Crossing Death's Door

Mari Anderson, who has been my swim partner for many years, started it. It became our goal for the summer: Swim the Death’s Door Crossing.

Created an intention

Rallied me as a partner

Organized practices designed by our swim coach, Mike Daley

Swam in pool when possible

Swam in lake by July

Imagined I could do it

Never backed down

Go for it – August 26, 2016

I got the call that Friday morning. “The weather looks good for this afternoon,” Mari said. “Let’s meet at noon; our support crew is able to go.”

NOW – after a summer of wondering, practicing, worrying.

NOW it is. Time to go. I experienced a rush of excitement, calm, and resignation.

Charlie (Vernon), Mari and I would be joined by Bruce McClaren, Bonnie Burnham, Valerie Fons, Josh Ervin, Fritz Damler, Alison Vernon & son Gary. Each of these supporters gave hours to us – for our safety and for our success.On our behalf, they also crossed Death’s Door.

Seeing them as I regularly popped my head out of the water encouraged me. Even though they were always just out of reach, in boats and kayaks they led us on and helped us to stay the course.

I relied on my body to keep going – stroke after stroke.

I lost myself in the color of the water – green all the way across.

I glimpsed shining white ferries looming in the distance and generously giving us wide berth.

I tasted gasoline and experienced waves that disoriented me. But what anchored me to the intention was a yellow kayak in front of me and a knowing that I could do this for three hours If I stayed present focusing on strokes and breath.

When I now reflect back on that afternoon almost two weeks ago, what stands out is a body memory of paused time while a tempo trainer under my pink cap beeped every 1.4 seconds.

The crossing still lives in my body although my mind has difficulty grasping the event… sort of like a dream I have had but then doubt it in the light of day. What I can say to myself, however, is that it took my swimming partner to have an intention and belief in me and friends to support our swim. We all did this crossing together.

Stepping out onto Washington Island at Ham & Char’s home was deeply satisfying. But success in pursuing this idea happened when we took our first strokes leaving land at North Port.

And my own personal success actually occurred just a few weeks before when we decided to really “Go for It” as a trio. It was then that I let my fear and doubt be won over by the excitement of what is possible. And the rest is gratitude for a body that is still strong and willing.

– Jeannie Kokes