“Don’t let go” I begged HH, holding his hand tightly. He couldn’t hear my words but could certainly feel my nails digging deep into his arm. We were in the waters around Bali, on a snorkeling outing. The mask covered most of our faces and I was trying to bite down on the mouthpiece and breathe through my mouth as instructed. The water was clear, blue and choppy. The old man who drove the boat out to the ocean and dropped anchor, shook his head. Probably wondering why a woman who clearly couldn’t swim, didn’t trust the life jacket to keep her afloat and wouldn’t let go of the side of the boat wanted to snorkel at all.
I was thinking the same thing.
I have to assume, so was HH, though he didn’t voice it. Probably stunned speechless by the pain of my harsh grip. “I won’t leave your hand, just move away from the boat” he coaxed. I took a few short breaths and found that I could indeed stay upright. I learnt to breathe through my mouth and slowly titled my face forward and looked below the surface of the water. Blue fish! Yellow fish! Striped fish! Big ones and small, regular shaped ones and unusual ones! They were everywhere, near the flippers that extended from my feet, almost touching my fingers as I broke the bread into pieces. The old man helpfully handed me a long plastic rope attached to the boat to guide me in an attempt to convince me to move away. I lifted my face up to the sun and saw many others in blue and red life jackets bobbing up and down in the vicinity.
The light gently reflected off the water. The boat rocked vigorously as the waves crashed against it. I looked down and was once more drawn into this parallel watery universe under my feet. There was a whole world down there. Rocks on the bottom, swaying trees, schools of fish, a couple of scuba divers exploring the depths. I held on to the rope but moved away from the boat, engrossed in walking into this giant, live aquarium. I wondered at the mystery and majesty of nature, and at my foolish ignorance of what lay beneath.
Nature is a great teacher. With a gentle but firm hand, she cuts us down to size. How insignificant is our knowledge and our presence in this vast vibrant natural world? Can notions of self-importance and conceit hold in the presence of such beauty? How trivial are the daily dramas that we create in our petty lives?
I felt a strong pressure on my arm and looked up startled. I had moved away from HH unaware of consciously doing so. He was giving me the thumbs up sign, relieved and surprised by my obvious pleasure at this experience. I smiled.
Peering into the water I realized how closely my willingness to try my hand at snorkeling even though I don’t swim, mirrored the way we tend to handle our lives. There is an entire, novel ecosystem within reach. A new life possible if we only let go of our need to control. Holding on to what is familiar, fear of change holds us back from all the pleasures and fullness that life can bring to our doorstep. I am not a great fan of change. Status quo generally works for me. Trained as a scientist, I like to experiment but need to know the general outcome based on the variables I can control. Throwing caution to the winds, jumping off the deep end is not my style. But I had done just that, not only in stepping of the boat in the middle of the ocean but in stepping off the tried and tested life path as well. And look what a wonderful experience it has been! Life is undoubtedly an adventure, even if you choose to color within the lines. Unless we trust in the goodness of nature, in the strength of our own abilities, it will remain a mere exercise in checking the right boxes. But stepping out without guarantees into unknown territory gives depth and insight, a prerequisite for making the journey worthwhile. .
“Time to head back” said HH, holding out his hand. The old man tugged at the rope. Reluctantly I climbed into the boat. I peeled the wet flippers off my feet and leaned into the water, waving a silent goodbye to the fish. I smiled contentedly, happy as a clam.