Why Coral Reefs Totally Rock

Okay, so there are only so many yoga poses one can do on a foredeck before you finally lose your mind.
30 knots in the anchorage, be damned...
We needed to get outside the pass and do some diving!

Lucky for us, another boat came in yesterday, so we had someone to back us up in case our dinghy decided to quit on us. Outside the little pass here, its blowing like 50 knots-straight to Japan-so we didn't want to take too many chances.

Once we had wrangled the new comers in the anchorage into coming snorkeling with us-a call on the VHF explaining how great and clear it would be on the lee side of this atoll and how we knew a really great spot out on the outside ledge, if they wanted to come with us...) we were ready and out the gate in no time. It was howling outside and I did have a moment's pause in the pass as we pitched and rolled with outgoing waves but the idea of getting to be back on the outside reef overrode any maternal fears. Besides, the kids were already hanging out of the dinghy, with their masks in the water, squealing and yelling through their snorkels.

Once we got around the corner and in the lee of the islet...it was all cool.
The wind settled down a bit and we tossed our anchor into a sandy finger, slicing up into the sharp reef.
We were free-diving today, as we couldn't carry the extra weight of our tanks in our little dinghy and have any hope of making it back in the pass. It also only takes about ten seconds to get in the water once you are all there--not the case with two kids and tanks!

I can't possibly do justice to what it actually FEELS like to be underwater here but I'll do my poor-best to try and describe it:

If you've seen a National Geographic video or IMAX film of a coral reef, you can understand what an incredible, spectacle awaits you here...
but to actually witness this living art gallery in motion, be party to the marvel of genius, color and form that surrounds you, thrill and giggle at the feasting, hunting, mating, lurking, playing, skulking creatures that hide in every head of coral...
it's like staring into the face of creation.

Every thought you ever had about yourself, your relationship to the world, whatever you think are your priorities in a day--it all dissolves into one soupy, primordial cocktail. You are simply just another creature on the reef, ruled by the most basic impulses and reactions.

We float around in stunned wonder, marvelling at the beauty around us, but every synapse is firing on all cylinders. Out here on the edge of oblivion, you don't tend to take shit for granted.

The 4000 ft. drop-off our eight year old is swimming over?
Yeah, TOTALLY aware of that.
We may not be THE Apex predator out here- but we do carry some clout.
You can feel it.

We're like gangsters from another 'hood cruising enemy turf.
The residents here treat us with equal parts fear and respect.

We swim around with Blacktip reef sharks, the little ones are terrified, the bigger guys, curious...
but mostly, everyone keeps their distance. When we see a bigger, White Tip Shark, his bullet-shaped, grey body, cruising the hazy edge of the reef... it's us that backs off. Knowing your neighbors is a healthy thing.

When we loll around the edge of the drop off, the distinct feeling that I am losing my place in the predator-pecking-order, creeps over me. Surfacing from a deep dive, I see Hunter has swum away from the group. I instinctively propel myself towards her and gather her back into the center of our pack.
Once she's swimming and diving safely between us again, the creepy feeling disappears.

The whole, cerebral, circuit board is switched to ON.

It is exciting and beautiful and one of the few times in life, I willingly allow, that I am both in and not in control- simultaneously. I am just a passenger on this blue marble, hurtling though space, grateful to have my ticket.

Later, in the shallows, three fairly large Blacktip Reef Sharks close in tighter circles and I wonder (vaguely, slowly...) how brave these fat boys are going to get, and if I should be worrying...
Suddenly, I feel what I can only describe, as an electric punch behind me -and the sharks take off, scattering like shadows. Jon swims up behind me, and I realize, he saw what was happening from far off and he must have emitted some subliminal, protective vibe--just like the one I sent towards Hunter. Without vocalizing our intentions, we are swimming in a pack. We have an automatic, defensive, animal mentality...  Somehow, that's comforting.

I may not know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life,
or how I will make a living,
or make a difference,
or pay for my kids' college or afford health care in an uncertain future...
But I got animal instincts, man.
I can sail across an ocean,
love fiercely, swim with sharks...
and all this crazy, aquatic awesomeness is here.
It's happening everyday
(whatever our overactive minds get up to).
The second you see it,
you know everything is prefect.

That's what diving a healthy coral reef feels like.

1 comment:

  1. No one can put it better than that, babe ... I didn't even need to light up. But who was that Escherfunken dudenik? And what in hell was HE on about. I tell you something though, you got the 'infinite wit' part down.