As a young man, I went cycling in Scotland with a companion.
Also with us on the journey were my high fitness levels,
my over confidence, and my poor ability as a swimmer.
This proved to be a dangerous combination
when we saw a small ruined castle on an island,
not far from the shore of a Scottish loch.
On a whim in the sunshine, I decided to swim over and see it.
Stripped to my shorts, I entered the water, and began.
It turned out the island was much further than it looked,
the water was much, much, colder than I thought,
and my primitive breast-stroke was truly primitive.
My foolishness, however, successfully drove me on.
Exhausted, I reached the island, and hauled myself out.
I made myself look round the ruined walls, and piles of stones,
while the wind chilled my wet and shivering body.
I then stood on the shore and faced the return swim.
The longer I waited, the more I recovered my energy,
but also the colder I got.
It was a fine judgement to have to make.
There was no way out, and I committed myself to the attempt.
Part way across, conscious of the dark depths beneath,
from which my frantic breast stroke was struggling to keep me,
I turned over on my back to gain some respite.
Now the castle loomed above me, and continued to loom.
No matter how much I kicked out, it seemed not to move.
Cold, panic, and desperation, competing for control of my future,
were my main companions on this journey to the far shore.
I came the closest I’ve ever come to succumbing to the cold and panic,
but in the end desperation won, and drove me back to land;
here I lay heaving for a long time, oblivious to all but pain and relief,
while my worried companion looked on in wonderment.
I had survived, along with my hubris and foolishness;
these remain, to this day, constant travelling companions,
although our relationship is now more circumspect.
My deepest gratitude is reserved for my desperation,
which, though underrated by many, I admire and respect,
and, without which, keeping close company, I do not take shift.