Mermaids Live!

Imagine if there really were mermaids. The myth is ancient, the allure unending. Imagine moving through water effortlessly, changing direction gracefully, thrilling the audience thoroughly. Oops, did I say audience?

Yes, my mom and I (Mom with her eye patch, note coordinating color) were part of the audience at ACAC Four Seasons in Charlottesville. It isn’t every day you get to go to a mermaid show, but today was our lucky day.


On this hot July afternoon we watched a dozen or so young ladies twist and flip and splash and do underwater acrobatics in as much synch as they could manage after (believe this or not) only one week of half-day lessons. It has to be hard enough to twist and flip and splash and do underwater acrobatics all by yourself, but to do it in synch with others, following the music and the instructions of your coach, that’s quite something.


As with any performance, each player plays a part but cannot see the overall picture the way the audience does. I wish they could see how amazing they were. Imagine coordinating leg splits! No wonder they used to call this a swim ballet.


Look at the pointed toes, the nine swimmers all upside down and doing their thing at the same time. And yes, that’s a tailfin you see on the edge of the pool. Part of the fun, surely, is not only getting into the water with other girls who want to swim gracefully together, not only learning to do things you’ve never done before, but also being able to enter that surreal, make-believe world where you are something you usually can be only in your dreams.

Yes, to be a mermaid just for a little while!


To feel the water all around, to get a little idea of what it’s like to be a fish (a really pretty fish!), to feel sleek and strong and otherworldly, to be an elegant creature just long enough to know that you can, to feel a thrill like no other – this is a portion of what sustains us when such days have passed.


The mermaid in this photo is Mackie, who came from California for two weeks to demonstrate techniques and to encourage and help train young swimmers. (Behind her you see the shadow of her dad, Mitch, who not only brought her here but also films the mermaids under the water while wearing scuba gear. Hats off to you too, Mitch!) Ten years ago, when Mackie was seven, she met and started training under Wendy Carter, Coach Extraordinaire, and kept on swimming in synch even after Wendy moved to Virginia. She swims with joy, passion and great skill. She also has a beautiful smile!


Wendy directs mermaids any chance she gets — that is, when she isn’t on her way to the Pan-Am games herself to be compete with her masters team! I hope ACAC knows how extremely fortunate they are to have her on staff.


Wendy gives these kids so many gifts every day, not the least of which is confidence. She wants them to go home and think and share and maybe shout from the rooftop (okay, maybe not the rooftop), “Wow, I did that!” And doing the next challenging thing because of having done this challenging thing will be that much easier.

We live in a world where the stories about what other people are doing are continually in front of us. Every day on the news it’s so-and-so did this fantastic thing and her brother did that unbelievable thing and this other person in some other random place did this other truly amazing thing. I think it’s great that those people are doing those great things and I don’t mean anything against them or their achievements.Watching people do their thing (and do it well) is all fine and good, especially when you can’t get out and do a thing yourself, and it’s inspirational and instructional no doubt, to say nothing of fun. We all do it sometimes, like Mom and I and a whole bunch of other people at ACAC did today.

But watching other people do their thing is a quite different than doing your own. Watching other people make their own story too much, instead of making your own, when you could be making your own, is kind of a shame. You get only so many hours each day, only so many days each year, and you don’t know how many days you have, let alone years.

The kids Wendy coaches are not watching videos about synchronized swimming. They are in the water doing it. I love that Wendy is giving them a chance to make their own stories. It doesn’t matter one single bit if any of them makes the news or ends up competing at the master’s level. What matters is that sometime down the road, they get to tell their own story, own their own memories, recall their own experiences. Not someone else’s. Theirs.

Similarly, I love that my sister read a book about straw bale gardening and decided to try it herself. Her vegetables are growing like crazy! I love that my son, who had a dream of building his own unique house, is building it. His pentagonal foundation is in! I love that my neighbor is raising her own pigs, moveable fence and all, so that she can have her own pork. I love that my aunt is going to a workshop to learn to paint pictures even better than she already does.

I love it when people make their own stories, follow their own interests, ignite their own passion, walk their own unboring path. I don’t need to see it on the news. Nearly everyone I know is doing a thing they love whenever they can, within their means, within their ability, inspiring me in different ways, in multiple ways, in spectacular ways. Today I saw mermaids in the water, daring to do something they couldn’t have done last week. What did you see? What did you do?

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