After The Little Mermaid came out in 1989, I spent many many hours in my grandparents’ pool reenacting scenes. Especially with the wave crashing over Ariel just as she hits a high note on the “Part of Your World” reprise. My grandmother was not happy about all of the water on the sidewalk, but it was necessary for my art.
When I got to high school, I was thrilled that our school had a swim team. By then my grandparents had moved from their poolside home to one by a lake that had way too much duck poop to swim in. So this was my chance to be back in the chlorine and “Under the sea”. Front stroke felt familiar to me and breaststroke provided plenty of air between long strokes. The backstroke led to a few gallons up the nose over two years, but okay overall. It was the butterfly that was my ultimate nemesis. I would try and try each season to figure out the overhand arm swing plus arched back, with forward propelling by legs cemented together in a dolphin kick. But this former mermaid was a “Poor Unfortunate Soul” stuck in the shallow end with no finish line in sight.
So seeing Michael Phelps fly through the water at the Olympics using the very moves that left me half-drowning was nothing short of amazing. He made something that I viewed as impossible into an easy afternoon splash in the pool.
Watching Phelps, and other professional athletes, helps me recognize how few things are truly “impossible”. With enough time and effort, perhaps I could move forward with the butterfly. If I spent a few years studying French, I could translate “Les Poissons”. And if I invested more than a few minutes every few days on Bumble, perhaps some nice guy would want to “Kiss the Girl.”…But I digress….
Nothing is completely impossible. Its all about what amount of time, risk, and pride you are willing to put on the line. Next time in the pool, I’ll try again on that butterfly to see if I can move a few feet forward. What’s the worst that could happen in the “Fathoms Below”?
PS – Shout out to all of the “Daughters of Triton” who hoped to have mermaid hair after a swim in the ocean. You are beautiful on the inside, even if your hair is a hot mess.
#52sparks is my year-long writing series based on an art prompt challenge. The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron). The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.