Water and Air: A Day Swimming in Barton Springs

Last Saturday I drove three and a half hours from Dallas to Austin with the express purpose of swimming in the cool waters of Barton Springs.  I swam for about an hour in the morning, then lay in the shade of sprawling oak trees on the hillside above the pool.  The smell of cedar, the splashing of swimmers, the regular rattle of the diving board as one kid after another leapt skyward and belly flopped into the turquoise water—all of it, every sound, every sensation massaged my troubled mind and smoothed out the kinks left there by working and living.

Barton Springs Pool--68 degrees year round

For two hours I lay on that hillside.  I slept.  I woke.  I listened to grackles posing their long drawn-out question, “Huuuuuuuuh?  Huuuuuuuuuh?  Huuuuuuuuuh?” with the persistence of small children.  I laughed at squirrels scampering up and down tree trunks in a game of hide-and-go-seek that to them may not have been a game.  When I grew hungry I walked a half mile to the Green Mesquite and gorged myself on beef brisket, turkey, chicken, rice and pinto beans, all drenched in barbecue sauce.  For dessert, I savored peach cobbler in the smallest bites possible.

Barton Springs Pool

After strolling around the hundreds of acres of parkland that surround the springs, I returned to the pool around 7pm and swam in the soft glow of dusk.  The pool gradually emptied of people.  At 8pm the life guards blew their whistles to announce that they were retiring and that those of us still in the water were on our own.  I floated in deepening darkness.  I heard other swimmers splashing and laughing occasionally, but for long stretches I felt I had the spring and the trees, and even the glowing sky, all to myself; that I existed in a world half water, half air, where all I knew was the sound of the wind jostling the now-invisible trees hanging over me and the leaves answering the wind with a million tiny claps that sounded like rain droplets tapping the ground, where I could hear gentle waves lapping against the concrete edge of the pool, producing a sound like that of a dripping faucet, with the drops alternating from high pitch to low pitch: drip, drop, drip, drop.

I straddled these two worlds, above and below the water.  I was immersed in them both, one cold, one warm, and I felt them both at the same time.  At once I felt warm and cozy yet cool and refreshed.  And for an entire day I thought about nothing but green St. Augustine grass, oak trees, turquoise springs, children flying kites, beef brisket and peach cobbler, the breeze running its fingers through my hair, and the sun warming my skin.  No stress.  No worries.  I thought about saying goodbye to it all, maybe for the last time. I returned to Dallas the next day.

The busy diving board. Unfortunately, the poor guy did not complete his back flip and smacked the water back first.

Squirrel territory.

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About atomsofthought
Teacher. Traveler. Writer. Reader.

13 Responses to Water and Air: A Day Swimming in Barton Springs

  1. This is a SUPERB piece of writing for so many reasons. I could feel every feeling; I could smell and see and almost touch your experience. The squirrels and bellyflops…

    So well done. You have a gift. Reading you the last couple of weeks makes me want to know the rest of your story.

    • Thank you so much, Christine! I need all the encouragement I can get. After posting earlier about Costa Rica and train trips across the country, I was afraid my topics would become too local for people to find interesting. Your words mean a lot to me!

  2. Unabridged Girl says:

    That looks and sounds beautiful. My friend just moved to Texas, to Fredericksburg. I’ll have to tell her about this place. 🙂

    • Thank you! How wonderful that your friend moved to Fredericksburg. I used to go there often with my family to shop and explore. Enchanted Rock State Park is nearby. If your friend likes to hike, she would probably enjoy the park. I hope she likes Texas! 🙂

  3. Pamanner says:

    What beautiful imagery you captured and expressed with words. I felt as if I was there with you!!!

    • Thank you! I’m struggling a bit with what exactly I want to share in this blog. I blogged when I was in my early twenties, and I’ve journaled since I was a little kid, but for some strange reason, since starting this blog, I ask myself way too often what people would most like to read. This habit has inhibited me somewhat. Instead, I should just write what inspires me and in that way speak the only truth I know.

      Thank you for the comment. I enjoy your blog and will definitely read more of it!

  4. skippingstones says:

    Hi! Just returning the visit!

    First off, You are a great writer. Secondly, I really would like to encourage you to keep on writing what You want, not what you think we might want. To begin with, there are so many “we’s” out there. You could not possibly satisfy everyone. And it looks to me like you’re growing an audience already, based on what you already do. Of course, the same things run through my mind, but I am trying to be brave. (And it does take bravery for me to be myself, no matter how I think I might be perceived. Writing is personal for me, and blogging even more so.)

    Thank you for sharing your life and adventures with us – and your thoughts!
    Michelle

    • Thank you, Michelle! I definitely need the encouragement. I think you’re right about the need to be brave, and from reading through your blog I can tell that you possess that quality yourself 🙂 I’ll keep plugging away. At the very least, blogging brings me into contact with people like you. Thank you for stopping by, and I look forward to reading more about your thoughts and experiences.

      Best,
      Nick

  5. Sarah V. says:

    You’re such a wonderful writer! I always find it difficult to capture these kinds of experiences in words…I guess I’m more of a visual person and have a better time with photos. Anyway, we’ve been to Zilker Park, but haven’t swam in Barton Springs yet. We did swim in the Balmorhea spring-fed pool and it was lots of fun!

    • Thank you, Sarah! Growing up in Austin, I spent a lot of time at Barton Springs, so I have a lot of details to draw on 🙂 I haven’t been to the Balmorhea pool, but having searched it on google, I can tell it’s a beautiful spot. Apparently I’ve driven near it down I-10 a number of times. Had I realized a fresh swimming hole was so close to the highway, I would have stopped for a swim! Next time.

      I miss the springs of Central Texas more than anything since I moved away five years ago. I haven’t found a good substitute around Dallas, though recently I discovered that there’s a spring-fed pool in Ft. Worth that opens seasonally. I may check that out before I move away (which is soon).

      Thank you for the kind words!
      Nick

  6. Matt says:

    Love this post. It just makes me wish I had a place like that somewhere near London. I wish I could relax like that too!

    • Thank you, Matt! I wish I had a place like this near Dallas. Austin and its springs are in the same state, fortunately, but the three to four hour drive makes it difficult to visit regularly.

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