El mar (Galapagos part 1)


I grew up on the water, but I didn’t always love it. As a girl I feared the crash of the waves, and the dreadful dip down into the sea. But I became older and braver (and my dad became a better sailor). The boat is now a happy place, an escape, an inner peace manifested. I look forward to being surrounded by blue of all different shades. I look forward to the rhythmic song of the waves, to the openness of the sky, to the cradling. Day or night, I feel a vastness around me. Within it I am not small, but exactly the right size.

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I have never been a great swimmer. Once I nearly drowned at a beach in Valencia. I was with friends, but they had gotten ahead of me. Since then, I’ve been afraid to be in the back. What if the water tries to claim me again? What if no one notices until it’s too late?

But I refuse to live a fearful life, so I swim, and when I fall behind, I move forward as best I can.

There are sharks in the Galapagos. Yes, I refuse to live a fearful life, but still I felt the fear. Of blood and teeth and the Jaws theme song. Of becoming one of those unlikely statistics. Of losing a limb — or worse, a friend. Yes, I felt the fear.

Naturally, during our very first snorkel, we saw a shark nearby.

After a few electric heartbeats, it was fine. He didn’t come after me, he didn’t want my flesh. He didn’t even care that I was there, really. He was nothing to fear.

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It’s easy to understand why we create fairytales about mermaids and lost cities under the sea. There’s so much life below the water, so much color and motion. There are stories to be told, and feelings to be felt. There is life and death and love and wonder and ruthlessness and cunning and loyalty.

When I saw a penguin swimming right beside me, I lost my breath entirely. I became a child. I watched, starry-eyed, and I giggled like I never do. I tried to keep up, tried to catch the little elf, but I have never been a good swimmer. So I let him dance in circles around me. I let myself live a little fairytale.

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  1. I am so in love with this post. I have always lived close to the ocean (except for currently, and I miss it so much it feels like my world has shrunk a little) so I can totally relate how you’d feel “exactly the right size” in it.

    I think few things compare to the beauty found beneath those waters. It’s an entirely different world down there, and I love how, when you dip your head under, everything just goes silent. Thanks so much for sharing these pictures and videos! It makes me feel a little more reconnected with the sea.

  2. I entirely love this post. The underwater pics were my favourite and I do believe that the next place I live will have to be surrounded by water instead of corn. :)

  3. Oh so beautiful. Being under water is really magical. The last time I went snorkeling, I didn’t want to leave! You got to swim with a penguins and sharks, now that’s amazing :D

  4. This was very beautifully written. I think this is the most I’ve ever seen your literary leanings. Well done.

  5. I love part 1 and the accompanying pics!

  6. You have such a beautiful way with words. Reading this post actually made me feel like I was right out there on the water, too. And that penguin video? CUTEST THING EVER.

  7. Trisha

    Just awesome.

  8. Les

    You’re making me wanna go! Except I’m the opposite, I could live in the water forever.

  9. Thanks, everyone!!

    I’m glad my words could put you back near the water. :) Thanks also for your kind tweet yesterday!

    And dolphins and rays!

    Wow, thank you. I’m blushing…

  10. This is so beautifully written. Your narrative, poetry really, along with the photos painted such a vivid picture of your experience with the water in Galapagos. I can’t wait to read more!

  11. Joelle

    The photos are great! Love this too “But I refuse to live a fearful life, so I swim, and when I fall behind, I move forward as best I can.”

  12. Jon

    Hey! Great pics. So great to live vicariously through your trip to the Galapagos. Swimming with penguins–how awesome!

  13. What fantastic pictures and videos! I love the penguin video, and the pictures are all amazing. I was surfing when a shark came near me once, but it was just a small leopard shark, so everyone said to ignore it and keep surfing. A little scary, though. And I went scuba diving in Honduras once and it was AMAZING seeing all that underwater life. This post makes me really really want to do it again. But Galapagos! How awesome is that?

  14. Love these videos! I had no idea there were penguins in the Galapagos Islands. And your writing is so poetic in the post. Just fabulous.

  15. oh, i wanna do this so bad! amazing!

  16. Thanks, guys! And yes, I can totally recommend Galapagos as a great vacation if you’re into animals and nature. Just be prepared for the equatorial sun…

  17. Wowie! So amazing! More pics please!

  18. Not sure how I got here (probably through another writing/writers website) but I am afraid of the sea and I have none of the drowning experience you had. I just am scared, the waves coming towards and swarming me, the unknown swimming beneath AAAAHHHH!!!!!!! I’ll stick to my bath tub. So I applaud your courage to overcome that fear. Well done!

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