Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BOOKreMARKS: The Workout that Wouldn’t End

I opened my new reading year with Grayson—a sweet, short memoir by competitive open-water swimmer Lynne Cox. In it, she details a single morning of her daily three-hour training in the Pacific Ocean—a morning that began like any other until…the water shuddered. This occurs in the sixth paragraph; then the morning (and every subsequent graf) gets stranger.

Cox is only 17 and has already broken numerous long-distance swimming records at this point in her life. She’s schooled in visualization techniques, resilience, and discipline. Where others cower from fear (like me, whom you’d never find in a dark, 55-degree ocean at 5 a.m.), Cox confronts and controls. Better still, especially for those of us who are armchair travelers, she remains aware and in awe of the marine life she encounters. She introduces readers to aloof sea turtles, chatty dolphins, a manic stingray colony, and flying tuna. We learn tidbits about each of these creatures and how oddly they’re behaving that morning. We get drawn in to Cox’s fear-induced urge to finish her workout ASAP and high-tail it home until…we meet “old” Steve near shore.

Steve owns a bait shop and has long been a source of wisdom and friendship to Cox. Today he’s not in his usual spot and Cox worries. She heads closer inland yet he waves her away. He explains that a baby gray whale has been following her like a puppy for about a mile. She can’t go closer to shore—it’ll beach the little guy—and she can’t stop swimming now. She must help the infant find his mother, his only food source at his tender age (baby grays drink about 50 gallons of milk per day), or he’ll die.

An already exhausted Cox rallies to save the 18-foot youngster. She takes her mission quite selflessly and compassionately, in spite of how the cold is affecting her, in spite of having no idea how to find one particular female whale in the Pacific. Though the baby—whom she dubs Grayson (a gray’s son)—acts healthy and playful, Cox knows every minute counts to reunite him with his mother. Especially considering the 5,000+-mile migration to the Arctic the whales have ahead of them.

As Grayson’s rescue grows longer and more complicated, Cox takes the advice of another old seaman who keeps an eye on her during her morning workouts. “Sometimes answers come out of time and struggle, and learning. Sometimes you just have to try again in a different way.”

Cox experiments with new dives, new ways of holding her breath longer, new ideas about what little Grayson is thinking and how he might have slipped away from his mother. And in all of this, Cox continues sending positive thoughts/energy into the Universe, hoping it will help the cause, and Grayson continues following her around the Pacific.

Don’t let Grayson’s slim dimensions fool you. At first glance, it’s a stirring rescue tale. But at closer read, it’s a love song to the ocean—and an instruction manual on what’s possible when we open our hearts and minds to the unknown.

[Gray whale mother and calf: photographer unknown.]

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...