swimming didnt come naturally to me. floating came first. keeping my head above the water was just the beginning. in the shallows i learned to be nearly weightless. since floating is only rudimentary swimming, i detected a problem. to float meant i was at the mercy of the current or waves. to get somewhere precise, i needed movement with power.
there was a destination. away from the shore, in the deeper water, lay a rock. being almost submerged at high tide, this rock was suitable for diving. i had been out at low tide, many times. by visiting then, i found my way to the top. even though i saw where the barnacles were few, i endured deep cuts getting aboard. i saw that diving from barnacle at low tide was a bad idea. i wished to dive. i made a decision. to reach barnacle at high tide and then dive, i would swim.
i began by trying to float in the desired direction. when that failed, i paddled. fingers apart and violent kicking got me nowhere. since i could float, i figured i was half there. i struggled on. i learned the paddle, but i was still afraid to go too far into the deep water. i was unsure of my ability. i tried and failed many times to get out to the diving rock. i begged my brother to tow me. he refused.
all at once, i set off. on my own. i found it slow going and tired quickly. i resorted to floating, so i could rest. i rested long enough to grow cold. i considered heading in to the warmth of the sand. but the divers lured me, and slowly i paddled out to meet them.
i didnt know, but there was a pecking order. the big strong kids got the rock. the small kids got the water. when a big kid swam in, a small kid could take his place. but only if the small kid could boost himself up onto the sharp and dangerous rock. if not, he lost his place and waited. if a small kid bucked the system, he risked being put off the rock in a vicious fashion. we waited in the cold and hoped a big would tire so we could have the chance to dive.
the first dive sent water into my nose and eyes. the cough and sputter cleared me. people laughing angered me. the cold drove me back onto the rock. so i dove and clambered back onto the rock to dive again. only when my lips were purple and my fingertips pruned and body covered with goosebumps did i seek the warmth of the sand.
minot c. 1969
i spent the summer of my seventh year diving barnacle. i was small compared to others. i was not a strong swimmer. i had cuts and i had fear. over time the breezes cooled and the sun had moved in the sky. i was still small. i swam very strongly. my cuts had healed and my fear replaced by triumph. now i lived in a different house. our family dynamic had changed drastically. a new fear developed.
im not sure ive faced it yet…