Cold Water / Full Immersion

Night swimming

When I was a child I used to have this recurring dream. In the way of dreams it was always slightly different, but familiar enough that in the midst of the dream I would have a moment where I would consciously think “oh yeah, I know what happens now…” That was typically where the fun (or fear, depending) started.

I grew up in the same community where I now live, and I feel lucky every day for both. Salmon Beach is a historical community in Washington State on the waters of Puget Sound. I mean ‘on the waters’ quite literally. The homes are built on posts sunk into the beach, and the tides ebb and flow under the floor. In the summer it is one of the most beautiful spots I know. In the winter it can be a bit less enchanting, and I am the only person I know who can honestly claim that they were late to school because a tug boat hit the neighbor’s house.

Anyways, this dream would typically start with me on the beach on an ebb tide, at night, walking under my house and wading out into the water. There was some vague but vital reason I had to go out into the water, something that needed to be retrieved off the beach on the other side of the strait before the tide came in, perhaps in time to turn it in at school the next day. I would get in as far as my hips then dive in like you see in films, hands together and arms forming a steeple over my head, chin down. I remember always being really muscular for that part.

I would start swimming, dolphin kicking into deep water, cutting directly across the current. Even in my dream the water is cold. That part never changed. I could feel the water pushing against my forehead and my torso, and a deep sense of inhabited darkness below me. At some point my rational brain would point out that I probably needed to breathe. I suppose that is when I would have my ‘ahhhh, I’m dreaming’ moment.

I remember the feeling that would overcome me. It was an expansive joy, a euphoria. I could move powerfully through the water, surfacing maybe only three times the entire 1 mile crossing to spot the beach and make sure I was headed in the right direction. The feeling of holding my breath and still having strength in my limbs was deeply satisfying. I remember a keen sense of potential danger, but perfectly matched with confidence.

When I arrived at the beach I would walk up the beach out of the cold water, pick up whatever I had come for and turn around. I distinctly remember standing on the fist sized rocks and the barnacles looking across the water at Salmon Beach. The lights were rippled streaks across the waves, the air was clear, and I could hear the thrumming rush of the water flowing between me and the opposite shore. There would come a moment when I would realize that I needed to quickly swim back before the sun came up, and then I would plunge back in carrying *whatever it was* back to my house.

When I woke up I remember feeling giddy like you sometimes do, capable of anything, and deeply confident in my body, my senses, and my awareness. This faded by the time I got to school or to work, and over the years I stopped having the dream. Or perhaps I simply stopped remembering it, as I rarely remember dreaming at all any more. But from time to time the image of looking out over ink black waves at an almost invisible beach, legs propelling me over a vast, living emptiness, pops into my head and a tickle of that euphoria lives in my chest again for a time.

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