Monday, June 25, 2007

water world

Life here on the penninsula is literally framed and fundamentally conditioned by water. For us there were three worlds of water - the bassin, the ocean beach, and the pool in our yard.

The bassin is about boats, birds and bike paths. Necklaced by quaint little ports and grassy marshes, it is a tranquil place where birdsong and breezes waft lightly over mud flats and fingerlets channels that imperceptibly fill up with water and bear the bassin's boats aloft.
The beach is another matter. Once you crest the protecting dunes and descend to water level, there is nothing to hold on to. Sand and water extend in three directions as far as one can see. The sky stretches a long way off the make contact. All of that enormous space seems necessary to contain the roar and drumbeat of the surf.
Back in August and September I wrote about how Tess was enchanted by the surf, how something about the sea stirred her deep is a clip that offers a glimpse of the way it sent a charge through her whole being.

By contrast, Colm kept his distance always, heeding his mother's grave warnings about "sneaker waves", a phrase that was particularly effective in conjuring fears and alarms in little Colm's heart.
But this year has seen Colm grow in adventurousness. He has become in fact the official daredevil of the family whose most enthusiastic refrain is, "Hey, watch this!"

At the age of four he is doing things physically that Tess didn't do for another year or more. Tess remains, however the family maven of all things marvelous and make believe. She both inhabits and directs a magical universe and occasionally invites the rest of us to live in it with her.

Ten months later Colm has followed Tess into the surf and now both of them have discovered the pleasures of getting rolled by the waves. Now more than ever we have to be vigilant. Helene, a friend of ours, recently told us some alarming stories about drownings here. She talked about cross currents, undercurrents and tourbillons, a kind of twisting undertow that pulls you down. Now when we go to the beach it is Beth and I who are haunted by a word - beware the tourbillon.

When we arrived here neither of our kids could swim. What a difference a year makes. Now they can swim, ride bikes and eat snails. Both kids learned how to swim in this pool. They both swim underwater with their eyes open, they both come up for air, they both float, they both jump in, they both can count to three but as you can see in this clip, only one of them can dive in headfirst...a fact that will soon be contradicted by unfolding events, you can be sure.


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