A few of the many plunges, in a land filled with varied waters.
"Every water has its own rules and offering. Perhaps involved is that commonplace struggle to know beauty, to know beauty exactly, to put oneself right in its path, to be in the perfect place... Every water has a right place to be, but that place is in motion. You have to keep finding it, keep having it find you." -- Anne Carson, 1 = 1
One. Lago Verde, one dry-hot 3pm, peeling off packs, boots, shirts. Running in. At knee depth, we dove headfirst before the bottom disappeared into dense-colored water that insisted we take part.
Two. That same edge, when April brought big shadows to the steep-walled valley, steeling ourselves (daring each other) for cold bellies, feet, faces. Yelps submerged and emerged as laughs mixed with pants. “You never regret a swim.”
Three. Next lake down the outflow, gather for long lunch facing into the full sun. Post-cookies, one hiker’s swimming, head under even. I can't not jump. Frothy kicks to beat the air warm, doggy paddle for elegance. Smooth rocks, no sand, for basking.
Four. Straight from sleep: Lago General Carrera, the sprawling two-country-giant, wakes up some mornings beating the cove with ocean-force, others, almost honey-like in its stillness. Any state, jolts the morning pilgrim awake faster than the coffee that follows.
Five. Giddy satisfaction of mastery—the vision of sleeping-pad-float achieved. Hidden lake calls for secret talents.
Six. Charging over big rocks, glacial-sill-filled Aviles River: to “swim” here, submerge yourself facedown, pointing upstream. Grab that boulder buried in the bottom and hang on as your legs pull out downstream. Flip over on your back, repeat. Really, a swim? At least, splashed cleaner.
Seven. Gutierrez, nicknamed Skeleton. Inching down its shoreline, found a puma lair marked with spines, ribs, femurs and skulls of guanacos, then continued along to patch of lingering sun. “We’ll swim to the island!”—then disappointment when only waist-high sloshing was required.
Eight. Post-breakfast, same lake: fast fling before the long climb up the ridge, wet hair dripping down my back all morning.
Nine. Little long Lago Pepa makes us swim-crawl through tall, tubular reeds to reach open water, the most densely alive of all the alpine lakes.
Ten. Unnamed lake, seen unexpected below while walking alone. Wind riffles call for swimmer ripples, a senseless and required stop.