If you were watching the KOIN morning news on Labor Day, you might have seen me on TV. Kohr Harlan was interviewing and reporting on a happening in Cascade Locks. It was the 77th Annual Roy Webster Swim Across the Columbia and I was there... again.
Three years ago I wrote a couple of articles about the event and my participation in that year’s swim. The first article was about the extreme fear I experienced for nine years, looking for someone to do it with me.
The second article was about partnering with a member of my exercise class and facing our gargantuan fears to actually show up and jump into the river.
After that swim we both agreed we had to do it one more time without hauling a ton of fear into the water with us.
Surprisingly, after my second article, five more intrepid and fear-filled swimmers decided to join us. One, swam one length at Osborn Aquatic Center, got out and went home to bed! One had my column posted in her house and months later emailed me with an avid description of her fear.
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We bolstered each other, got registered for the 2017 Swim, and were headed to Hood River when the Eagle Creek fire exploded and the event was canceled. We compensated by going for a swim in Ollala Lake near Toledo.
We registered again in 2018. We all showed up, the newbies with special bags to carry their tons of fear. We loaded the boat at 6 a.m. waiting for the 7 a.m. departure which never came. The wind had stirred up the river, making it too dangerous to swim.
Some of us, and a couple of new swimmers, registered for the 2019 event. We jumped and swam last Monday, Labor Day. It was glorious! The water was 72 degrees, there was no wind, the sun was shining, and 420 swimmers aged 10 to 87 jumped into the Columbia River, swimming from the Washington side across to Cascade Locks.
For myself, I had no fear. I used up all my fear capacity in the first swim three years ago, and it never came back. I used this year’s time in the Columbia River to reflect on the gifts this river has given me. I faced my fear and won. The ensuing lack of fear has allowed me to become more myself than I have ever been in my entire life. It has brought me a cadre of new and courageous friends who have faced their own fears to find pleasure in something new and adventurous.
And, every one of us, last Monday, got out of the river with huge smiles and all said, “Let’s do this again next year!” Everyone, including me!