When the pandemic began in March, lawn signs appeared around Mount Desert Island. “We are staying Trojan Strong for each other,” they proclaimed. The community saw its best illustration yet of that spirit Friday when open water marathon swimmer Puranjot Kaur began a never-before-attempted swim all the way around MDI.
It wasn’t just the intensive training or the careful planning that included detailed calculations of time, tide and temperature. It wasn’t just the small army of volunteer safety crew on kayaks, paddle boards and motorboats. It wasn’t just the fundraising to support the work of Open Table to build community and address food security.
The swim was all of those things, but it also transcended them in the way that sporting events at their best sometimes can. Rather than politics or the pandemic, the swim was all anyone was talking about at the grocery store, on the golf course or along the shore, where dozens gathered to cheer her on. Hundreds more followed online updates.
Kaur was in the water for about 10 hours of the planned 24. A wind that hadn’t been forecasted and water temperatures colder than her practice swims conspired to put an end to this first attempt to circumnavigate the island. But if any fans were disappointed, it didn’t show. The swim was still cause for celebration.
It was such a big, audacious goal, and swimming a single mile in that cold water (no wetsuit!) is more than most mortals would dream of. But also, we have a culture of cheering each other on, and being reminded of that is what felt so good.
“She brought the community together during a time when we feel far apart,” one comment on the Open Table Facebook page said. The teamwork of the crew was a moving example of dedication and trust, which have seemed hard to find in the news. “She has forever inspired me to be a little more brave, reach out a little further from my comfort zone and to live my life with greater gusto,” said another.
And on Saturday morning, a group gathered under her hospital room window with signs and a bagpiper, cheering her on still. Members of the YMCA swim team she coaches held a sign saying, “Success isn’t measured by what you achieve, it’s measured by the obstacles you overcome.”
Hats off to Kaur. And to all the adventurers she has inspired to dream big and “get after it,” we can’t wait to cheer you on.