As a kid, most of my weekends were spent in the translucent waters around the U.S. Virgin Islands. Similar to my life, the tides vacillated between tranquility and turbulence. In one moment I could float peacefully on the calm, glassy surface and then a moment later, a current would roll in and tumble me like the gold in a miner’s pan.
My life was often that way, my environment offering little control or support. But is was not that way when I was in the water - there it was all under my control and it’s where I learned to support myself.
The water has always been ( and remains ) my haven. Even in the tumble, I felt safe in its grasp. Intrinsically, I understood I was being held by something larger than life itself. Though not visible, it was undeniably felt at the core of my heart. Whatever the tides brought, I gladly surrendered.
I was happiest while boating on weekends, where in the light of day I was in full possession of both safety and freedom. Crossing Pillsbury Sound and playing at The Baths in Virgin Gorda were my favorite experiences. Some of my soul’s highest vibrational charges were experienced in those places. As I write this, they remain my favorite places on earth.
Between St. Thomas and St. John, Pillsbury Sound was usually part of the passage to our destination. Always entranced by the oceanic chaos of Pillsbury Sound, I loved how it rocked me to the core. The sensation of cresting off waves that seemingly paused gravity and then crashing back to the water and reconnecting with the Earth never ceased to thrill me. While everyone chose to hang out at the back of the boat, I always choose the bow.
Usually alone with my stems dangling off the boat placed me in a dreamlike state. Within the lush solitude of my thoughts, I’d imagine I was flying just above the sea.
I loved the water splashing my skin, leaving behind a salty glow and the wind muting everything except the sounds of splashing water. The rougher it got, the more it set my soul free. My heart still holds a vivid image of the reflection of the sky and my feet racing along with the bow on the surface of Pillsbury Sound.
The best trips were en route to the B.V.I. specifically, to The Baths in Virgin Gorda. It was my first true love that I’m still not over.
These were long day trips accompanied by intoxicated 1970’s free - range parents and their friends. I cherished their party-it-up contentment and subsequent distraction. No one ever told me "NO" or asked “ What the hell were you thinking?!” after I pulled what was usually referred to as another one of my "stunts.”
To my then 10 year old self, distracted adults was always a win-win and I usually took full advantage. At this age, I loved hurtling myself towards any adventure and always did so without a shred of fear.
At the Baths, my friends and I would leap from the boat and swim to shore, where we were free to explore the rocks and caves of the Baths for countless hours. I so loved the promise of magnificent beauty within the caves. This was long before the Baths were trampled by droves of vacationers. Many times our boat was one of two anchored at the beach. For me, it was where my sense of tranquility and freedom were most harnessed. To this day, no other location on earth has matched the experience of this place in offering me that feeling of tranquility and excitement of explorative bliss.
The entry created by boulders leaning onto one another was a tunnel that required some effort to navigate, and though there were many other ways through, I loved the slow reveal. There is something nice about that, yes?
Once in, it was pure beauty. It was majestic, expansive, and serene; a place where glistening streams of sunlight found their way through the rock formation. Beams illuminated select spaces throughout the natural grottoes and acoustic harmony was created by echo of water that rhythmically moved throughout. The scent of salt and granite so strong, it could be tasted - giving olfactory balance to the entire experience.
Once, my friend and I challenged one another to go “ all the way through” until there were no more caves. Convinced we were strong enough swimmers, we headed deep into the caves. Like typical ten year olds, we felt invincible which I believe is truly a beautiful piece of the human experience.
As we swam deeper into the caves, the tide and volume increased as did the size of the fish. We swam Island style, no masks or snorkels with our eyes wide open underwater coming for air when we could no longer hold our breath. My heart pulsed and pounded in my ears as my mind raced to integrate the rapidly evolving environment while I adjusted my swim strategies to meet the water’s increasing skill demand.
Soon, my friend and I were out, standing there on rocks and looking out at water where Devil’s Bay and Stoney Bay flowed together. We were beyond psyched. Unable to see the boat where our parents were hanging out, we believed it was not too far away.
Looking at the water, we knew it would be a tough swim because the currents along the rocks were very rough. We guessed it was likely stronger than the surface revealed … all calculated with our young brains.
Neither one of us were willing, or able for that matter, to turn back into that cave. We were, however, united in our willingness to surrender to something larger than life itself. We were both driven by the feeling within the very core of our hearts.
Once in the water, it only took seconds for the fear to set into my soul - because yes - the currents were much stronger than they appeared. The effort required to swim against the currents and clear myself from the rocks was formidable. My legs, arms, lungs worked tirelessly as I focused on reaching the boat, which was much farther away than I'd assumed.
Never, for a moment did I fully comprehend that I was literally swimming for my life; I was simply following my heart and swimming.
Swimming together, my friend and I kept our promise to keep watch on one another. However, the intense task of that swim and the rewards of its worthy efforts were individually earned as we made it back to the boat.
It was only when the adults shrieked and freaked did we realize the literal depth of our choice to go all the way through the caves and swim out into the ocean and return to our boat. And oh, the litany of punishments that were hurled at me, the tightening of the noose on many weekends to come, the anger for the fear my actions induced was unrelenting - much like the waters I had mastered only minutes before.
Wrapped in a towel, I stood on the boat deck and listened to a detailed account of emotional toll my newest transgression, this act of idiocy and lunacy, had induced. The words were muffled because all I could hear was my soul screaming out in victory as I looked out at where I had just come from.
The tides I swam against and through and ultimately overcame taught me much about myself and introduced me to my very own fortitude. It was love at first taste.
And here’s the thing: I was grounded for weeks, and I missed some social events that at the time felt really important. Many tears fell during my subsequent weekend incarcerations. But never, not for one moment, did I regret the swim through the caves out to Devils Bay. For I, and only I, owned that moment and the beauty and the growth it yielded my soul.
I still own it.
And, I’m still deeply bonded to my fortitude. It’s the love that never leaves, always supports, heralds my potential and rushes to my side when I lean too far off track.
That childhood experience taught me to grasp life’s beauty, befriend my wild hearted approach towards life and to trust my judgement. Most importantly, I learned not to turn away from the promise of whatever growth every experience may yield. Recently, I followed my heart into one of life's wildest currents and fortitude was there when it was time to swim through to the other side. And once again I was reminded, that I am worthy of all life’s gifts and that I possess the fortitude to overcome any current whether seen or unexpected.
Whatever tides roll into my life, if I feel it at the core of my heart, you can believe I will gladly surrender myself to that moment. Because like that childhood experience in the water it’s all under my control. I am a woman who is not willing, or able for that matter, to turn back into any cave. It is my fortitude that grounds me as I move forward in the life I claim for myself.
I will always own it.
© coypright 2015
by laura phoenix power all rights reserved