Last night I had my first free swim in the Atlantic ocean in years. If you’ve never felt the tide coming in against the shore of an oceanic barrier island, you may not have felt the unpredictable power of water.
I have come to the Isle of Palms many times. I remember standing in knee-deep water at the age of 13, and attacking the waves like a 90-pound Sumo wrestler. I always learned when the waves knocked me over, and boy, did they knock me over. The murky waters off of the Carolina coast taught me to body surf, to (attempt to) windsurf, to do backflips in a current. In recent years I’ve been less frequently, and last year, it was too cold to swim for more than a quick dip.
So here I am, over 20 years later. I’ve been ocean-swimming in calmer waters recently but nothing like this coast. Even in Hawaii I stuck to tame waters. My health has been rocky for several months and has taken a sharp, bad turn this week. It’s been a vacation of resolutions and rebirth, and the illness has just brought everything into more focus. I’ve been lying in bed and listening to the surf pound the sand. I’ve had lots of time to wax philosophic and to make resolutions that are as courageous as New Year’s and might last half as long.
After a week of being rather miserable, I felt pretty well and I decided it was time for the ocean and I to meet again. I walked in as high tide rolled in. I let some waves crash on me; I ducked others, diving underneath into the crisp water. It was me, the ocean, and the sky.
The waves were bigger and the challenge greater. I laughed out loud; I surfed on top or flipped underneath. Every crash made me laugh more and took my breath. My heart pounded with freedom and happiness. It was a euphoria I needed. There was still one challenge I could face. I felt alive and ready to face anything.
The whole ride took maybe fifteen minutes but it was a rebirth of the soul. I felt proud as I knifed through difficult waves; I laughed in exhilaration as one totally crashed into me, flooding all my senses (and one eardrum is still ringing and wet). I am no athlete and the ocean is not easy!
I’m reminded of the Blue October song, and I’m ready to let go and let the hurricane take me. Read the lyrics. It’s me.