I went to the beach last week to chase the setting sun, but I was wearing my bionic leg so I couldn’t even dip in a toe to the water (for fear of shorting out my circuitry).  Such an ache I felt to leave leg and clothes in a heap on the beach and just swim…

The Mary Oliver poem below, especially the first stanza, reminds me of the day a few years ago when I received the pathology pictures from the hospital where I had my cancer treatments–including the images of my amputated limb.  It was tougher than I thought it would be to look at those images, and afterwards I went for a long swim.  As I let the water support me I ‘felt’ my leg there with me, for the first time in a long while.  It was a powerful moment to reconnect with something that I’d lost and mourned for so many years, my body truly re-membering itself as I moved through the water…

And this poem also reminds me of how I struggle against gravity, where every step can be a huge effort…and how I long for the ocean–knowing that at sea is where I feel more free and comfortable (and alive) than I ever do on land.

The Sea
by Mary Oliver

Stroke by
stroke my
body remembers that life and cries for
the lost parts of itself–

fins, gills
opening like flowers into
the flesh–my legs
want to lock and become
one muscle, I swear I know
just what the blue-gray scales
the rest of me would
feel like!
paradise! Sprawled
in that motherlap,
in that dreamhouse
of salt and exercise,
what a spillage
of nostalgia pleads
from the very bones! how
they long to give up the long trek
inland, the brittle
beauty of understanding,
and dive,
and simply
become again a flaming body
of blind feeling
sleeking along
in the luminous roughage of the sea’s body,
like victory inside that
insucking genesis, that
roaring flamboyance, that
beginning and
conclusion of our own.