My arms ripple like the underwater river grasses all around me. My right hand holds the wooden paddle which vibrates like a twanged guitar string. Muscles quiver under fibrillating skin. I’m jelly compared to the rapid’s turbulence.
“Give myself over to the water.”
Those thoughts flash through my brain. Hyper alert and unexpectedly calm, almost detached, noticing the seconds feel like days and weeks of my life unfolding. Focused, relevant thoughts suggest I may be drowning. Oh, yeah that’s a possibility isn’t it? So I might as well trust my helplessness and use it. Be as compliant as possible so the wood paddle can rise to the surface pulling me behind it, so the life jacket can do its flotation work, so the fluid rollercoaster can toss me up just as well as it thumps me down.
My egobrain records everything; my bodymind offers sage advice. And I follow those dictates.
Eyes, nose surface – quick breath – back under – remember don’t fight the current – pop up, higher and longer this time, aware of my son crying and screaming in the raft upstream from me, a cacaphony of other voices yelling,
“Head for the shore” . . .Do they think I’m stupid or something?
“Hang on, hang on “ . . .What do they think I’m doing with that paddle?
“Are you Ok?” . . . How can I answer that one? I have no breath to shout and the incident isn’t even over.
Back under I go, but I know I’m coming up again and when I do, I know I’ll stay up because I noticed on the last peek above waterline that I was almost through the rapid.
As I do head to shore, kicking with all my strength and heading at a diagonal to the downstream current, still hanging on to that paddle, I’m aware that I’ve never been so alive. Joining forces with the elements around me humbled my ego and lifted a veil between me and life…what a shift. I experienced being present and immersed, literally, in living my dying. Unencumbered by thoughts of the past and future, free of judgment and second guessing, questioning nothing, I respond millisecond by millisecond to the endless river of experience. Such ecstasy!
My twelve year old son is traumatized by witnessing his Mum drowning. Even though I don’t drown, and emerge exhilarated, he won’t float a river again until he’s in his twenties. I am sorry about that but grateful that we shared the experience.
I am changed permanently. Bound by wonder, truth is seared in my bones. Ego is not in charge.
Thanks for a really arresting post. Risk taking is so essential to life, isn’t it?
thank you, Kate. How wonderful that you found my blog and moments after I posted it. I looked briefly at yours and am intrigued. Will return later to read more fully. Thanks for risking!