The river water was clear, clean and deep, the weather hot. Aberdeenshire was a gentle place that summer, the countryside of Monymusk, lush and green. I was staying with friends, of friends. They owned this stretch of river. The kids all learned to swim here in its pools and runs with its stretches of stillness and brown peaty deeps. Lazing along at the end of the paddock, it seemed a docile family pet. I slipped in and thought I might practise my only stroke. Wow! My speed had improved!
I didn’t know I was in trouble till I heard the shouting, the children running along the bank waving their arms. I turned in the water, seeing how far I had come. It had nothing to do with my swimming.
Metaphorically, socially and literally I was in over my head. “She’s never swum in a river before.” No indeed but it was more perilous than that because I had learned in a municipal pool with sea water pumped straight from the Firth of Forth. Fresh water, to my horror was proving a different beast.
With the bend approaching and deep water I had to find a foothold. Somehow I did and beached myself gasping on a shingle bank. Exhausted but safe I was still out of my depth, however, never having swum in a family owned river. Docile pet indeed.
This morning, in the shower, the metaphorical truth of that day came to me. Water. And the forces that work upon it to support, teach or sweep us away. Gravity pulls us down. Bouancy holds us up. Whether we descend or rise in water is a balance of skill when immersed and wisdom to get into it, or not, in the first place. But then we too are — what percentage? — water. Water needs respect but how much more the forces that work upon it? And while we may learn to swim in all waters, so are we a mix of salt and fresh and tides and currents, deeps and eddies too.