the early sixties.  He was gone all day aboard a ship stationed at the harbor, downtown.  During the weekdays my brother, mother and I were left to our own devices--hunting for horseshoe crabs, scavenging for fallen coconuts, swimming, building sand castles, and doing touristy things like riding the Conch Tour Train around the island.  In the midday, the sun was brutal, so we stayed inside the air-conditioned motel and read Archie Comics and Casper the Ghost or we played Candy Land and Clue.

At the end of the day, my father would come back to the motel, put on his trunks and immediately take a dive into the pool, but then he didn't swim a whole lot during this time.  I think he was exhausted from the day's events on the Navy ship and for all I knew, he was involved with trying to prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He was very discreet about his work in the Navy and now, well, Papa Callan is gone and I guess I'll never really know.

But the point is, at the end of a long day, he was tired!  And so he floated in the cool cool water.

One evening as he lay floating, two little kids stood on the diving board and started yelling at my dad to get out of the way, because they wanted to leap in, but my father was submerged in the blue water, happily floating.  Relaxed and looking cool in his J.F.K. style shades,  just floating.

This is actually how Papa Callan went through life.  It was his life philosophy.  During the months when I stayed with him as his caregiver, he would often tell me to stop worrying so much.  

Worrying takes up too much energy.  You should save your energy for something important or at least fun.

He described how he had learned this during World War II when he was on board a P.T. boat.  It was dangerous work and the crew could be attacked at any moment.  And so, when all was quiet, it was time get some rest and then be ready.  It was a form of floating.

 I do believe this philosophy helped ease Papa Callan into his final life transition.  It has certainly helped me. 

Creative friends, we are living in stressful times.  That's a fact.  Papa Callan would agree with this statement.  However, he would suggest you take good care of your resources.  When it's time to move and act and react, you'll be well-rested and prepared.  For now, do something fun.  Make art, paint, dance, write and dream.  

And so, here's your creative assignment for this week:  Try floating.