A Tribute: To those at the bottom of the ocean
The slightest shift in the water stirs up dirt, sending clouds and leaving the space around it murky.
On the seafloor, a shadow can be made out, tucked away in an undisturbed corner.
A movement, hardly detected. There is a second presence to be noted. Before with furtiveness, it waited; only choosing to be given away with a whisper
“You have to get up.”
The Shadow continues to lie still. “You ask something of me with such expectation.”
“Not, however, unachievable.”
The water is cold. Into itself, the shadow shrinks and grows weaker.
“You will not last down here. You need to get up.”
This prompting will be met with silence.
For a few minutes, hours, there is nothing.
Passing by, colorful fish flash their scales and stare at the obscure figure with judgment and enmity. Without another purpose, they watch, eyes bulging.
Finally, the Shadow has the words to respond.
“I can not swim.”
A crab claws its way out of its muddy bed and scurries away, kicking up sand.
When the particles settle again, a beam of warped light finds its way to the corner. The Shadow, in its gloomy form, draws its face to look.
Once, it had known a life above the surface; had chased the wind, danced on waves, greeted the sun, saluted the moon.
That was a day long since past.
Longing builds up in gravity, carrying hope on its back.
“You can swim: if you don’t let yourself sink.” The voice encourages.
With a heavy inhale, the shadowy creature sits up.
First, it slithers over the sand, then it crawls, until at last, dragging shells and sand with its heavy feet, it walks.
A look back reveals nothing worth staying for; only swaying kelp.
A jump. A kick. Flapping its arms and scattering fish, trying to move upwards.
No longer a wretched shadow, but now just another strange creature in the expansive ocean depths.
Swirling currents lifting, pushing, carrying.
What it feels like to float.
What it is to be light, unburdened.
It is a long trip, no time for breaks. No time to go back.
It is hard.
It is hard to swim.
But compared to the relentless need for sun, everything else becomes irrelevant.
An old, wise Sun.
He reaches a hand out to the strange creature as it struggles to get out of the water.
Under his light, the creature is given a name and identity.
A new form.
Not a shadow, not a creature from the depths, but one with arms, legs, skin.
“You are a human again. Do not be afraid, you will know what you need to do.”
The human is beautiful.
She shakes seaweed from her hair and allows sand to cover her ankles like shoes.
She wants to thank the Sun for its gift, but when she looks up her eyes burn.
The Sun warns, “Remember not to trust all you see, all you hear. It will lead to repeated sorrow.”
The human kneels in the warm sand and cups water in her hands.
To her, letting the water drain through her fingers has monumental meaning; she is no longer trapped under it, in shame and fear.
With the Sun watching over her, she is safe.
His warmth is welcoming, inspiring.
She admires the Sun for his strength.
The Sun is independent; he is not limited by any other.
He chooses to share but it not dependant on reciprocation.
Once She had been jealous of these things, wanting them for herself.
Now She knows those are things not given without trial.
The bottom of the ocean seems far away.
A bad dream.
In the sky, a seagull draws patterns in the air with a pencil.
FREE - it writes.
There is peace replacing the misery the Human had felt under the crushing weight of the sea.
Yet it can not last.
“This is not your home.” The Sun speaks softly, kindly.
“You have a ways to go.”
Something teases her, tangling her smooth hair and blowing sand in her eyes.
It is familiar and uncomfortable.
It is dangerous.
It is loud and overwhelming.
It howls through the trees, raising its voice to mock the Human.
She hesitates, wanting to run.
The Human strains her ears, begging the Sun to tell her what to do.
The Sun has gone silent.
An unseen force trips her, sends her lunging to regain balance.
She knows its face. She has fought it before: a lost battle.
The Human yells; a fierce cry full of hate.
“I will not let you take this from me Wind. I won’t let you trick me with your smooth words!”
She knows the Sun can not tell her where to go.
He will follow at a distance.
If He can not, He will send the Moon.
The Human ignores the Wind.
She pushes against it, walking towards the tree line.
There it will be intimidated by the roots, trunks, branches that are too solid to bully.
The leaves welcome her.
She laughs, for she did not give in to the Winds taunts.
She tells herself she is strong.
The Wind whines, thinking the Human rude for her hostile reception.
The Human is friends with the forest, knowing there is a shared love for the Sun.
And an opposite for the Wind that takes without giving back.
A stream offers help, which is gratefully accepted.
There is somewhere she needs to go, she can find it by following the trickling stream.
She speaks her story out loud, to herself and to the breath of living things.
“I lived on a mountain. My mountain was raised above all the Island.
A revered sight for the sun, land, and sea.
I went to the Sea to show what I had under my rule.
She laughed and wished me the best.
“Over thousands of years, I have only gotten bigger. I still can not control everything in my waters, I still do not have the power to understand those in my depths.”
I boasted of my mountain to the Land.
The Land was polite.
He said, “your mountain is second to no other, yet I built it.”
I boasted of my mountain to the Sun.
The Sun was patient.
He advised me to be humble, “it is magnificent, and not yours. To a mountain you are small.”
I was angry He was indifferent to my words.
I wanted to show them my place in this world was equal to theirs.
I cried all morning.
Disrespect, hurt, anger, loneliness circled around me, pecking with sharp beaks.
The Wind heard my wails.
He blew my tears away and raised my chin.
“What makes you so miserable?”
I gladly told him.
He shook his head as if in sympathy for my sorrows.
“I can not believe they do not agree with you. It is obvious you are not deserving of such criticism. I would almost dare to say they are jealous.”
He validated my anger and hurt, making me think I was right all along.
“Go stand on that ledge,” He said. “Raise your arms and look out as far as you can. Stand tall and declare your supremacy for all to hear. I will use my wings to carry your voice and make it loud so no one will miss it.”
I leaped up, eager to obey his plan.
Standing on a ledge that stretched out over the ocean, I was boiling with excitement.
But the Wind pushed me.
Over the ledge and into the sea below.
I can not swim.
That is what I thought as I hit the surface.
I was a fool for listening, I realized.
I am not powerful.
Not being able to swim, I sank.
To the bottom of the sea, where I curled up and hid in shame.”
The end of my story.
The Human allowed tears to drain from her face, emotions raw.
If anything had heard her, it did not come forward.
Birds chirped and sang a song of forgiveness.
She sang with them.
Her path introduced the base a rock, a mountain.
The Stream said, “I can not go any farther with you, I’m sorry.”
“I know, thank you for coming this far.”
The Human turns away.
She will be lonely again, but not for long.
She needs will climb to the top.
She pauses, thoughtful.
Not her home.
It belongs to the Wind now.
The Human is afraid.
Afraid of several things; of failing again, of the Wind, of disappointing the Sun, and ending where she had started.
A voice speaks,
“Why do you doubt yourself? You have already done hard things.”
She straightens her shoulders.
She has somewhere she needs to be.
She can not be late.
Evening comes, passes without acknowledging the Human on the mountainside.
With the last traces of light fading, the Human will have the stars for company.
Climbing, scraping, tramping.
A single shape outlined in the night.
Her feet are worn, her hands sore.
And still, she walks on to the top.
And when she reaches the top, there is hardly a chance for victory.
At the top, the Wind had waited.
Ready to greet her.
However, the Human was not caught off guard.
The Wind had claimed the mountain as His own, after he had won it.
She stared into the malevolent face, unblinking.
She said, “This is not my mountain.”
The Wind grinned,
“You know where you belong.”
She was not giving up.
The Wind thought she was here to take back the mountain.
She had somewhere she needed to be.
She could not be late.
The Human looked up at the stars, winking down at her.
They were there to support her.
“I fell into the ocean and hid.
I will not go down there again.”
The Wind blew gusts in her face, laughed as she stumbled for balance.
He rolled stones and sticks into piles and scattered them again.
He baited the Human with whispers of greatness she could never have.
She stood her ground.
The Wind was angry.
She was not as much fun he hoped.
He pushed her backward, on a ledge directly over the sea.
She was no match for him really.
With every gust, her footing slipped.
With every breath of wind, she came closer to the edge.
He was playing with her now.
She was not as naive as last time, but just as human; vulnerable, defenseless.
With one final thrust, She teetered over the water.
The Human did not try to fight him.
She did not try to regain balance.
She knew the Wind would only push her again.
And to no one in particular, she said,
“I wanted to be wonderful, and I am limited. Now I have been to the bottom, I came back. I learned what was important to me. I do not own a mountain, yet I have earned my place.”
Her eyes scanned the sky, speaking to the stars.
And when the Wind was winding up,
She stepped off the edge.
For a minute, the Wind stopped; uncertain.
In a way, he had gotten what he wanted.
But he lost in a way he did not understand.
He glided out, off the mountain, looking for where she had gone.
The ocean was still.
No movement, no sound.
He looked at the mountain, at the beach, at the forest.
He looked up at the night sky.
The Human met his eyes, high above him now.
She was standing on a single star.
A star that had come down from the sky and held her in the air.
A star who was ready to show her the way home.
What it feels like to be Free.