CM: Lafcadio Hearn was one of the first Westerners to appreciate Japanese haiku poetry. Even in novels he wrote before he went to Japan - such as Chita: A Memory of Last Island of 1889 - one may find qualities that reveal he already possessed the haiku spirit. His close awareness of nature and the world around him, combined with a love and facility for language, led him to write a number of descriptive passages that show the sensitive perceptions of a haiku poet. There are several in Chita, his first novel written in 1889, when he was living in New Orleans and working on various writing projects for Harper's and other magazines and newspapers. This story relates to a great storm among the islands off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the descriptions of the Gulf sea and sky show how sensorially intimate Lafcadio was with nature. The visual and aural aspects of these scenes are deeply felt and skillfully expressed. As an avid and expert swimmer, experienced being in the midst of the sea far from shore and conveyed the tactile impressions he felt there in vivid prose:
"Perhaps, if a bold swimmer, you may venture out a long way - once! Not twice! - even in company. As the water deepens beneath you, and you feel those ascending wave currents of coldness arising which bespeak profundity, you will also begin to feel innumerable touches, as of groping fingers - touches of the bodies of fish, innumerable fish, fleeing toward shore. The farther you advance, the more thickly you will feel them come; and above you and around you, to right and left, others will leap and fall so swiftly as to daze the sight, like intercrossing fountainjets of fluid silver. The gulls fly lower about you, circling with sinister squeaking cries; - perhaps for an instant your feet touch in the deep something heavy, swift, lithe, that rushes past with a swirling shock. Then the fear of the Abyss, the vast and voiceless Nightmare of the Sea, will come upon you; the silent panic of all those opaline millions that flee glimmering by will enter into you also."
Being brought up in Greece and spending four years of her teenage life on the island of Syros, it was many times that Eileen Botsford experienced an overpowering connection with the natural elements of the sea. Swimming from early spring in to late autumn she learned to read the weather and the sea, to find peace in deep waters, and to feel a unity with the wilderness of nature. Upon reading the excerpt above, Eileen realized she felt like Lafcadio. Now that she has lost that connection with the sea Botsford wished to relearn it. The images pictured in Swimmer are from when she still had that connection and tried to document it visually by taking slides of her moments underwater.