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Lions Roar : January 2019
started walking faster toward her as she climbed the three or four plastic steps and slid swiftly into the pool with a quiet splash. The water was three feet deep. Ivy was about two-and-a -half feet tall. She went straight to the bottom and stayed there, suspended under water, com- pletely still, her arms outstretched and her knees slightly bent. It looked as if she’d been frozen in a block of ice or a pool of Jell-O. I jumped in and scooped her up. This was no act of heroism; the water wasn’t even up to my waist. As soon as I ON JULY 27, 2008, I took my daughter Anna to her friend Hazel’s birthday party at an outdoor public pool that could be reserved for private parties on weekend mornings. They were both six years old. When we got there around 10 a.m., it was still cold. Anna went off with her friends and most of the adults were busy setting up snacks on tables off to the side. Everyone looked a little ner- vous. If you have kids, you’ll know that these parties are oddly stressful for parents. It feels like there’s a lot at stake, even though it’s just a bunch of kids going swimming and eating sweets. I was never good at min- gling, so I wandered off by myself without offering to help with the set-up or even saying hello to anyone. At some point, I saw that Hazel’s little sister Ivy was also wandering on her own and that she was approaching a little slide at the edge of the pool, far from the crowd. She wasn’t much more than a toddler, and I knew somehow just by watching her toddling around that she couldn’t swim. No one else was paying attention and the lifeguard wasn’t on duty yet. I called after Ivy, but she showed no sign of hearing me. Though I wasn’t panicked, I THIS DHARMA LIFE A Toast to Paying Attention! Every year, DAN ZIGMOND has a bottle of Guinness to celebrate an ordinary moment that may have made the difference between life and death. lifted Ivy out of the pool, she started crying uncontrollably. I carried her to her mom, who looked confused and perhaps a bit irritated to be handed this screaming child. (To be fair, I think at least nine times out of ten, when a dad hands a screaming kid to a mom, the dad has done something dumb.) And that was it. Ivy was fine. She didn’t cry long, and the party gradually swung into action with lots of happy kids running around and swimming. Ivy had spent maybe five seconds in three feet of water. There was plenty of time for someone else to notice if I hadn’t got- ten there first. Still, I was shaken up. I couldn’t lose that image of Ivy motionless underwa- ter. It must have triggered something deep within my mammalian brain, some dire warning that a child under water is very bad. I went into the bath- room to dry my wet jeans with paper towels, and learned that you can’t dry wet jeans with paper towels. I found a bench away from the rest of the party and sat down in the sun, shivering— partly from the damp clothes and cold morning air, and partly from the shock. My daughter Anna found me sitting there sometime later. She was in her bathing suit, probably just out of the pool herself. Looking me up and down, she asked, “Dad, why did you go in the pool with your clothes on?” I explained that I’d had to get Ivy out. TARACOTTRELL DAN ZIGMOND is a Zen priest and the co-author of Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Running Press). Dan Zigmond with Ivy, who is now a teenager. When they meet, she sometimes hugs him and says, “Thank you for saving my life.” LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 21