I slip out of my clothes. A moment of self-consciousness overtakes me. I am clothed, but wearing little. I wonder if anyone can see me. I like to be alone in this moment, but don’t often have the privilege. I know my self-consciousness will evaporate in a few moments, but in those few moments I feel naked, even though I am not.
I head to the pool. The water calls out to me like an old friend. I hear the tickling ebb and flow of the body of water. It is soothing and gentle. Water can be both playful and friendly; both tumultuous and unpredictable. Those who venture forth do so at their own peril.
I get into the pool. The water is cold. It always is. It never feels as welcoming as it looks. I have done this before, but the first few moments of that cold caress are never easy. I put on my goggles. If I don’t start moving, I will start shivering. I make sure my goggles are on tight. I take a deep breath and submerge myself.
My journey had begun.
In faiths all over the world, water and fire are the two purifiers. No matter what happened or will happen, water and fire alone have the power to cleanse.
In shrines all over Japan, we are politely asked to wash our hands and mouths before we enter. Left hand, right hand, mouth, followed by left hand again. In Catholic churches, we take a few drops of water at the entrance as we make the sign of the cross over our bodies. In the Jewish faith, the mikvah is a pool of water where women undergo a ritual immersion seven days after the end of their menstrual cycle.
Water cleanses. Water purifies. Water allows us to be reborn.
The moment I start swimming, I surrender completely and absolutely to my existence on earth. While under water, I enter a different world and experience a heightened level of consciousness. My breathing changes. If I stay too long under water without coming up for air, fear will take over my body. The fear will push me to fight and push me afloat.
The theory of evolution states that we humans evolved from the sea. Yet, we do not remember and cannot our lives under the water. We left behind certain traits and gifts as we welcomed our new existence on land.
And yet, it is the sea we returned to as we sought new lands and territories. We built ships and crossed her mighty and mysterious waters. Many ships sank. Cargo was lost. Human lives vanished. The sea is an all consuming wild force. From the surface, all we may see is a long and deep expanse of blue. But the moment one is submerged under water, one sees a colourful display of life that is hidden away from human eyes.
Oh what a wondrous world. The womb. The womb of the world.
We forget. We remember. What am I remembering when I enter this body of water? It feels familiar, friendly and welcoming. And yet, I know I cannot stay. No more than a baby can stay in its mother’s womb forever.
Time takes on a different shape when I am underwater. I am unsure how many seconds or minutes pass for the experience is timeless. It is like I have been there before and am only returning. I keep going and going till my body pleads for me to stop.
I put my feet on the ground. There is land under water. The same way there is land on earth. I am breathless. I throw my head back. I surrender and relax completely. If a single cell of my body fights, I will have to exert myself to stay afloat.
I close my eyes as the water tickles my ear drums. I hear the cooing of the water overtake my hearing. I shut my eyes and drift. I am being carried slowly and gently. I open my eyes and see the moon partially hidden behind the clouds. There are buildings on all four sides of me. The taste and smell of chlorine reminds me that I am in a ‘safe’ place.
But a part of me longs for the salt of the sea. The seaweed that tumbles. The sand that shifts under the ground. The frothy waves. The sea creatures who I may befriend.
But in this pool I am all alone. It is just the water and me.
I am in my element. I want to stay here forever, but I know I cannot.
I open my eyes and lay my feet on the ground. I head for the shower and wash away the chlorine from my body.
I lay down on the chair and wrap myself in my towel. I can still hear the water. I can still hear the sea.
I want to stay, but I cannot. I was only a temporarily visitor and must make my way back.
I close my eyes for a moment and imagine that I were a mermaid. A maiden who could reside alongside the treasures of the sea. How I longed to know her secrets. How I longed to be free in that large expanse of water where life blossomed into being.
I haphazardly put on my clothes and head to my abode.
I am cleansed. I am reborn. And for a few moments, I was even free.