Two images come to mind when I think of water. As a young child living at my great-aunt’s we had two water systems. Not in the house. But on the 13 acres. The green taps were well water, we could drink. The red was river water. We weren’t supposed to drink river water. But, I did.
The second in the river itself. A being of life flowing through my childhood. It was a playground. It was a social scene. It was an escape as I grew older. It was the location of many adventures.
I recall a swim hole. My early memories of it were scary. It was where the neighbor pumped their water. But it was deep, it was dark, it was scary. It was a natural hole set in rock, the river filled it like a natural pool. But as I got older we went in little by little. Over the same time it was filling up with sand. In my most recent memory it is warm, slow and not swimable.
The other body of water from my youth was Bass Lake. We would go there swimming. There was a raft we would swim out to, and jump into the lake. I would try and see how deep I could swim. The rumors were sewage leaked into Bass Lake. But as a kid I didn’t think much of such things. It was at Bass Lake we met long time family friends.
Bass Lake was were they did local fireworks. On the holiday it was always crowded. One year there was a rope swing. I was nervous about using it, but in the end I took the plunge. It was a lot of fun. A woman at the time said I would be cute when I got older. And I spent a lot of time floating around in a girl’s boat. It wasn’t someone I knew, and I never talked to her after.
Bass Lake, Fourth of July and fireworks were just tradition growing up for me.
As we got older, and mother got a car, we went to Hensley Lake. It wasn’t as crowded. But it was also warmer. Both the air and the water. There are many games I recall playing at the lake with family and friends. One time around the time Top Gun was released I found some sunglasses. They were at the bottom of the lake. I must have stepped on the glasses. After I had worn them for a while some people said the glasses were theirs. So I returned them, but they ended up giving them back. They were Ray Bans. Which were cool at the time.
The lake was brown, but not polluted. Just dirty from sediment. It was out in the middle of low foothills at the edge of the valley.
I think we were playing Blind Man’s Bluff. And I started saying things like, “the new K-Mart has wider isles.” And other random bits. But over time it turned into clues about where people were in the game. There wasn’t a raft at this lake. But we would swim out to a buoy. And I recall swimming to the bottom. It feels like life was different. I know I had my problems, and they seemed important. But I I have no clue what they were, thinking back.
As I grew older I took to the water less and less. There was a period my family went to Bass Lake to swim a lot. For reasons I don’t remember I didn’t join the family. Or when I did I would stay dry. And this may be correlation and not causation. But they all got ear infections during this time. I did not. The whole experience turned me off to swimming.
My next memories of water are after college. A girl I knew got a hotel and wanted to go swimming. There was a sauna at the hotel, by the pool. This girl also wanted to have sex with my girlfriend. I told her to ask my girlfriend, it was her choice. But it really was an awkward experience. In the end nothing happened between the two.
There was a nude beach in Santa Cruz. I would go there sometimes. Once I went with a friend. He was enthused and took his clothes off. It seemed he was trying real hard to get with this girl we met. We met a guy, and two girls. The girls had taken their clothes off. We all spent some time together. But I did not take my clothes off. At the end of the night, I remember the one girl. She was still mostly naked and snuggling on my lap. We never did anything, I recall at the time my thinking. It would be better to appreciate the moment which was and not more. Pushing for more wouldn’t have gone far. She lived in another city, so any possibility of a solid relationship was near impossible. But, the moment was special enough.
I love the ocean. If I could I would live in Davenport. Where I once camped on the beach. It was next to the former Odwalla headquarters.
The longest most complex story of water started in Santa Cruz. I had been trying to get to Sacramento to see a girlfriend. But I was young, and there was this amazing beauty named Sierra. I know, like the mountains. She was going to take me, but first we went somewhere else for the weekend. It was a strange and emotionally difficult weekend.
She wanted to go swimming. And I hated the idea. There was other people as well. We started walking, but I forgot my swim shorts. They weren’t even mine. Another girl had allowed me to borrow them. So many girls, but only tastes of whipping cream. No cheese.
I turned around and went back to get the shorts. But they didn’t stop, and though I walked along the path I never found them. Back at the house I recall walking into a room and finding Sierra having sex with someone. I was still emotionally immature and naive. It was upsetting for me. For the rest of the weekend I was pretty morose.
It was a time of changes. Water was uncomfortable for me. And more so were my own emotions. The girl dropped me off. I saw the girlfriend. Later I Sierra surprised me when I saw her again. In my own smallness I imagined she didn’t care. But the weekend and my emotions did concern her. It was a small lesson in not being so self-absorbed. Sometimes we miss others concern. We get to deep in the hole of pity. Sierra was a beautiful woman. Like the mountains.
And the girl I visited. Oh she was a tweaker. Her story will come later.
I haven’t been swimming since sometime in the late ’90s. Not in a lake or a pool. A discomfort with my own body was also developing. I am not afraid of water. I take baths and shower. But I am afraid of my body.
(A Room to Write exercise)