Saturday, August 25, 2012

under the surface

We were fortunate to know a local in Okinawa, and when she heard we were on the island, Kate wasted no time in inviting us out. I met Kate in Tohoku, a fierce animal advocate with a talent for bargaining with animal control for the lives of condemned animals. On Okinawa, too, she works with rescue groups like Doggies Inc. She also happens to be incredibly good in a crisis, has allll the outdoor skills, and is ready for the apocalypse.
So when she said she wanted to take me snorkeling and kayaking (my first time), it was a big fat YES.
7:30 AM found us at Maeda, just down the coast from where we had hiked the day before. Kate showed up with a car stuffed with gear, and proceeded to outfit us with snorkels, wetsuits, life jackets, and flippers, to go over my newly acquired reef shoes.
She gamely instructed me as I floundered, treading water, repeatedly retrieving items I dropped on the ocean floor, including the underwater camera she loaned me.
Eventually I found my flipper feet and managed to float and paddle and breathe all at the same time, only occasionally inhaling a lungful of sea water.
I'm not afraid of much, but the sea has always freaked me out a little. I grew up on it, and I like swimming in it, splashing in it, and sailing on it. When I was small we regularly made trips to the Gulf of Mexico. I vacationed on the North Carolina shore, went to Hawaii as a kid when my whole family got bumped off of our flight midvoyage, and spent my adolesence dipping my toes into the icy water on the severe gorgeous grey Oregon coast. I'm not scared of the water or the waves or the depths.
But when stuff that I can't see touches me underwater... heebie jeebies. The ocean is so strange, the critters in there are so foreign. They say the sea is our last frontier other than space. That makes so much sense to me. There are some crazy alien earthlings down there.
Snorkeling helped me face that fear. Maeda is on top of a coral reef, and after a few practice paddles Kate led us into the blue cave. I was face to face with schools of fish, a pupil among them. They flowed around me. In their world, joining them and seeing them in their element, it wasn't freaky at all. I got to see that most of them are not out to get me. Most of them do not want to hurt me or sting me or bite me (most of them). And most of them don't seem nearly so slimy or scary when viewed up close and personal.
The pictures do them no justice. Forgive me, I am a snorkel and underwater photo-noob.

P.S. Kate makes beautiful portraits. Hire her!

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