europe: shades of water

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I'll begin with the smallest thing, and the biggest thing. Water. We could start by exploring what it means to see water, apart from this trip to Europe. We could start by saying that to set your eyes on water is to have some sort of release. To feel, even just by looking at it, weightless. We could say that being next to water lowers the temperature by a few degrees, even just in your imagination.

We could start in Dover, where the water is opaque and grey-green. The beach was made of egg sized rocks and the waves coming in pulled at them and made the most absorbing sound.

And the wind whipped across it, from the land which isn't so far away, although when you're standing on one end of the English Channel the water still seems endless like it always does. 

The sky in Dover was grey and overcast and still, I never saw such a beautiful combination of colors. Until Switzerland, where we visited very briefly the edge of the country, which holds a lake named after the city of Geneva. The lake holds the purest water. So clear you could see all the pebbles on the bottom. It was a hot day and I never wanted anything so much as I wanted to dive into that lake. 

I would be surrounded by solid sea glass, water so clear I would easily see the sky even under the surface. Water which on such a sunny and clear day, reflected back up the brightest turquoise color. So rich you wouldn't think it could exist in the world. Water does that. It becomes colors you didn't imagine possible. 

Then in Marseille we took a boat ride to visit the Calanques on the southern coast of France. It was a big tourist boat and it cut through the surf even with the wind pushing the water up into steep little peaks. The Mediterranean coast of France is a trio of three colors. The pure blue water, the dry white rocks, and the bright blue sky above it all. 

On our way back to the city, the boat made its way across the water, and the cloud rolled in, a summer storm. Steele and I stood on the rocking boat and watched the water change before our eyes. Once the clouds covered the sky, the water deepened to the darkest navy, a color that reflected no light. The formal color of the sea. 

A few days later we made our way to the small town of Cassis, where you can hike to the Calanques instead of taking a boat. We hiked 45 minutes and were rewarded with the scene of the water cutting its way through the rocks. They're like small skinny bays, little inlets that the sea has made over years and years. We scrambled up the dry rocks and gnarled trees, stopping at times to perch over this bowl of water. 

The water in the Calanques is warm Mediterranean sea water. Blue-green, but more green than blue. And always reflecting back the pale rocks. Clear enough to see the dark mossy shapes below. (Clear enough to make your heart beat faster with the thought of how much open space is beneath you while you float on the surface.)

This is the water I swam in. 

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