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The mermaid and the swimming pool

The fish out of water wants to just grow legs and walk around like the other creatures on this strange land…

Sure, she’d have to learn the customs and the language, but how hard could that possibly be? All the others seem to make a good go at it — their prescriptive social order and cohabitation habits.

The rules, just follow them and you’ll fit in like another piece of the bi-ped populace, she thinks. Until they ask where you’re from or where you’ve been… and the stories become more interesting than her actual 3-dimensional self. Not to mention that after all these years of seeking, she still isn’t quite certain where she’s headed.

That said, the mermaid embraces the freedom of wandering. She has the energy and curiosity and, what, guts, legs, fins (???) to have the kinds of experiences that seem beyond the norm… The thing that makes her, her becomes the thing of wonder to others [which makes the mermaid duly wonder, am I a freak or fantasy?].

She absorbs the life and culture and food and nature and landscapes and structures and history and sounds and stories as effortlessly as breathing the air above the water… The inspiration to explore deeper, drawn from the roots and branches of the forests, the pulsations of cities, the sunbaked flatlands, the powdered-sugary desert dunes, the sparse, jagged rock face that peaks and then soars above treeline. How? and Why? at the root of the meandering.

And below the surface, the sheer expanse, the possibility to be simultaneously weightless and held, the sensory-overload and the sensuality of the colours and shapes and critters is like a revitalising bath in an ebbing and flowing under-space; the flower-like soft corals, the urchins and anemones and sea fans and life that comes in configurations not unlike Dr. Seuss characters…

It’s a place of wonder, this planet.

How can the mermaid explain, really explain, the ways to use all your senses to feel the pulse and the breath of a place? How does she even begin to describe how the energy of the sea (and, too, the forests and mountains and jungles and deserts) chooses certain ones, and that she can see it in their hearts. Do they care?

And how can anyone even begin to understand how she’s left at the end of the day with an encyclopedia’s worth of stories in her head, a feature-length film’s worth of images dancing on the brain before eyes shut for the night.

Her penultimate thought is that many of these land-locked souls live like they’re in a box, a zone in which the familiar is more than enough. It’s like being a mermaid in a swimming pool, she thinks. The brightly-painted walls shutting other out.

And the last thought, before sleep prevails, is that she’s still a mermaid, which makes her different than all the other fish. Planted, yet free; restless, yet calm; fulfilled, yet empty. The moon controls the tides.


Feet or non, she considers, you’re a mermaid out of water; a mermaid that only wants to go home…if only she could fathom where that is.


NB: Sometimes I feel like an alien in my own skin. It’s like I’ve arrived too early or too late, like the party started but I didn’t get the right memo, or there’s a whole set of rules I’ve either just not bothered to learn or that are so complex they’ve just gone straight over my head. It’s on these days that I go deep inside my thoughts and ask myself where I’m most comfortable, what place feels most like home, where I feel most free.

The answer comes clearly, from the farthest-flung and least-mucked-up places: the mountains, the forest, the sea.