Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Almost a Mermaid

Never mind if the word ‘snorkeling’ sounds something like a cross between snoring and oh…I don’t know, snarking? Like I said, never mind. If you have never snorkeled, you have missed something, truly. It should be on that list of things to do before you die.
I got my first and only shot at it off the Florida Keys, off Islamorada, to be precise. (Islamorada means “the Purple Isle.” Who wouldn’t want to stay in a place with a name like that?)
As if the drive down from Miami weren’t enough, when you actually get to the Keys you want to scream because everywhere you look, you are in the middle of a fabulous postcard. The water is every shade of blue and green imaginable. The sky is a deep, scorched, spotless blue. The sea and the sky melt into each other, mirror each other and convince you into believing that you are in a blue crystal bowl edged with diamonds.
See what I mean? This is what it is like: you gush and rhapsodize at every given opportunity.
Anyhow, the snorkeling. We had these two guides named Steve and Ed who took us out to sea on an inflatable dinghy, about an hour’s ride. When we got to what seemed like the middle of the ocean, Steve and Ed told us to jump in.
What?
So what if we had life jackets and the other snorkeling things on? I suddenly felt all my hidden terror of deep water resurfacing really fast. To my horror, I couldn’t get out of my seat and sat there staring at Ed. Meanwhile, my companions, two of whom were high-level swimming champions, had dived gracefully into the blue and were swimming around like a school of contented fish. And there I was, going faster up on the dork scale than I would have imagined possible.
Anyway, Ed being a kindly gentleman took pity on me and handed me a yellow rope that I was to hold on to. He took my hand and lowered me gently into the sea. He told me to relax and stick my face into the water. I did.
And then, everything changed. Fear was left behind, as was Ed’s pity-rope. It was as close to being a mermaid as you can imagine, even with the decidedly unglamorous glass facemask and the little breathing tube that sticks out of the water above your head. Fish swirled before me in glorious waves of silver. The sunlight reached through the water, intensifying the crystal bowl experience. It was a melted world of gold, silver, blue and green, with no beginning, no end, nothing but sea creatures and the water, and your own hands in front of you reaching out to maybe try and touch a fish as it flashed by.
There are two pictures of this expedition: in the first one before actually entering the water, my face shows that I am close to terror. The post-snorkeling picture is a different story: we all look like contented mer-folk, brown and smiling like we were, in fact, born in the sea. The smiles stayed on long after we got off the boat. This is what snorkeling does to you.

3 comments:

George said...

This is good writing.

I would love to see those pictures :)

Col said...

Hey there mermaid.Can we get some more of your writing....please!!!!!

capricornian said...

Lovely writing...you should have completed your experience by swimming with the Dolphins (st the Dolphin Research Centre at the Keys) :-)

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