25 Jan

Sea (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_be_back_on_Jan_20th)

I’ve often wondered what it feels like to drown.

Certainly, the swimmer begins the day hopeful and happy.  The beach is beautiful, the sea is calm.  What fun this will be!  What a perfect place to swim!  The sunlight glints off little waves and everything seems to sparkle.  Out into the water dives our swimmer.  The day is full of promise and she is buoyant in the water.  She swims circles in the sea, thrilling with the feel of the water on her skin, the way she can cup it in her hands or spread her fingers and let it run through.  In the sea she will find joy today.  She bobs along the surface, splashing playfully at the waves.

Suddenly, a larger wave slaps her in the face.  Surprised, she fights her way back to the surface, gasping and sputtering.  Regaining her breath, she looks about herself.  The sun still glints off the waves, the morning is still warm.  Though the big wave was unexpected, she has survived it.  It was a one time kind of wave, most likely, and probably won’t happen again.  Besides, even if another big wave comes, she has learned from dealing with the first one.  She won’t be caught off guard again.  She is still a good swimmer.  The beach is still beautiful, the sea is still good.

Again as she plays, a larger wave catches her by surprise and buries her under the water for a few moments.  Again she struggles for equilibrium and finds it.  Again she tells herself that she has learned how to avoid big waves. Again she returns to the joy of swimming and the sea.

The water becomes rougher and a roller wave catches her by the hair and drags her under.  This time when she surfaces, her skin feels raw, as if the water had scraped her.  She begins to doubt.  Perhaps she is not as good a swimmer as she thought.  Perhaps she learns too slowly how to swim over waves.  Perhaps one cannot learn to swim over waves.  She is treading water now, tired from struggling to stay above the water.

How cruel of the sea, we could say, that it continues to push her down, the way it sucks her down as soon as she falters.  But the sea is not cruel.  The sea means no harm.  The sea is merely what it is, which is the sea.  Relentless the crushing waves roll in.  Relentless the water pushes against her arms and legs.  Relentless, though she is tired.  The sea is what it is.  The sea means no harm.  The waves swell and the waves roll.

Though she is no longer enjoying her day, our swimmer continues to move, continues to hold her head above the water.  Now when she falters and the waves push her down, she struggles to reach the surface not to reclaim joy, but only to keep hold of life.  Life is precious.  Survival is what she struggles for now.  The sea is what it is.  The sea means no harm.  The waves swell and the waves roll.   The waves eat away time.  The waves eat away her.

What I wonder is

when her head goes under the water for the last time, does she believe that this is only another temporary setback?  Does she believe she will return to the surface again?

Or does she know the end when it comes?  Does she know she has drowned even before the water buries her?


9 Responses to “Waves”

  1. Brother Jon January 25, 2013 at 2:55 PM #

    This is a very cool bit of writing. I guess I would rather have the girl filled with hope. At least she would die with a more positive outlook. I wonder if that sounds weird or not?

    • GlowWorm January 25, 2013 at 10:45 PM #

      not weird at all. Normally, I would totally be on the hope side and for that exact reason, but I was in a kind of dark mood today, so I was captivated by the sadder possibility.

  2. Brother Jon January 25, 2013 at 2:56 PM #

    Reblogged this on Brother Jon and commented:
    What would you be thinking at this moment?

  3. mareena January 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM #

    I imagine drowning would come with a lot less warning. I watched my son nearly drown a few summers ago – not intentionally of course, but he fell into a hotel swimming pool as we were leaving, and we were almost out the door with all of our stuff (and other kids) when we realized he wasn’t with us. it still terrifies me as i recall turning around to find him thrashing around in the deep end, unable to swim, unable to get his head above water, just trying his hardest to do something and not making ANY progress. sudden, terrifying, helpless… and oh how quick if dad hadn’t jumped in to rescue him!

  4. GlowWorm January 25, 2013 at 10:36 PM #

    I’ve actually almost drown (drownded?) twice. Once in a river and once in a wave pool. Both times the only thought in my head was to get above the water. I didn’t think beyond that even to consider what would happen if I didn’t. It was just “get up get up get up” until someone yanked me out of the water. At least 1 eagle scout has his life-saver merit badge because of me. Today I was just exploring an idea by writing it down and seeing where it went. It didn’t occur to me until later that it wasn’t really true to life, because I was thinking metaphorically as I wrote. —however, those 2 times I almost drown, I really didn’t know how to swim, and I’m guessing your son didn’t either. But sometimes people drown who do know how to swim, and that would be more of a getting too tired and a long drawn out process perhaps–that was the idea I was playing with.

    • mareena January 27, 2013 at 9:02 PM #

      true. true. brings back David’s words from earlier today about the Scarlet letter. The sin that made one person angelic brought the other sinner to his grave… one wave at a time.

      Either way, i don’t want to die by drowning. Seems like a terrifying way to die.

  5. mjar05 January 31, 2013 at 10:55 AM #

    Thoughtful post . . . remind me sometime to tell you about my near-drowning experience.

    • GlowWorm February 1, 2013 at 10:20 PM #

      I will! but the reunion is way too far away!


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