The waves are warm, a soft grey-green colour so different from the harsh cold steely blue Atlantic waves or the smooth gold-yellow water of the lakes of Nova Scotia. I dip and dive, remembering my childhood amongst these soft Caspian waves, long clothes clinging to my body and revealing every contour. A long purple-pink scarf trails over my head, and I pretend it is my long mermaid hair, just as I used to when I was ten years old. We used to stay by the Caspian in huge extended family clans, no longer possible as the extended family has long been torn apart by political, religious and personal sensitivities, and there is as much possibility of me swimming in the Caspian with my childhood companions as there is of swimming with Axl Rose.
I have my own family now, and I roll about with my son and daughter amongst my waves, screaming at the flash of tiny silver fishes and the floating seaweed. The soft brown sand of the isolated beach is strewn with rubbish, watermelon skins, old bottles, and the scent of cow dung flavours the air. Perhaps Iranians deliberately trash nature, as a form of subconscious protest? What else could explain this willful ruin of such beautiful places? My theory is greeted with hoots of derision and ridicule. Words float over me, over the waves: “…in Turkey they charge dollars and euros from westerners to lie on their pebbles and rocks, and here we have these beautiful sandy beaches, left to ruin and desolation…a bunch of traitors who have nothing better to do than stick their noses up their people’s bum…if they freed alcohol and women’s dress, believe me we would have people lining up to pay to visit these beaches…you can find alcohol in every home, in the room of every young man in Tehran…as if the prohibition makes any difference…ruining the country…evil…destroyed…barbaric…stupid…cruel…”
Political swimming. Political sandcastles and suntanning. Sun bathing with your limbs covered in long cotton clothing, amazing how much the hot southern sun will burn you still. But we are in the North. I will keep my summer tan long after summer. A political tan.