Between Water and Air
SATB or SSA Chorus & Piano | 5'
Barbara Crooker’s text for Between Water and Air speaks to the narrator’s reverence for a skill—in this case, surfing—that the narrator isn’t great at, and likely never will be. I can identify; I’ll probably never be a great surfer, despite living in Los Angeles for over a decade. I took a surfing lesson once and could barely stand up on my board. But there’s a genuine, poignant emotion here, too. The “yearning” that the narrator feels while watching a surfer in the waves is accompanied by a recognition of their own talent for writing. By the conclusion of the poem, as I read it, We’re not bitter or jealous that we can’t surf; we’re basking in our own gifts, however we choose to express ourselves.
This piece was commissioned by the University of Southern California Chamber Singers, Jo-Michael Scheibe, conductor.
I’m walking on the beach this brisk November morning,
the bleached sea grass bending in the wind, when there,
up ahead, in the pewter waves, I see a surfer in his wet suit,
sleek as a seal, cutting in and out of the curl, shining in the light.
[I’m on the far side of sixty, athletic as a sofa, but] this is where
the longing starts, the yearning for another life, the one
where I’m lithe and long-limbed, tanned California gold,
short tousled hair full of sunshine. The life where I shoulder my board,
stride into the waves, dive under the breakers, and rise; my head shaking
off water like a golden retriever. I am waiting for that perfect wave to come,
so I can crouch up and catch it, my arms out like wings, slicing back
and forth in the froth, wind at my back, sea’s slick metal polished
before me. Nothing more important now than this balance between
water and air, the rhythm of in and out, staying ahead of the break,
choosing my line like I choose these words, writing my name
on water, writing my name on air.
Published as “Surfer Girl.” From More, © CR Press, 2010.
Text in brackets has been omitted from this setting.
early drafts & composing notes
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