early world


I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own. I pick it up, exile that I am, like the purple 'lucky stones' I used to collect with a white ring all the way round, or the shell of a blue mussel with it's rainbowy angel's fingernail interior; and in one wash of memory the colors deepen and gleam, the early world draws breath.  (from Ocean 1212-W - Sylvia Plath)

For Plath, the sea. For me, the cold Canadian lakes - some of which were so big they seemed like the sea. And the little sandy shored, pine-ringed lakes that we'd drive to on a weekend; my legs swinging and sticking to the leather beneath my short 1970s dresses. The regular peel and slurp of skin released from leather mingled with the car radio and my own low singing. Sometimes, to fade out raised voices in the front, I would sing harder. As we drove, I watched for patterns in the clouds that dominated the big skies. Some days, there would just be blue. A bright dazzle - just blue and the yellow disc of sun. 

At the lake, the first slap of cold against hot summer skin. The scent memory of sun cream and pine, earthy lake water and the rubbery swim hat I was sometimes made to wear. Then into the water and the freedom of moving further away from my non-swimming parents. My dad taught me to swim by making me arrow towards him underwater; and as he gradually moved further away I found myself to be a swimmer. The transition from the speed and grace and cool shadow underwater to the splash and struggle of swimming in the air was one I made reluctantly. So when the shouts and splashes and noises of a busy beach began to drown out my daydreams, I'd happily submerge and swim long, slow pulls underwater. That water is glass green in my memory, striped at intervals by the sun. 

My early world, encapsulated by those lakeside moments, is tucked inside my own seashell - ready to open at any time. I'm opening it now.

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Reader Comments (11)

i, too, am an exiled Ontario lake girl… summers were Lake Huron, strawberries and flourpot bread slathered with butter, digging for antlions, playing cards at the ramshackle golf club house and sleeping in sandy sheets. Love your distillation of it;
sends me there too.
May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana G.
Kate... This is so lovely. I really enjoyed entering your remembered world. You've taken be back into my past, my slow pulls underwater.
Diana - in that single sentence I'm back at Lake Huron, wishing I could hold that bread and jam in my hand. Yes, digging for antlions! and the curious pleasure of sandy sheets (and the smell of sun warmed skin that never quite washed away)

Denise - I like to think of us both in our underwater worlds. Funny things, memories. Sometimes they just pop up, whole.
June 1, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house
Sometimes I become enveloped in memories just the same way! But it seems I can never express them as eloquently as you just have! We were more of a seaside family, but I remember several lake visits, the particular smell and feel of lake water...
June 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersally
lovely! and describes very nearly my own underwater experiences too!
June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Sally, isn't it funny how the very feel of water against skin can be so different? I love that salty heaviness of sea and the sensation as it dries out in the sun - you make me want to rush to the sea!

Monica,thank you. a fellow underwater baby!
June 1, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house
What a beautifully poetic post.
I completely connected to it as I spent 11 summers living on Lake Michigan.

All the best,
June 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary C. Nasser
Hi Kate,
Thanks for your comment on my blog (hope you liked the pasta ;-). I'm so thrilled to be doing the print swap and so looking forward to having a good trawl through your blog, and your photography is so so beautiful. What a lucky swapee I am!
Jo x
June 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo
It seems almost unnecessary to comment on a post such as this, because I'm afraid that by doing so, I'll disturb the sense of 'rightness' it conjures up. So beautifully written, I really adore this.
June 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHila
Ah, you are a poet.
Come visit some day, ok?
July 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

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