I’m spending a fair amount of time upside down underwater lately. I used to go to the beach and anticipate swimming or walking or reading or watching girls. Much of that is still on the list. One thing that has been added is snorkeling.
I bought a facemask and snorkel last summer. Cheap ones. The facemask only sort of works. Too much water leaks in, no matter how tight I make the straps. It fogs up even though I smear saliva on the lens (an old trick from my competitive swimming days). I make do.
Leaky, fogging mask squeezed to face, snorkel filled to the blow hole, I float inverted in seven, eight, nine feet of seawater. My arms are spread wide, moving in gentle paddling circuits as I fight my natural buoyancy (which, admittedly, has increased) and work to stay closer, just a little closer to the bottom. My feet and ankles protrude above the surface, soles skyward. Family and friends and, I imagine, complete strangers observe them with amusement. I move along slowly as the current nudges me or I paddle myself along a forest of seaweed or toward a promising clutch of rocks. I find hermit crabs by the score, fish by the dozens. When I’m lucky, I find blue or calico crabs.
Whales spy hop, poking their heads from their world into ours for reasons we can only imagine but to which we ascribe very human motives: they’re curious, they’re people watching. I spy float, poking as much of myself from our world down into theirs as I can. Because I’m curious. I’m creature watching.
The ocean pushes me back. You don’t belong here, it says. Your kind left long ago. But I visit as often as I can.