Swimming in Calmer Seas

Far too long ago (three weeks!), KeAnne wrote a post entitled Swimming that I kept promising and promising, to myself and in her comment section, to respond to with a post of my own.

Finally, life here has calmed down enough for me to do so.

And with that statement, I sum up her post, oddly enough. Go read it if you haven’t. It’s beautiful.

KeAnne writes:

“I love the ocean, but I can’t swim in it.  It’s mainly due to fear. […] The ocean is too wild and unpredictable for me to be entirely comfortable with it.”

I love the ocean as well; but I am absolutely comfortable in it. My history does include frequently visiting family on the coasts of Rhode Island, Virginia, California, and the US Virgin Islands, with the addition of living on a sailboat with my parents as a toddler. Add lakes, rivers, and streams in Michigan, Colorado, Louisiana, and Arkansas. It’s not surprising that I’m okay with wild water.

But I know the feeling of uneasy anticipation when first arriving at a new beach. What are the waves going to be like? What kind of creepy crawlies or sharp spikies do I need to look out for as I slog to deeper water? I remember some serious surf in New England that almost killed me when I was around twelve. And when I went to help my grandparents with their move back to the mainland in 2003, I went with my grandfather to beach bars (him to drink, me to swim) where you got a free shot if you stepped on a sea urchin. I was extra careful to not be able to take advantage of that offer. I remember a storm once, when we took a family trip to Biloxi. But I never faltered in these situations. I wouldn’t let anything come between me and the ocean that I love so much. It was always worth the risk.

photo (3)My grandmother painted this from a photograph of me in their backyard in St. Croix.

But somehow, that Lieutenant-Dan-screaming-into-the-storm attitude toward the liquid ocean doesn’t translate into the ocean of life for me.

Or does it?

The ocean doesn’t care; I am insignificant on its Neptunian scale. I swim anyway, when I can, luxuriating in its embrace.

Life doesn’t care; I am insignificant on its primordial scale. I live anyway, every day. I luxuriate when I can; I struggle to tread water when I must.

I am stubborn. I haven’t quit. Things happen, but I still make choices. I haven’t given in and huddled under a blanket forever, although that does have its appeal.

KeAnne’s analogy doesn’t quite fit my water-view. The ocean is wild, yes, but pools have their own dangers. We lived on a college campus when I was ten, when my mom was finishing her degree, so my best friend and I had access to the Olympic-size pool–with its miles-high diving board. Just the sight of that thing was almost enough to send me into a panic. It was so high. I couldn’t even jump off the small one without dares and mockery from the other children. But the high one? You can call me a chicken all day long. You can point out the four-year-old jumping off without a second thought. wasn’t going to do it. I climbed up once, and climbed back down.

It’s all the same to me. Wherever you choose to swim, there’s danger lurking somewhere nearby. Maybe in, around, or under; maybe the water itself. It’s always there. But I still have to jump in, just not from a height. I still kick and frolic and dive. Because the choice is already made for me when I see the water. I have to go in. I can’t resist.

And the choice is made in life. There are dangers all around me, all the time. But I’m still kicking. I’m still trying to enjoy what I can when I can. I can’t resist trying to win. I can’t resist swimming.

“Through it all, the ocean keeps going, indifferent to the bruises it causes and the beauty it creates.  It’s up to us to make our way through it.”

So true, KeAnne.


4 Comments on “Swimming in Calmer Seas”

  1. Kate says:

    Beautiful. And I love that picture your grandmother painted.

  2. jjiraffe says:

    Great post. I love that painting, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s