Nothing like a late night swim to bring ones self face to face with ones own mortality.
Last night the ice slabs were pounding the bow of the boat. Every ice slab contact is a boat shuddering, sledge hammer force that causes you to pause for a second to listen for the sound of running water. I put on my boots and parka and went out to push away the piece of evil that was currently percussing on the hull. I’ve done this dozens of times; a 2×4, lean into it, sending the ice off into the night for my neighbours to deal with. So with typical male macho gusto, I leaned in to it – getting the momentum of the ice moving away from the boat, then pulling back to admire my work … ooops.
There is a point of no return, I know, because I found it.
Eager in its attempt provide tangible proof of evolutionary theory, Darwins hammer reached out and tapped me lightly on the backside. I stepped out … my mind screaming “noooooo” and began to dance. It was a slow motion number, composed primarily of a pirouette with arms wheeling but catching nothing. With the ever so coherent thought ‘I can’t believe I’m going in …’ I stepped sprightly away from the safety of the dock.
So there I was, gazing up through the gloom, the pale yellow haze of the surface of the water some 3 or 4 feet above me, experiencing this ‘shock and awe’ of my own creation and wondering what to do next. The cold hit as I was kicking to the surface and reaching for the dock. The cold was heart stopping.
Looking down at the water from the dock you don’t really get a sense of how far above the surface of the water the top of the dock really is. Looking at the dock from the water level will change your perception perceptibly. There was no way I was going to be able to heave my waterlogged, and shall we say fleshy frame, back up onto the dock. I hollered for help, wondering if anyone would hear me, my mind instantly snapping back to the problem of how to get back onto the dock. That’s when it hit me – the tangible realization that I was indeed mortal. The exact thought did not have any words, but was composed of the emotional realization that I was actually in a position here where I might not make it. It was all very new and rather stunning – this whole mortality thing.
Something just touched my back! I spun around to find the slab of ice, that evil beast of monstrous proportions coming back to sniff at its thrashing victim. Then in an unbelievable act of silent benevolence it presented its own back as a scalable surface, a stepping stone to that cliff towering above me that was the dock. I clamored up onto the the ice and gingerly stood up. Experiencing the joy of rebirth and with new found ease and grace I stepped back onto the dock. Taaadaaaa. Ya, I meant to do that…
Now I have the shakes.
Shamefaced and embarrassed, I scuttled back to the safety and warmth of the boat. Ahhh – heat, the smell of lake water and the gentle sounds of ice slabs grinding the hull. Home, sweet home.