breathing underwater

I have recurring dreams, some unsettling, others uplifting and many that are neither, just a chain of seemingly unrelated mundane dream happenings. One kind of dream I have isn’t recurring in terms of plot but more in terms of its nature, its sensation, and my awareness of that feeling. The sensation I enjoy is breathing underwater. It’s kind of akin to dreams of flying, like those in which I rise up on my toes and gently, effortlessly lift off to soar. It’s not only the flying that is so amazing and wonderful, but the utter confidence that I can do it.

In the dreams where I breathe underwater it's unclear if I am submersed in a lake, or river, or an ocean—perhaps none of these. Rather, the existing landscape simply morphs into an underwater scene as I float weightless, suspended in a tepid current hovering over a rolling, verdant terrain. For a fraction of a dream-second I pause, conscious of the fact that there is no air, that I am sheathed heavily in water. Then slowly, deeply I inhale through my nose. My lungs drink this river so fluidly and naturally—like air—my mind and body surrender to its current, without a care in the world, only the faith that I can breathe. Everything melts away revealing only this serene feeling, this Utopian state, this Xanadu.

I often wonder if my dreams take me under because of the years I spent playing in the water holding my breath for sharks and minnows, diving for pennies, or trying with my lithe, flaxen-haired teammates to capture a greased watermelon, which by its surreal spatial slow motion half floating-half sinking manner eluded our grasp.

My boy Calvin has begun experimenting in the bath holding his breath, dipping his face under water for a time. He comes up red and takes a deep breath. It scared Michael the first time he saw it, and he grabbed for Calvin's arm instinctively. I think it’s cute, my little fish-pie taking after his mama with a fearless joy of water. I’m glad he’s learning these laws of nature, while at the same time defying them—defying gravity—with the water's buoyancy.

I wonder if Calvin dreams of breathing underwater, too. I hope he does.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. Hi Christy, I love this photo..Our Margot is a little fish too, our bathroom is usually flooded by the time she has finished her bath but the joy and freedom of her body in water is worth every soaking:)
    did you get my email? my email address is pcscurtis@gmail.com

  2. I taught swimming when I was in high school and college, I often dreamt of flying or breathing under water. Flying most often began with treading air, while breathing under water was so real I would coach myself to remember it was not a dream and that all I had to do was take a deep breath under water and I would be fine. Those dreams stopped with the conclusion of my teaching. I miss those dreams!