Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

The sun, ferns, salt and dark lager have bleached my brain. I am now sitting by myself at the (mahogany? kaori wood?) bar at a place called “Schnappa Rock” and enjoying a very tall pint while I write and look at the ocean:

Finally, NaNoWriMo is over. Now I can actually be on vacation. I barely pulled it off, topping off this morning with 50,074, the last paragraph, a 50-word rambling version of those two words usually chosen to properly conclude a work of writing, “The End”…

The bar stools look out, rather than in, with a wide glass window that juts out beyond the edge of the wall. I am hovering in space, hovering in the cool New Zealand spray, salty and lively.

The sea is a hundred million places, full worlds, pouring out as rain. What a gift to have been able to live one underwater lifetime these past two days…

I went diving.

…Saw amazing things as I floated, like flying, in the sky of the ocean, octopus! every tentacle sticking and unsticking as gracefully as a ballerina, switching color to perfectly match his background, camouflage. Nudibranch (sea slugs spotted the color of neon lights), and they were mating, no less. Fat bluefish, swarming Demoiselle, mystical islands with an ecology rivaling the Galapagos…

Giant insect, kamikaze birds, species of plants, all found nowhere else in the world except for here in the Poor Knight’s Islands in New Zealand. The New Zealand countryside looks just like Sonoma County 50 years ago (except for the palm trees…)

...farms and sheep and green-green-green rolling hills with little rusty fences carving property lines…

Auckland feels a lot like Seattle, being a port city, fresh and clean and green, and here in Tutukaka,

…I could let a year slip by sitting sitting in the very seat in which I am perched righ now…. beer, words, and ocean…

* * *

I am sitting here as an Officially Certified PADI Diver. I just got my certification yesterday. I was supposed to finish the open water portion of the training back in Northern California.

October had been beautiful, and we had weeks upon weeks of 70-80 degree weather. The ocean was as flat as a rock. And then, the weekend we are supposed to go out for the ocean check-out (having finished all the classroom work), a cold front zooms down from the north, and the sea takes to turbulence. The check-out is canceled for 20 foot swells. No dice.

They ask if I don’t want to go out the following weekend, but I am by then out of town. I’ll have to do it abroad.

So I am not certified as I ride that plane to New Zealand. We arrive in Tutukaka, NZ, and I sign up with the local dive shop. I have been assured back at home that the agency that I had started to certify with, SSI, will be accepted here. No go. I even manage to furnish a doctor’s note on Thanksgiving (which is a NZ requirement), get a hold of the dive shop back home to fax the necessary paperwork, but I still cannot go. I must redo my training, PADI style. It is rainy and I want to cry. Fucking life, I think, what with all it’s getting in the way and shit.

So I retake their final diving exam. I jump out into the 60 degree ocean (Do not be fooled, beautiful beaches and humid tropical ecology does NOT mean New Zealand has warm water) and am made to swim around the boat 5 times, with only a half a wet suit, and a weight belt on. I am cold and tired and frustrated as all hell that I have to redo all this. I tell my parents “Screw this, I’ll think about this until I get back home.” I certainly don’t feel like diving anymore.

But then the sun comes out, and for the two days of my open water testing, the weather is beautiful. The rain will return, the weather will turn cold and intimidating again, but for those two days underwater I will see
scorpion fish; crayfish 5 feet long; sea kelp the color of lime juice; wide flying stingray; and another world that opens up to me…

I had no idea I would love diving this much, and here I had been resentful of the very things which led me to it. If I had quit, if I had cursed life until I felt like life was cursing me, then I never would have discovered these two days of flying, these days which remind me that new worlds await me, if I am willing to work through the cold rough seas that will sometimes stand in my way.


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