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My first dive by Friederike von Koenigswal

I saw pictures, in books and films, of bright-colored fish and expanses of blue. But you don't really know anything from pictures taken back from the sea. You have to submerge yourself in it, the ocean, in order to understand.

I went swimming, in lots of seas, held my breath and dipped my head under. I saw the water's surface from below, the crown of the sun's rays.
But underwater is no place for human beings. There's no air, and soon you have to surface. In my mind I had a fantasy, a longing for the broad blue spaces beneath the waves. I wanted to immerse myself in them completely and didn't know but whether I might be afraid in this foreign world. He knew the ins and outs, underwater, knew the laws and dangers, knew the beauty and sensual attractions.

On land, he introduced me to the equipment and the techniques that would help me become a fish. He told me how I was to behave there, underwater, in the company of plants and animals that did not invite human beings into their element. He knew that I had no way of knowing whether I would be afraid and panic. I could only try it out. With him. I knew that he would look after me, that he wouldn't let me out of his sight, not even to see how I would do. That's all there is, all you can hope for, the first time.

We submerge. The regulator is louder than I thought, and one beat of my flippers takes me farther than I wanted.
Slow, slower and more slowly still. Breathe in, breathe out, calm and even calmer.
I can see. I can breathe. I can see. That's it. I'm underwater. He's there, next to me. He looks at me. Notices everything about me. Underwater all you have nothing to speak with but your eyes and a couple of fingers. Underwater, behind the goggles, your eyes are bigger and your gaze is clearer. He would see the slightest trace of nervousness. He'd see if I was trying to act brave or if I was simply happy - as I am now. He grins, using nothing but his eyes. He tares my diving vest and I become weightless. It's very light. I'm very light. Slow and slower still. Breathe in, breathe out. I am all eyes. Spaces opens up around me, bit by bit. Everything is new. No detail, no matter how small, reminds me of anything. The sea grass sways to the gentle motion of the waves. Sunlight stands in individual rays on the ocean floor. Grains of sand, floating in the water, sparkle. I let a bit of air out of the vest, dive deeper, with hardly a beat of my flippers, breathing as though asleep. Fish hide, and starfish creep in their funny way. I discover tiny snails and camouflaged marine animals I don't know the names of. Beyond is borderless blue, as big as the ocean, intoxicating. I turn my head to one side. He's there. Next to me. I'm here. In the ocean. I look at him and wish I could say how beautiful everything is. He nods.

I have to laugh when I surface. Every time. I often tried to write about it, to describe diving. But underwater isn't a word. You have to submerge in it and see it for yourself. You can't stay there. In the end you always have to surface. But every time I want to remain there, in the ocean. What remains is longing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Friederike von Koenigswal




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