Snow globe.

The first 3 hours passed along marvelously. Swimming out of the cove and into the Kaiwi Channel enveloped in darkness I felt as if I were a tiny figurine in a miniaturized scene in my very own souvenir snow globe. Positioned on a display shelf above a fireplace in the living room of a giant’s house, as I gazed out of the globe I could see hardly anything. Pitch black, there was no movement except for a few tiny embers glowing in the fireplace, yet to extinguish. The giant must be sleeping upstairs I thought. It was a peaceful, uneventful evening.

Previously nervous at the prospect of facing my fears in the open ocean, I surprisingly felt relief. All the anxiety and anticipation built up within me during the previous days was gradually being set free. Like a tiny yet calculated pinprick to an over inflated balloon, with each stroke of my arms the air of anxiety began to escape. 

I was blind except for the two glow sticks on either end of the kayak a few feet away from me, and the deck light onboard the boat a few hundred yards ahead. I felt so vulnerable and so insignificant amongst the huge dark expanse of water and sky that surrounded me.  I tried my best to keep a rhythm. One, two, three… breathe… one, two, three… breathe. It was eerily soothing as my sensory deprived mind moved into a hypnotic state.

Trained and well rested ahead of my swim, assisted by a surge of adrenalin, I was, for me, oddly “all business” – no idle chit chat during feedings – just a few seconds treading water as I guzzled Carbo Pro from a drink bottle thrown to me from the boat.  Since the bottle was attached to a long rope, all I needed to do was drink from the bottle and continue swimming.

My focus was broken intermittently with moments of sheer awe and wonderment at the vast expanse that surrounded me. With the moon yet to rise, I could barely decipher the silhouette of my kayaker against the inky backdrop, except for the two glow sticks on the kayak and the addition of tiny bioluminescence that dangled on the end of each paddle like expensive sparkly earrings. I tried my best to keep my head down as I moved through the water, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at my arms and hands extended before me. The glittery bioluminescence floating off my arms was mesmerizing.

At a balmy 76 degrees, I felt like I was swimming in a bathtub. The water was so warm the word “delicious” popped up in my head. It was heavenly.

But it was too good to be true. Startling me were two very painful jellyfish stings. In an effort to dull the pain, I wiped my arms across my swimsuit. Any tentacles would surely be eliminated I thought. 

The waves were becoming increasingly choppy. The wind began to pick up.

And with that, the giant awoke from his slumber. As he stomped down the wooden staircase, my snow globe began to vibrate on the shelf. Everything in my sphere began to get violent. That taste of calm serenity that had yet to fully permeate my swim was dissipating fast, and the real challenge was ascending the stage...