This morning I swam a mile in the Caribbean sea. Through clear shallows over white waves of sand and into the deep blue, gliding over a silent coral world. There was a small group of us today and as we stood on the sand looking out at the horizon where the sea darkened and white stripes of surf merged into the sky, I had that sense of being on the edge of the world.
Where I'm marooned, island-ed, and being able to swim is hope. Wading into the sea, it felt cool at first and then, as the salty warm water enveloped me, like a second skin.
There were times, during the swim, when I felt I was at the begining of my journey here in Barbados, that the sea had so much to teach me about life. Because the hardest thing about being in the water was facing my fears. We swam through a clump of sargassum and I felt tiny pinpricks that faded to tingling numbness on the backs of my legs and upper arms. Sea lice. If I just keep breathing, I told myself, I'll be okay. But breathing was the problem. With my face in the water I played out the motions of the stroke then came up to breathe, keeping my eyes above water on the boatyard across the bay where we were headed. I kept going. Breathing.
Then breathing became harder. With waves on the surface and the floor of the sea falling away - now more than 20 feet below. I try to find a rhythm like the others, their arms steady rudders, their sharp out puffs of breath. But I'm not as strong as them, my technique is rusty and I don't know how to breathe. But I've always done it, somehow. Breathing into every cell of my body with every ounce of strength I had giving birth for the first time. Disolving the pain, bringing the process to life. I believed I could do it and it worked.
Treading water was effortless. The salt made us buoyant, the still was calming. And I had energy again to dive under the rope and I swam, part of the group, keeping pace. Suddently I felt like I was on the roof of the world, the expansive sky all around me. Two turtles glided
beneath us, curious, their shells glowing in a shaft of light, sharing their world.
We were past the boats and then the yellow pier of the boatyard seemed to be within reach. My breaths were deep and clear as the coral turned to white sand below. A welcome to my feet, like silk underfoot.