It is another calm morning.
I stroke straight out to sea
in my little kayak, not wavering,
like an arrow aimed at the distant
shore that St. Paul once landed on.
The island is waking. Shepherds
are listening for the sound
of the goat’s bells as they return
from the high mountain to be milked.
I’m focused, stroking rhythmically,
going out further than before,
perhaps a kilometer or two
or more. Distances at sea
I’ve been training for this dive:
first 30 feet, then 40,
a couple at 50. Today
I will try 60 feet again:
to equal what I did in Croatia
some years ago
before the winds
turned cold and the hand of God
stopped my mad attempt
to disappear deeper into the dark.
A rock is tied in some old fishing net
attached to a long line by which I measure
I paddle, feeling my old fear of dark water
until I sense to stop and measure.
Down, down, until the sudden loosing of the line.
60 feet exactly, on the first try.
I am amazed.
The sea is saltier here then Croatia.
It takes a more work to get down,
so I have brought another rock
in a spider webbed net.
I slip into the water, breathe slowly,
deeply, relaxing, soaking in the air,
staring down. I can see the white
stone I dropped far below
in a mist. The breathing goes well,
I feel ready. I pull the stone off
the kayak and rock forward.
It pulls me straight down.
One, two, three seconds,
clearing my ears, arm stretched out,
holding the stone, kicking slowly,
not burning oxygen, relaxed.
Nine, ten, eleven… stroking, sinking, sinking.
Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen seconds:
clearing my ears, blowing hard to avoid
the sudden sharp pain.
I look down and can see the bottom
Twenty two, twenty three,
twenty four seconds… the rock hits.
I can hear the thud. I turn and look up.
My mind is busy with counting and clearing
my ears. I wish I could take the sight in more fully.
It’s a long ways up, but I feel relaxed,
no lack of oxygen. I know its ok:
I’ll make it.
I start kicking up: slowly, relaxed,
enjoying the rise, gazing at
the little kayak far above,
the slack anchor rope, the silvery
sheen of surface in the morning light.
I come up strongly, and break the surface
with power, lifting my chest high
out of the sea. I feel no need of air
but suck in air out of thankfulness
in an amazing old habit
of breathing for life.
I taught myself to free dive while living for a summer in Croatia, then did it again when living in Thassos, Greece. There is something so dream-like, so utterly peaceful about this. I didn’t know enough to understand the potential dangers, but I’m thankful that my instincts guided me to come up very slowly. It was like arising from the body into a new world. That is the sense of it… like a death into Light.