Thursday, September 10, 2009
H2O H2O, Everywhere
Our bodies are composed of a number of elements and combinations of elements, like water. For some reason, humans are fascinated by water from an early age. Considering that we spend the first nine months of our life floating in water may have something to do with it. We are also born with an instinct to hold our breath if under water. Comes in handy. But as kids, we play in it, on it, and around it with absolute dedication to discovering what it does when we hit it, mix dirt in it, or jump in it. Even as adults, we still love to play in and on water, but as adults, we have a healthy fear of it.
Have you ever dreamed about water? I have recurring dreams where I'm swimming with the ease of a dolphin, surfacing every few minutes, then diving deeper into the ocean. I'm swimming as quickly as a dolphin would and don't seem to be concerned with breathing. These are the most wonderful, satisfying dreams I have. I wake up rested and energized from these dreams, though sadly, I don't have them often enough.
I learned to swim when I was about 5 or 6, taking a Red Cross class at the local pool. I recall the pool's location somewhere on the Vancouver waterfront, or at least on a beach near the waterfront. And I still recall the smell of the air on those chilly mornings before the fog had cleared or the rain had let up. Every once in a while, the air in Halifax has the same smell, bringing me back 40 years.
I'm not a strong swimmer, having not kept up the lessons or the practice. But I can keep myself afloat for a while, treading water or bobbing, sometimes just floating on my back. There's something soothing about quietly paddling in the water or even just being submerged to my neck in the shallow end of the pool.
For the majority of my life I have lived next to an ocean or a large body of water, or a major river system. I have lived on the east and west coasts of this country, in the middle with the Great Lakes, or aside the St. Lawrence Seaway, St. John or Miramichi rivers. Even when I lived in South Korea, I was right next to the Han River, dividing the capital city of Seoul. Both of my parents were born on an island, surrounded by the cold Atlantic ocean, waters warmed only by the month of August by the jet stream.
The year I was 18 we spent 2 weeks in Hawaii on the way back from living in Korea. I was recovering from a bout of mono and was pretty useless during the hot days, only going to the beach after supper to play in the waves for a couple of hours. My dad would come to the beach with me while I swam. One evening, I was rinsing off the salt water at the communal showers with a couple of surfers, discussing the water conditions. They were complaining about how cold the water was! I laughed and said I though it was like taking a bath. They took in the paleness of my skin and asked me where I was from. When I told them Nova Scotia, they said Ahh....the Atlantic Ocean, right?
Like all children, I was interested with water. I've already written about jumping into the deep end of a pool when I was three and my mother's eye was off me for a nanosecond - no mean feat on my part - and what sweet release that was! When I was little, my Dad got me watching the Jacques Cousteau documentaries with him. So many creatures that lived in the seas that we knew (and still know) so little of! In fact, when I began university, it was with the intention of becoming a marine biologist. I still absorb wildlife documentaries at every opportunity, but I especially enjoy marine topics. Who knew there were undersea volcanoes and mountains? Creatures so weird, they could only come from the imagination of Tim Burton?
I can't imagine not living near a major body of water, not smelling the ocean or the stinky seaweed in summer washed ashore after a storm, examining the pebbles worn smooth by millions of years of tumbling in the sisyphean surf, being amused by the sight of gull footprints on the beach and patterns left by raindrops on dry sand.
Two atoms of hydrogen, one of oxygen, and you have water. Pretty simple equation, isn't it? Apply a magnetic field to a human body and the hydrogen protons align with the direction of the field and we can take pictures of the insides of our bodies. And detect abnormalities. Like MS. Cool....