The Middle-of-Nowhere, Kansas is where I was born. It was the wrong place for me to be born. I don’t have much in common with Kansas. Kansas is dirt, I am water.
I was moved to Chicago not too long after my birth. It is the first place I remember seeing water, real water. Lake Michigan is real water, expansive and blue. My parents rode my sister and I around the rim of Lake Michigan on the backs of their bikes. We (my sister and I) sat in flimsy, fold-up child-seats, wind blowing through our hair, gazing out at this mysterious body of water.
Then we moved to Montana. There are two Montanas (Joe is not one of them): Western Montana is wild and mountainous, eastern Montana is a pancake of a place. We moved to eastern Montana, dirt. Water became reservoirs, ditches and creeks. We no longer rode around an expansive body of water, we visited leach infested Hell’s Creek. Picking leaches off your body after a swim is Montana. Montana was not built for soy-latte drinkers.
Then we moved to California. People assume California is a wonderland of water. It isn’t. There are several Californias: Northern-hippie-burn-out-California, coastal California, mountain range California, Southern California, the Bay Area California, and then there is the Central Valley. We moved to the San Joaquin Valley where water was backyard pools and irrigation canals. We did not have a pool. My friends had pools and it is where I discovered that I am water.
Someone gave us an above-ground pool. They were getting rid of it. They probably had a fancy cement pool built in their backyard and wanted to toss out the white-trash pool. Instead they gave it to us. I spent hours in the water. I couldn’t dive into the pool (at least when my parents were around), I couldn’t dive down to ten feet and sit next to the drain, I couldn’t brag about having a pool because above-ground pools were like ugly girlfriends, but I could become water.
Then we moved to New Zealand for a year. New Zealand is water. There is a North Island and a South Island, but it is all water: Beaches, bays, rivers, lakes. New Zealand was foreign, but I have never felt more at place. It was like visiting Heaven for a year.
When I looked for a college to attend I didn’t realize that I was water. I picked land-locked Spokane. Spokane has water, but it is scenic water. When you are water you need to be in the water or on the water, not seeing water.
For twenty years I have lived surrounded by water. I have bathed in rivers too cold to bathe in, I have felt the heave of the ocean beneath boats, I have rolled in waves waiting for a chance to breathe, I have discovered water. I do not understand people who fear water. Water surges through and surrounds me. I am water.