Me and Water go way back. When I was five years old, I pointed to a dolphin trainer and told my mom that was what I was going to do when I grew up. She did what any other encouraging mother of a fanatical youngster would do, and smiled and nodded. And then signed me up for the swim team.
Joke’s on her. I turned out to be quite the water baby. Part mermaid, we think. I took to swimming like a bird flying.
My first time snorkeling had a similar effect. You mean I don’t have to take my head out of the water in order to breathe?!?! GIVE IT TO ME NAOW! My mom claims I exhaled something that sounded like “OH BOY!” through the snorkel and was gone. I didn’t come back until the cruise ship blew its horn to warn passengers they needed to get their butts on board. I was eight at the time.
Water is my element. It is my sacred space, and even at a young age, I followed the principles of ZooFit in doing everything I could to protect that which was precious to me. I urged my schoolmates and friends to protect ocean life. I participated in river clean-ups. I jumped on campaigns like Dolphin-Safe Tuna, snipping six-pack rings, and eliminating plastic bags. When I was ten.
I did turn my passion into a career. I worked with marine mammals for ten years, educating the public and introducing them to the wonders of the sea and then taking part of the most successful marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation program on the planet.
When I moved to Washington, I put a lot of my marine mammal knowledge to the side and discovered a whole new world of elephants. The water was cold and there weren’t as many water sport enthusiasts for me to continue playing.
Things changed again when we moved to Whidbey Island when I found water to become more of an accepted recreational activity. I didn’t get crazy looks when I told someone I wanted to go swimming in the lake, or even the ocean. I found people who SCUBA dive off the beach and even a friend who owns the Whidbey Island Kayaking company.
My playground returned.
I still don’t go swimming every single day. I really don’t have time for that. But I have a wetsuit which allows me to swim longer past normal swimming season. I am working on getting more SCUBA diving equipment, so I can practice being in my element more often. And I try different activities which allow me to play in the water.
Today, I experienced an SUP, stand-up paddleboard, for the first time. I’m visiting Lake Crescent, which allows several water sport activities like canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I brought my wetsuit to Lake Crescent just in case I wanted to go swimming in the RIDICULOUSLY cold water.
My husband, decided to come with me. He likes trying new things, but isn’t exactly a water-elemental like I am. If I had to peg him, I’d call him an earth-element guy. He is part mountain goat when we go hiking, and even when we climb steep hills, he seems to bounce up the elevation without even a rise in his heartrate. But water? Not really his comfort zone.
If you haven’t experienced a paddleboard before, it’s a lot of fun, but not necessarily something you pick up on immediately. Chis and I paddled around on our knees for some time, and then I slowly got up on the board. I was the brave one because A) paddle-boarding was my idea, and B) I was wearing a wetsuit. If I fell off the board trying to get up, Chris would stay right where he was. He was wearing regular clothes.
I got up and found the process not as hard as I imagined it would be, but once I was up, my stabilization went out the door. I was shaky, unconfident, and very wobbly. We both tried paddling around but after a few moments, both of us were back on our knees. We paddled to the other side of the lake and explored. The views were spectacular. It was like we were in the fjords of Norway.
We started heading back and tried to stand up on our boards again. I noticed this time it was much easier. I felt a lot more stable, and that gave me more confidence. I found if I stayed focus on what was ahead of me, rather than around me, I was good to go. I thought I would help my husband out by relaying this discovery to him. Only, he didn’t hear me. When he turned his attention to hear me better, he lost his balance and immediately fell into the water.
He sounded like he fell through ice. It might have felt that way. Lake Crescent is fed by glaciers, so it is ice cold.
I really found this partly amusing and a little startling. I have THE WORST balance in the world. I often say “grace” is NOT my middle name, because I stumble, trip, and overall look ridiculous doing anything which requires even the mere essence of balance- skateboarding, skiing, roller skating, even bicycling. Chris, as I’ve said, is a mountain goat and will climb cliffs with the greatest of ease.
But Chris is a MOUNTAIN goat, not a sea goat. I am more comfortable in the water, so my balance was more on point.
This is the second time in the past couple months where I have experienced a water sport and felt so much at ease in my element. It really hits home my principle of Find Your Sacred Space. Find something that calls to you. It can be the forests, the mountains, the water, or even the sky (BTW- don’t ever invite me to go sky-diving, hang-gliding, or anything air related. I am NOT, repeat, NOT an air-element person). Find Your Sacred Space, and then find activities which will allow you to experience your sacred space as often as possible. The more time you spend there, the more you will fight to protect it.
Water is my comfort zone. I love the ocean, waterfalls, coral reefs, and all the creatures which call the ocean home. I fight to protect the place I love. My passion bleeds into my eating habits (I eat sustainable seafood and avoid plastic packaging), my recreational activities (swimming and water sports), and even my reinforcement (buying SCUBA gear, and doing water activities are set rewards for working towards my goals).