6th Anniversary

I’m paddling a canoe by myself, cool air rises from the waters of Rockport Reservoir & swirls with heat flowing down from suncooked hillsides.

Depending on the direction, puffs of wind are either flamethrower hot or cool as this snowmelt fed lake.

I let water run from down a raised paddle onto my shoulders, cutting the heat with icy streams.

An athlete is swimming strongly in the water beside me, long steady strokes, power & glide, power & glide.

Whoa! It’s the woman I married!!! And today is our 6th wedding anniversary!!

Since reading the book Swimming to Antarctica, by record setting swimmer Lynn Cox, Jess & I both have been fascinated by the idea of long distance, open water swimming.

However, since I am buoyant as a cinder block, & Jess has done a lot of technical & physical swim training for triathlons, when I suggested that I canoe alongside her as she tries to swim as far as she can. She jumped at it as a proper activity for the day.

Although 6 years is nothing compared to the 46 years my parents have together, here are a few musings on open water swimming and marriage.

Marriage is not a 50-50 thing, its 90-10 one day, 90-10 the other. On this day, she was doing 90% (if not more) of the work.

However, that 10% has got to be there. No one can carry the whole emotional or physical load alone.

Jess has given so much so I can accomplish my athletic goals, it felt right that I do something for her, 90-10, 90-10, but it comes out even in the end.

This day I did the essential job of making sure the numerous boats & jetskis did not run her over, and during an open water swim, a swimmer can’t see SQUAT, has no directional sense, and relies on support boats for steady directional guidance.

Sometimes, it’s ok to be quiet. She was very focused & we said few words during her swim. Swimming is as profoundly a technical sport as ice speed skating is, and glide is just as important.

Sometimes one person leads, sometimes the other does. We found we worked best right alongside each other.

A sense of humor is essential, especially when working hard. She had just done a flip-turn to nowhere & came up from the water sticking her tounge out at me.

It’s really true that after initial infatuation fades, something else takes its place, something incredibly powerful that only grows over time. It’s something we don’t really have an accurate word for in the English language.

When she has swum as far as she felt like, she joined me in the canoe & we stared paddling back to our start point.

Being the adventuresome soul that I am, for fun I jumped out & tried to swim the 50 meters to shore.

Thrashing & sputtering, without my glasses unable to see much of anything, I felt dizzy after a few moments & barely made it.

She smiled broadly, but did not gloat.

When you are sharing the boat, it’s important to agree upon the destination, and to ultimately be nice to each other.

Here is one of my favorite pictures of us, 6 years ago this weekend, my father took this during the ceremony rehearsal. We were doing an overly dramatic end-of-ceremony kiss.

Was that really 6 years ago? Life has changed, as much as our physical selves have. I had no idea ice speedskating would be part of my life, as she had no idea she would do triathlons.

Thankfully Jess does not aspire to do anything as life threatening as Lynn Cox does (check out this video of her swimming in artic waters.. brrr), she will always find ways to challenge herself, no matter the circumstances of our lives.

This is one of the reasons I married her. We are similar in those ways, & she fundamentally respects that crazy part of me, the driven part. She understands.

When describing what we did on our anniversary to my brother, he said sarcastically “yeah, that sounds like you guys”.

Yup, every step & stroke & stride & wheel of this long & winding way.

12 Responses to “6th Anniversary”

  1. To keep this all in perspective, I swam about 1.2 miles in 55 minutes. That’s about 1.5 miles/hour, pretty measly. But I did it, and I even felt a little swimmer’s elbow afterwards. It’s nice to be able to do something Andrew can’t do. It’s hard when your partner is better than you at pretty much everything physical. He was gracious about letting me have my fun.

    I was caught between feeling some satisfaction that he struggled with his brief attempt at swimming, and feeling sad that we couldn’t do this fun thing together, and being just slightly afraid I might have to pull him to shore. I guess this is payback for the times I was his counterweight for his turncable work, but he looked much less silly in the canoe than I did being dragged across the grass.

    And oh, happy anniversary honey!

  2. congrats you both loves & many happy returns of this beautifull summerday.
    So wonderfull andrew you didn’t bring your skates and /or inlines. So interesting to think about the eternal permanent repeating 400meter ice circles in comparison to the never ending open waters - will they end or will you “end” before…
    ( btw. i just read Andrea Barret’s The Voyage of the Narwall - lots of ice ; midnineteenth century discoverers searching for the open ice-free polar seaconnections. there is something closednes, locked-in-ness about ice - wouldn’t you think? somestimes the rink occurs to me as a happily chosen treadmill-cage)

    Ennyways: what a nice surprise this your post; once again : keep on loving the 2 of u…
    (wasn’t there a saying that cyclists shouldn’t swimm too much/at all… because of the tonus (?) of their legs)
    from my beautifull catskill not very open pond
    my best ( how was your next day training on the ice?) jules

  3. Jules,


    I did bring my inlines on our honeymoon in Maine though, and one morning got up at sunrise and skated a solo marathon through Acadia National Park (important note: skating is not legal there, I discovered that as I glided out of the park past shocked rangers)..

    as for how ice is going.. I have turned myself into an Allarounder!!!! aaargh!!!

    sprints feel hard & weirdly slow, but 800’s & laps are almost enjoyable!!!

    where are you in the catskills?

    p.s. for comparison, here is the posts I made on our 5th anniversary, and then the 4th. I like the 5th best of all of them.

  4. Andrew,

    just to let you know that i’m staying in Walton,NY (actually more Hamden, but postal it’s walton) not too far from Delhi (and Oneonta).One way or another I figured that you come originally from NY (state, or city ;both?) We got really addicted to the catskills and are having our summervacations out here - at the end of an empty dirt road, at the end of the world really. Also taking care of and doing some maintenance in the house of our friend. We have a pond 60/70feet. And I swim to cool off a bit - actually i’m doing the opposite from long distance swimming: lying in the water doing nothing - completely still just breathing. The other day there appeared a flock of 8 (eight) buzzards right above us while we were lying in the water - watching us from some100 feet and we watching them. After a minute they gently flew away…. leaving us lying

    the only thing i can’t do uphere is inlining… that’s why i don’t mind going back to amsterdam this coming thursday.. i’m allready checking whether the weather is good enough (dry enough) to go on the wheels with some friends.. (twice a week arround 40km - just for the fun of it)

    see your posts in Amsterdam (where ice-fanatics have to wait till beginning of october …)

    good glidings/smilings

  5. Congratulations. We remember the first time you told us you had gotten married. Seems like yesterday. Many more years of happiness to you both.

  6. Happy Anniversary — lovely post, Andrew, and wow! 6 years! Time flies (we just celebrated 9 ourselves).

  7. This is a beautiful post, and you’re a wonderful couple…happy anniversary!

  8. Congratulations on your 6th anniversary. Jessica looks like a text book example of a total immersion swimmer- Terry McLaughlin would be proud. Good for you for paddling beside her, it looks like a lovely place. Enjoy!

  9. more congratulations from here, too. This post shows the kind of attitude that makes 46 years even conceivable. 6 turns to 46 to whatever one day at a time, and every so often you look back and say, wow! where do the time go? Posts like this will tell you that it went to some damn fine places.

  10. Amy - good eye! I’ve pretty much only tried adopting the roll side to side and stretch my arm ahead concept, but swimming feels different since I’ve learned that trick. I’ll get around to the rest of the book one of these days. I take it you’re a swimmer too!

  11. Congratulations! I love what you said about marriage being a series of balance between 90-10 one way and 90-10 the other way.

    BTW, is there any smooth ice in Antarctica? Tell me the thought didn’t cross your mind.

  12. Mazal Tov! I can hardly believe it’s been an entire 6 years since you two got married. I still wish I could have been there, but I have a six-year-old reminder running around every day reminding me of the very good reason why I missed it. (At least Evan and I will always know how long you guys have been married!)

    Sounds like you had the perfect day.

    Susan & Evan

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