Beneath the surface peace reigns. Sunlight illuminates a shoal of tiny silver fishes that move in synchronicity, occasionally flashing signals like tiny mirrors. My arms propel me. Three fathoms below, my shadow moves over rippled sand. To the left, the coral reef rises like a chaotic monument. Beyond my understanding.
I am swimming but it is like flying in slow motion. It's another world. The sea temperature is soothing - reminiscent of life after conception, safe in amniotic fluid, swimming towards birth and forgetfulness. Yet the water has always been there. Ever since. Inviting us to swim.
Lake Garda, Italy 1960. I learnt to swim when I was seven years old. Mr Purcell, a close family friend, holding me round the midriff in the shallow water, giving me the confidence to let go, to stop panicking. And then I am swimming - what they call the doggy-paddle. My chin thrust bravely up, lips sealed tight, my arms and legs thrashing. Yes. I am swimming. It was a moment.
The last time I went swimming was in The Pelješac Channel - an arm of the Adriatic Sea off Croatia. It was last September and I swam out to the buoys that marked the swimming zone limits next to our hotel's little beach. I hugged the furthest plastic buoy for several minutes before swimming back to shore, remembering all the other times that I have been swimming.
Donning swimming trunks by concrete WWII defences on The North Sea shore at Fraisthorpe. Sprinting to the water's edge to escape the wind. Or summer seas embracing the isles of Greece - Folegandros, Sikinos, Milos - olive clad bays where triremes anchored in ancient times, their banks of oars at rest. Again and again. Swimming.
Waking on beaches at the command of the rising sun. Cold the water at first after the cosy sleeping bag. Swimming out to the rocks or the yacht and then back again. The day beginning.
Perhaps one day I will swim again. Propel myself with my arms and legs. Experience that familiar freedom once more. They say that we are mostly made of water.
Picture © ANDREY PAVLOV