Tag Archives: swimming in the ocean

The ocean doesn’t want me today

Swimming beyond the breakers, being lifted gently, interpreting light and shadow on waves, a practice, being the human working and being carried by water and letting go of every possibility of knowing.

Feels like writing a novel.

In 2000, on my first trip to the beach with my then not-yet-husband, he and I went out swimming.  I kept trying to see if I could stand, kept trying to know where I was.  His advice: Don’t try to touch bottom.  It will only scare you if you can’t.  Just swim.  I am from inland, from clear chlorine pool swimming.  In that dark North Carolina water, full of who-knows-what, I learned about a certain kind of faith.  The kind of faith that teaches a body to trust that it will know what to do, that it will tend to survive.  Floating and swimming and rolling in those waves, I realized the novel I was beginning to write was like that.  Don’t try to touch bottom.  It will only scare you if you can’t.  Just swim.

This seems the only way of making something when you’re trying and there might be nothing there.  The cliched leap of faith, the answer to the question, “What else would I be doing with my life if not this?”

Twelve years later, still swimming, still trusting that a body will know what to do.

On the waves, writing another novel, still.


Or, says Tom Waits:

The ocean doesn’t want me today
But I’ll be back tomorrow to play
And the strangels will take me
Down deep in their brine
The mischievous braingels
Down into the endless blue wine
I’ll open my head and let out
All of my time
I’d love to go drowning
And to stay and to stay
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
I’ll go in up to here
It can’t possibly hurt
All they will find is my beer
And my shirt
A rip tide is raging
And the life guard is away
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
The ocean doesn’t want me today.