Week 21: Sea Swimming
The edge of the sea is the most reflective place for me to be, to put my life into perspective, to breathe. That vast expanse, sighing in and out on the shoreline, like breaths of the earth calling us to leave behind our constructions of reality, is beautiful from the land.
And yet, I prefer not to be closer to the ocean than at its edge.
I'm not a sea girl. I would so much rather lose myself in the mountains. The fresh water of streams, of lakes, of springs, sings to me. Salt water does not.
But beyond non-attraction to being in the ocean, there swims fear. I don't think trying ocean sports will convert me into a person of the sea, but as long as the environment is safe...
There is fear to explore. And it's a whopper: a 3-in-1 deal. A fear of swimming without seeing what's underneath me, a fear of being in the water by a boat - even from a distance, and a fear of being unable to move quickly in this watery expanse.
I suppose they all point to a fear of dying, as many fears do.
So now, on this lovely Saturday, I'm on a sailing boat, Selana off the coast of Lesvos, Greece with a handful of other participants from the digital nomad group I'm with, Hacker Paradise (post coming on Week 23). We are in the middle of a sailing-lesson-ish excursion with George from Alternative Sailing - and even though it's not my cup of salt tea, I highly recommend this if you find yourself in Lesvos and do like sailing.
Right off the coast of Eftalou village, we anchor in a three-nautical-mile-wide channel between the little Greek island and Turkey.
All of us have taken turns steering the boat, most of us have learned the basics of sailing (not me), but I'm alone in my questionable relationship with sea water.
This is our first swim break, and I stand on the edge of the boat in a yellow one-piece.
Beyond the the looming Turkish mountains (see thumbnail picture) lies the site of Troy, the Bronze Age city referenced in Homeric epics.
My friends have all jumped in the water, except for the captain and Lara, who's taking our pictures before she, too, jumps in. I pause, reflecting on what I'm doing.
I hate to be anticlimactic, dear reader, but I don't actually feel so much fear in this moment. We can name it another word instead: apprehension.
Perhaps it is because of the pod of four humans already swimming alongside the boat, but my fear is downsized into twinges of discomfort. Of course, in the middle of feeling this discomfort, I'm not relegating it into its compartments: 'because of the boat,' 'because of the bottomless dark (even though I can actually somewhat see the bottom).'
That is byproduct of perhaps too much self-analysis. In the moment, discomfort is discomfort, fear is fear, and no one cares why it's there; the feeling itself rules all.
I feel the apprehension, say hello! to it, and then do the only thing there is to do: jump in.
The rush of cold hits my body and, a split second later, the salt hits my mouth. The salt keeps me quite floaty, which I have fun with (see thumbnail picture again), but then follow my first instinct: to swim to the human-pod bobbing along side the boat. When I reach them, I instantaneously feel safe. The power of the herd strikes. It's magic!
My body adjusts to the cold, but my mouth never adjusts to the salt. With apprehension dissipated, I still decidedly do not like this experience. I do like my new friends, and, appearing like human buoys, we kind of socialize for five minutes before swimming back to Selana.
I am very proud of myself for staying in the water until the others head for the boat, but I don't get back in for round 2 later in the afternoon.
The day everyone else goes boating, I head for the seaside hot springs, and the only time I enter the salty blue again is to cool off between rounds of soaking in hot, fresh, volcanic spring water.