That’s how I feel.
Clear as these waters off this beach, early afternoon, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. I’ve gone into the water, have tasted the sea and felt the sand between my toes. I’ve dipped into the waters off four island beaches this trip – both the Caribbean and the Atlantic sides. I don’t care so much anymore about capturing the details, with either my camera or my memory. The experiences will live in me. Perhaps on a cellular level, if there’s anything to this modernist interpretation of how experience gets integrated.
On my first ever trip to the Caribbean, during a swim near the harbour in Grenada, my good friend Thomps gave me a lesson on floating on water. It happens that Thomps is a reverend in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, but I’m pretty sure that he’s also a Taoist. He instructed me to simply let go, to relax all my muscles, and let the waters do the rest. Being a clumsy swimmer, used to struggling to move myself across even a small pool, accepting his invitation was not exactly natural. Relaxing in water was something that had never occurred to me. Never would have. But it was so easy.
Almost instantly, this method became my favorite way to experience any body of water. I do it every chance I get. In a bathtub if it’s big enough. What an incredible feeling it is, to relax totally, to progressively give up control of my limbs – feet, legs, arms, head and neck, and to feel the waters carry me. More than that. The lake or sea or ocean cradles me, massages me; it causes my body to flutter and ripple with the smallest wavelets. Like being kissed by the Earth. And, best of all, it bestows upon me a deep and certain feeling of belonging. Yes, I am a creature of this planet. I was designed for it; it was designed for me. I am Home.
Not to say the method is entirely without...risk, shall I say? I’ve had my eyes stung by the salty sea quite a few times. And I’ve swallowed a good bit of it too. And I’ve become so relaxed that I’ve come out of my reverie many yards down shore – or away from shore – from where I started. I can easily imagine falling asleep out there, cushioned by the welcoming sea and blanketed by a warm breeze, while the sun bakes away all cares. What a way to go that would be.
But do you know what’s oddest of all about this method? It’s that so many people don’t believe it’s even possible. They insist that if you don’t actively swim, you will sink. Struggle or die, they say. It is, after all, a very popular philosophy of life, isn’t it?