Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dixie Maru and Dolphins, Too

This is Dixie Maru Beach. Technically called Kapukahehu Beach, it got its nickname from a fishing boat wrecked there in the 1920s. It's a beautiful, quiet cove, an eight-minute drive away, that's become my favorite place to be. I swim, snorkel if it’s calm enough, read, put on my Chacos and explore around the lava rocks, looking for shells and drift wood. I usually only stay a couple of hours, but it's become both the highlight, and the most relaxing part of my day.

Sometimes when I'm floating above the rocky bottom, I get it like brand new news that I'm actually in the ocean, totally relaxed, snorkel mask on, breathing through a tube, swimming with the bright, colorful fishes below me. A small but otherwise enormous every day miracle.

Until four years ago, I was terrified to swim in the ocean. Both of the times I'd been to Hawaii, I had gone with the intention of overcoming the fear and had failed. If I was lucky, I’d make it in up to my waist, but no further, and only in extremely calm water. I even took a snorkeling lesson on one of our visits. The second I put my face in the water, my mask filled up and I thought I was drowning. I ripped the mask off, and faster than I’d moved in years was out of that beautiful Hanalei Bay water.

At the same time, I began dreaming about one day swimming with wild dolphins. It started when we got home from our first trip to Hawaii, and as impossible as it seemed, wouldn’t go away. On the second trip over, four years later, the desire grew even stronger—though I still couldn’t get in the ocean—and once back home, took on a life of its own. Nine months later I jumped off the back of a boat in the Bahamas, and swam and snorkeled with the beautiful, friendly Atlantic Spotted Dolphins that live off the coast of the tiny island of Bimini. Truly the most stunning, most amazing experience of my life.

It took every single second of those nine months to prepare. It started with the tiniest of baby steps: laying on my bed watching TV holding my nose, teaching myself to breath through my mouth. Then graduating to wearing the mask only, then the mask with the tube, still while reading or watching TV, then in the shower. The biggest step came when I took an actual snorkeling lesson at a dive shop and, with the wonderful and sweet coaxing of my about-seventeen-year-old teacher, in a huge leap of faith, let go of the side of the pool into the wonder of trusting the water.

Since then, besides the Bahamas, I’ve snorkeled in Hondurus, off Maui, and off the Big Island, on the Kona side, there also with dolphins. But until this trip, I’ve been way too scared to enter the water through surf, and to be in the water if I wasn’t snorkeling. In my second week here, I met three women who invited me to the beach. They all got in while I sat, afraid. They couldn’t believe that I could jump four or five feet off the back of a boat into the middle of the ocean, but couldn’t enter the water from the shore. I know! I kept telling them. But they encouraged and coddled enough, and finally, offering me a literal hand, got me in; by the end of the afternoon, even diving headlong into an incoming wave! Not big surf by any means, but deep, and enough that getting in and out was a little bit tricky. Once in, just the right amount of swell for a glorious experience. Perfect for my baptism.


When my sister and I were on Maui, we took on even bigger waves, then once back here on Moloka'i, we started going to Dixie Maru. Since she left, I've been regularly, and the more I go, the more I am in the water, the better, the more whole and healthy, I feel. Each time, face submerged, hot sun on my back, kicking gracefully with my long fins, held in the warm salty arms of the biggest ocean on earth, or just frolicking and swimming in the gentle swell, I am still pretty astonished.

The Maori of New Zealand have a saying: If dolphins come to you in a dream, it is not a dream, they have really come. Twice they came to me, and I woke the second time knowing it was a fait accompli; that no matter what it took, it would happen. Those nine months were the most magical, amazing, serendipitous months of my life. Besides the obvious, of course, each nine-month time I carried my babies. And just like with my daughters, the dolphins changed everything, altering the very course of my life. Having babies was the first time my desire for something grew bigger than the fear surrounding it. Twenty-two years later, the dolphins were the next. Since the dolphins it seems to have become almost commonplace. Certainly I wouldn't be on the adventure I'm on today, embracing the solitude and healing vibes on Moloka'i, spending the days in the water at Dixie Maru, flying along the north shore pali had I not jumped, trembling from head to toe, heart exploding inside my chest, out of the snug fitting box that I'd kept myself safely squished inside of and into the brilliant, clear-as glass, aquamarine waters of the Caribbean ocean.



With Aloha, from Moloka'i

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