Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Peaks to Portland’

Out of Ambivalence

In Nature on July 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

I swam the Peaks to Portland yesterday. At 55 I was encouraged that the race was won by a 47 year-old, James Yeomans of Bethlehem, Pa. I understand that when he finished–43 and half minutes after entering the frigid water–a roar went up in the crowd. It was the first time in years that a twenty-something year-old didn’t win, an encouraging sign for the (more) mature Mainers and visitors on the beach.  (I finished in an hour and six minutes, better than I anticipated, and smack in the middle of my demographic spectrum, 50-59 year olds.)

What I find remarkable about this event is what awaits the emerging swimmers: a beach-full of screaming, encouraging, cheering, shouting and yelping fellow community members, family and friends. This year, experiencing it for the first time from the water-side, it felt as if all of northern New England had turned out to support the intrepid swimmers. I’ve competed in road races, triathlons and sporting events all my life. I have never experienced anything quite like the crowd at the Peaks to Portland. Community is alive and well in Portland, Maine.

On the other end of the experience register: Two weeks ago, Carole, Lucy and I went north to Moosehead Lake for a few days of North woods camping and canoeing. At one point, as the sun set and the stars emerged, I stood on the shore and looked across the lake. I was peering perhaps two miles across the water. I then studied the landscape up the lake, another couple of miles, then down the lake, to the south, maybe three miles. There was not a light to be seen on any shore, in any direction. It was complete and utter remoteness.

The filling aspect of these experiences–the swim across the bay, the remote waterway–is found, for me, in supplementing experience with an element of the wild.   That is to say, nature, and the compliment to a singular experience it affords. (I am encouraged by remembering the zen philosopher Dōgen‘s comment, “Practice is the path.”) I don’t subscribe necessarily to the idea of the transcendent. I don’t wish to transcend. Rather, I strive to enhance, to experience a world that spans wide(r) and forces me out of ambivalence.