Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Thing: Underwater

I'm going to confess something horrifying now. I've lived in Hawaii since 2006. That's, what, seven years? And I don't swim.

Not even a little.

I thought, when I packed up my stuff from our dilapidated student apartment in Berkeley and smushed harp, heirloom china, guitars, pottery wheel and a lifetime of books all into a ten by twenty foot container, that I would move to Hawaii and become and ocean person. I imagined myself surfing like a Nordic-Hawaiian queen and frolicking with innocent fishy best friends (I blame a childhood misspent compulsively rewatching Little Mermaid for that one). Surely my suspicious attitude towards water deeper than my bathtub was due to a childhood in landlocked places. Once I had the chance to get to know water better, we'd surely be great friends!

On the big Island, Matt and I went to the beaches every weekend. We'd throw ourselves into the waves, Matt executing graceful dives and swimming out to pet the sharks and kiss the sea turtles (hyperbole. DO NOT PET SHARKS OR KISS SEA TURTLES) but the second I was in water deeper than my eyeballs I'd panic. I thought goggles or a snorkel mask might help. Maybe it was the disorientation of blindness that freaked me out? But the sandy gloaming, with vague shapes floating into view, was too scary for me. My last attempt ended with me clawing at my long suffering husband and hyperventilating into my snorkel. I gave up in humiliation.

Since then I've stuck to the shallow end, giving up on ever being some svelt beach goddess, cutting through the way like a golden tanned seal.

But gosh darn it, I'm tired of being scared of stuff. Of having things that, no thanks, I just can't do. So today, I borrowed my kid's goggles and went galumphing out to sea.

I chose a shallow and rocky corner of the beach. I jumped in quickly, grateful that nobody I knew was standing this side of the beach. I ducked under and floated and spluttered around for a moment, then tried to focus on the alien world around me. The rocks were red-brown and furry with limu. A crescent of shining white mother of pearl caught my eye and I scooped it up from the bottom to show my kids. A school of needlefish, about a foot long each, pointed this way, that way. Beaky little humuhumunukunukuapuaa pecked at the seaweed, a pair japan flag fish rolled with the low waves. I moved out deeper, still shallow enough for me to panic and stand up every time I needed a breath. I relaxed a little, let the waves move here to and fro and looked all around for fish. There were lots, and bigger that I could have imagined if I had stayed above water, on the beach.

So I didn't make any amazing discoveries, or even swim properly for more than a few seconds at a time, but I did something I wasn't comfortable with. And it was fun. Next time I'll bring a snorkel. Still won't go let any sharks though. (BECAUSE DONT PET SHARKS)


Marsha Paulsen Peters said...

Huurrah - hoooray for you, Beeka!

A lovely element in which you've gifted yourself to enjoy gliding and watching; a sweet release And new chapter. Yeah. Newly broken
Happy Kira Day to us all. I'll bet she's glad with you
with us.

Christina said...

After being the victim of jelly fish from Thailand to Texas, I am not a fan of the water either.