During one of my Etsy induced rabbit hole time blocks, I stumbled upon this illustration by Spanish illustrator Blanca Gomez. This piece, “Nadadora,” transported me back in time to 2008 when I found myself drenched in sweat from a dry heat and standing on the edge of a small cliff in a part of Catalonia Spain called Tossa de Mar. The hidden beach: El Codolar.
I was there on a summer study abroad trip and I followed a few from my group from the beach and up through a rocky terrain. Before I could gather where I was, most of the group began to cliff dive from one of the higher cliffs above. They shouted down to me, asking me to photograph their feats and I happily obliged. However, The sun was high without and cloud in the sky and below me was this clear water blinding me with the unforgiving sun’s reflection. It looked like a smooth pool of glass.
There was one problem though: I don’t know how to swim.
I so badly needed to cool down and I didn’t want to head back to the beach, through the perilous rocky terrain alone, let alone still barefoot and in only a bathing suit, so I called up to the group from my small cliff and asked if one of them would jump into the cool water below and wait for me, you know, be a kind of life guard. One agreed. He jumped, posing as Superman for half a second on the way down, and waded in the water, waiting for me to jump.
The first jump was in a word: exhilarating. I pinched my nose and closed my eyes as I took the two running steps off the cliff and managed to get in half of a Hail Mary before I splashed feet first into the glittering body of water below. The water was cool and smooth, just how I imagined it, and I kicked up to the surface, gasping for air. There was my life guard waiting for me as I awkwardly tried to remember how to doggy paddle from my failed lessons as a kid. He guided me back to rocks, helping to hoist me up back onto the rocky, boulder littered terrain, my knees getting cut up by the sharp reefs in the process, and when he joined me back on my small bit of rock I asked if I could go again. He laughed and the GTA who was in charge of our safety and well being shouted down at me, begging me not to jump again given my inability to swim but there was no way I would let go of that rush so quickly. So again, I jumped, this time, eyes open, trying to pose like an Olympic diver on the way down and smiled as I slipped like an arrow back into the water below. Again, there was my life guard, seconds behind me, freaking out that I’d be carried away by the pull of the tide, but I was fine.
All I had to show for my brief burst of insanity were a pair of scratched up and bloody knees that quickly healed and disappeared by the time I returned back to Texas.
But this illustration strikes me and reminds me ever so fondly of my short lived cliff diving experience…perhaps I’ll shell out the $30, hang it on my wall, and let it inspire me when I sometimes get too scared to jump.