In a sequel of sorts to Swimming to Antarctica (2004), renowned distance swimmer Cox tells the story of an ordinary practice swim that took a decidedly extraordinary turn.
She was about to wrap up her workout when she realized that she was being followed by a baby whale, who had somehow been separated from his mother. Cox was dog-tired, but realized that if she came ashore, the whale would try to follow her and would die. So she stayed in the water for hours, swimming around with the baby she dubbed Grayson, waiting and watching and hoping his mother would return. Cox vividly recreates the experience of the exhausting swim. Commenting on her hunger, she writes: “All I wanted was a . . . cup of hot chocolate with a mound of whipped cream as big as Big Bear Mountain in the distance . . . or carrot cake with pecans and cinnamon and clove, pineapple and coconut, or a slice of hot apple strudel—any of these would do.” The narrative transports readers to the majestic, wonderful world of the ocean, filled with dolphins, small fish and odd plants. When Grayson’s mother finally turns up, Cox is astounded by her size, her girth, the barnacles on her chin, the rubbery roughness of her cheek. Still, transforming the story of one afternoon into a book-length fable, even a short book-length fable, is a bit of a stretch. The tale is burdened with overwrought musings on the meaning of the time spent with Grayson: “The waiting is as important as the doing; it’s the time you spend training and the rest in between; it’s the painting the subject and the space in between.”
Nonetheless, an inspirational, almost spiritual read, perfect for gift-giving.