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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Personal Thoughts

Two Dimensions

June 2020

I’m a plunger. I think my courage and in I go. Into a lake with a large bergy bit on the other side. Take six strokes. Can’t breath, stand up, walk out. My two foolish fellow swimmers and I share a one-person sleeping bag in the nude shivering for the better part of twenty-four hours. That July weekend we’d gone to Mt. Jefferson for climbing practice, but because of a snowstorm, we went swimming.

As a child, I set my sights on Alaska or Yukon. Alaska has ocean, mountains along the ocean, and conifers— Sitka spruce, hemlock, cedar, and boreal spruce. That’s my home. After years of swimming, I arrived in a small coastal Alaska town with no pool. I eyed Icy Strait’s waters on quiet days, waded in summer and winter, reveled among the bioluminescence. Filled my soul with images of swimming among them.

Till one day….

I waded in. My feet grew longer, my toes and fingers webbed. I swam the surface. Stared into the deepening blackened space. Looked up at the mountains of Excursion Ridge. Swam passed mooring buoys. Looked at a skiff that was to be my rescue in case of need, that skiff whose side was at least a yard or maybe fifty feet. Decided I couldn’t flop into it if I were in trouble. I swam on. No, no rescue for me. I’m here where I belong. I am a harbor seal breathing behind a kayak with my huge brown eyes and long whiskers, my nose above the water. Those kayakers hear me, turn to look. We breathe in unison. I see you, I plunge below. Ah, there goes an appetizing school, but I’ve had my fill. So I swim on, headed to the beach of the two-mile-away shore.

I am sea otter. I roll over and over, enjoy the pleasure of the water moving my fur. Wash my face a few times. Plunge down for more sea cucumbers or those delicious crab who crawl the ocean floor or I dig up a delectable clam. I rise to the surface lie on my back, relax to eat the meal I rest on my belly.

Or I am a Steller sea lion. I’ll thrash any of these creatures—human, otter, or seal. Toss them about till they are dizzy to unconsciousness, cannot escape. Still I toss them about because it’s fun and I want to be sure this thing is dead. If I can’t find one of them, I’ll search for those salmon who leap their way towards their natal stream. Better yet, I’ll steal salmon or halibut off a troller’s line for my supper. Easy pickings.

Still she swims, stroke by stroke. Rolls on her back and looks at the tops of Excursion Ridge and the Fairweather Range. Glows in the parhelion as if it is there just for her. Sings her right calf to warmth in the 43-degree Mother’s Day waters of Icy Passage. Stroke by stroke she feels her body grow those thick dense hairs of otter fur. Her body warms, becomes sleek and the salt water is her home.

Years later, she swims at night in Tutka Bay. Jumps off the dock. Does not reach bottom, but comes up for air, her body aglow in bioluminescence. She dons a robe to cover her chilled hairless body. With a mouthful of salt water, she spits off the other side of the dock. Below her rings a perfect circle of bioluminescence. Her friends hold her tightly as she yearns to jump and float for hours stirring the watery prisms with her webbed hands as she watches the aurora dance above.

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