Once Icarus went for a swim. The gentle waves that met his shins, then thighs, then chest as he strode away from shore washed over his mind as well. How long had he stood looking out across the wine-dark sea and listening to his father hammer away at those endless contraptions day after day? The old man pausing only to give him yet one more piece of advice he hadn’t asked for. Like today’s lecture on the gruesome consequences of getting too much sun at an early age. The call of the sea birds had been a relief from the confident assertions about what to do and what not to do in life and what dangers awaited those who were heedless of the future. What heed was he supposed to take? He was only a youth, with a youth’s love of the moment. Was he supposed to awake every dawn having a list of potential catastrophes that might befall him that day already in mind? Worrying about what of everything he’d gained in life might be lost through one false move? What had he gained by this age, anyway, that he couldn’t do without if need be? With apprehensions like these, no wonder the old man devoted so much time to working out ways to escape risk and then calculating their odds of success or failure. Didn’t he ever gaze out to sea as Icarus did without figuring in the force of the currents, the height of the waves, and the distance at which land would be lost from sight? Didn’t he remember how little all three mattered when he was young himself? What chances he must have taken when the tide ran high and the winds were strong, wasting no thought on peril, seen or unseen! Well away from shore now, Icarus pulled through the growing crests and troughs with a relaxed motion. He’d never been this far out before but felt in his shoulders and legs a power equal to his first strokes away from the beach. His body rolled in the salt warmth of the water as if born to it, and when he looked down between breaths, he didn’t have visions of those lost at sea, pale bodies drifting beneath him. Instead he saw only the flickering of the sunlight as it sought out the limit of its own power in the depths. Turning on his back, the youth faced up into the sun and floated, arms outstretched, in the bright shimmers it cast over the surface. Their radiance continued to flutter across the back of his eyelids if he closed them, while the sea continued to buoy him in its embrace. An exhilarating joy filled his breast, as though drawn from every part of the sky to this one point in all the world. How far couldn’t he swim if he wished now, and what new lands couldn’t he reach? Wherever these waters might carry him, he would find a home. And even were he to die in the attempt, it would be his death, not an unwitting end but one accepted in full. With that confidence, Icarus tilted his head back until his ears were below water, where the voice of the deep was loud enough to drown any distracting cries that might reach him from shore.
Copyright © 2006 by Geoffrey Grosshans