July/Aug 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 4 Nonfiction |

Two Breaths

You would not believe in the existence of a manta ray until you’ve seen one. She’s nearly a creature of mythology, with underwater arms that can span twentyish feet from tip to tip. The manta twists and turns by tilting the edges of her wings—her acrobatics accented by a dark dorsal topside and white-gilled underbelly. Her diamond frame and right-angled fins can encapsulate a three-thousand-pound mass so flat she might flash invisible when she turns vertical—like a nickel in a hand trick. The mantas off the coast of Kailua-Kona congregate at night, when the bounty of planktonic creatures arises. So I organized a night boat. There were two options. My husband and I could snorkel at the top of the water, putting our masked faces under the sea’s surface, looking for the tips of those steel wings peeking white and manifesting from darkness in our direction. Or we could don scuba tanks, weight belts, four-millimeter wet suits, and release the air from our diving vests and ou

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Photo of Christina Rivera Cogswell

Christina Rivera Cogswell’s essays have been published in Orion, Terrain.org, Catapult, Bat City Review, and elsewhere. Christina is the grateful recipient of residencies at Millay Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. She credits the fragmentation of her writing to her small children and is currently finishing her first book of essays—a collection of ecofeminist reflections on motherhood in a time of climate crisis. Follow her on Instagram/Twitter @seekingsol.

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