Embracing Fluidity by Ángela Lavilla Cañedo
Ángela Lavilla Cañedo's moving Wild Swimmer Story explores how wild cold water and embracing her wildish nature have saved her in body and mind during some challenging years. Embracing our wildish nature means to awaken our inner worlds, live life and our creativity fully, reject confining social norms that stigmatize our bodies and to find and cherish our own inner and outer beauty. The wild, brave woman is an image close to my heart. I call her La Belle Sauvage or the Wild Beauty. Angela takes us on her courageous journey of accepting, embracing, surrendering and living her wildish nature through her experiences of being in the water and consequently finding healing, fluidity, and a way to take back control of her life. Thank you, Angela, for this powerful contribution. You can find her at @angela_lavilla_canedo --Dawn Swimmer
by Ángela Lavilla Cañedo
I don't want clothes when I am by or in the sea.
I love feeling raw. When exposed to the elements my senses are tuned.
I want to feel everything, fully.
I want to connect with the ocean's magical and mysterious powers.
I do this meeting the sea as I am, naked and vulnerable.
Being wild, untamed, is being fully me. Memories of covering myself in seaweed as a child come to mind - the touch of the wet, soft, slippery seaweed against my skin; the pungent, semi-rotting yet life-giving, smell; the feeling of absorbing the sea's goodness through my pores. I return to that state of playfulness and inhibition that makes me feel alive and excited and I laugh with happiness. Once again I become a daughter of the sea.
At some point in my 20s I felt quite disconnected from my body and my desires. I was living too much in my head and longing for a deeper relationship and connection with nature. In my free time I was hiking, going for walks in nature, swimming in the pool, and in the sea when I was on holiday. I knew that being in nature and water were my happy places, but they were places to 'disconnect' from the everyday, the stress. Then, a couple of years ago in my early 30s, I felt lost, sad, a break up happened, I was trapped in zero hours contracts and feeling like the Cinderella of academia, and surrounded by uncertainties I thought I felt obliged to handle. I suddenly felt a rebellion growing within myself from the inside out. My body started shouting, becoming numb and tingly in places. I knew I had to do something.
Wherever and whenever I am in the water, I am grounded.
After months of medical appointments and tests I made big decisions to take control of my life: I knew I needed to follow my intuition, my desires, my dreams… Going to nature became my place to breathe, pause, express myself, shout, cry, enjoy… I started to re-discover and reclaim my inner powers. And, wild, cold water saved me. I always knew I loved being in water but I never realized that it was a crucial part of who I am and my well-being. This knowledge truly hit home after having spent every day of the summer of 2019 swimming while doing my first long road trip with my van in Spain, France and the UK. When I came back to where home was at that time, Sheffield in central England, I continued wild swimming in my dearest spot in the Peak District. I decided to challenge myself to go swimming once a week throughout the autumn and winter until I could not handle the cold. Curiously, I found myself at my favourite spot a few times a week. I was really hooked. Also, surprisingly, my symptoms started to gradually improve. One day in December 2019 I even found myself breaking a layer of thin ice with my body to reach the soothing, freezing, therapeutic water.
My encounter with the water became my most pleasurable moment of the week; a time for me in nature, a time to continue rewilding myself. The journey to the water became a ritual: the drive, the peaceful walk getting mentally ready for the cold water, the swim, drying out, sipping herbal tea, the walk back feeling new and giggly. Sometimes I spotted deer, noticed the light over the moors, the dew on the grass, the textures and brown colour of the late-autumn heather. More gifts from nature. This place emanates a magical energy. It has seen my many facets, my deepest joys and sorrows, and my growth. And I too have witnessed all of her seasonal changes and nuances. We became soul mates. Swimming in those cold waters was life-saving, like pressing a 'reset' button. I couldn't believe my happiness. Wild swimming had become connection with life, myself, and nature, rather than disconnection from the everyday.
With great misgivings about leaving my special swimming spot, I moved to Bristol in February 2020. As of September 2020, I still haven't found a similar place I can easily go to now but the move pushed me to explore, enjoy and connect with many other places to swim, especially the sea! It made me realize that I profoundly missed being close to the sea, something I gave up when I moved to the UK nine years ago. Consequently, I feel very privileged and spoilt living near the UK's southwestern coast in Bristol and my soft spot, Wales. Changes always bring new exciting possibilities and I have embraced that idea. Wherever and whenever I am in the water, I am grounded.
I come from Asturias, Spain, a wild Celtic land on the country's northern Atlantic coast where many mythological characters inhabit the region. Xana, my favourite, is a type of wild water fairy, a female creature who lives in waterfalls, rivers and other bodies of pure water. When I was a teenager, living on the Asturian coast, I distinctly remember a group of women who would chat, swim and float every morning, all year round, in the scenic bay. It inspired me and I remember saying to myself that one day I'd become one of them. And, here I am, a modern Xana, a powerful woman, a woman made powerful by the sea, river and waters of the world.
Only a few months ago the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)* [see below] was thrown at me and this has stirred up things, bringing uncertainty and fear back. But now I feel connected, with wholeness, grounded and empowered, and I am determined to focus on my self care. And despite new sensations, I feel in my body that I am following the right path, and that wild swimming is my guarantee for sanity and well-being. My goal is to live near the sea again. I can feel that this moment is just around the corner. In the meantime I have my van which enables me to do water-based road trips and go on adventures looking for water. In my van sometimes I wake up smelling the sea breeze or hearing the waves just metres away, the sandy beach just outside the van door. I feel lucky to have these priceless moments.
I like imagining my relationship with the sea, and other wild waters, as reciprocal. It makes my relationship with the sea more intimate and spiritual. I have enormous respect for the sea. I approach her with care and self care. Going to the sea when it's rough, especially if it's a new place, I 'test the waters' to get to know the place and find out if I'm welcome! I observe the currents, the types of textures on the ground, the pebbles, the sand… I offer myself to the water with an open heart. I feel humble, tiny, vulnerable, yet brave and empowered as I am there, no matter how cold it is, honouring her transformational powers. I am in a constant nourishing process of building a relationship with the sea, myself, and the sea within me.
When I go to the sea it feels like meeting a lover, I burst with exhilaration. Dancing with the waves and floating in the sea while the sun is teasing us at dawn is a delicious ceremony to greet a new day feeling grounded, fresh, lighter, and open to whatever comes. I love being alone on a deserted beach or sharing with a few of my close, sea-loving friends that intimate, quiet, sensual moment of the day. It's pure delight to the senses. At the end of the day, the sea is my lover.
Wild, naked swimming brings me back to the present; nothing else matters, and I feel a deep sense of belonging. It is such a comforting feeling to know that water is always going to be there for me; so I return to her, again and again, like being moved by the moon, moving like the tide, following and being in tune with nature's cycles. I let my body and imagination flow. Sometimes when I swim I feel that I dissolve myself into the water and we become one. Gravity disappears, the borders of my body disappear, my inner tingling merges with the surrounding water, my energy escapes my body and I surrender to the mysteries of the sea. One day this summer, after hours and hours on an empty beach, I became the ocean. It was sublime. I want more of this. I find myself when I embrace my… her… our fluidity.