Friday, September 10, 2010

Independence by Seija Kerttula


© Seija Kerttula

I hopped happily on the long quay, towards the water. I had a pair of shiny new shoes on and the water looked black. It was not a lake but a deep natural pond, surrounded by marshy land. On the edge I stopped, but kept hopping. Suddenly one of my shoes flung to the water. I watched after it, shocked. Without thinking I jumped.

I sank deep down in the cold pond, not feeling the bottom. The unexpected change of element was baffling and left no time for fear. Still while falling I knew I might die. I could see the sun rays above the green water covering me become more and more distant. I remembered being told that ponds have no bottoms; they just go on and on. Unexpectedly, a recollection of what my father had once said entered my mind: ”If you are under water and curl yourself into a ball, you’ll move up to the surface.” I did so and it worked, I started rising towards the surface. I was relieved but not surprised; the successful application of the theory merely verified it to be a law of nature. I could see the brownish roots of the grass coming out of the edge soil and with some effort managed to grasp them. Finally I got my head through the surface. Between the wet hair plastered at my face I could see and hear my little brother run away crying that I was drowning. I had already struggled myself to the ground when my mother came hurrying. I said, choking: ”I did not drown, after all.”

We walked a couple of kilometres to our home. The sun was shining. My hair and clothes were dripping and I only had one shoe on. Butterflies flew around us playfully, grasshoppers made hot-summer noise. We passed a pile of rusted old bars of iron near one of our strawberry places. It was one of the exotic spots in our kingdom, which was nearly isolated from the rest of the world. We reached our small house on the top of the hill, in the middle of woods.

This was the year of my first disillusions. Facing a potential death was not one of them. It belonged to the drowsy childhood fairytale in which you never question anything, not one thing in life. A child’s life is intact, whole and perfect, without wants and desires others than those for basic needs: food, sleep and warmth. If there is the minimum of love, you never notice anything is lacking.