We can go swimming.

If there is one thing I hate about spring, it’s the waiting. Waiting for your first truly warm day. Waiting to wake up to open windows and not a pile of snow. Waiting to swim.
swimmers
Swimming is the most sacred act of summer. All other warm-weather rituals pale in significance when compared to the first hesitant steps into lakes still cold from mountain run-off, ponds yet to become fragrant and discolored as leaves and twigs and small, nimble fish live and die and stew in their shallow edges. I can remember my first swim of almost every summer. Feet bare in the sand (bare feet—another pure joy that never loses its sweetness!) eyes stubbornly stuck on the place where, I imagine, I can no longer walk on tiptoes and keep my shivering chest above water, the place where I’m forced to embrace the water or retreat. I’m not the run-and-dive type. For me, it’s a slow walk. First my lower legs (that’s easy). Then my thighs (harder). As the water comes up to the top of my bikini bottoms, laps at my navel, I realize I’m in for the full immersion. That’s the point where there is no going back. One step, maybe two deeper, and then I always let go. Spread my arms out and fall forward, as though I’m leaning into the arms of some trusted beloved. Fall, and then swim.

swimmers2I can’t find image credits for either of these images. So if one is yours, please forgive. They are both so inspiring—one sinister, the other sweet, but both made me thirsty for summer.

Clare Elsaesser paints the perfect summer.

married to the seaTo me, summer is a state of undress. It’s bathing suits worn as bras in anticipation of a potential swim. It’s running around in a t-shirt and cut-offs, with as few pieces of underwear as possible. It’s loose limbs and undone hair, cotton dresses that don’t quite cover, blisters, sunburns, tans, and bare feet.

Much like my introductory paragraph, Clare Elsaesser’s paintings could be read as sexual. They feature waifs, thin and graceful, covered by flowers or standing in a colorful, kaleidoscopic mess of blues and greens. They’re walking through sun-dappled woods, faces covered but legs nude, or emerging from water that has been abstracted into flat planes, blocks of color. While Elsaesser mutes the backgrounds, she applies a much tighter hand to her romantic heroines and her shockingly pink blossoms. These girls are lovely in their anonymity, sweet and floral and free.
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And yet to me, there is nothing overly sexy about the summer state. The lack of clothes are not for show; they’re for my body, which craves warm air and the wash of sun. That is, I think, what makes it so great. Clare’s girls aren’t being stared at by predatory eyes. They’re relaxed, languorous, sensual yet not quite sexual.

I love these paintings so much, that I am going to buy myself one for my birthday (coming up in 10 days!). I also wanted to share them, because they are too pretty to keep to myself, and I think she’s talented in a way that makes me envious. It’s like the girls in the sketches; I want to be seen (and to see) in this way.

watching trees

from behind

Buy a Clare Elsaesser print here. They are very affordable, just don’t buy the one I want, kay?