Open water. The image in my mind is rarely of swimming there; growing up on a northern section of the Pacific Ocean’s edge, I knew of the sea as a place for wading and the rare venture to splash in a bit farther than ankle-deep, but also as bitingly cold, rocky, and full of sharp shells and ethereal but menacing jellyfish. A lake, while it might be at least marginally warmer, held in my mind multitudes of the same creatures that live in children’s closets and under their beds, but wetter and slimier and without a single door or mattress to deter their finding and nastily clinging to every immersed cell of my body. Rivers were icy highways relentlessly pulling me into the thick of their mad traffic unless I had oars with which to do battle against the current. Open water was, for me, always best admired and appreciated from docks and bridges, boats and beaches.
But, as my mind has always been willing to venture into places my body had no intention of visiting, I also know oceans and lakes, rivers and streams, as realms of inviting mystery and magical adventure. Under the surface of every body of water, there are endless natural beauties and curiosities of wildly diverse sea creatures and aquatic gardens, landscapes of great magnitude and delicate detail, and biological wonders that rival the most fantastic notions of primordial soup. There are also, for me, equally magnificent and splendid worlds of the fantastic. I see, in my mind’s eye, tremendous tales of adventure and romance and daring and delight all over in the rippling, dappled light below the surface. Every sighting of a coelacanth, of gulper eels and viperfishes, confirms my belief in the literally outlandish contents of the oceans’ depths.
I understand that from a climatic and biological viewpoint, open water is of course affected by and dependent upon seasonal changes. It’s perfectly logical that, metaphorically, a sea change should refer to a significant transformation or metamorphosis. That the seas themselves undergo tremendous changes as the weather and tides and time pass over them has potent enough impact on the realities of this world; what the seas do, in turn, to anything while it is immersed in them adds to that alchemical appearance. Ariel’s song reminds us that what is embraced by the ocean’s depths becomes one with the ocean in profound ways. The possible applications of such a metaphor are so numerous and so thought-provoking that I could probably write a thousand posts about those alone, but the effects of existing immersed in open water are the ones that lap up against my attention and flow through my imaginings the most often, so it is on those shores I will continue to do my wandering and beachcombing.
Best place to find mer-people and coelacanths: open water. In the seas of my fantasies, there are no seasons. I will always be able to dive deeply among mysterious and wonderful events and creatures in my dreams.