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I have been to the water nearly every day since we arrived back in Michigan on the 26th of April. Sometimes by foot, often by bike, always with excitement and gratitude in my heart for the ability to access it within a handful of minutes of leaving my house.

Since the summer solstice, I have completed at least one back and forth of the buoys (there are eleven in the back line, just in case you were wondering and yes, it does lend itself to elevated enjoyment). I am not a fair-weather swimmer and have vowed to participate in this ritual unless prohibited by lightening or hazardous conditions. I welcome the moment with fully open arms each and every day.

The water has been frigid as the North Sea and as warm as the tropics. It has been crystal clear, and it has been obscured by cloudy churn. It has been calm and glassy, and it has been choppy and chaotic. It has been every shade of blue imaginable and for one day was entirely yellow from a rush of pollen settling on the shore. It has been all of these things and in all of these things, has always been itself.

In each of these conditions, I have swum. Once, twice, three times between the buoys. Counting 22, 44, 66 along the way. Matching rhythm of breath to the waves and appreciative of the muffled external world that amplifies the one within. Some days the laps were determined by time – having other obligations and simply fitting the swim between. Many days called for more – water too lovely to leave any sooner than absolutely necessary. One shocking day last week brought a (thankfully temporary) 20-degree temperature drop and only one direction was tolerable as I lost feeling in my limbs and recognized the need for shore.

On none of the days did I wish for the lake to be anything different than she was. On none of the swims did I question why this was the condition for the day. On all of the days, I simply embraced the opportunity to engage. And should the conditions prove hazardous, I know I can still be with the lake along the shoreline or observing from a distance – giving space while still allowing for all conditions to be as they are.

The lake has been more beautiful visually, tactilely, audibly this year than I can recall in a lifetime of visits. That might be objectively true – we could compare previous photos, temperature readings and videos – but I wonder if this actually comes from a shift in my own perspective rather than any change in the lake itself.

I arrive at the lake with greeting, not expectation. I retreat from the lake with gratitude, not criticism. I can simply be with the lake in all the ways it happens to be. I can engage more fully on certain days when conditions seem safer or my time is unbounded, but that is ultimately determined by me, not the lake – she simply is who she is, ever present.

How might it be if we granted such freedom to all our friendships – to allow all the ways of being and see that we can always choose our level of engagement without trying to change the other person. Sometimes more, sometimes less, some days a brief chat, some days an endless conversation, sometimes more space between, sitting quietly on the shore or a greater distance and reconvening when both are ready.

How might it be if we granted such freedom to ourselves – to allow all the ways of being and see that we can simply observe them without trying to change. Not seen as good, not seen as bad, noticing they are sometimes brief, sometimes long lasting, seeing that they sometimes require a bit more space, sitting quietly on our own shore or at a greater distance, reconvening and reframing when ready.

The lake is a teacher, many lessons materialize from the depths of her waters. The unapologetic allowance of self in all forms emerges as her dissertation, successfully defended through her centuries of authentic existence. May our capacity for learning be as reliable and infinite as her endless horizon allowing greeting and gratitude to frame our experience, accepting the invitation to simply be.

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