Under the Sea

Okay, one last Grand Cayman story. At the end of yesterday’s post, I mentioned that there was a lot of snorkeling on that trip. It makes sense, of course. We were in the Caribbean, of course a lot of our activities would involve the water and seeing what was in the water with us.

I’m not a great swimmer. I can swim, and could probably swim well enough to swim out of trouble if trouble approached me slowly, but Diana Nyad, I’m not. I’m fascinated by the ocean, however, and by sea creatures.

Backstory on me and snorkeling: The first time I went to Jamaica, I was excited to go snorkeling. My friends and I got gear and marched ourselves into the water. And the ocean didn’t disappoint. I saw lots of fish — including a beautiful moment when a school of silversides swam around me. I saw sea urchins, a conch, lots of coral … After I’d been paddling around a while, I was annoyed because there was a terrible noise that was distracting me from my leisurely sea-gazing. It was a loud, rasping noise, as if Darth Vader was about to tell me he was my father. I kept looking for what could be the source of the nuisance. Finally I realized that I was the source. What I was hearing was the sound of my own panic breathing, loud and terrified, amplified by the snorkel and maybe by the water. I don’t know, but it was LOUD.

Panic breathing even though I was totally fine … and would always have been totally fine because I was snorkeling in such shallow water I could just stand up when the going got too unnerving. Seriously. The second place we snorkeled on that trip was a sand bar. I couldn’t even swim there. I just lay on the ocean floor and looked around.

Why panic breathing? Because I am fascinated by the ocean, but I’m also pretty entirely afraid of it. And when I’m fully in it, swimming around with the beings that live there, I’m out of place. I’m the alien, unable to adapt, inserting myself into someone else’s territory. The landscape is foreign, the atmosphere is inhospitable — I can’t breathe there unless I have special equipment — and no one speaks my language.

And being underwater in the ocean, I discovered, makes me feel claustrophobic. Really, really claustrophobic.

All of this adds up to panic breathing. I consciously calmed my breath and forced myself to keep going. There was so much I wanted to see. And I got to see a lot, but my snorkeling fear took hold from that first day. I snorkeled a few more times on that trip — even had a barracuda swim on his own leisurely path right in front of my nose! I kept snorkeling, but my fear didn’t abate.

So when I agreed to be a chaperone on the Grand Cayman trip, I knew there would be snorkeling on our agenda. I figured it would be like what I’d done in Jamaica, and I’d make it work. I also figured that, with two other adults sharing the chaperone duties, there would be times when I could opt out of being in the water. And then the other chaperones announced that they had no intention of swimming because they couldn’t swim and were terrified of the water. So I would have to do all the snorkeling. All. And keep a brave face on while doing it so the kids who were nervous would feel better about giving it a try.

Our first outing, we got on a boat, and motored out further from shore than I’d ever snorkeled before. Our captain and guide announced that the spot he was taking us to would be great for seeing lots of things … and would be between 75 and 80 feet deep. And, while the kids were oohing and aahing at the thought of such deep water, I was repeatedly confirming for myself that no, in fact I wouldn’t be able to just stand up if I was freaking out. I’m tall, but I am woefully human-sized, so no toes on in the sand and head above the waves options there.

We put on our gear when we reached the designated spot, and our guide and his crew began helping the kids into the water. I descended the ladder and pushed off from the boat and, before I even put my face in the water, I could feel my panic breathing start. Under the guise of monitoring the kids, I treaded water and did some deep breathing exercises to calm myself. I finally got my breath back to something that could pass for normal, and went under.

And I saw lots of fabulousness, including rainbow parrotfish, who I fell in love with instantly, and gorgeous, enormous sea fan coral (gorgonia ventalina), which is one of my favorite corals. I also saw how far the floor was below me, and I had to fight back the panic breathing again. And I saw a stingray … and I decided to swim back to the boat … which at first I couldn’t find but located before a full panic attack could erupt.

I don’t remember how many snorkeling outings we had during that week. At least five, including one day when we snorkeled at two different venues. Vidalys, one of the older girls who had held my hand across the aisle on the plane because she was terrified of flying, told me she was excited to get better at snorkeling because she could see how much I loved it. I almost laughed. Then I realized that a) my “Whistle a Happy Tune” approach to being a snorkeling chaperone had worked for both Vidalys and for me because b) I was loving the snorkeling. I was loving seeing all those rainbow parrotfish and seeing corals and seeing all the other underwater-world things there were to see. And by the last couple of excursions, I no longer had to calm myself because the panic breathing had stopped clawing at my throat.

I’m still not Diana Nyad, nor will I ever be. I am, however, making some undersea plans. I have a gift I want to give myself when I hit my 60s, and it involves some serious undersea activity. Just thinking about it calls up the old panic, but Grand Cayman taught me the cure for that: I just have to keep diving in.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

What? We could be sailors.

I am a lousy thumb typist. Phones are small, and my thumbs are big, and it just doesn’t always go particularly well. Couple that with autocorrect’s insistence on changing perfectly normal words into chaos and my texts and emails sent from my phone are often comical and hugely embarrassing by turns.

I had a serious text exchange with a friend over breakfast this morning. Or it would have been serious if I hadn’t immediately derailed us by typing nonsense.

Me: “So great to hear you’re looking for a new jib!”

She: “A new … what now?”

Me: “A jib. A jib? Didn’t you just say you’d started looking?”

Still me: “Oh crap. Thank you, big thumbs.”

There’s the text I sent my sister-in-law where I wound up telling her I was stopping for ammo before heading to the train.

And the message to my old landlords telling them some pigs had arrived for them and I’d put them inside my gate. (That was supposed to be “pkgs” … I have no idea what I was trying to say that turned into “ammo”!)

There are all the times I’ve wanted to send a joyously-exclaiming greeting … and have sent “Ho!” instead of “Hi!” yeah.

These are just three of thousands.

I love my hands. I am very (VERY) vain about them. They are big and long-fingered, and men who are smart enough to compliment me on them get high marks (really, anyone who compliments me on them gets high marks). They aren’t however, a helpful size and shape to excel at typing on the phone. And, naturally, so much of my communication these days is about typing on my phone.

This morning, my friend told me that she has finally decided to leave the position she has hated for years and start looking for something new. This is fabulous, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. But, instead of having a great conversation about that, my thumbs decided our time would be better spent with me making nautical references. Maybe she’ll be happy as a jib hunter. Seems like a waste of both of her masters degrees, but we all need to follow our passions …


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Yes, totally fine.

How’s my pandemic going? The tl;dr? I have become the human embodiment of that crazy-eyed cartoon dog in the flaming room. Fine. Totally, totally fine.

Let the list below be more than an iceberg-tip of an answer. I’ve reached the phase of the pandemic where …

  • I have placed my first Drizly order.
  • I started planning my second Drizly order before I uncorked the first bottle of the first order.
  • I have given up all the I’m-stuck-at-home-but-I’m-totally-handling-this-lockdown-like-a-boss things I’d kept up for the whole of last year.
  • I am no longer comforted by chocolate.
  • I have added more than a dozen fountain pens to my already outsized collection.
  • With the exception of graphic novels, I have gone all-audio-books-all-the-time. The attention and energy required to hold a book, to turn page after page has become far too much.
  • I have proven to myself that yes, I can eat a quart of ice cream in a day … or, to be most exact: I can eat two of the no-longer-a-full-pint containers that ice cream makers sell now and charge more for than they used to charge for a pint and act as if we won’t notice the difference.
  • I have purchased not one, not two … but four manual typewriters.
  • I have binged every episode of Forged in Fire on Netflix. Yes, the reality show/competition for blacksmiths. And that’s because I’d already gone through both seasons of Blown Away, the glass-blowing reality show/competition.

Again, to be most exact: Forged in Fire is about bladesmithing. The contestants spend all of their time making various knives, spears and other killing tools, the testing of their weapons involves a lot of fake blood and a judge who grins and offers the reassurance that their tools, “will kill.” It’s a weird-ass show. And I have already searched “blacksmith training near me” and found two different forges that offer classes. I don’t need a new craft, a new hobby. And certainly not one that could cause serious bodily harm. But I also need skills to carry into the post-apocalypse that are more useful than being the crotchety old lady shouting for kids to get off her lawn.

We’re closing in on a year of lockdown. It’s hard to believe. It feels both longer and shorter, feels both impossible and obvious. And realizing that the one-year mark is about to come up also made me realize that March is practically here, which means back-to-back months of daily blogging for Slice of Life and National Poetry Month. When I’ve been doing almost no writing for a year. It has taken me over an hour to scrape this bit of fluff together. And I’m supposed to post 61 days in a row? Wishing me luck!

Sing a song of … safety?

I am managing not to freak out about COVID 19 … yet. Today, my governor declared a state of emergency, but I haven’t done any stockpiling, and I won’t. Mostly this is true because I am supremely bad at disaster prep. When I was in Jamaica ahead of a Category 4 hurricane aimed right at the part of the island where I was staying, I didn’t even think about doing any shopping until someone on the street asked me if I had what I needed. I went to the store then … and purchased not much of anything: a candle, a bottle of water, a few snacks, some rice and saltfish, a bottle of wine. That was it.

But I’m also not stockpiling because I don’t think it’s necessary — maybe not at all, but certainly not just yet. (Fingers crossed that the cosmos doesn’t decide to show me just how wrong I am to believe that.) I have a regular grocery delivery coming on Monday, and that should be fine.

I have, however, begun paying more attention to handwashing, to the time I spend scrubbing my hands. I couldn’t bear to sing “happy birthday” every time I washed my hands, though. Fortunately, the internet provides. There are several lists circulating that offer up other things you can sing that will carry you through 20 seconds of washing. That won me over. While there were plenty of songs on the lists that I don’t know or know well enough to sing all the way through the designated section, the moment I saw the refrain to Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” I knew I’d found my timer.

You could, of course, sing anything. And tonight I started thinking of other bits of songs to use for when I want I sing about something other than “the kind you find in a secondhand store.” A few options:

  • “Amie,” Pure Prairie League — final refrain or just the “falling in and out of love” part
  • “Sweet Baby James,” James Taylor — refrain
  • “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” Rodgers and Hart — the opening verse that most people don’t sing, or the “he’s a fool and don’t I know it,” part
  • “Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” Jim Croce — the verse, my particular choice would be the one when Slim comes on the scene
  • “Desafinado” or “Off-Key,” Antonio Carlos Jobim — any of the verses, in Portuguese or English
  • “Águas de Março,” Antonio Carlos Jobim — first verse

Okay, I’ll stop. My point is that it’s easy to sing for 20 seconds. It’s easy to sing a whole lot longer, and if washing our hands while we do it will help keep us and our loved ones and people around us safe, it’s time to queue up the tunes and get to singing!

Let us all sing,
it’s good for almost anything.
It’s good for musty, dusty throats
to let out gusty, lusty notes.
It’s good for people, frogs, and goats
to open up and sing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5I3pN_9XAY

 


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Counting to Five

This week has been a hard start to the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. I’ve been super tired and super busy and ideas have either not come at all or have come too big to finish in time for posting a slice.

That’s where I am tonight. I started an essay yesterday but couldn’t get through to an end. Today I was too busy to have time to work on it. With luck, I’ll muddle my way through tomorrow and get it posted.

I still need a slice for tonight, however. Happily, I’ve been reading other slicers, a past time that often results in me feeling inspired by something one of them has written. Over at Teacher Reader Writer, Donnetta shared a list for her slice, a good reminder that lists make excellent slices! And so, following her lead, here is my list of five random facts about me.

  1. I was in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade four times.
  2. I don’t have a driver’s license.
  3. I was once the host of a party at which a friend’s +1 thought his clever party trick would be to insert himself into groups and diagram the sentences of everyone trying to have a conversation. <sigh>
  4. The episode I recounted for my Monday slice isn’t the only time I’ve been lost in the woods.
  5. I am one of those people who has an anecdote for everything (… and one of those people who often forgets that I don’t actually need to share an anecdote for everything).

And there you have it. I have a “random and fabulous” tag … I don’t know if all of these things are fabulous, but they are definitely random!


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot