I watched SG get into his scuba gear on Saturday morning. We were in a parking lot in Monterey, right at the end of Cannery Row. He reminded me of an astronaut with his dry suit and tank, which isn't so far off the mark, really, since he was going to go float around in a place with no oxygen.
I sat in the sun on a beach chair on the grass, reading You Suck and listening to the ocean and the conversations around me while I waited for him to come back. Finally I saw him, walking up the hill, carrying his fins. The fact that he was walking up that hill to me, making me feel so very good and more than a little weak in the knees.
I've never dived. (dove? doven?) My brother used to, but I never even thought about it because my inner ears are all wrong. I can hear fine, but my Eustachian tubes are infant-sized and diving would probably hurt beyond belief since it's really hard for me to pressurize my ears.
I did want to get into the water, though, so I went and changed into my bikini (yes, really) and came back to put on my wetsuit. I started to whine because the suit felt funny around my knees, and as I zipped it up the front, SG started laughing (at me) and told me that it felt funny around my knees because I had it on backwards. Mind you, we are at this point surrounded by a parking lot full of divers, at their cars to change or take a break or whatever. Many of them are Serious About Diving, and SG is both a dive master and a rescue diver (um, sexy much?) so having a girlfriend who, even though she's worn it before, puts on her wetsuit backwards might be a little embarrassing. If he really cared (and I don't think he did) he didn't let it show.
He had fins for me, and booties; gloves, a mask, his snorkel, and a hood to keep my head warm. He carried the boogie board down to the water for me, and we walked from the sand into the water, stopping when it was two or three feet deep to wobbily put fins on my feet. I tried to walk on the ocean floor and nearly fell before I realized that I was still bracing for the cold, but I was plenty warm. I relaxed and followed SG away from shore, hanging onto the board.
I've always loved going to the beach, ever since the first time I saw the Pacific when I was ten and thought I was going to freeze to death. So, it's kind of odd that not only have I never scuba dived, I've never gone snorkeling. It took me a little bit to be okay with the mask on my face. I'm claustrophobic. I try to push through the things that scare me, but sometimes my body won't comply. When I had the mask on, SG said, Okay, now try putting your face in the water. So, I went to put my face in the water, but my head wouldn't move even though my brain was sending it the right signals, and I said, I can't.
After a few minutes, and minus the snorkel in my mouth, I was able to put my face in. It wasn't bad at all. In fact, I could see a bunch of kelp, reaching up to the light and swaying back and forth as the water rushed past. And it was pretty. And that? was nothing, really, because once I got the hang of it, I hooked my arms over the end of the board and put my face in the water, holding my breath and looking down at a very small piece of this whole beautiful world. From shore, the bay was a sparkly amazing dark blue, bluer than it usually looks. But underwater I saw bright orange and yellows, iridescent shimmers like big dragonfly wings, and the minuscule shining silver pinpoints on the kelp, looking for all the world like small stars in the sky. There were starfish on rocks, and patterns in the sand that looked like pictures I've seen of the desert. I think having a hood on and my ears under water made it even more separate feeling. There really is nothing of the everyday world under the water, including the noise.
Every once in awhile I'd stop to look around till I saw SG, floating on his back and swimming like an otter. Even with all that space between us, I could feel how content and relaxed he was.
I've watched all sorts of underwater documentaries on swank flat screen televisions; I've seen stunning underwater photos; I've stood for a long time in front of the open ocean tank and the jellyfish tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Still, though, I was moved to tears by simple quiet beauty of the very few things I saw. And I've never thought that divers were going to more trouble than it's worth or anything, but as I looked down into the water I started to get it. I felt like an astronaut looking back at the earth from the moon, and I wasn't even down there, up close. I saw not even enough to be called a fraction of what all there is to see, and it's not an understatement to say that it changed how I look at the rest of the world.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to dive, and that's okay. I'm definitely more in love with the ocean now, though, and with the man who is teaching me how to see it.