I have always been afraid of cold water.
Growing up in a boating family, this was not a great trait to have. I was, my parents said, “a percher”. That is, I PERCHED on the side of the boat, sticking one foot in, then the other, then getting back IN the boat, only to perch on the side again, dip in foot one, dip in foot two, and repeat… The idea that once I committed to jumping in the lake, my entire body would be cold literally froze me in my track and had me stay in the boat (unless I was gently pushed in…).
I remember this as a story of my friend Monica and I, but it could just as well be a story about one of my sisters told so many times over the years that I attribute it to happening to me. Monica (Monj) and I had been brought to the pool by her mom. Looking back, it was a ridiculous pool. A large chunk of it was SHADED BY TREES! Who wants to swim in the shade?? Obviously, the shade meant cooler water, and on the day Monj and I were there it felt like ICE WATER to our toes. But her mom had driven us there, damnit, and we were GOING TO SWIM (I can only imagine that is what her mom thought 😊 ). So, as we PERCHED on the side of Morton Swimming Pool, only our toes “swimming”, we heard “MONICA AND SUSAN, PLEASE GET IN THE POOL!” announced loudly over the P.A. (Like I said, this may have actually happened to one of my sisters, not me, but in my memory it was Monj and I, quivering with blue lips and frigid toes on the shady side of that dumb pool.)
But the thing is, I REALLY LOVE water! We bought a house near the ocean! I mean, the beach is my happy place!! But when we are at our beach house, we like when the ocean is 80 degrees. WARM! Like, bathwater warm!! I can swim all day in that temperature!
So, we are on vacation in St. Kitts. It is March. The air is warm – high 70s, low 80s. But I feared the water would be cold… I braved the swimming pool at the resort the first afternoon here and it was nice. I also put my feet in the ocean. But to swim??? I had my reservations…
Today we went on a “speed boat and snorkel” tour. We had a little “speed boat”, which was like a Sea-do placed on a big rubber dingy with an outboard motor!! The “lesson” on how to use it was about 5 minutes long and the teacher had a very thick, hard to understand St. Kitt accent. This being an island and not the United States, there were, of course, no release forms of any type to sign. It was basically, “Here ya go, mahn! Follow me!” and away we went!!!
|Captain Dave and his excited passenger|
Once there we pulled up alongside our guide and he threw us masks, snorkels, and fins. As I was putting my gear on, I was contemplating the temperature of the water… I was afraid it would be COLD. Here we were in the middle of the Caribbean – with the clearest blue water surrounding us and the sun shining – and I was switching into my infamous PERCH MODE.
Then something happened… I DROPPED ONE OF MY FINS in the water… And it appeared to be SINKING…….
I am going to be honest, normally, in this situation, I would look for someone else to solve the problem. Surely David would help!!! Or our fearless leader!! But neither of them were in the water, and my fin was slowly going under…
SO, I DID IT. I jumped right off that little “speed boat” into the Caribbean Ocean!!! No one had to push or nudge me. I didn’t dip a toe in first. I was ALL IN, all at once.
|Blue water as far as we could see|
And it felt good! I rescued my fin, took a moment to congratulate myself for my “bravery”, then got the giggles at it all.
We spent the next hour in the water and it was LOVELY. It was not cold (as I had feared). It was a million different shades of blue and green and gray. I could snorkel the entire day – it is one of my favorite things in life. When I snorkel it feels as if the world is quite literally turned UPSIDE DOWN. Instead of feeling the air, I feel the water. Instead of hearing the wind, I hear my breathing, amplified by the snorkel, sounding almost like a heartbeat in its consistency.
And like every time we have snorkeled, I marveled at the world hidden under the water. The coral sea fans – arching back and forth with their lavender “wings”. The conch shells resting on the bottom, looking so close but actually too deep to swim down and touch. The fish swimming about, some solo, some in schools. The shipwreck – reminders of man’s interference with nature – rusty gears and pieces sunk in the murky sand. The TURTLE, resting peacefully, then showing off his swimming skills and making me laugh. And the tiniest, brightest little blue fish ever, swimming gleefully by without a care in the world.
That’s the kind of thing you can experience when you don’t perch. Life. Adventure.
|WHEEEEE - SNORKELING!|
|Post snorkel kiss|
So, while I am sure I will perch again the next time I am confronted with cold water, today was a good lesson for me. I was reminded that sometimes it is worth it just to plunge in, head-first, whether you are heading into the water or a move across country or a new relationship. Sometimes the time spent enjoying the experience is worth more than the time wasted perching.
Maybe you could use that reminder, too. If so, here you go: MAKE TODAY A NO PERCHING DAY. Jump in.