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Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Conversations that flow through the water, from mother to daughter and back again, almost dream-like. In this podcast I am in conversation with Tess and Judy Bird, both in New England, daughter and mother, both swimmers, sometimes together, most often not. Judy is a life-long swimmer, former life-guard, with an early excitement about open water that has stayed with her since forever. Tess too is a life-long swimmer. Mothers are so important – Tess wonders if she would have been a swimmer if it had not been for her mother. Judy taught Tess how to swim in rough ocean water, taught her at an early age about rip-tides, taught her how to get out of strong currents when swimming in nearby rivers. The Connecticut coast is called Long Island Sound, close to New York and the water can be polluted. So when they go ocean swimming now they prefer to go further out towards Rhode Island, to a secret beach. They won’t reveal the name, but enough to say that they park the car and walk for around a mile, before coming to this beach, secluded from all but one or two kindred souls who do the same thing, park the car then walk. The water is beautiful, enticing, but sometimes rough, with a mind of its own. In this context, learning to swim was a part of Tess’s education, like learning to read and write. Tess is in publishing in New York City now, and writes beautifully.

They share swimming stories with me. Judy – of being in the ocean beyond the breakers, floating, between air and water, where there is a lot of peace. Of swimming in Hawaii with a mother whale and her pup. Of swimming in the Farmington River, going fast and slow all at once, slow on the surface and fast when looking down, an acceleration and deceleration that is completely of the senses, in the mind. Tess talks of a nearby swimming hole by the side of the road in Connecticut where she went with her brother for a spontaneous winter dip, ice cold but before it completely iced over, recovering in the car afterwards. And in childhood of a snake in a deep-nature pond full of pond-life, getting out of the water so quickly to save herself from this creature. Of a water-loving labrador who towed her and her brother around the pond when they were very young. Both Judy and Tess muse on what it has meant to them across the years, swimming, and swimming together, sharing the dreamlike conversations that you have sometimes when in open water. Swimming across a generation.

Listen to the podcast here

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