Summer Solstice Swim

Sarah McKenna swimming at dawn on Summer Solstice at Sandycove, Co. Dublin

On the dawn of the longest day I met year round swimmer Sarah McKenna for a chat and a swim at Sandycove, Co Dublin. We discussed a sense of place and the reliability of nature.

"I absolutely think the sense of connection to place really powerfully includes sea as well as land. I find it more comforting to speak of being “across the sea” or “over the pond” from someone. The idea that very literal fluidity might actually connect people and place through ebb and flow is more hopeful and charming to me than rocks and boulders which are more physical and less yielding.

I grew up looking at the sea on the Dingle Peninsula and now live in the south of Dublin. I have a deep connection to both places. I have spent exactly half my life in Kerry and half in Dublin. Deep connection to water came later in life. I was struggling to connect myself to any place, internally or externally. Comfort came from the movement of water in any form — the sea, rivers, the canals, a bath, lakes. As time went on, I returned more to the sea, distinctly the Irish Sea, particularly the Forty Foot and the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the Dingle Peninsula. They are different beasts! I owe them both a lot. Dublin swimming helped me form a routine, a ritual and in Kerry an idea of returning to the source, safety, home.

I am taken with the idea of the sea being both reliably predictable — you could time your watch to the tide (or vice versa) — and inherently unpredictable with its unknown depths, drags and currents. It is intriguing and humbling in equal measures.

Sarah McKenna swimming at dawn on Summer Solstice at Sandycove, Co. Dublin

For as long as I can remember I’ve nodded in some way to the longest and shortest days — nothing profound or fancy. I speak with my mom of approaching the turn in the season “can you believe we’re only two weeks away from the longest day?!” She sends me photos of sunsets and I always feel a bit homesick and bemused that they get a later sunset in the west!

This year I’ve decided to swim at sunrise and sunset. I’ve often done one or the other — but it seems appropriate to make the most of the “longest day” this year having felt restricted in many ways over the last while. And it’s comforting and vital for me to connect with the reliability of nature — the sun rises and sets, the tides rise and fall, the earth keeps spinning!”