summer

Medieval manuscripts

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I saw the little figures
looking cute and medieval
elaborate costumes, so delightful
an ancient ritual
marginalia in excelsis
hello summer!

I wasn’t too sure about today’s GloPoWriMo prompt: “to write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. But I’d also like to challenge you to base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts.” But then I went into town to see the preparations for Sechseläuten and realised I was looking at this stuff IRL pretty much. 

Limmatschwimmen

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On the weekend I participated in the annual Limmatschwimmen. This is where around 4,500 people jump in the Limmat River and float 2 kilometres through central Zurich from the Frauenbad to Flussbad Oberer / Unter Letten. It’s the one day of the year you can do this, the rest of the time there’s boat traffic, not to mention you’re liable for a hefty fine and risk being swept away by the current if you jump in anywhere but the approved spots (eg: Letten). You have to purchase tickets to the Limmatschwim online on the Wednesday beforehand. This year, tickets sold out in 8 minutes. I was lucky enough to get four (the maximum) for myself and three mates.

I was pretty excited before the event. After 2.5 years living in this city, I feel like I know this stretch of the Limmat quite well. I’ve walked alongside it, over it, photographed and looked across it, shown it off to many visitors, even swum in it at Oberer Letten. So the idea of floating the entire “city” length of the river was pretty thrilling to me.

This year’s event, the 52nd Limmatschimmen, was postponed by the organisers by one week and they definitely made the right decision. The previous Saturday was wet and about 19 degrees. This Saturday was gloriously sunny and 31.

Everyone gets given a floatie as part of the ticket. This year they were sting-rays, which my 5yo was very excited about (he loves all sea creatures). In previous years it was a turtle. I rigged up a “waterproof camera” using my old phone and a plastic ziplock bag, so apologies that some pics are a little blurry.

Floating through the city, filled with nervous excitement, grappling with my silly camera, I think I almost forgot to enjoy myself at first. It’s funny, you know. I love water and swimming and I’m a good swimmer, and yet my worst nightmares (as in real, sleeping nightmares) involve tidal waves. Growing up in Australia, my parents taught me to Never Turn Your Back on the Sea. I have a love/fear/healthy respect relationship with water, I guess. Anyway, I finally relaxed about halfway along. The current through the city was not particularly strong and the participants were nicely spaced out. One of the reasons I adore Zurich is for events like this is there’s enough people to feel buzzy but it’s not horribly crowded (I can only imagine how rammed and unsafe-feeling an event like this would be in London!) The river is not particularly cold at this time of year – it flows out of Lake Zurich, which is a balmy 21-25 degrees in summer. Even so, by the end of the nearly-one-hour swim I was a bit chilly, and welcomed the cups of hot, sweet tea they gave out! My friend’s husband and son followed us by road the whole time and took some great pics (in the slideshow) and my husband and kids waited near the end to wave us on (you have to be 12+ to participate in the Limmatschwim). I was on such a high afterwards, I just kept looking at all the photos and couldn’t get to sleep until nearly midnight!

Doing an event like this, such a Swiss/Zurich thing, really makes me feel anchored to this place. I have to take a moment to reflect how far I’ve come from my miserable, lonely first-year in Zurich to rounding off this wonderful third summer here by floating through town on a simply stunning afternoon with friends and family in attendance.

This summer in Zuri has been pretty wonderful in general. We’ve had loads of visitors; from random people passing through town and meeting up for just a few hours to a whole week of my brother and sister-in-law staying right around the corner. We’ve done some great things, which I’d like to note, just to remind myself when I read this back in the months/years to come:

MOUNTAINS CLIMBED: Rigi and Pilatus

FESTIVALS and EVENTS: The once-every-three-years Züri Fäscht, Zurich Street Parade (well sort of, we were in town early in the day swimming at Mythenquai so we caught some of the vibe), August 1/Swiss National Day fireworks (just a local celebration setting of a few poppers with friends), our 5yo’s Indianerfest to celebrate the end of the school year, the Dolder Classic vintage car show and, of course, Limmatschwimmen 2016

SWAM IN: Lake Zurich, Lake Geneva, Evian pool, Thonon-le-Bains pool, the River Töss, the Oeschinensee, Limmat River, Thermalbad Zurich, Novum spa Baden, Baden Freibad, Freibad Allenmoos (our local). I love all the swimming here!

With September fast approaching and the kids back at school /starting nursery, it feels like summer’s just about over now, but it’s certainly finished on a high!

Swimming in the Oeschinensee

Swimming in the Oeschinensee – have you seen enough pics of me in bathers yet?

Overblown

Summer heat

And old friends

drift out and in

shimmering, floating through my life again

carrying currents of warm air

caressing my skin

loosening my brain

Happiness, basking

in gentle-fierce friend-fire

banked round my heart

shored up for colder times

And we swim together

spraying drops of clear water

quenching a soul-parched dry

refreshed and clarified by

your shining eyes

seeing far below the surface

soul-deep, I gaze fondly back

But passing fast and lovely

vibrant summertime blooms

fleeting, beautiful, bounty

against blue, blue skies

And silvery moons…

Your tongues speak treasures

licking my loneliness

clean as a groomed feline

As worlds collide, combine

enfolding my family in kindness

While two little boys delight

in simple joys of a new friend, who’s an old one

Held in sweet stasis, so brief

the heady, overblown, ridiculous emotion

of high-summer moments

Where the light gets in

These summer mornings

The sun hits the outside corner of the bedroom

Its lighthot fingers poking in

Through chinks in the curtains and shutters

Making a dot pattern here

and slanting slabs of liquid yellowwhite light there

The warmth!

It reminds me of something

Is it my grandparents’ house for Christmas holidays?

Those little wooden beds in the room I shared with James

Floral coverlets with machined-diamond stitching, and fuzzy wool blankets with those satin edges — both pushed to the floor on hot nights.

Nana made us breakfast

The oriental tin full of her home-made museli. The dry smell of oats and apricots

Perfectly flecked Vegemite on hot buttered toast

The noise of the planes flying over, shaking the summer morning air.

Or is it holiday houses in MacRae?

Houses rented or owned by my friends’ parents, or someone’s Aunty Dot, or Alison’s sister.

That same feeling of waking in a warm room with my brother

not having needed more than a sheet overnight

The languid feeling of summer holidays

Knowing I’ll swim today.