In other words, there has been opportunity. I love the water - so, I suppose, there has been little to no impediment to my learning how to dive.
I just never did it.
(Which is ashame. I know, I know - I still can).
So a friend and I go out on a boat to snorkel on the GBR. Onboard was a woman who had taken the same boat out a day before, and who had dived for the first time. She was persuasive. More than persuasive, she was enamored with what she saw down there. How could we resist? We were on the other side of the planet - and it was the Great Barrier Reef, for Christ's sake. I'd like to say that I was brave while they were loading me up with weights and the tank and everything else required - but I wasn't, I was pretty terrified. Then they shuffle you over to the end of the boat, and tell you to step off the end (yeah, right) - which I did, and thanks to bouyancy control I came back up to the surface quickly. They had two horizontal bars at the end of the boat - one about a foot down, one perhaps five feet down - and they allowed you to get comfortable breathing at the first bar and then they moved you down to the second bar. Unfortunately my mask was leaking pretty badly, so I had to come back up to the surface and get equipped with a different one. It worked better.
As quickly as I was back in the water, I was back down to the second bar - and before I had much time to think the 'dive buddy' that took you down had grabbed ahold of my left arm and was taking me out and further down. We were down for about 30 minutes to a depth of about 6 meters. The other person being taken down was having problems with her ears - she couldn't clear them and started to panic - so we went back up to the surface where a small boat came to get her. However the 'dive buddy' and I went back down - and all I can say is that it was amazing. I'm thrilled that I did it. There were giant clams and schools of angelfish over a foot tall, royal blue starfish and a large turtle hiding amongst the corals (partially seen in the imagine above, if you look carefully at the top center). The corals themselves were just all sorts of colors, exquisite shades of golds and greens and blues - the images that I captured with a little disposable underwater camera don't come close to doing them justice. But I love the images nonetheless.
And I'm back. Sorting through a full INBOX and neglecting a pile of mail on my kitchen counter. Trying to wrap my head around work and where I was -- (which wasn't such a good place to be) -- still in denial that my grass is a foot high and that rabbits have taken up residence (much to Stan's wishes, and perhaps to mine - since more rabbits generally mean fewer large snakes). The tropics are active and today meetings started up - yes, meetings. What do you do? I go to meetings.
But today there was some talk of science. We talked about a predominant band in a protein gel (a 'hypothetical' protein), about a student's two outlines for manuscripts, and about how we need to come up with a plan for distinguishing phylotypes of an organism we are studying - there were talks behind closed doors and talks in the hallway, talks in my office and one in the parking lot. Yes, I am back. Today during lab meeting Katherine read to us a wonderful poem - a poem about a wooden creature who wanted to do more than what was expected of her. Perhaps, last Friday, I did more than what I expected of myself - and yes, I want more wine too.
(What a treat it was to see this new world through my own eyes, and not through descriptions and images shown to me!)
Not Paint and Wood by Martin Espada
I saw her at Neruda’s house,
carved a century ago
to keep vigil over the waves
from the prow of a ship,
with great brown eyes
and hair in a whirl,
now hovering silently
above the poet's table.
That night at the bar
she appeared at my elbow,
the same eyes, the same hair,
not paint and wood but flesh.
He likes for me to be still,
she grinned. I don't like to be still.
I want to climb the steps
at Macchu Picchu.
I want to talk about poetry all night.
I want more wine.
Martin Espada teaches at Amherst. His most recent collection was a Pulitzer finalist. Gary Soto has said, "Martín Espada has chosen to go outside the self-absorbed terrain of most contemporary poets into a landscape where others—bus drivers, revolutionaries, the executed of El Salvador—sit, walk, or lie dead 'without heads.' There's no rest here. We're jostled awake by the starkness of these moments."
You see, Neruda collected figureheads and wrote a series of poems about them. (I'd love to visit that collection one day! Is that possible?).
Here is one such poem.
To a Ship’s Figurehead (Elegy) by Pablo Neruda
From: ‘Canto general’
beneath the storm your sweet twofold breast so many times
defied dividing itself between your nipples.
We lifted you again over the Southern waters, but now
you were the passenger in darkness, of angles, one
with the wheat and the metal you guarded
on the wide water, enveloped by oceanic night.
Today you are mine, goddess whom the giant albatross
grazed with its wingspan extended in flight,
like a cloak of music conducted in rain
by your blind wandering eyelids of timber.
Rose of the sea, bee more pure than dream,
almond-woman who from the roots
of a holm-oak peopled with cantos
made yourself form, force of the nest-filled foliage,
mouth of tempests, delicate sweetness,
that could go conquering the light with its thighs.
When the angels and the queens born with you,
covering themselves with moss, slumbered, fated
to the immobility the dead guard with honour,
you climbed to the narrow prow of the ship
and angel and queen and wave, you were the earth’s tremor.
Man’s shudderings climbed to your
noble tunic with its apple-wood breast.
while your lips oh sweetness! were moistened
by other kisses worthy of your wild mouth.
Beneath strange nights your waist let
fall the pure burden of the ship into the waves
cutting a path through the sombre extent
of overturned flame, of phosphorescent honey.
The wind opened its bag of tempests,
the unbound metal of its groans,
and the light at dawn received you trembling
in the ports, kissing your moist diadem.
Sometimes the trembling vessel heeled
when you halted your path through the sea,
like a heavy fruit that breaks off and falls,
a dead mariner whom the spume,
and the pure motion of time and ship, receive.
And you alone among all the faces
submerged by menace, plunged into barren sadness,
received the scattered salt-brine on your mask,
and your eyes retained the salty tears.
More than one wretched life slipped from your arms
into an eternity of funereal waters,
and the touch of the dead and the living
wore away your heart of ocean timber.
Today we have salvaged your form from the sand.
Finally you were destined for my eyes.
You slumber, perhaps, a slumberer, perhaps you are dead, a dead one:
your motion has finally forgotten the sighing
and the wandering splendour has ceased its journey.
Anger of ocean, blows of the heavens have circled
your proud head with cracks and fissures,
and your face rests like a conch,
with wounds that mark your swaying brow.
For me your beauty holds all of the perfume,
all of the wandering corrosion, all its dark night.
And in your raised breast of lamp or of goddess,
swelling turret, immobile love, life lives.
Salvaged, you sail with me, until that day
in which they let fall what I am into the spume.