“Ready? Dive.”

I clenched my regulator in my teeth and released the reservoir of air in the apparatus strapped to my back. The twenty-plus pounds of lead around my hips ensured that the waters of the Pacific Ocean closed rapidly over my head.

As I sunk beneath the waves, I was struck with sheer, unadulterated terror.

I’d thought I was ready for this. I’d taken classes on scuba diving, learning the basic safety tips and formulas that would keep me alive and undamaged. But nothing had prepared me for the fear that came from the water pressing in on me from all sides.

And then my mask, a hand-me-down, started filling up with sea water. My eyes stung, and I closed them.

Great. Now I was terrified and blind. I hyperventilated, sucking air with abandon as I tried to figure out what to do.

Screw this. I kicked my flippers, making sure not to hold my breath as I rose. If you hold your breath while ascending, you can blow up your lungs. I considered this an Important Safety Tip.

I was alone when I broke the surface. Nobody else in class had chickened out. I was the only gal, and I could imagine the snickers later.

After we made it back to the beach, I went shopping for a dive mask that fit. I sucked down tanks of air at the bottom of a friend’s pool, getting used to being surrounded by water. I was going to make this work.

After nine years of marriage and three children, my husband and I were growing apart. He liked scuba diving. Personally, I liked reading and walks in the woods, but I was going to do this. It wouldn’t kill me. Well, not unless I held my breath at the wrong time or went too deep or stayed down too long.

I made it through class and started diving on weekends with my husband and his buddies. At that point, I learned other, equally important lessons.

Just because I was less physically capable, that didn’t mean anything remotely like chivalry existed under the sea. Guys would cheerfully lead me into situations that were dangerous. And then they’d get mad at me because I had trouble getting out of them. While diving, I had to look out for myself.

Also, I learned to never go on a dive boat with a group of gung-ho hunters. There is nothing quite like swimming around a group of rocks to discover a spear gun pointed at your face.

In fact, diving with hunters wasn’t a good idea, period. During one dive at Catalina, my husband had speared a couple of sea bass. They were hanging from a net bag on his hip, gently leaking bodily fluids into the sea. And then a Mako shark swam into view.

You can’t talk while underwater, but I developed mime skills with lightning speed. I made unmistakable signs to Ditch The Game Bag.

My future ex-husband shook his head, and I swam to the surface. I was NOT going to die for a fish dinner. I was definitely not going to BE the fish’s dinner.

kelp forest sea lionBut…there were compensations.

Diving in a kelp forest is incredibly lovely. The sunlight comes down in shafts, and the bright orange garibaldi fish play hide-and-seek in the kelp fronds.

I could take my dive knife and break open a sea urchin to hand feed garibaldi and spotted sea bass. They weren’t concerned by my presence at all. When not getting a free lunch, they’d flutter ahead, just barely out of reach.

When the fish disappeared, it was time to take a fast look around. For the fish were deeply concerned about the ultimate fish predators in our area—harbor seals and sea lions.

I loved diving with them. I’ve been circled by pups who were overwhelmed with curiosity. They’d dart off and bring an entire group back, anxious to see this new wonder—me. Seals have given me soulful looks from long-lashed eyes. I could only envy the grace sea lions showed as they cavorted through the kelp, and they treated me like an honorary sea mammal. Even though I hadn’t a fraction of their careless ease.

Lobster for breakfast is wonderful. I didn’t mind catching lobsters—they don’t bleed. I even got into a tug-of-war with an octopus over one. It got the head, and I got the tail.

I almost gave the octopus the whole thing because they’re at least as graceful as seals. I was fascinated by their boneless elegance and speed. Reading up on them at the library, I was unsurprised to discover that they’re also highly intelligent.

I’ve swum with rays, who seem to be flying as they slowly flap through the water. I’ve startled halibut, only to see them swim off several feet and re-disappear into the sandy ocean floor.

Once I got past my fear and learned my limits, there was beauty beyond imagining under the sea. And I was a part of it, in a way that wasn’t possible with glass-bottomed boats or visits to aquariums.

Dive? Absolutely.

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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Posted in My Stories
15 comments on “Dive
  1. Bravo! You did it. I’m chicken and stuck strictly to snorkeling when my hubby caught the scuba bug. Wonderful post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Snorkeling is good, too. Still a way to be part of that world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Grace says:

    Beautiful! Extremely well written!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is evident you know your ‘territory.’ I’m stunned by your clear recollection: front seat drama. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. blondeusk says:

    Nice work and well written 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Claire B. says:

    Scuba diving would be fun. Great story. It really give you a feel for what diving is like. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. phoenixgrey85 says:

    Diving fascinates me, but I’m not brave enough to try it. You’ve made it sounds wonderful here though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m not brave enough to dive, but it sounds like a magical experience, like visiting another realm.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! I want to go diving!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lynda Lee/@LadyQuixote says:

    Wow! I’m shaking my head in wonder over this. How many people can say they have been in a tug-of-war with an octopus?

    I found your blog earlier today and have been happily enjoying your posts, between phone calls and tending to chores, ever since. I don’t know which I admire more: your superb writing skill, or your astonishingly brave and adventurous spirit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so kind, Lynda. I’ll say it here since you’ve had trouble with comments on your blog–I’ve really enjoyed your courage in relating your life as well.

      The kind words about my writing are so greatly appreciated. I generally don’t share much personal stuff–and then usually only that which has a happy ending. But a lot of my life hasn’t been that way. I originally started writing so that I could be someone else. Living my own life overwhelmed me. Writing was a way to bring beauty from the pain.

      If I can’t find a way to turn suffering to beauty, then I’ve lost. Utterly. If I can, then I win. That’s how much writing means to me. And every affirmation helps enormously.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynda Lee/@LadyQuixote says:

        “I originally started writing so that I could be someone else. Living my own life overwhelmed me. Writing was a way to bring beauty from the pain.” Yes, I totally get that. I fell in love with books in the second grade as a way to escape the reality of my crazy home life. My family had no TV then, and this was long before the internet, so books and daydreams were my only escapes.

        When I was in the third grade, the astronaut John Glenn orbited the earth for the first time. I wrote a detailed report about this momentous event. My teacher was so impressed by my report, she put it on display for the school’s open house. She told me I should be a writer when I grew up, and she told my incredulous parents that it would be a crime to waste my potential, they MUST send me to college. In the car on the way home, I was told how crazy the teacher was, and that college was not in my future. But they could not take away the validation of my third grade teacher’s praise. And that was when I discovered the power of writing my own words.

        I am sorry that you have had so much pain in your life. But I am amazed and inspired by the strength, courage, and all-around awesomeness that has grown in your soul in spite of, and maybe because of, the pain.

        Octopus wrestler! WOO-HOO!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lots of parallels between us. I think Tolstoy was wrong when he said that happy families were all the same, but unhappy families were all unique (paraphrase from the opener of Anna Karenina). Or at least he was wrong in terms of results. It seems like happy families allow kids to grow up to be…anything, good or bad. But unhappy families seem to put out survivors or people who are utterly broken. Ha. Or both in the same person, depending on how long we’ve had to recover.

          I’m so glad your teacher said that to you. Small acts of kindness can make such a huge difference. My grandmother, who lived a solid twenty-four-hour drive away, used to send us parcels, especially at Christmas time. Sometimes there would be books in them. Sometimes clothing that she sewed or knitted for me. Once she sent a yellow Easter dress, which was like a miracle. I felt like a princess in that thing, even though it ordinary, if well-made.

          Definitely write your memoir. But from reading your blog, I’d recommend remaining open to writing something else afterward. Fiction can really matter. This is from someone who lived on fairy tales as a child and discovered the great miracle of The Lord of the Rings as a teen.

          Besides, when you write fiction, you can be anyone. I’ve been a teenager in the Thirties, a woman on the California Trail in the 1850s, and Snow White during the Civil War. I’ve been a warrior in ancient Greece, one who kicked ass and took names. A unicorn. A brownie (aka a hob, not the tasty treat). One of Santa’s elves. A kelpie.

          It’s awesome cosmic power. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Lynda Lee/@LadyQuixote says:

          You know what’s really weird? Yesterday, possibly around the time that you wrote this, I was sorting through my “Classics” folder on my Kindle reader. I opened Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, read the opening lines: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, and I thought “That’s Not True!”

          Yes, I agree that fiction writing can be very cathartic. I did publish a novel 17 years ago, under a different pen name. I called writing my novel “hard fun” lol. After my memoirs are done, I may try it again. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I wanted to leave a belated thanks to everyone who commented. Your kind words are treasured. I’ve gotten over my awkwardness of not knowing how to take a compliment. (Seriously? Just say thank you. Sheesh.)

    So I’ll say it now. Thanks so much for reading my tale. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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