The Profundity of Heights, and Depths

As a child, and then as a teenager, and later as a twenty-something, I would occasionally put my head inside our aquarium, and look at the fishes swimming, trying to feel the water in which they swam. I looked at the aquascaping  we had lovingly arranged, trying to visualise how life for the flora and fauna was in the aquarium, and must be in the rivers their brothers swam in. It was a beautiful experience, irregardless of the lurking thoughts of foolishness and impropriety. I’ve had aquariums most of my life, and continue to do so, but I no longer put my head in the water. I do, sometimes, pretend I am swimming with the fish. That is a safer way to let your imagination and sensory celebration run amok without being labeled a mutilator of propriety. At any rate, I didn’t attend a finishing school, so propriety doesn’t bother me much.

But depths move me. Unlike heights.

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Photo credit: Neha Thakur, the one who travels.

When I had just entered teenage, my interest moved from fiction to belief for a while. I read about horoscopes, birth signs, graphology. The fascination remains, but the compulsion to believe them has drifted away, letting fiction slip right back in. In those times, reader, I fancied a graphology reading. Read my own handwriting, analysed that of those around me. One niggle that entered my mind then, stays with me today is the indicator of preference for glory (heights) and that for profoundness (depths). I tried a lot to cheat and tweak my handwriting to incorporate a leaning towards heights, believing that it would help me conjure a drive to earn money and celebrity. But no success. Soon as my cheater self relaxed, the real me emerged, using pen to show a stubborn streak towards depths.

Meanwhile, my fascination has shifted from mountains to seas. I remember feeling exhilarated in the mountain air. I remember enjoying the spring in my steps, the clarity in my being. There is something so fresh in the atoms that gush through your nostrils there, it is infectious. The ocean’s air, however, has something mellow in it. It surrounds you with a wisdom of wordless knowledge. All my travels to the ocean have been more than a decade ago, and I have never lived next to it for more than a day or two. This generous pull, therefore, fascinates me more than the object itself currently. Could it be the depth in it? Could it be the enormity of it that, when imagined, gives me the shivers? I know not.

When I was 10, I shared a science project with my friend. It was about the deep sea fish. Their colours, their ugliness, their beauty has stayed in my mind since then. The science project didn’t bring us accolades, but it gave me  a resident object of admiration. Their adaptation to make up for the lack of sunlight is awesome. And motivating, too. But they are too distant for a mere, very-sunned person like me. The waters they swim under is what I see, visualise and crave. And also the shore that contains them.

I talk from the perspective of a newling. A nobody, if you will; I have little experience of this vast creature, after all. But by that very fact, I become a neutral appreciator, and that delights me. I can look at the videos and pictures of those rippling, surging, heaving waters and allow their vastness to completely surround me, just for bit, in my mind. And become breathless, just as I am now.

Someday, I will discover what it is to live with this creature. I know I will. Until then, I am going to dream of the depths that it nurses in its belly, and the heights that it leaps to.

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Photo credit: Neha Thakur, the one who travels.
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15 thoughts on “The Profundity of Heights, and Depths”

  1. Here you are! Leading me into depths that frighten me. It is particularly interesting, what fascinates each of us. We are all so different, and yet not so. The ocean intimidates me. Of course, I am afraid of water, so I guess this is natural. Heights don’t bother me. That is why I love to climb mountains,always wanting to go higher into that vast ocean above, which doesn’t frighten me. Go figure.

    1. I have been a lover of the mountains for longer than I have loved anything with such passion. Recently, however, mountains hold a lesser appeal to me. Even though I haven’t actually visited an ocean in more than a decade, I find myself getting drawn towards it more and more. I have no idea why. And yet, perhaps, I do know!

      Heights are interesting, yes? The way you can look at everything, and know that you have reached a place where all around is right there for you to see. Such wonder!

  2. Your beautiful essay reminded me of something I’ve heard several times over the past few years. It’s the idea, voiced by many scientists, that we now know more about some of the other planets (and even their moons) than we do about Earth’s oceans. Does that mean we tend to reach for the heights and avoid the depths? In that sense, we all “have little experience of this vast creature.”

    I will, from now on, carry with me the image of you sticking your head down into the aquarium.

    1. I haven’t thought of it that way. But could the interest in the other planets (and even their moons) be because the creatures within our own planet are too close for comfort? That’s worth a thought!

      Oh, yeah. Carry the the image. But you’ll have to change the features and imagine Bela instead. I am sure she’s going to make it a family tradition, the way she looks at the fish swimming.

  3. Hi Priya,
    I love the look of your new home 😛
    I’m still laughing that I didn’t know finelighttree was Priya! When I clicked the avatar to see who it was it didn’t lead anywhere or tell me anything about the author – I guess you know that? (The email of your new home was buried in my inbox.).

    I also love mountains and the sea and I’m very fortunate that I live near both of them. I had to wait until I was 50 though…

    You are overdue for a visit the ocean if you haven’t been there in ten years! Kids love playing with bucket and spade and sitting in the shallows and watching the never-ending waves wash over them.

    1. I am looking at this page from my husband’s laptop, which is not as big as my desktop, and the background seems all askew. 😦 I’ll have to redo the decor, Rosie!

      I must provide some leading link through my gravatar, too. Thank you for letting me know.

      I am visualising the image you’ve created of children playing by the shore. We must gift a visit to our little child some time soon!

      finelighttree is probably for keeps. I can feel it. So, hopefully, dear Rosie, I won’t confuse you with new avatars any more.

  4. Funny that on my About page on my blog, I have several “Basic Life Choices” listed, and one choice is “Ocean or Mountains”? I’ve spent years and years sailing, and yet my choice when I created my page was “Mountains”. The best way to combine the two? Climb a mast at sea!

    I once had the chance to dive Thunderball Cave – the underwater cave that was featured in the James Bond film “Thunderball”. It was such an experience to be in the depths, looking up at the sunlight streaming down from above. Here’s one photo that shows some of the fish, too.

    1. Climb a mast at sea! The image promptly took me to the pirates in the Asterix comic books. The ones who are accompany the rest of the pirate ship when they are razed by the Gauls. I would take that climbing a little slowly! But yes, para-sailing is something I could think of.

      The image of the Thunderball Cave is beautiful, Linda. I’d love to go there. But, as I typed the last sentence, I remembered the quote you mentioned in your response to me in your blog “…purity of heart is to will one thing”. My heart is confused with wanting and willing more than it can take at a time. I am going to try to take it slow. And then, probably like Rosie, I might get mountains and oceans together much later than today. For now, I am going to try to lighten my heart’s burden.

  5. My mother was addicted to both mountains and the sea – she painted both (she was a painter, but primarily a sculptor). Myself I’m more into trees than sea or mountains, despite being able to see some mountains in the distance where I live. I used to love going to the sea, when I was a child, and standing at the edge of the water and just staring out. I could stand like that for ages. Heaven knows what people thought of this strange motionless child!

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