Enchantment by Katherine May

Enchantment by Katherine May

Author:Katherine May [May, Katherine]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2023-02-27T00:00:00+00:00

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My favourite childhood memory—the one I often fetch up just to roll around in my mind and savour—is swimming in the sea with my grandad. He would stand knee-deep in the shallows, scoop me up in his enormous hands, and throw me headfirst into the waves. I would let the force of the water tumble me over until I couldn’t tell which way was up, and then find my feet again and run back to him for more. Over and over, for what seemed like a blissful eternity, we would play together, wordlessly, inexhaustibly.

When I asked him about it years later, he told me that he’d always been afraid to swim himself, but that he wanted it for me—to feed my insatiable desire for water. He remembered standing there, shivering, his arms aching with the strain, but I would be back, wanting one more splash, one more chance to lose myself again. He didn’t want to say no, so he never once let on. I find it hard to imagine him being afraid of anything, so it must have worked. He gave me everything I needed, then and now: the simple faith in water, the thrill of pitching forwards into the unknown, the knowledge that wonder can be transferred through the skin. But most of all, he showed me what it was to be held by other hands, to be thrown into uncertainty, and to know I would be caught again. The congregation of the Zen Peacemakers did the same.

It’s one of the many reasons I’m glad to be back in the water: I know of nothing else that takes me quite so absolutely to the edge and delivers me safely back again, providing I show it enough respect. But I have not returned to my swimming lessons. Perhaps that’s because I had already learned enough to get by, and perhaps also because my ears are better off staying above the surface these days. But most of all, after a year on dry land, I got a little more perspective. The pool was too confined for me. It had no flow. I do not swim to travel through the water, to merely accumulate metres and miles. I swim to enter into the midst of something that joins me to everything, everywhere, in all time.

When I learned about the water cycle in school, it seemed straightforward: a matter of evaporation, rain, rivers, and seas. But only recently did I begin to understand what that preserved: the water endures, sublimating between states, becoming brackish, being cleansed, infiltrating into the soil. Between water and our bodies there is effortless communication, both engaged in an endless saturated exchange.

I have only ever wanted to explore that relationship, to play in the space in which we’re all immersed. I have begun to find other ways to meet water, for those times when I am too unsteady to float. After tasting the water in the well, I’ve started to drink from all the streams and lakes I pass through, each place I walk and each place I swim.


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