Lake Ontario, ON - Sarah Quinto
My Watermark is Lake Ontario.
For the longest time, water did not feel like a friend of mine. It always seemed to hit me by surprise. I could tell you many stories about the number of times water would run up my nose whenever I’d gotten too distracted by a good story and forget that I was drinking. I could tell you stories about how every time I got to the bottom of a waterslide, my lifesaver would whip ahead of me and there’d be nothing between me and the rest of the pool. I could tell you about that one time my swimming instructor threw me into the deep end of the pool to teach me survival swimming (which didn’t go so well). I could also tell you about the countless times I got my paper cuts licked—most of which I didn’t even know I had—by sharp tongues of salt because, wouldn’t you know it, saltwater beaches had salt in the water.
When did things change? Or at least, when did I form a slightly more positive memory of water?
I’ll tell you about the time when I was almost 10. It was sometime between May 28 and 29, 2005 (we were in between time zones so I can’t really tell you the exact date). My whole family was on a plane travelling from Cainta, Rizal in the Philippines to Toronto, Canada, in that momentous final step of immigration. It was really early in the morning, but let me tell you, I’d never seen the sun shine as brightly as that day.
As a matter of fact, I was really confused about how bright it was because they’d all told me Canada was a cold,forbidding place full of snow and igloos, so wouldn’t it have made more sense to be greeted by a blizzard? Anyway, it felt friendly too, that sunshine. Back in the Philippines, the sun had a more stinging quality, and you weren’t supposed to be out for too long because then you’d sweat and get rashes (we called those rashes ‘bungang araw’ or ‘prickly heat’).
On the plane, there were these two children screaming by the window. “Mom! Mom! Look at the water!” And you know what, I wasn’t really their mother, but I woke my sister up and went over anyway, and wouldn’t you know it, there was this gigantic mass of water and it was the bluest I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring because there was so much of it, and you didn’t see any trash floating around, and there were trees and they had leaves in them, and it all looked so peaceful.
It was gorgeous. All at once, it covered an entire spectrum of blue in its waves -aquamarine, sky blue, azure- I could go on forever. It sparkled where the sunshine hit it, and I was mesmerized. I had never been so enraptured by nature until that moment. I felt a connection with water as I watched it dance underneath the sky; it was a moment that I will always remember. It’s difficult to put into words what I felt in that instant; it was just pure admiration for water at its wildest state-undisturbed by any human involvement and just flowing by its own accord. I developed a love for water that fateful day.
To this day, I have no idea what that body of water was but I want to go back and visit. In hindsight, it was likely Lake Ontario considering that we landed shortly after. And also maybe I’d like to go back in time and apologize and thank those kids because even though I wasn’t their mother, I’m glad they still let me pretend for a bit.