Swimming Lessons

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2004-04-05
  • Publisher: Lightning Source Inc

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At age forty-four, Penelope Niven was at a turning point in her life. In need of a change for both body and spirit, she decided to learn how to swim. While discovering the restorative effect of the water, she also began to notice that the lessons she was learning in the pool drew remarkable parallels with the lessons of life. The way in which you first get into the water, for example, is similar to trying anything new-you can jump in feet first, or dive in headfirst, but first you have to have some idea of what you're actually getting into. From floating to treading water, forward strokes to the backstroke, Swimming Lessons combines the familiar lessons of swimming with personal anecdotes and apt observations to stirring effect. Sensible, touching, and personal, this appealing book will be invaluable to any reader facing a life change or simply looking for a little bit of inspiration. A Harvest Original

Author Biography

PENELOPE NIVEN has written biographies of Carl Sandburg, James Earl Jones, and Edward Steichen. She lives in Winston- Salem, North Carolina, where she is the writer-in-residence at Salem College.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 1
Getting in the Waterp. 9
Learning to Floatp. 27
Propulsionp. 41
Breathingp. 61
The Elementary Backstrokep. 79
Treading Waterp. 95
The Breaststrokep. 113
Divingp. 129
Swimming Alonep. 141
Swimming in the Oceanp. 165
Acknowledgmentsp. 193
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


I. Getting in the WaterGetting in the water is easy: Just walk to the edge and jump in, or slide in, feet first. You can also fall in the water face first, or dive in smoothly, with ever-growing confidence and skill.WHEN SHE WAS FOURTEEN and I was forty-four, my daughter, Jennifer, taught me to swim. Jennifer had just finished wearing braces on her teeth, and, thanks to a lower jaw problem, I had just begun. Dire medical necessity, not vanity, mandated that I wear those braces just as I was struggling to cope with menopause, my daughter's puberty, and my husband's midlife crisis. Overwhelmed by these circumstances, I needed diversion, distraction-escape.I had grown up a swimming illiterate, terrified of the water. Now I was also terrified of wearing braces on my teeth at such a preposterous age, and of seeing my life slip by with some long held dreams unrealized. There was nothing I could do about the braces except endure and survive. But, it occurred to me, I could take charge of the dreams.Many of my dreams had come true, especially my wife and mother dreams, but others haunted me. I had always wanted to write, to travel, to make a lasting, positive difference in the world around me. Some of my more whimsical dreams were pinned to childhood heroes-Isaac Stern, for instance. I love music, and, although I play the piano and the organ, I had dreamed of playing the violin like Isaac Stern. Then there was the Ginger Rogers dream. I have danced the cha-cha, the waltz, the Texas two-step, and the jitterbug, but I had always dreamed of swirling across a stage like Ginger Rogers, ballroom dancing, ballet dancing, tap dancing, even clog dancing my way to the stars. And I used to dream of swimming like Esther Williams, "The world's most famous and glamorous swimming star," as she was described on the cover of her 1957 book, Get in the Swim. I was a senior in high school in 1957, not daring to aspire to fame or glamour. I just wanted to know how to swim so I wouldn't have to sit forlornly on the edge of the pool.People usually learn to swim, tap dance, or play the violin when they are young. But as I found myself middle-aged and simultaneously being outfitted with braces and bifocals, it came to me that I had nothing to lose. I might as well be twelve again. This could be my chance, perhaps my last chance, to go after some of those childhood dreams-to learn, however belatedly, to fiddle, tap dance, and swim. As much as I revered Isaac Stern and Ginger Rogers, I gravitated toward Esther Williams. I decided to take those long-deferred swimming lessons.I grew up in Waxhaw, North Carolina, a very small town where there was no swimming pool. Swimming lessons, if there were any, consisted of being thrown by a well-meaning parent into a murky pond or into the deepest pools of Twelve Mile Creek."Swim," came the order from the safety of shore. "Now, swim!"The words echoed in the ears of frightened children as they fought against the mysterious power

Excerpted from Swimming Lessons: From Treading Water to Diving in, Life Lessons from the Pool by Penelope Niven
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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