O for open: open water and open heart, for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

I kept thinking O for ocean, but the photos that I want to use are not of the ocean but of a lake. My daughter and I were there in 2012. She was a synchronized swimmer for seven years and then joined swim team in eighth grade. We went to the lake and she practiced distance swimming. She is used to a 1950s 20 yard pool. She started at the lake by swimming to a little island we call Kidnap Island. I canoed while she swam, and my cousin’s daughter came along on the first trip. They left the lake soon after that. My daughter swam farther and farther every day, with me in a canoe to ensure that no power boat would run her over.

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We were on our way to the parking lot one day, when a power boat slowed. “Long way out, aren’t you? All alone?” said one of the men. I was in a small one person canoe that only weighs 18 pounds and is really tippy. I wouldn’t take it out in any sort of nasty weather.

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“No, I am with my daughter.” I pointed to the water.

“She’s swimming? Where did you start?” he said.

I pointed back to our cabin. Far enough that he couldn’t see it.

“Really? She swam that far?” He and his friend watched my daughter power along.

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“Yes. Swim team.”

“Is she swimming to the parking lot?” The cars were still really distant.

“Yes and probably back, too.”

“Wow. I thought it was a long way for a canoe!”  They drove on, shaking their heads.

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Open water and open heart. It takes practice to swim that far. I swim about two days a week, about a mile in the pool. My daughter shakes her head: the swim team swims three to five miles at each practice, and she swims six days a week in the season. She considers me a wuss. I consider her a calorie burning machine.

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It takes practice to keep an open heart. That is what I need in my rural family medicine clinic. An open heart allows space and expansion and time for people to open up. To say things that are bothering them or frightening them or grieving them. I am back at work now for two weeks, but by the end of the day yesterday, I was tired, tired, tired, as if I had swum across that lake. I need to rest sometimes…..