As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut when I “grew up” exploring the unknown of outer space or finding new lifeforms on an alien planet. But now I have found a reality that is so much better. Instead of the cold void of a black vacuum, I have learned to immerse myself in the most fundamental of elements: water. I don’t remember learning to swim, as I was only an infant my first time in a pool. But trading the boring tile of a sterile pool for the open ocean has provided the key to the hidden world created on our planet, and inspiration to live my life to the fullest.
Green sea turtles are a pleasant surprise when they surface next to me. In only a few seconds, the old air is exchanged for a new lung full and I follow my friend into the subsurface world. The the rush and noise of land disappear. My heartbeat slows. I rediscover peace by fully focusing on my most immediate surroundings. Seconds feel like days. I can only imagine the sweet dreams sea turtles have while submerged asleep for several hours before surfacing for more oxygen.
Manta rays the size of a car look like they are flying through the current. With no sudden movements or waste of energy they power through the strongest tides with confidence. If only my every movement underwater could be as efficient and smooth powering me into through this new world.
Corals have the permanence of stone, but the coloring of the most exquisite vegetative blossoms. In reality they are neither. Now that I am able to get face to face with the sea floor, I realize these are millions of living animals, creating structures of stunning elegance. I am challenged by the work of these individual organisms to transform the sunken hull of the USAT Liberty shipwreck into garden covered by living creatures. I pray that the unexpected challenges and foreign objects of my life can become a foundation for such grace and beauty.
Clownfish (popularized by Finding Nemo) have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with one of the least desirable and most aggressive potential partners on the ocean floor. Sea anemones usually spear small fish with venom but are biologically convinced to let clownfish make their poisonous tentacles a home and protection for the next generation. So many times I have avoided the offensive and angry anemones of my life only to realize they are just wounded people needing a friend to partner with as we heal together.
Banded sea snakes are extremely and venomous, but are only dangerous to humans if cornered and feel forced to defend themselves. Instead, they provide an analogy to my life as a diver. Much of their life must be on land for necessary business (in their case, digestion and reproduction). But somehow they find a perfect balance of required time on dry earth and the longing of returning to the water.
I may never know if strange aliens creatures exist on other planets, but I have grown to love and learn from the beauty of creation a few meters below the oceans on our very own earth. Thanks to the team at Fusion Free Dive for opening this world to me one silent journey at a time.