A Swim in the Stratus

This is the view of the lake where I swam this morning. The air was a chilly 50 degrees F, but the water was warmer, even inviting. I was unsure of how far out I could swim or whether or not I would get disoriented, panic, cramp, and or drown. So I grabbed a ball of string (the kind you tie up brown paper packages with), walked down this boat ramp and tied one end of the string to the fence off the boat ramp to the left. Then I eased into the water and let out the string as I kicked back toward the middle of the lake. I felt safe and couldn't imagine feeling otherwise.

I had hoped the string would reach the middle of the lake where the ramp, the houses, and the trees along the shore would disappear in the fog. But the string ran out before everything went gray. So I let go. A big smile broke across my face. I kicked out further, keeping an eye on the bright but fog-occluded disc of the sun and the slanted white line that was the facing board on the eave of a house on the shore next adjacent to the ramp. I alternated kicking on my back to stay warm and swimming the head-out-the-water breast stroke to look at the fog. The chilly air stung my arms and legs as I lifted them from the water. It was as if the fog had a bite. The water itself--so bracing on a hot day-- felt like a warm blanket on this September morning.

I watched the fog move and rise across the lake in wisps and wafts. There were no ducks, no dragonflies, nothing but me and fog. Fog, I have recently learned, is technically a low stratus cloud. It is the only kind you can experience "up close and personal" without getting airborne. Now, a few days after the autumnal equinox, the lake is releasing a summer's worth of sunlight into the air. The warm air on the lake's surface comes into close contact with the cooler air above it and condenses, creating tiny droplets of water: fog. Because the sun was visible through the fog, this type of cloud is called stratus translucidus (as opposed to opacus).

I was alone in the lake for about half an hour. But I was not alone at the lake. There was a small cabbed truck parked near my car in the gravel lot. Its engine was running. Before I took my swim, I thought to explain to the driver what I was doing--as a safety measure. I approached the truck and saw a bearded, flannel-shirted, 30-year old man in the passenger seat. He had his white-socked feet up on the dashboard, his eyes were closed, and he was apparently sleeping. I chose not to tap on his window and explain myself. This would require him to explain himself--where was the driver? why was his engine running? was he planning to fish? was someone in the back of his truck?

After I had tied my string to the fence and disappeared into the fog of the lake, it occurred to me that maybe I should have tapped on his window or at least checked to make sure the exhaust pipe of his truck was belching its fumes into the air and not into the truck. Perhaps he was thinking he should have gotten out of his truck and inquired about what I was doing swimming on a chilly morning with a ball of twine out into the fog. I couldn't imagine myself, dripping wet, tapping on his window asking him if he was okay. He probably couldn't imagine standing on the boat ramp asking me if I was okay.

So I swam and hoped we both wouldn't end up in the local news in the next day's paper.
When I returned to the ramp, I reeled in my twine, grabbed my towel and got into my car. As I pulled out of the lot, I drove close enough to his truck to see him. I waved. He waved. We both smiled--awake and alive--no questions asked.