I've always been comfortable in the water. I'm a good, but not excellent, swimmer, but most of all, it's just being surrounded by liquid, the feeling of being buoyed by my environment, that I love.
From ages nine to twelve I went to the same summer camp that my brothers and mother had gone to before me. (The "old guy" who was the director of the camp when my brothers and I went was a camper when our mother was a counselor twenty-five years earlier). Lake Babusic, in Amherst, New Hampshire, was the setting for CYJ. We always complained about it being polluted, emphasizing the "sick" part of "Babusic," but in reality, it was one of my favorite parts of growing up.
The clearest water I've ever swam in, however, was probably close to ten years ago, not long after Leslie and I moved to Sacramento. I had this crazy friend from work who wanted to go gold-panning up in the mountains. He did tons of research trying to find what should have been a good spot for gold, and one that did not currently have a claim on it. He found his spot, mapped it out, and convinced Leslie and I to join his wife and him on an adventure.
Before we got to the clearest water I ever swam in, we went on the longest, hardest hike, any of us had ever attempted. By the time we reached the spot my friend wanted to stake his claim on (did I mention that "stake a claim" is a literal expression? We had to carry in his stake, as well as the gold pans) we were all soaked to the bone with sweat. And that's when we found a natural swimming hole not far from the claim.
At a break in the otherwise rocky streams was a calm and wide pool of sparkling cool water surrounded by smooth limestone. Three of us stripped to our underwear and dove in for the most refreshing swim you could imagine. My friends wife was too angry to enjoy herself (a typical condition for her, as it turned out) and sat, sweating, on the bank watching us.
The hike back up and out of the mountains was even harder than the one going in, but three of us enjoyed it, still high from the swim. The fourth is a story for another time.