Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

When I was a young child, I used to love to swim.

I’d spend every Saturday morning in swimming lessons, and then after lessons I’d stay at the Glencoe Club pool, diving in to the water, climbing out, jumping in again, splashing, treading water, just generally entertaining myself in a way that seems impossible now that iPhones exist.

Back then, a colorful plastic ring with a small white weight on one side was enough to keep me occupied and satisfied for hours.  I think they had up to five or six of the things—red, green, blue, magenta… just kidding. Magenta wasn’t even invented until the ‘90s.

I’d dive down to the bottom of the pool, opening my bloodshot and very sterile eyes to locate the closet ring, grabbing them from 9 or 12 feet down, perhaps challenging myself to recapture them in a certain order, or seeing how far underwater I could swim once I’d rounded them all up.

Often, I’d want to see how long I could stay underwater doing this solo-pick-up-rings game. Hanging on the pool’s tiled walls was a pace clock for the folks doing laps. It had four different second hands, red, green, blue and yellow, so I never had to wait long, I’d just pick the color closest to touching “60” and when it did, I’d dive in.

I was a sinker. I didn’t have to struggle to stay below the water. And I knew, the more I swam around, the less time I’d be able to stay. I liked it underwater. It was warmer than the air—no goosebumps when submerged. It was quiet. Everything shut off in an instant, no yelling, no echoes, no whistles.

I could still hear the splooshes and whomps of other people jumping into the water, but it was distant and didn’t concern me, like the shelling of a far-away village. And I was safe, not just below the surface, but resting at the bottom of the pool. I’d sit cross-legged, sculling slowly with my hands to maintain a neutral yaw, pitch and roll.

Light was fascinating at the bottom of the pool. It was distorted by the waves on the surface, constantly dancing and dodging like a photonic butterfly. It was further blurred by my own eyeballs, screaming at me to for god’s sake close my eyelids! And the pool’s lighting shone into the water and reflected off the pool tiles in a luminous blue that was only slightly eaten up by the water itself, so there was this odd sensation of being in a container, which, I suppose, was indeed where I was.

Sometimes I’d get so calm down there that I’d forget I was holding my breath and I’d come into a state of just, not breathing, which was a fantastic feeling. It was like being freed from a responsibility I didn’t even know was weighing on me. All that time I spent co-ordinating the whole breathing process was no longer necessary. I had broken the shackles of the breathing-industrial complex, and could now dedicate that time and energy to pondering the feeling of the tiles on the sides of my feet.

Eventually, though, my nose would rebel. It was always my nose. It would develop this odd sensation, like a reverse sneeze, and I’d have this urge to sniff, or blow or… what’s the word? Inhale, that was the word. My nose would want me to inhale, and it would convince my lungs that this would feel great, and no matter how hard I tried to stay at the bottom of the pool, I’d jump up and start the ascent to the surface.

It always seemed so far away… had I waited too long? Was this going to be the day that I failed to make it back up into the humid, chlorinated air that I now so wholeheartedly wanted, needed, craved? Spoiler: It was never that day.

But not every Return to Aerobia was a last-second dash. In many cases, I stayed at the bottom of the pool for as long as I could want, and then slowly ascended like an angel granted wings, cresting gently through the chop in a quiet return to oxygen and normal noises.

Today, and this month, feels a little like that feeling. Like I’m resurfacing after a long time at the bottom of a pool, chasing rings in the quiet and forgetting I need to breathe.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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