The tank was about 4 feet high, and long and wide enough that I could move around without bumping into a wall. I played around for a while then closed the door, sealing myself in total blackness.
To be in the complete absence of light feels quite different than being in a darkened room. In time, the darkness grew velvety. Purple shapes flitted through my field of vision — an illusion created when the brain seeks to make sense of the random firings of the optic nerve.
Soon I became aware of a sensation of movement, as if my body were gliding to the right. The tank no longer seemed confining, but limitless, and I felt as if a large fish were towing me through a placid sea. Shortly after that, the pump went on, signaling my float was over.
On my second float, the tank felt familiar and comforting, and I shut the hatch after just a few minutes.
As I grew accustomed to the tank, I again experienced the sensation that I was being pulled through the water. I saw the rapidly fizzling phantasms of purple light. I realized that I was tensing my body for no reason. I laid my arms at my side and willed the tension in my back and neck to release. I ruminated on the year that had just finished and the one ahead.
Soon I had a sense of melting, as if I were dissolving. My body seemed like a bag of warm water suspended in a pool of warm water, my skin a membrane separating one form of matter from another. I felt as if my consciousness had winged up from my body and was hovering just above.
Then a woman playing a red piano turned to me and said that the tank induced a rush of creative energy.
"Yes, yes," I murmured, "creative energy." I wondered why I hadn't interviewed the woman sooner and made a mental note to include her comments in my article.
Then I snapped back to reality. Had I been dreaming? Or did I have a hallucination?
Realizing I had interviewed a figment of my imagination made me giddy. It took me a while to sink back into the stillness, but soon an idea for a children's book occurred to me and I started sketching out the plot.
When the pump went off this time, signaling the end of my session, I felt as though only minutes had passed.
I quickly showered and rushed to tell Harper about my experiences. I felt a bit like one of the Pevensie children from "The Chronicles of Narnia," recounting travels through the wardrobe to the old professor.
Harper chuckled when I told him about my interview with the piano player. "That's great," he said. Having one such experience in the tank meant that I would likely have more, he said.
I tugged on my coat and hat, aware now of the paleness of my hands, the curve of my fingers, the animal scent of the wool clothing. Everything seemed new to me — the streetlights, the faces of people leaning into the snow. My thoughts echoed through my brain with new clarity, as if a television droning on in another room had been turned off.
Was I transformed? Did I, as the piano player suggested, receive a shot of creative energy? As much as I'd like to say that writing has been easier for me since then, the words trudged onto the page as painfully as they usually do.
But a certain stillness has stayed with me, a stripped-down feeling that seems appropriate for this most barren time of year. I have shed my fears of the tank, of the darkness and the solitude, and I'm eager to plunge back in.
If you float
To schedule an appointment at Be Free Floating, visit befreefloating.com or call 443-418-3105. Floats cost $50 for an hour or $70 for 90 minutes. An introductory package of three one-hour floats is $100. The tank is available by appointment from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at 2118 W. Pratt St.