As a kid I used to spend as much time in the water as possible during the summer. When air-conditioning was found only in the movie theater or in an upscale restaurant the local beach or swimming hole provided the cheapest way to beat the heat. These days I’m much more likely to spend my time on the sand getting in touch with my inner iguana rather than indulging my inner Labrador pup, but I still feel the pull, particularly when I see something like today’s Photo of the Day.
Joy is an uncommon commodity; it comes as a sudden reversal of the ways of the everyday–a shock, a surprise–and there’s something in the water that calls it forth.
Going into the water turns the world upside-down and inside-out. In the everyday world we bundle up for the outdoors, for the water we strip down. Our work-a-day feet are held captive by shoes and socks. We release them into water. In the everyday world the down arrow of gravity is a constant companion, but the body floats in water as if it were in space. In the everyday world jumping from high places occasions injury, but into water, it brings joy.
Being in the water touches something deep in the brain where we keep strong emotions. In the everyday world, we keep them under control, just as we keep water confined. We turn the tap on and off, raise and lower lakes, channel the water toward powerhouses and farm fields. But when we put our bodies into the water we give over all that–to the push and the pull, the up and the down of ocean waves, to the heavy drag of current below a falls, to water’s resistance to all sudden motion.
There is something in the water that wants to be free of all constraint, and there is something in us that wants the same.