There’s no way this version of an essay, a replacement for one lost to the misunderstood mechanics of Mac and Microsoft, could be the same. Retelling, rewriting; stories change, only imagined word magic is dulled, made somehow transparent. They are only words.
If you are kind enough to read this, please scroll down to the previous posting. Something related to this piece was written and meant to go there. Thanks.
Drowning. Someone drowned surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. I didn’t know him, but I do know he was someone’s sibling, someone’s child, someone’s love. Perhaps I surfed with this young man, passed him on the highway or the trail, saw him in the parking area. I couldn’t put a face to the name that was being spread on the fir cone wireless, the various and overlapping circles of surfers and their surfer and non-surfer friends.
I do know something about him.
While there is little information on the actual cause of the drowning, the conditions in the water at the time are known; a rising swell in a narrow bay, mostly closeout waves, rip currents running parallel to the beach, other surfers in the area. He was pulled from the water by another surfer, a friend of a friend of mine. Attempts to resuscitate failed.
The scene was, by all accounts so far, chaotic and tragic.
More is already being discovered about the victim. As always, this adds to the tragedy.
For all our competitiveness, for all the ‘my crew’, ‘your crew’, ‘local’, ‘regular’, ‘outsider’ divisions, surfers, out of the water, are united. I realize it’s a ridiculous conceit of mine to draw some distinction between real surfers and… everyone else. It is my belief that you do the same. Slightly different criteria, no doubt.
While surfers understand something about drowning, it is also known by anyone who has ever choked on water that went anywhere even close to the lungs.
Just one jolt of that; mistiming the top of a wave you’re paddling over, breathing in too quickly after a wipeout; you will remember other times when you sucked in water or heavy foam instead of air, times you’ve choked and sputtered, times you were afraid you might not make it back to shore. If you or I haven’t been knocked unconscious by a rock or a surfboard, haven’t been held down longer than we can hold our breath… we’re lucky.
We forget that. Too easily.
Writers have, for the history of writing, almost romanticized drowning. Perhaps it is the notion that, in the end, it is, according to survivors, a sort of peaceful thing, a surrender to what is inevitable for all of us. Death. Not a violent, painful death, but a… No, that’s fiction. There is a reason for the phrase, “fighting to the last breath.”
I decided long ago that I do not want to drown. I don’t want to think about drowning.
And yet I am.