I have a long-expired PADI certificate (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Back in my youthful days of rock climbing, kayaking, spelunking and backpacking, Chris and I took a scuba diving class while living in Princeton, New Jersey. I don’t remember how many weeks the course lasted, but certification required passing a test in the water, obviously. The body of water chosen was an extremely cold lake/quarry somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania. The water was not very clear. All I remember is the shock of seeing another student’s face underwater. Can skin be that white? I looked at my own hands. I was unnerved. I imagined all my blood high-tailing it to my heart to escape the cold water, which was reaching inward. Didn’t my heart care about my extremities? I did. It was, thankfully, a quick test, and no one had any interest in diving for fun that day.
I only dove once more using that certification. We were visiting Chris’ parents while they vacationed in Florida and we signed up to go diving with an outfitter in John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park. The water was much warmer than my first experience and crystal clear. The dive was magical. While I recall the variety and color of the fish and felt excitement to be so close to them, what I remember best is how I could move. The floating slowly and the ability to move up and over a barrier without using hands and feet added a spatial dimension that I’d only ever experienced in dreams where I fly. I know there aren’t more than three spatial dimensions just because I was underwater – after all there is an ocean floor– it is just that it felt so. See http://www.askamathematician.com/2014/11/q-can-a-human-being-survive-in-the-fourth-dimension/ for a fun and confusing explanation on living in three spatial dimensions. I think it was the effect of feeling weightless underwater and the ability to move down headfirst without crashing that contributed to this novel and freeing feeling.
Over the years I’ve thought about how that dive felt. Ironically, the memory always comes to me when I’m landlocked with only my own sweat dripping off my skin to connect me with any salt water. There are no fish to peer at or oxygen tanks to fuss with. My feet never leave the ground, well not at the same time at least, and yet I am reminded of scuba diving. What activity could possibly connect my body with the memory of diving? Believe it or not, picking berries.
I have to twist, bend from the waist and peer upside down at the underside of the bushes. I can miss berries from a bush I was just attending to and only notice them when I see them from a different vantage point. Sometimes I stretch far (that’s when one foot leaves the ground) for that perfect berry just out of reach and I have to remind myself that I cannot gracefully float over to get it – and crashing into a raspberry thicket would ruin my flight of fancy. This body memory does not happen with any other fruit or vegetable that I’ve ever picked. I can’t explain it, but I enjoy the feeling. And if I’m not really diving, I’m at least getting a great yoga experience in with my daily hour of collecting. Right now my berry diving allows me to collect blueberries, and red and black raspberries. Soon I’ll swim over to the wineberries. Blackberries will round out my summer diving season.
These days I don’t have to spend a lot of money or even live near water to enjoy some diving. I do it every year in berry season. Who can beat a diving session that results in fresh berries, sorbet, or fruit for jams and cobblers? I can’t say I’d be too keen on parrotfish or wrasse jam anyway.