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Water - a gateway to magic
It wasn't always that way.
Some of the best memories I can pull out of my mind’s eye include water.
Most recently it was the incredible blue of the sea and sky in Mykonos, Greece.
But, I have had a conflicted relationship with water. Not simply the water in lakes, rivers and oceans but also water coming out of the showerhead - I could not shower for years because the feeling of water on my face was terrifying. As a child I went to the YWCA for swimming lessons. My sister and I joined the other kids at the edge of the pool when suddenly the young instructor commanded, “Ok, everyone jump in the pool!” This was not even remotely possible for me because water covering my face, even for a moment, meant that I couldn’t breathe. So I handled the situation by resolutely sitting against the wall and refusing to go in. And I never went back.
Then at camp, the instructor stood in three feet of water near the shore and said to me, “ok, dive between my legs!” Again, no way. If I even attempted this death defying feat, how would I know where his legs were without fumbling around and quite possibly pulling his swimming trunks down in my panic and likely drowning in the process. So although I didn’t trust someone else to teach me to swim, I thought perhaps I could teach myself.
Once I inched out beyond where my tippy toes could touch the sandy ground at a beach on a sunny cottage day, with my mother and sister distracted on the shore, Dad probably reading a book somewhere. I suddenly lost contact with the ground and began flailing - I saw through my panic a man on the pier (the only adult who was aware of my distress) motioning for me to swim ‘thatta way’ and through sheer force of will I found the bottom again and managed to make my way back to safety, coughing and gasping, but no one else seemed to have noticed my brush with death.
Another time I lowered myself down from a floating dock in the inky depths of the Ottawa River, and pushed myself away from its reach, thinking I would miraculously be able to swim with graceful ease like the slinky creatures that lived below. Of course, those things don’t happen in real life and once again I thrashed myself back out of harm’s way, like a terrified deer who had broken through the ice.
So now when I go in the water, it is not without a noodle.
And now miraculously when I “swim” at the lake, it is magic, with no terror.
Water is peaceful and calm. It is solid and not solid. It allows you in but can also envelop you. It can buoy you (although I mainly sink without my noodle), can wash over you and can allow you to feel a place and a moment in time in a way that dry land cannot.
It can be beguiling…suggesting other worlds and other times…with life under the surface that you will never know.
A world of gods and goddesses, sea creatures and myths…a world much older than the one you and I inhabit.
Over the centuries water can carve out pools, erode surfaces and yet can also feel like silk…
It can lurk, it can be mystical, it can be what you wish it to be….
It can carry you away or keep you from what lies beyond. It can summon you or taunt you. It can fool you. I remember once the dog I was minding walked off the edge of a floating dock onto the swaying seaweed like it was grass…and down she went, submerged for a second, until her head bobbed back up and she swam confused to the shore. I always wondered how it seemed dogs could instinctively swim while I could not.
I seek out water now. A cottage by the shore. A beach to walk along. It doesn’t matter where as they’re all the same but all different.
I walk along the sand, my feet sink in. I venture out, but never too far - I float if its salt water. I even put my face under. It’s all magic to me now. But I still treat it with awe and respect.