Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dolphin Dives and a Lopsided Somersault

‘We are water people,’ my brother explained to the anxious lifeguard cautioning us about undertow as we splashed in the edge of the surf of the Andaman Sea. I had no idea what he meant. I lingered on the we-ness. My brother was always at least a step ahead of me.

Water: Quixotic. Defining its own boundaries. Fast-running water in the I ching means both danger and opportunity. Fall Creek was our playground as kids and it provided both opportunity and danger. The pond where we skated as kids back when winters were cold enough for skating outside. The pool in the backyard, filled-in limestone quarries and the gravel pits pock marking Indiana. Finally growing into the abyss off the reef protecting the northern edge of Grand Cayman. Water was never far from our best selves.

I am at a conference of writers. I should be at a workshop or networking or something earnest. Instead I am in the pool. Blissfully nearly empty. I swim a bit and think a bit and for no particular reason do the rapid fire up and down simulating dolphins to get from one side of the pool to the other. I might have walked, or done a lady like breast stroke. My brother made me do it. We used to practice those rapid up and down moves in our own small pool or the pool at the house in Cayman. I put myself safely in the middle of the pool and did a somersault—lopsided and more demanding on my lungs than it used to be—but a somersault nonetheless. My brother did it in scuba gear along the wall in view of the anemones and the purple vase sponges. It is harder to do than you might imagine. It was some time before I tried it, but I had to try. My brother made me do it.

If he were here now, I’d tell him I understand what he meant. He would be unimpressed that I got it at last. For him it was so obvious that he could not imagine that I would not have understood, but he wouldn’t have minded either. He liked being one step ahead of me—it was his birthright.


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