I am a swimming in an icy blue lake. The water is deliciously cold and the colour of navy: clean, strong and peaceful. Around the lake are mountains laced with conifer forests. The trees gather around the lake’s edge, dipping their feathery fingers into the water, tasting it, brushing it. They are densest near the lake and as they move up the mountain side they peter out, finally becoming strands of green on white-grey speckled rock. The mountains are immense, huge slabs of rock rising out of the earth and piercing the flawless blue sky. They roar with might and tower over everything around them, earth’s sentinels, our gatekeepers. Their seemingly impenetrable mass belies a belly of caves and rivers, an impossible labyrinth, a world beneath our own.
The mountains encase me in my blue lake. They cup the water of the lake gently in their giant palm. I have reached the middle of the lake and let myself float freely on my back, my legs dangling down and disappearing into the deep blue. Arms akimbo, I close my eyes as the sun beats down on my face. All is still and the icy water curls round me. I have no idea how deep the lake is, in my mind it stretches down for all eternity, into chasms where forgotten creatures lie and the secrets of the earth dwell.
I flip onto my belly and start swimming. As the water around me splashes, droplets decorate my face and sparkle like diamonds. I spurt water out of my mouth each time I come up for air and the sun feels burning hot in contrast to the coolness of the water. When I put my head under and feel the water close above me I sense I am dropping a million miles into a cavern even though I am only inches from the surface.
I take a deep breath and plunge. Suspended in the lake, I for get time and space. I turn a few somersaults, knees pressed to my chin, arms waving in circles, like’s a duck’s webbed feet, flapping, keeping me in motion. When I stop rotating I look around and realise that the surface has disappeared. I am enveloped in fluid; the dark navy appearance of the lake from above given way to an opal translucent hue. The water seems heavy, viscous, I can almost pull blobs of it away and squeeze it in my hand. Breathing, strangely, was not a problem and I felt entirely comfortable.
There ahead I saw them. Soft, pale, white; rotund mounds nestled in the soft sandy bed. They were smooth, their porcelain surface broken only by wisps of sea moss that swayed in the current the way a person’s hair floats when they are under water. Swimming over, once in their midst I saw the multitude. Stretching on forever, they bubbled up from ever pore in the lake’s bed. Making my way over to one, I brush my cheek against it. To my surprise, I feel a gentle heat radiate from within. Pressing my ear to it, rather like listening to a conch, I hear a gurgling and then, movement.
I kick myself back, suddenly feeling like I just invaded somebody’s privacy. Thinking twice now about touching another one, I meander amongst the mounds, in the spaces framed by their curves. The water gets warmer and I hear gurgles from a hundred different sources. The gurgles rise in the water and overlap to form a endless symphony. I feel the noises moving through the water, with each blurp the water flexes and bumps me up a little. The temperature of the water gets higher and I sense that the mounds are emitting a liquid of their own. The stream of their emission is barely visible in the water, like curls of smoke from a hearth fire rising out of a chimney. As the liquid wraps its tendrils around me I find that I can remain buoyant without trying. The liquid is thicker than water and able to support my human flesh, and I feel the contours of my body sinking into this bed of fluid.
Silently, a crack appears in one of the mounds. It zigzags across the top of the mound and within seconds what looks like a flipper peeks out. One by one the other mounds crack open in flawless synchrony. More flippers reached out, feeling aimlessly, bearing down on the mounds to push out the bodies they were attached to. When they break free, I see them clearly. They are have hard shells, protruding heads, rather like turtles. There are tens of dozens of them, and they fill my vision. Together, like a fleet of ships, they steam off in the same direction. There is a silent force that herds them together; they know without speaking or looking where they have to go. They circle the remnants of their broken mounds, as if to take one last look at what used to be their homes, and then glide off into the deep blue yonder, without looking back.
Looking up, I see a pocket of sunshine streaming down. Holding my arms out to it, I swim upwards, following it to the surface. When I break through the water, the full rays of the sun bathe my head and shoulders and are so bright I have to blink. As I turn to head towards the shore, I hear a squeaks piping up around me. I trace the squeaks and see before me a host of those little creatures, heads just bobbing above the water and flippers peeping out. With a chatter of squeaks, they turn in one synchronized move and I watch the humps of their shells gracefully curve as they dive back into the lake. I smile, bid them farewell, and swim to the shore.
A Swim in the Lake
Written on 24 Febuary 2004