Water and I have an unstable relationship. It all started when I was young. My mom decided that it would be a good idea for my brother and I to take swimming lessons at the local pool. I was game for this because little did I know what a fickle friend water would be. In my 7-year-old mind, it seemed like water would make such a good friend. And at first, water was a great friend. I loved to play and splash in pools in my little adorable swim suits with the frilly tutus. But when it came time to actually learn to swim by putting my face in the water, I quickly discovered that water didn’t always play nice.
Sure, every kid sucks in a little water when first learning to swim, but water had a way of creeping into my nose and down my throat even when I was holding my breath. After trying for many summers to master the art of holding my breath without pinching my nose shut, I am said to say, I still to this day do not have that talent. No matter how hard I try, water weasels it’s way down my wind pipe in yet another attempt to drown me.
In an attempt to out-smart water, I decided that it was just safer for me to stay where I could touch the bottom of the pool. With this rational, a water park seems like a harmless enough place to spend a hot summer day. But that wily water found ways to trick me. On a sixth grade trip I decided that the tube water slide looked fun. But water was waiting – it flipped me backwards off of my tube into a shallow pool so that I was so disoriented that I almost drown. Water was so tricky that it even fooled the lifeguards into not moving a muscle from the side of the pool to assist me. I was not about to let water get the best of me though… I found my way back to the surface just in time.
Again in high school, water attempted another one of its nasty tricks. At another water park, some friends and I decided to hang out in a pool. Water waited for me to get into the deeper end and turned on the wave machine. This suddenly makes 5-foot-deep water as much as 6 to 7 feet deep as the waves roll by. Thankfully a friend on a raft was nearby and I grabbed on before water could suck me down to the bottom. I rode out the waves clinging to the raft until I got to shallower water.
Just last summer, I visited both the Atlantic and the Pacific within a month. The hot day and beautiful water lured me into the Atlantic. Knowing my history with water, I stayed in the shallows, wading and chatting with friends. Then I felt it – the sting of tiny jellyfish. Blast that water! I spent the rest of the hot day on the beach, under an umbrella to avoid turning as red as a lobster. I didn’t even get to put my toes in the Pacific. Walking along the beach, water had cleverly buried a stick in the sand for me to step on. The last thing I wanted was for water to give me an infection in my newly opened wound.
Yet, for all of the times water has hurt me, I still find myself drawn to it. There is such beauty in a body of water. I love seeing my river when I go home. I love seeing the river here in Knoxville. And recently water has treated me well. Kayaking last fall was a wonderful way to enjoy water from the safety of my kayak. And I found floating in the Dead Sea to be a very relaxing experience. Maybe water was trying to make up for some of those near drowning experiences. I don’t know what this means for my relationship with water. I don’t think we’ve worked our way back to ‘love’ yet… maybe just a strong ‘like’.
On a serious note, drowning is a reality as we enter the summer season. I found this informative article on drowning – the signs aren’t always what we think: http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/. Make sure to know the signs of drowning before you go to the pool or beach this summer.