Posts Tagged ‘water’

Water, My Love

April 7, 2020

In this trying time, I’ve been missing water. According to my astrological chart, I am mostly water influenced, predominated by the subaltern intensity of Scorpio (by element and modality) and peppered with air (found in both my sun and rising), two earth and two fire elements. My moon, too, lies in Cancer with all its putative intuitive, watery resonances. For a long time pre-COVID-19, I’d foregone driving to the beach and sinking into the warm Gulf Coast waters because I couldn’t trust that the water wouldn’t infect somehow, wouldn’t meld into a small, open nick somewhere, festering and ultimately eating me alive. Too many horror stories of flesh-eating bacteria abounded in the news. Oh, to submerge myself in some saltwater now.

People’s perceptions of someone “from the islands” not knowing how to swim, are fascinating and strange. I’m countering stereotypes on two fronts: blackness and Caribbean; not that others’ assumptions should matter that much, but peeling away stereotype shows how systemic racism in the U.S. (including redlining and environmental racism) is one contributing factor, but also not every island is pocket-handkerchief-sized with the ocean mere footsteps away, as I’ve had to inform people — even another Caribbean (coughs: Bahamanian) person. The easy geographic access that so many folk presume is a given for a person from the Caribbean, isn’t always there.

In Trinidad, non-coastal living meant we drove well over 45 minutes to get to a beach which you needed a car or other vehicle for, and the mythos of being thrown into the ocean to learn the ways of water was unheard of to me. My father who grew up in landlocked Tunapuna can swim but my mother from Georgetown, Guyana, cannot swim. Mummy says we went to the beach loads and down de islands when my siblings and I were small, but I have no recollection and I grew into an adult unsure and unsavvy in the ocean. Schoolmates and I hiked from Lopinot to Blanchisseuse in primary school, and I of course, doused myself in the river which in hindsight was quite dangerous because I could hardly save myself if a strong pull came for me.

I knew, like one person with a swimming pool who was a family friend, then one other that I met at camp during July-August vacation. Her father was a doctor and being invited to her birthday pool lime as a teenager was one of the coolest events I’d experienced at that time. I couldn’t swim but still I went in, splashing about, drenching my plaits and playing Marco Polo with the others. I did attend a few swimming classes at the Y in Port of Spain when I was small, but I never continued, never acquired skills. During the hosting of an exchange student from Martinique, we frequently went with the program to a hotel pool around the Savannah and she tried to teach me to float, assuring me it was easy, but I was unable to master it, sinking anytime she removed her guiding palms.

One could also say that access to professional swimming lessons in many parts of the West Indies has an element of class privilege as well, honestly. But that doesn’t preclude West Indians from being water-people and enjoying river baths and sea excursions replete with food, music and drinks. West Indians being in and around water are never actual indicators of their swimming capabilities.

To counteract some of the aforementioned, plus realising that I need to be in water, added to the fact that I definitely miss out on stuff when I can’t get in (such as a friend’s birthday party sailing from Chaguaramas when nearly everyone jumps in the ocean, but not one to place trust in life jackets out in the deep, I remained, waving sheepishly from the bow) — consequently, I’ve been learning to swim for a few years now. Nowadays, I desperately miss the heated pool, the challenge of coordinating (sometimes with flailing) my body’s movements in weekly lessons. Life sometimes gets me anxious and harried and water helps to soothe that.

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