Black Ecologie Vol I: freshwater bodies bodies bodies
Years ago, I visited the Dead Sea. Eager to float in its famed high-salinity water, I jumped in, but was stunned by a burning sensation...down there. It was so painful, I had to get out of the water. While this happens to plenty of tourists, the experience reinforced an old saying from my mom.
"A penis is like a spout, but a vagina is a cup,” my mom always said. “It catches things.”
I think of this whenever I take a bath (only after the bathtub is cleaned with surgical precision) or swim in bodies of water. Bacteria and other microorganisms are a natural — and essential — part of aquatic ecosystems. But thanks to warming waters caused by climate change, toxic algae blooms and harmful microbes are becoming more common in freshwater bodies.
The Republicans working to roll back clean water legislation will never know the chaos of your hand brushing a leaf in the water, but you thought it was a dead fish.
There are two types of people in this world: lake people and ocean people. I grew up in the Southeast, where beaches along the Atlantic coast reign supreme. I find the scent of saltwater and sunscreen intoxicating, and long for that deep fatigued feeling you get from being battered by waves and sun.
Ocean people relax on the shore with a good book, soak in the sun, snap sweet pics, and chill.
Lake people are the type to wear Guy Fieri lenses, own sea kayaks, and really put the ‘sport’ in ‘water sports.’ They’re good people, those lake folks, just built differently.
I live in New England now, where the beaches are cold and rocky. To my horror, I’m now surrounded by lake people, and am becoming one myself. For someone who can’t swim, I’ve had a surprisingly pleasant time in the deep lakes, swimming holes, and rivers in the region. But I think of my mom’s adage about ‘cups’ and ‘spouts’ quite often.
Here are some thoughts that plague me when swimming in freshwater:
What if all those History Channel shows about lake monsters are real, and the monster is Ted Cruz?
What if I swallow a mouthful of unclean water, and my last two brain cells are devoured by that rare brain-eating amoeba?
Then there’s that existential question: to pee or not to pee in the water. If I do pee, will I attract a fish like the Candiru — an infamous Amazonian species rumored to swim into people’s urethra ?
As a final goodbye to summer, I went paddle-boarding on the Charles River over the long weekend.
As was the case in many American cities, the Charles used to be so dank, locals joked about needing a tetanus shot if you ever fell in. Well, this weekend, I did fall into the river. Actually, I jumped in (it was hot!).
It was surreal to know that as recently as 1995, the river was polluted with human waste, industrial sludge, and other delightful things. Thanks to local conservation groups and federal oversight, the Charles is a restoration success story.
If you’ve ever swam in freshwater and emerged without pink eye, you have the Clean Water Act to thank. You’re welcome.
I wrote about some ecological lessons I learned from Toni Morrison for Sierra
Speaking of lakes, this song by Land of Talk really slaps.