By Narcissa Lyons
A casual drink of water started one hell of a thought path, but I may think of water more often than most. Is my conclusion anyway. It’s true we need it for our very existence and much of the world is sadly thirsty, but the many sensual aspects of water evoke exceptional memories and promise others to come. Maybe this hits me now because we are about to be deluged with cold rain this weekend and the past days have been grim, miserly of the sun. But there is a summery future with warmer falling water.
Warm rain falling on you, preferably heavy and many droplets as you walk or trot barefoot over cement or low cut grass is an exhilaration, and the initial scent of that wettened cement is so beautiful it could make me cry. Moments of sheer joy in life are rare. I don’t mean happiness; I mean real and utter joy. But that is one of them and it is profound, much more so because it is fleeting and you know that when you’re in it. The sensation of water on skin, of it dampening then thoroughly soaking you is intense, and maybe you open your mouth so some of the sky’s liquid slakes a thirst you did not have until just that moment. It gathers quickly and rivulets its way across everything. And the audio of this kind of beauty can be heard when you are falling asleep or having to rise. Much harder to rise on a day it’s pattering outside, just coaxing you quietly to stay under your sheets and blankets. “Rest as we wash and trickle down your windows. Rest as we rhythmically drench your house and dreams.”
And then there’s the pleasure of looking at it, bodies of water, sparkling streams through quiet woods or wherever they may flow, offering up the chance to watch its peaceful running fluid and listen to the meandering path it makes. The ocean. The vast, powerful, glorious ocean with all its blasé might. Forgetting the entire other world that lies within it, the ebb and flow of tides and the surge of large waves smashing against many greeting surfaces, and it’s just a little hard to understand. There is so much of it, and it is careless, ignores us, is grand and acts like every bit the earth taker it is. That is a force hard not to respect, and the ocean is Mother Nature’s second cousin, not just a subject of her fickle personality. The ocean on its own can wreak havoc without necessarily being tempestuous. And as I noted, it doesn’t care a whit.
The partial engulfing of one’s body by water is healing. It clears the head while it calms the soul. Dive into a soothing pool with a bastardly hangover, sit and splash around, and you begin to feel sanity return, pain subside, fogginess to clarity. This can also eventually lead to beckoning back the poison that sent you seeking medicinal waters in the first place, but it fixes the body and the mind in the meantime. There are wave pools all over the world, and we used an expression for this type of curing since we were in Hungary (my sisters and cousins) and felt the need to visit the famous Gellért Hotel and Spa for just this reason after yet another heavy night of dancing and associated ingredients. “Na” (pronounced and stressed this way for this particular situation)—this is clearly not easy to translate but I’ll give it a whirl. It can mean a few things, and context is everything, but for that situation it boiled down to “well there it is then, perfect”. I’m getting away from it, but that wave pool held more magic than just the Turkish baths for which it’s famous.
And we have skinny dipping, one of life’s coolest luxuries. On an innocent side, water directly surrounding you, every pore, every follicle, is delicious freedom, physically and spiritually, and all ways in between. A bath doesn’t count even if it’s soothing because you can’t go anywhere, but to swim so naturally without material hiding Adam-Eve parts brings childhood into adulthood and into sometimes angst-ridden teen-hood. It’s always associated with laughter and sometimes stifled giggles if you’re tress-passing or pool-jumping, borrowing your neighbors’ if they are sleeping or away. It’s secretive, stealthy and chuck-full of promise, all this creeping around. Less innocent skinny-dipping, a little more thrilling, a little more hush hush, well it’s great stuff. Night waters have a special attraction, and the sudden wish to keep everything below the surface other than one’s face, while not missing glee, elicits a slyer smile. Mixed company. Someone coming too quickly to check out the splashing sounds. I was sixteen and had one of my best friends over along with two boys—her boyfriend and his unfathomably good-looking friend, and somehow we decided to strip down and jump our naked bodies into the pool. It was surrounded by trees and it was deep, dark night, and after jumping in I remember things changing in the whispery, watery silence to something I knew would become more than just skinny dipping. There are no gory details to impart and that would belong in the erotica section anyway, but it was sensate-electric, engulfed in water but warm, beating skin against warm, beating skin. It was only a short lived fantastic few minutes because we heard my mother come clip-clopping into our arena, thankfully giving us time enough to get close to the pool walls. “Is that you dear?”. Yes, we’re just swimming, be in in a while. Miraculously she went back inside, and I think she believed innocent behavior, but I’d like to think she knew better and decided to leave. Forgive the mind stray on something less precisely water, but the magic fluid and the time of year must be sending me listing.
It would be negligent if I didn’t mention the hazards of water, because people drown all the time. The same envelopment that creates a peace within us can also be an envelopment gently taking us down to the bottom as our eyes watch the surface recede even as our breathing is over until we then float, no life within us. Learn how to swim, and if you don’t, stay away from the water. About 10 years ago two men went fishing in a row boat on Ball Pond in Connecticut, the pond near which I grew up. The boat tipped over and they both drowned about ten feet from shore because they did not know how to swim. To say this is perplexing is an understatement. Learn how to swim, even if you are an adult who had the misfortune of having parents that didn’t get that lesson out of the way first thing. It will at least fifty-fold your pleasures in life and take away one very large but reasonable fear. But for fuck’s sake if you don’t know how to swim don’t get on a boat with another non-swimmer. At least not without a life jacket tightly fastened.
We had our own small pond in our back yard when I was little next to which stood a ramshackle duck house amid cascading willows, and I stood there and watched what I thought at the time was fantastic and strange, and in retrospect still think the same but without the strange. We had our whole family over, crazy aunts and uncles, and all of them had decided to get on the raft we had (maybe 5′ x 5′) and paddle around the lake. This meant they were standing next to each other like sardines, the raft dipping into the lake on trading corners as they tried to keep its balance. A massive rainstorm swept in. Just like that. It was pouring to the extent it was hard to see, and they were caught in it, but they didn’t head for the shores like I thought they would, they just all started laughing and staying put, a few jumping in and eeking like children, the rain continuing to pelt down on them and leave large rippling marks in the lake as it did. It was so loud. I was mesmerized. The torrents were as short-lived as they were intense, but everyone was exhilarated and smiling as they reached the shore. That’s the nature of nature and the nature of water. Peace and joy and outright fun.