Once Icarus went for a swim. The warmth that met his shins, then thighs, then chest as he pushed through the surf washed over his mind as well. How long had he stood looking out across the wine-dark sea and listening to his father hammer at those endless contraptions day after day? The old man pausing only to give him yet another piece of advice he hadn’t asked for. Like today’s lecture on the long-term consequences of getting too much sun at an early age. The call of the seabirds had been a relief from the confident assertions about what to do and what not to do in life, about “knowing your limits” and all the dangers awaiting those who were heedless of the future. What heed was he supposed to take? He was only a youth, with a youth’s passion for the moment. Was he supposed to awake every dawn already having a list in mind of potential catastrophes that might befall him that day? Worrying about what of everything he’d gained in life so far might be lost through one rash move? What had he gained by this age, anyway, that he couldn’t do without if need be? With apprehensions like these, no wonder the old man devoted so much time to working out ways to escape risk and then calculating their odds of success or failure. Didn’t he ever gaze out to sea as Icarus did now without figuring in the force of the currents, the height of the waves, and the distance at which land would be lost from view? Didn’t he remember how little all three mattered when he was young himself? What chances he must have taken when the tide ran high and the winds were strong, wasting no thought on peril, seen or unseen! Well away from shore now, Icarus pulled through the rolling swells with an even, steady motion. He’d never been this far out before but felt in his shoulders and legs a power still equal to his very first strokes away from the beach. His body moved through the salt water as if born to it, and when he looked down between breaths, he didn’t see the pale shapes of those lost at sea drifting beneath him. Instead he saw only the flickering of the sunlight as it found the limit of its own power in the depths. Turning on his back, the youth faced directly up into the sun and floated, arms outstretched, in the bright shimmers it cast over the water’s surface. Their radiance continued to flutter across the back of his eyelids if he closed them, while the sea continued to buoy him with its embrace. Burning joy filled his breast, as though drawn from every part of the sky to this one point on earth. How far couldn’t he swim now if he wished, and what new lands couldn’t he reach? Wherever these waters carried him, he would find a home. And even were he to die in the attempt, it would be his death—and his life until that moment came. With this confidence, Icarus tilted his head back until his ears were below the surface, where the voice of the deep was loud enough to drown out any distracting cries that might reach him from shore, and swam with all his proud, fearless might.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans