A little over a year ago, I found myself in the Boulder reservoir, in a sinking kayak, scared out of my mind.
My mother convinced me to go. I was hesitant, thinking that I would be okay sitting on a blanket on the shore of the reservoir, but no goddamn way would I go out in that fish-infested water. She assured me there was no fish.
My husband and I rented a two-person kayak. We had done this before; at a park in Illinois with a small lake and rentable boats, we paddled around in paddle boats. The kayak was a new experience, though. He sat in the back to propel it forward, while I steered. We rowed to the middle of the lake. We made a pretty good team.
A few times, he shook the boat and laughed and threatened to tip us. He was kidding, of course, and I laughed and told him if he did, I was breaking off our then-engagement. Then I saw the “no fishing” sign, and a sign describing the frequency with which the reservoir was stocked with fish, attached to a buoy.
I said a quick prayer to Manannan: Dear Father, good and merciful Father, don’t let this boat sink.
About ten minutes later, the kayak behind me began dipping into the water. It filled with water and flipped over, and I found myself completely submerged within the water. I held my breath, I shut my eyes.
And I felt…okay.
It almost felt like the scene in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away where Chihiro is held by the water spirit. It only lasted a moment, but I was safe. I wasn’t thinking about the fish possibly brushing up against me, or trying to eat me, or even being nearby. I was safe.
My head breached the water and I broke out in laughter. The kayak was tipped over, and try as we might, it was flooded. I swam to shore with the oars on my back, never afraid of the fish. When I got to the shore, I felt all my weight come down upon me; it felt unnatural to be out of the water, it took a moment to remember that I belonged on the land.
I haven’t gone back to the reservoir since, try as I might. The past summer came and went, and I was busy with weddings, honeymoons, FAFSAs. I don’t think it’s so much the reservoir itself, though. I don’t think it was a local water spirit, or a comforting ancestor.
I think it was my dear Father Manannan.