It's the Water...

"It's the water that unites us," the woman said, glancing out the window as if she could see the people on the land she was referring to, the north, south and west shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. To the east there was only more water, the open Atlantic and then, Europe.

On the other side of the continent now, Pacific, peaceful in character and intent, says the dictionary, under pacific. Utterly tranquil the evening of a hot July day, with low sunbeams spotlighting what the neighbours call a rasta boat. Peaceful in intent, but a cold slap when skin meets water. Soon silky, better. The surface patterns break light; can't see a thing beneath, not here, at this depth; but there are things, living beings like seals, fish, jellyfish that wash on shore at a certain time of year, crabs.  Other shelled creatures, all invisible from this top layer where sudden chilly currents flood my arms so that they feel almost separate, wings; then, just as suddenly, warm again, as if a body has passed through, like when you choose a seat someone has left. Could be it was something large. There have been dolphins in this part of Howe Sound, orcas further out, beyond the gap between two islands, in the open straight for sure. Recently closer, along the ferry route. Elusive. If you look for them, you never see them, but they have been here, even grey whales spouting in front of a beach yoga class.

Swimming alone, fingers together to make paddles pushing back in arcs as if I were fashioning snow angels on my stomach, legs kicking out. Mountains close enough to reach but not by swimming, not that close.  Only eyes reach the stony tops and forested slopes whose foundations rest in the sea. Sun bursting broken through foliage, then emerging whole for an instant as the dock comes closer on the return. When a boat has sped by, or the offshore wind picks up, the water responds with wavy displacement. From eye level, opaque hills with white crests immediately break into crazy designs of dark and darker, shiny, a dog's wet coat, or a duck's, but not those at all, just water, swelling. Stop, bob; let the water hold, slip into ear, splash into eye. Taste of salt.

The standard greeting, as neighbour meets neighbour on the dock: how's the water? And all kinds of theories. Best time to swim is when the tide is flooding in over warmed rocks. Better when the air is colder. Not warm until July, even August.  In fact, the temperature varies little. Always colder at the bottom, milder at the surface, but seldom higher than 15 degrees celsius. A few degrees more perhaps as summer peaks, but never as balmy as Hawaii or Bali.  Yet, on the whole, the North Pacific is warmer than the South Pacific, and that is because there is more coastline in the North. Also, because cold water from Antarctica enters the South Pacific, whereas most of the cold outflow from the Arctic Ocean moves into the Atlantic on the transpolar drift.

Walking home, stopping to look back: the surface is rippled, fretted. There are no hills at all.
Tides, upwellings, currents swirling from one side of the planet to another, it's the water that unites us.