April 13, 2010
The ocean is a mysteriously beautiful place, especially when you’re 40 feet below the surface. I can feel the water crushing my body from every side. It is dead silent except for the echo of my own breathing as I am swashed back and forth by the Caribbean Sea’s powerful current.
The water is a crystal clear turquoise blue, and I can’t help but dream of being in a place this beautiful for the rest of my life. A white, yellow, and black angel fish darts past me towards the mass of corral that is its home. A shadow frightens me until I look up and see that it is merely a sea turtle floating near the surface.
I look forward again and notice that I am falling behind the group a little bit, so I take a long, deep drag from my regulator and take long powerful strokes with my legs to move myself forward. Following me is a school of very small, shiny, silver fish that I don’t know the name of, yet I am entranced by the beauty of their synchronized movement and the way the sunlight shimmers off their scales. My guide catches my attention and gives me the universal okay signal, and I give it back telling him “It’s all good!”
We continue on along the edge of a coral reef that is swarming with sea life. Crabs and snails of all sorts are bustling around searching for food. I see a peppermint snail about ten feet away and decide to take a closer look. It’s red with a white shell that has red lines on it making it look exactly like a breathe mint. I start to reach out for it, but then see the eel with its head poking out of a hole in the reef, and stop, remembering my instructor’s words from the training session (which was really just 15 minutes in a pool before they dropped us in the ocean) “… if you get bitten by an eel or a barracuda, you’re going to get a first hand experience of what Mexican healthcare is really like…” I decide just to move on and see what else I can find amongst this underwater city.
I check my air gauge and see that I have about 150 psi left, which would buy me about 30 minutes more time in this Atlantic paradise. I continue along the edge of the reef, and notice three sleek and silver barracudas glistening in the sunlight to my left. It makes my heart stop momentarily because I know how big the teeth are on these creatures but I am hastily calmed, remembering that they don’t usually make prey of things that are bigger than they are.
I move forward and swim under an archway of coral, out into a flat underwater dessert and am immediately pushed by the current. Once you’ve been swept nearly 100 feet away by such an unseen force, you have a much greater appreciation for the sea. As I push against the current to try and regain my bearings, I can’t help but feel alone in this great barren landscape.
I catch up to my group and I begin to realize that we are coming towards the end of our marvelous adventure. I see the long rope attached to the rusty anchor that marks where our boat is. I look at my guide and he gives me the thumbs up signal telling me to start heading up. I look all around me once more as I wrap my arm around the rope that will guide me to the surface, and I slowly begin to rise. I reach the 15 foot marker and now it hits me that I am leaving this dream-world. I feel the sunlight warming my skin as I get near the surface and then something catches my eye. It is the turtle again but now it couldn’t be more than five feet away. I look into its eyes and wonder what its like to live in his peaceful world. I take one final breath, hit the button that inflates my B.C. and I splash back up into my world.

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