Sunday, July 22, 2012

Walking on Water

I'm not a natural athlete. As a kid I tried hard, which spared me from being the last girl picked for the softball or basketball teams, but I was never a standout player. While I had good endurance on the track, I was a klutz when it came to gymnastics—even cartwheels were pretty much beyond me. So, no one was more surprised than me when, the first time I tried waterskiing, I immediately succeeded in standing up on the skis. I was a natural.

Girls bunks, Camp Tamarac.
I learned to waterski on Yokum Pond in Becket, Massachusetts, site of Camp Tamarac, my beloved sleep-away camp. I spent eight weeks there each summer for four years, starting at age ten. What Tamarac lacked in luxury, it made up for in camp spirit and an amazing array of activities, among them scuba diving and waterskiing.

You might well wonder what kind of scuba diving experience could be had in a pond in the Berkshires. Surprisingly, Yokum Pond reached 50 feet at its greatest depth. Still, its murky waters didn't allow for the type of diving one might expect to find in the Caribbean. In fact, you could barely see two feet in front of you. Nevertheless, during my last summer at Tamarac, the camp began offering its campers scuba classes and certification.

I enthusiastically signed up for the scuba program. All progressed well until one sunny day in August. I had come to the surface after a short dive and was using a snorkel while I swam back to the dock. The snorkel was necessary because the tank on my back was heavy and unwieldy, so I couldn't get my head above water to take breaths. As I paddled toward the dock with my flippered feet, feeling pleased with my diving progress, I allowed my head to sink a little too low. Instead of air, I suddenly found myself swallowing a sample of silty pond water.