You would think the word “swells” would mean something positive not something unpleasant and dangerous like the word “Ebola.” I suppose ocean swells are nature’s way of saying roll with me, or die. At least that’s what they appeared to be saying yesterday. I was kayaking in Resurrection Bay, a bloody good name for a place in Alaska with big volcanic cliffs and ocean swells. I suppose you folks with less anxiety might find my stomach churning reaction laughable but I know it just takes a certain size swell to turn a each and every person’s level of confidence to mush. Except for those people in The Perfect Storm, and look where they are now.
When I turned my kayak to negotiate the conveyer belt of waves I understood the way a body instinctively reacts to fear of death. My stomach would not rise and fall with glee no matter how much I sang or breathed deeply. I tried eating, drinking, laughing but the power of the wave to swallow me up was more than I could bear. Of course I did bear it. I paddled for more than an hour straight just to retrieve my sense of self. My body wanted to betray me, become rigid and force the boat to be still. My stomach wanted to cleanse itself before death but I, being a longstanding overachieving, workaholic powered through it all resulting in an evening of throbbing arm muscles and a growing respect for those who battle with the sea for their livelihood.
I don’t have interest in wilderness or ocean adventurers or competitive athletes, dancers or American Idols anymore. It sure is beautiful to have a gift and make the most of it but I like my gifts with a slice of purpose on the side. I can’t be bothered to keep looking for the next high. I’ve always liked bike commuting the same route more than mountain biking. I wish I could skate to work like some people do in The Netherlands. I question if I should better the economy by supporting the drivers of water taxis and tour guides or better myself by walking to the store. I have been a guide and I felt curiously blended into a concoction of entertainer, safety specialist and counselor. There is a sad doggy quality to the flirtation and impressive tales involved, of displays of affection geared toward tips rather than mutual respect.
I have always liked people who will admit at any level of expertise that they don’t really know what they are doing, who urge me to ask questions and use my judgement instead of handing down rules which can only serve as life buoys amongst the swells. One must be able to reach out and grasp them, not just follow them.
I suppose that when life is long and repetitious we manufacture swells in the guise of adventures, financial disasters and emotional wreckage to wake us up from what life really is, an adventure which is so small as to be unnoticed and thus ended in tragedy. I don’t want to keep having to shock myself back to life through the sensation of imminent death be it on a dvd, in a challenging staff meeting or on the sea. I would like to remember how to be alive without having to run 15 miles to nowhere. Walking to the store and back is sometimes enough. Please don’t tell me to meditate. Masturbation is more lively!