The water understands
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
It’s like a pinky toe or a freckle. It’s weird and unexplainable but they come by it honestly. My children can’t help it. They are drawn to water by some inner force, some inherent magnetism written in their DNA; its both completely organic and 100% supernatural. And I’ve slowly been coming to grips with this aspect of my family’s oddities since we’ve been in Homer. Let me paint the picture for you: in the customary overcast, heavy skies, temps somewhere in the 50’s my children are up to their necks in glacial waters. They’ve moved beyond flirting with submersion. They don’t bother dipping their toes or daring each other to get wet in their clothes— they simply live with a swimsuit handy and dive in whenever a moment moves them.
One day I found myself sitting on that rocky shore as I have done so many times since our arrival to enjoy the scenery and watch my children romp and play with the tides when I began to notice the people—the people who are enjoying the same beautiful view as I, but something was distracting them. As they strolled down the scenic shoreline taking in the wildlife, something was causing them to pause, chuckle a little to themselves or point something out to their loved one and then move on. It should be noted that anytime you see people stop to look at something in Alaska, there is a very good chance it is something worth looking at. So after several passersby continued this same pattern of pausing, looking and then strolling on, I decided to find out what was so remarkable that several people made a stop to see. And so I moved closer to the shore as a couple was stopped to look and I was surprised to find that what was causing their pause and so many before them, was not a whale, as I had hoped, or sea otters, which I suspected, but rather it was children. Four to be exact, playing in the icy waters like they’re sunning in the tropics. That’s when it occurred to me that my family might have a problem.
I realize now, of course, I should have seen it all along. Exhibit A) When Brigham proposed. It was beautiful mid-July in Salt Lake City. Brig had been away for a month and we were anxious to spend some time together. Brig wanted to take me to a river. It wasn’t an elaborate, planned out proposal with flowers, or diamonds lodged in food or family members hiding away to take pictures. In fact, Brig didn’t take me there with the intention of proposing. We had an outdoorsy courtship and I’m always up for something fun, so we decided to jump in a river and on a whim, he asked me to marry him. Looking back, I know now that it’s the cold water that first inspired him.
Cut to: engaged Brigham and Morinda camping at Mary Lake with Brig’s brother Jared and his wife, Melissa. After a short hike and setting up camp, the first order of business was jumping off a cliff into the water. I was, of course, wanting to make good on his recent commitment and so I had no intention of turning down an opportunity to be the impressive fiancé. After he assured me that the water “wasn’t too cold” and without so much as dipping a toe first, I followed him to the top of a great rock and as the saying goes, I followed him off a cliff. The fall was not so bad, but over all too quickly and deep into the chill I submerged . The cold of the waters was a shock to the system and it wasn’t long before my teeth began to chatter. Needless to say, he was happy we had both taken the plunge (as another saying goes).
I hadn’t really connected the dots by this time. Perhaps I had just never known anyone that liked water as much as he. But then there were other experiences, like the time we were backpacking in Europe and visiting the Holy Mecca of Lourdes, France. Brigham found the healing waters there so inviting, he did a quick look around to see if anyone was watching and then before I knew what was going on, he had dropped every stitch and morsel he had on his person along the wayside and slipped into the water. (Incidentally, I did take a few photos with the intention of documenting the occasion, but the Albertson’s Photo Center didn’t develop those few and I have a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with the porcelain white derriere that they featured.) While one would think that I would catch on to a recurring theme or better yet, a deeply rooted obsession, I merely passed it off as Brig just being, well, Brigham. It likely began long before he ever darkened my basement apartment doorway. And I, having now secured my catch, so to speak, do not even pretend that jumping into the cold water is anything other than some form of self-deprecation. Lucky for Brig, his line of work allows him a lot of travel and time in the great outdoors, and so he takes it upon himself to take a plunge whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. In an attempt to be less offensive he travels with an American Flag speedo wherever he goes, donning it when the waters invite him.
But then we had children. And as all parents are, we were eager to see how their personalities would develop and what traits they would inherit from which families. And how thrilled we are that Tatum has red hair and how lucky that Cleo has an electrifying energy and punny sense of humor; and isn’t it lovely that Eli has big saucer eyes like his Nelson relatives and how lucky Miss Ivy Maude has beautiful Cottam cheekbones. And every last one of them loves the water. Cold water. The colder, the better. And so I am left with no other conclusion than that it is part of their genetic make-up like earlobes or knuckle hair. Whenever we go for a hike, like their dad, they always go prepared for the likelihood that there will be water. And it isn’t really about swimming. They just want to get in and completely immerse, following the way of the Good Lord's salubrious dip in the waters of Jordan. And perhaps, they might argue, that it is there in the sanctifying cleanse of the waters, where they sense their salvation. For all water is their holy water and with every plunge, their communion is sweet.