A friend who had been out of touch for a little while wrote to tell me that she had been visiting the underworlds and would let me know when she surfaced again. I wrote back to her saying something like: I hope the swimming is good.
I thought, but didn’t write, that perhaps I had seen her down in the turquoise depths, amid the shimmering kelp and coral and sand, because I have been a bit in the netherworlds myself: This trip, the underworlds have been a balm.
There are times gone past in anyone’s life that can be pointed to as pivotal moments for change, for growth, for the beginnings of new and different dreams, or for the realisation of a long-held dream, and also, that moment that life pulls the rug out. You all have those kind of moments that you look back on, right?
I am guessing that for this period of my life I will look back and say: “oh, yeah, that was the time that all those carefully constructed walls that I had been building for various and sundry reasons, pretty much all my life, they all started coming down. And when I say coming down, I don’t mean toppling over, or being deluged by a big wave, I mean, they are dismantling themselves, stone by brick by mortar by plank. They are taking themselves apart, and neatly piling the materials safely out of sight.
And so, my response? I am swimming, not drowning, but steadily swimming: Deep under the shadowy waters, gliding with the fishes. Then long stretches of the crawl, with treading water rest breaks, followed by the slow rhythms of the breast stroke, and when I want a different view, I spend some time with the back stroke, or even the side stroke.
I find myself wanting to look for markers a long the way, maybe a buoy, or some shipwreck remains, but I am practicing not looking for them. In fact, if I glimpse anything from the corner of my eye, I have been turning away.
Any markers that I might find along this way were put up by someone else who maybe traveled this same body of water, in order to help whoever might come after them, but my brief glimpses over those walls that are coming down have confirmed my suspicions: It’s about finding my Own Way, not following someone else’s.
I feel myself starting to swim for shore, and I quickly pull myself back under, thinking: Not Yet. But somehow, when the body wants to surface, there’s nothing that can hold it back. There are things to be done. There are thoughts to think through. There are building materials to be put away, and there are so many things that I can see sparkling, just ahead. For today though, it’s a lazy back stroke back to shore, and a look around to see what might be waiting.
Liz Kalloch is a regular contributor to Gypsy Girl’s Guide