~ IN DEEP ~
Illustration by Ann Feild
ANN FEILD, “Swimming to Oblivion” (essay)
The writer, actor, and monologist, Spalding Gray, known for his wry social commentary, perished of his own volition in the icy waters between Staten Island and Manhattan’s southern tip. Known largely for his work Swimming to Cambodia, Mr. Gray had apparently long contemplated a watery end and had been thwarted in his attempts to achieve it in the past. His death shocked many, but not me. Given the title of his famous monolog, it was a poetically apt end, and I hope Mr. Gray found a moment’s ecstasy in his final decision.
Mr. Gray was not the only person who has sought the ultimate solace in drowning. Many artists, in fact or in fiction, have succumbed to their despair and walked, dived, or sunk to their ends in rivers, lakes, pools, or oceans.
Virginia Woolf, with stone-laden pockets, in a river.
Ophelia, with garlands of flowers, in a sylvan pool.
Joan Crawford, with shoulder pads, in the Pacific Ocean.
…Whereas I seek in the water only a brief respite from a frantic and confusing world, Spalding Gray and other drowning suicides sought and found oblivion, annihilation, and most of all, I hope, peace in their surrender. I think of these sad souls at times when I’m soaking in a tub, or diving into the deep end of a pool, or riding a wave at an ocean beach. Although I don’t care to join them, I can understand their surrendering to the magnetic pull of the deep.
TERESA ELGUEZABAL, “Pig on a Spit” (essay)
I’d survived G-tube feedings, fractured ribs, collapsed lungs, and breathing through a ventilator, and three orthopedic surgeries. Learn to swim. For a while, I concentrated on the back and side strokes. I bumped into other swimmers. Side stroke gave me a view of where I’d been. My front crawl strokes improved, but turning my head to inhale discombobulated me and I’d start to sink. To help me breathe through the front crawl, a friend offered a suggestion. “Think pig on a spit,” she said. “Its entire body turns in one plane.”
Next time in the pool, I visualize the pig on a spit and rotate my entire torso. With my elbow pointed high above the water line, I inhale, then roll back on my belly to exhale. It works. I don’t sink. My arms don’t flail. I don’t jerk my head up to gasp for air.
Teresa is writing a collection of essays about physical and spiritual recovery, and forgiveness. Her most recently published essay, “How I Rated,” appeared in the November 2015 Maryland Bar Journal.
JACK GUILFOYLE, “Breath” (short story)
I am drifting away on the ebbing tide. The crowd on the dock, along with the convergence of small boats and rescue divers, has covered my retreat. The man in the dinghy blocks my view of the woman I’ve rescued from drowning, but not before I see her turning in her seat, looking around. Would she recognize my face if she could see me? She is wiser now, I feel sure. Now she carries within her the secret of breath: that even the air we exhale has power to sustain. I’ve known this always: that we only use a portion of what we take in, that some of what we discard is still useful, vital. Now, without sharing a word, I have shared this with her. This is my moment. And it seems to me now that breathing just for myself is an extravagance, a vanity.
MARY PORTER, Swimming with the Current (book-length memoir in progress)
I first swam across the Chesapeake Bay when I was 45, five months after my fourteen-year-old daughter, Alicia, tried to kill herself. I’d signed up to do the 4.4 mile Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim before her suicide attempt and, despite, or perhaps because of it, I clung to training and to completing the swim as if it were a life raft. I swam for reasons that only became clear to me years later. I swam to take away her pain, to wash away my own. I swam to wrest something for myself from the chaos my life had become.
Two years later, I completed the swim again, stumbling across the distant shore line after a grueling three hours and thirty-four minutes in the water. A slow, but dogged swimmer, I was proud that I wasn’t one of the more than forty pulled from the water that year: 597 swimmers finished ahead of me; only two finished after. Still, a success.
EXCERPTS: Quarterly compilations of excerpted writing from the Deepdene Workshops. Excerpts are welcomed on any and all subjects. Selections are based, primarily, on how well I am able to identify, compile, and “name” themes. Just send your favorite sentences. -m
excerpts below are from June 2016...
~ RISKY BEHAVIOR ~
RICK SHELLEY, “Infestation” (short story)
Pete and Marley hung around the picnic table, swatting at the yellow jackets buzzing over bowls of coleslaw, beans, and sliced ham. Hot dogs sputtered in the wavy heat of the charcoal grill–and a striped watermelon, stabbed by a knife, sat in the middle of a checkered tablecloth.
Rick is the writer of a short story, “The Monkey Man Escapes,” that won 2nd place in City Paper’s 2011 fiction contest.
BEDFORD BENTLEY, “The Fighter Pilot’s Wife” (short story)
There’s no ignoring her. She’s got long red hair that she wears in a braid piled on the crown of her head. And she’s usually in a bright sundress and sandals. When we gather at the O Club for happy hour, she’s there. She huddles with the chaplain at one of the tables. He’s talking earnestly, and she’s listening intently, occasionally nodding in agreement or slowly shaking her head in dissent. I think the padre is a little in love with her, although he may not know it.
JOSH PONS, “Garden of Eden” (short story)
Messages she sends to him in code, through body language—wife-to-husband messages—confuse him. The morning they pack the pickup truck for the drive, she walks down the stairs to the kitchen, naked.
Josh is the author of Country Life Diary: Three Years in the Life of a Horse Farm, Eclipse Press, 1999, and Merryland: Two Years in the Life of a Racing Stable, Eclipse Press, 2007
MACIE HALL, A Murder of Crows (novel in progress)
Annie had spent a lot of time with Rooster, and while she knew his innermost thoughts, she couldn’t tell you what the inside of his apartment looked like or whether he liked Brussels sprouts. Their relationship had played on the stage of the operating room theater, in hospital equipment closets, and in darkened offices. During much of their time together, one or the other had been married. While Annie was not proud of this, she had no regrets.
~ UNSPEAKABLE ~
MARIA GARRIOTT, A Thousand Redemptions (book-length memoir in progress)
Liz and baby Olivia rested in a single, closed coffin in St. Ursula’s Catholic Church, the same sanctuary where high school graduation had taken place six years earlier. At that time, Liz and the other white-robed girls had circled around, outside, between each other’s families, holding cellophane-wrapped roses, hugging, posing for photos, tossing their mortar boards. Now the old stone church was somber and dim, filled with black-clad mourners and, outside, a news crew waited to interview Liz’s parents and film her brothers lifting her coffin into a hearse.
Maria is the author of A Thousand Resurrections: An Urban Spiritual Journey, Riott, 2010