Water is full of magic. Shapeless but incompressible, it is the only substance that can exist naturally as solid, liquid, and gas inside earth’s temperature range. It’s called the “universal solvent” because it dissolves more substances than any other liquid—and yet is also harmless to drink and ultimately sustains all life. “If there is magic on this planet,” wrote naturalist Loren Eiseley, “it is contained in water.”
And the sea is rife with magical creatures. As a boy, I studied them in picture books, and often thought I could make out their shadows in the deep: ferocious rhino-like turtles the size of small islands; giant squid thrusting their redwood-sized tentacles through pirate ships; mermaids singing alluring melodies in foreign tongues.
Most of my childhood memories have dissolved, but I do remember vividly the magic of the Azores. Perhaps because of being surrounded by water, islands take on some of water’s magic. The tangled fig tree in our backyard was to me and my sister a witch’s lair and fire swamp. Fairies hovered in our mom’s garden like hummingbirds. Ciel and I caught them in nets, put them briefly in jars, investigated their peculiarities, set them free. Once, Mom even designed silken robes with golden twine belts and we all dressed up like angels to invite goodness into our new home. I didn’t see any real angels, but Ciel and I agreed that we felt them fluttering through the windows and all about the ceiling.
When we moved into civilization—Sacramento, capital of the fifth largest economy in the world—sea monsters and fairies took a backseat to basketball games, skateboards, girls. My relationship with the sea and its denizens also seemed to change. I dreamed recurrently of falling off a pier into an ink-black sea writhing with sharks, killer whales, and squid.
I awoke each time in a horrible sweat.
Wizards and Water Walking is an excerpt from Jaimal Yogis’ award-winning book, Saltwater Buddha. Learn more about Saltwater Buddha or purchase a copy of the book.