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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Treading Under Water


Esther Williams

Million Dollar Mermaid Guide




Picture this. 

A giant oyster shell in the middle of a pool slowly opens, yawning wide and there inside, a woman, in a floral swim cap and a passionately pink swimsuit, emerges, poised as a ballerina, just like the one that twirls in the center of a vintage jewelry box. Behind her, billowing clouds, and three enormous water slides. Standing astride the slides are rows of men waving banners. In the middle of the slides, women ride down down down on their bellies into the pool below. Soon after, the men follow. 

Boom! A puff of bright red smoke atop the largest, the middlemost slide. Esther poses at the top and standing completely upright, arms overhead, slides down and dives into the pool. Moments later, she breaks the surface of the water, her red lipstick smile, a grin. A ring descends from overhead. Esther grabs the ring and rises up over the water below. The camera pans to the swimmers below, their feet and legs outstretched, toes touching in the shape of a water lily.

Lights and flashes and colored fountains. Esther does not swim, she dances in the pool surrounded by the synchronicity of perfectly timed perfectly placed underwater pirouettes.

Moving in for her close-up,

Esther blows a kiss and sinks beneath the blue. 

Sitting here watching her video on You Tube, I am back in the pool. The day I learned to tread water. Took my first stroke. Pulled on my ruffled cap and circled my hands in the air, left, then right, all the way across the pool. I learned to scull and to twirl. To lie on my back and to bend one knee, sink below the surface and rise back up with my leg fully extended. I practiced until I could lie flat on my back and arch underwater making a full and complete circle ending up exactly where I started. 
Synchronized swimming. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be Esther. Smooth as silk, a water nymph, amid the cascading fountains.

I wasn't good enough. 

I couldn't hold my breath long enough. 

I get a little panicky in the deep end of the pool. 

To be honest, I didn't want to be in the middle of a big production number. I'm kind of shy. More of a minnow than a shark. I like to splash and kick and cannonball off the edge. 

But, I am like Esther. I love the water. 

The ocean, the lake, the river, the stream, the pool. 

I love to snorkel and float and wade. 

I believe that in another life I was a fish

In my next life, I would love to be a whale

When I swim I am not thinking.

When I swim, I am a fish. 

A back and forth fish.

Back and forth.

Forth and back. 

Through the water. 

Stroke after stroke.

Kick after kick. 

Breath after breath.

Gill breathing. 

In rhythm.

In perfect rhythm.

With myself.

I am at peace. 

I am "The Minnow"

A Not-Yet-A-Yeti...

Auditioning for the Yard Yeti Synchronized Swim Team...

And holding my breath...

In the deep end of the pool...

I believe Esther Williams was a Yard Yeti Woman.

I still want to be just like her. 

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