Sunday, January 17, 2010

A surf and turf day.

This morning we walked for quite a ways, down to where the cruise ships dock, and back and forth on some side streets. There's the tony shopping options at the waterfront, and the near 3rd world conditions a few streets off. It's an odd mix. There are some properties which have lain fallow since Hurricane Wilma tore the place up four years ago. Later on we hopped in the car and explored further out, spending hours walking around one of the ruin sites. The local population of butterflies and birds were more interesting to me, though.

Returning to the club later than we thought, Alan was in the water waiting for me, as I was told by a strange connection of guests standing on balconies and yelling to other people. After a rush to gear up, into the tub, through the little tunnel and out into the ocean we went. The area in the front of the club has no reef, but there's still lots of neat stuff to see. The opening up of the space alone was awesome. Coming out of the tunnel, there was a school of small blue fish to my right. My buoyancy was just on the edge (diving later I realized where my vest tends to hold air and how to go head down and ditch it out of the back dump valve) but being in a larger space made it all seem much easier. Alan showed me a few cool things in the rocks. Coming out I'd been a little anxious (the rush of getting ready, hadn't eaten since a very light breakfast and it was after 2pm by now) and I needed to center myself, so I grabbed onto him letting him know I needed a minute. In that minute, I realized why diving makes me anxious:

I can't talk.

Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want, this is important stuff. The moment I took a deep breath and made eye contact, the anxiety went away, POOF. I'm a creature of connection and communication and diving takes away most of my resources in that respect. That sounds silly and stupid, but knowing this now makes it so much better. I thought I was just an idiot or something because given that I love the water, I didn't anticipate this activity to be difficult at all. I tested this out later; when separated from the guys I felt it well up again. But once I got their attention and made even just brief eye contact, it was gone.

Breathing more deeply, of course, affected my boyancy, so I started to go up. I breathed out all I could and tried to push myself down off of Allen, but figured what the hell we're doing a CESA before we get out of here so let's get to it. I can't say I would have counted it (did I take a breath? I'm not sure. All I kept thinking was how beautiful the surface looked from down below, like a large faceted piece of glass), but he did, so that was it and I'm now official. (To satisfy myself I did two when diving later.)

We then went back down, back to the hole past amazing fish I wanted to stare at for an hour, through the tunnel and into the tub. I was ecstatic. The second the regulator left my mouth I said, "OMG THAT'S LIKE THE FUCKING COOLEST THING EVER!!!!" Smooth move. My kindergarten teacher always told me I had poor impulse control and talked too much.

We grabbed a very late lunch and I swear it took forever; all I wanted to do was get back into the water. Finally we finished lunch, Kris returned, and we all geared up. The guys looked at me and said, "You know the way, so lead it!" and away we went. We spent some time just dorking around, looking for interesting locals (and found many; big parrotfish, many beautiful blue fish, and the same type of fish but a beautiful airbrushed gray look on the bottom, crab, the list goes on and on), playing with buoyancy, etc. After a bit I had a really gratifying experience... I totally forgot that I had to check that, think about this, worry about that, and fiddle with... I was just DOING it. No worry, nothing but a focus on the wonderful things I'd never had a chance to see before but now could.

WOW. Scot was laughing at me later, saying I was going to choke on my own regulator in surprise when I see an actual reef.

Scot found a type of ray or skate, and then it was getting dark so it was time to hit the hole again. As I turned to start swimming back, we got caught in an underwater traffic jam. Three lines of a large, silver fish--many fish in each line--passed in front of us. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen; they were aware of us, but didn't care. My momentum kept me going toward them, and they just kept passing by; I was almost close enough to touch. They kept coming and coming... seemed like forever but I'm sure it was just a few seconds.

After stowing our gear and taking a shower, Scot and I recounted the things we'd seen, trying to match them up on our little plastic fish ID card. When we got to the conga line of silver fish, the tears came. Sharing that time and space with those fish is something I had wanted to do since I was a child. All kids love ocean critters, but I was a National Geographic addict and frequently wrote the scientists within it (I was such a dork as a kid. Yeah... as a kid.)  The experience, as simple as this one was, just drove me to that level of ecstatic experience where my soul just overflows and it's gotta come out somehow.

So I cried.

Why did I wait so long?

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