This morning, again, I find myself deeply touched by the creative adventure that life is… from the cradle to the grave. Each day, as I make my pilgrimage to be baptized in the sea, I am privileged to be present for the testimony of another personal story to the beauty of being alive. This morning, there are two.
First comes the Italian mother with her baby girl. The two of them lost in joyful communion with the water, I can see her trying to teach her daughter to swim. The girl, maybe three years old, wears large inflated armbands to keep her afloat. Her mother faces her, touches her lightly, and smiles. Presence. Loving attention. Intimacy. I hear the mother calling, “Mani. Mani.” “Use your hands.” And, “Brava. Brava.”
I go for a swim; and, coming out of the water, I take my time. I meet a woman in the water at the edge of the shore. Probably in her mid 70s, this woman in her lovely lavender swimsuit and matching hat smiles at me and moves her arm back and forth in front of her body. She notices the game I discovered on my last visit to the beach. I have learned that I can ride the waves at the shoreline.
I suppose this is what is called bodysurfing. I heard of it as a teenager, but I could never do it. I could not let go. Yesterday I did let go. I learned that I can ride the wave into the shore by kicking lightly just as it passes. And if I simply do not attach myself to the stones on the water’s edge it will carry me out again. If I do nothing, the very cycles of the water will continue taking me further and further out until the bottom is far far beneath my feet.
The woman in the hat sits down in the water and inches her way into the sea on hands and knees. Then, removing her hat and pouring water on her head, she says to me that the heat is bad and she needs the sea to keep cool. I encourage her.
Back ashore on my towel, I notice that the grandparents have joined mother and daughter in the water. Everyone is excited. The little girl is swimming. She plays a game, throwing a ball and then paddling over to get it. As soon as she has it in her hand, there is a burst of applause. “Bravissima!”
And now the lady in the hat is back at water’s edge, sitting in the water and splashing her legs like a girl. Suddenly, in my eyes, she is 17 again. She is my mother. She is the little girl learning to swim. We are all the same girl. All of us playing on the seaside in summer. Pure unadulterated pleasure.
It could have been a very different morning.