Her body holds secrets
that I can only hear
if I sink into the liquid,
and let her draw me near,
as her ancient wisdom
soothes, washes, and transcends
time, thought, and truths.
In the murkiness, I suspend
my frame and my beliefs
about what is and what should be
and simply allow her body
to support and carry me.
Just breathe, there is nothing to fear.
She carries and protects the secrets
of all that is, was, and will be,
surely, she can do the same for me.
Gliding Across Glass
I learned at any early age that what first appears as an insurmountable and tortuous task, can turn into one of my greatest joys. I learned this when I was about eight years old and I was faced with learning something that seemed impossible to master. The seemingly impossible task required me to submerge in cold dark lake water, struggle with a life jacket that was riding above my ears, keep my feet in skies that pointed in every direction except the desired one – toward the throttling boat, and wrap my small fingers around the bouncing handles found at the end of a long rope. I needed to manage these tasks while bobbing alone, far from the safety of our boat. Each failed attempt to stand up on those skies meant I had to watch our boat, driven by my father, pass my way without stopping. A castaway, unable to call for help, I once again watched the long white tail trailing behind our boat approach my outstretched arms. My task was to grab the rope, before the boat circled behind me. If I missed grabbing my lifeline, the boat idled while I swam awkwardly to the end of the tail. Handles secure, the boat would continue its journey, back to where it began, and the stretched long rope created a taut straight line from me to them. Not only did the tight rope create the shortest distance between me and my family, it reduced the slack that can cause a sudden jolt and probable tumble after the propulsion catches up with the paused skier.
Another failed attempt and a rope burn around my pointer finger would surely land me a seat in the dry warm boat. Sadly, it did not. Apparently, my pleading and tears were drowned by the waves. My father would not let me back in the boat until I stood up on those skies. I knew those words carried weight, and I would need to lift my own out of the water if I wanted to feel dry land again.
I yelled, “Hit it,” as I had been instructed to do and finally, sitting back, my posture secure, determined, I was able to hold on to the split handles long enough to allow the engine to pull me up and out of the water. I did it! I can still feel the wind on my face, and the sound of the water splashing off me, as the motor’s speed instantly changed me from a floating fish form back into an upright mammal, only now, I did what primates are not naturally designed to do; I was gliding across water.
I wanted nothing more in those moments of failed ski starts to crawl back into the boat. I am glad I did not get my way. Learning to water ski as a young person gave me the greatest gifts of my childhood and allowed me to experience profound freedom and joy. I have many fond memories of skiing across Arizona lakes: the revved engine when I yelled, “hit it,” feeling the spray from my ski as I leaned closer to the water, the freedom of gliding across the water, the friendly hellos from other boaters as they noticed the small slalom skier passing by, skiing alongside my brother, watching my parents ski, the pop of the vibrating red flag when a skier went down, the smacking sound made when the waves and the boat crashed into each other, and skiing through canyons that amplified sight and sound.
I enjoyed gliding across a smooth glass-top lake, that could be found on a quiet and calm weekday. Gliding across glass was an exhilarating experience, both the feel of the smooth water under my ski, and the look of the surface as I cut across. Calm water was a gift, but I did not mind a few waves now and then to add interest and challenge. My two-ski start was quickly replaced with a slalom ski that allowed me to maneuver outside of the wake, from right to left, and left to right. I learned how to ride the ridge of the wake as it propelled me outside of its boundaries, and I became skilled at leaning sideways, close to the water before leaning back and jetting across the wake to do the same on the other side. My difficult ski start was replaced with the strength and skills that allowed me to balance gracefully on one ski and stay on top of the water for longer periods. I also learned how to motion to go faster, which I often did during my adventurous youth. My ski moments were not completely void of fear – I did experience it from time to time. Fear surfaced if a large boat sped by, because that meant large waves would follow, or if I sat too long bobbing alone in the water before our boat made its way back to me. My family worked well as a team during these moments. My mom or dad drove the boat, and one of us was always on the lookout for a downed skier, flag ready. The last time I skied, my daughter, who was young at the time, saw me fall and somersault across the water. When I climbed back in the boat she was upset and crying; she was worried about her mom. I was fine, not even a scratch. I was better than fine.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about the transcendent power of swimming in a body of water and my story about learning to water ski. I hope that you are finding joy and adventure in your own life. Have an inspired weekend! Michele
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Picture 1: View from a boat, Saguaro Lake, Arizona Picture 2: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 3: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 4: One of 27 replica lighthouses along Lake Havasu, Lake Havasu City, Arizona
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