Those two mornings I walked to the beach at sunrise, which is not my typical routine. (It's much quieter than my typical routine.) Both mornings I brought a book and sat and read while a smattering of swimmers entered and emerged from the lake. I got the sense that it was a mix of people training for something and people for whom swimming at 7 AM in the lake is just their thing. (Me, personally--I'm a strong and enthusiastic swimmer but swimming in open water for very long gives me the heebie jeebies -- currents, scary dinosaur fish, and what if I bump into a dead body?)
Each time someone left the lake and engaged with another swimmer they said the same thing. "Ah! It was amazing out there!" "Ah! It was perfect today." "Ah! This is what it's all about." It was sort of like a cross between a prayer (thank you for this lake) and a Yelp review (5 stars! Would swim again.) Maybe it was the endorphins or maybe it was just happiness that after weeks of swimming in a cold, choppy lake, that week it turned warm and quiet and this was their reward for sticking it through.
That's very indicative of summertime in Chicago. There's that one week per summer where everyone seems to settle in and relax. Everyone takes their outer skin off: we can finally be sort of dirty and naked and feel natural and walk in the grass with our shoes off and jump in the lake and air dry off. Maybe it's our reward for sticking through everything else or it's just nice to pick our heads up and remember that sometimes it's truly just nice to be alive.