Sep 3, 2020
I Own a Diver's Watch But Can't Swim
Here’s the thing. I don’t know how to swim. It isn’t that I don’t think knowing how to swim wouldn’t help me. There have been times when swimming would have been very useful. Like the time in fifth grade that I decided it would be possible for me to walk along the bottom of the pool to the other side. Luckily, another swimmer didn’t see me come back up for air. Or the time I was trapped against a heavy current in the South Fork of the Snake River. We were fly fishing for hybrid cutt-bow trout and I waded too far into a deep cut and barely regained my ground.
I’m fairly certain I didn’t learn how to swim because my mother couldn’t afford to drive my brothers and I into town every day for two weeks. We lived 20 miles from the nearest pool and swim lessons weren’t on the list of things we could afford. Now, as an adult, I wonder if there are swim lessons I could take at my local rec center. I wonder if I could ever do a triathlon. I contemplate how much energy it would take to stay alive in the open water of the English Channel.
Although it might sound trite, these specific memories come to mind when I look down at my Seiko dive watch.
I remember that I can’t swim, that I’ve had a few brushes with death, and that my childhood was pretty darn good, even though we didn’t have a lot of money. It is ironic that I own a diver’s watch—likely one of the most iconic symbols of ocean explorers. It is ironic because I prefer the land; ironic because I live in a high-mountain desert; ironic because I'll probably never dive and never see under the ocean's vast surface; ironic because I am here, lungs filling with air over and over to an ancient rhythm instead of having drowned as a child in a small-town swimming pool.
Air really is a nice thing.