Yesterday (February 25, 2017), I completed dives number 1,000 and 1001.
This is not a big deal if you are a warm water diver where it is common to do 3 or more dives a day.
But, for me at least, I feel it is important to reflect upon this milestone. How did I get here? The equivalent of ~31 days spent underwater over the last 17 years, almost all in the cold, dark NE Pacific off northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia?
And, where am I going?
I was 36 when I started diving. (I’ll save you doing the math – yes, that means I am 53 now). It was a year of some very big life decisions including leaving solid ground when it came to employment and what many would have considered “a career”. I let go. I followed my internal compass knowing only that I needed to learn from Nature again.
Learning to dive did not feel like one of the big decisions. Looking back, it seemed almost like a flirtation; a “sure, why not?”. Maybe that’s the way it works with the big things in life. There were some pretty big clues that it should be on my path though. For example, back when I worked in the Netherlands, I had hung all kinds of marine animals from the ceiling of my shower. Clearly I wanted to feel like I was under the Ocean. Also, my most crystalline, happy childhood memories are of spending seemingly endless hours exploring the beach when we lived in Chemainus (southern Vancouver Island).
But know that while saying “yes” to taking a dive course was easy, diving has not come easily to me. I’ll spare you the details of how encumbered the instruction was; that I even inflicted injuries upon myself; and how the learning never stops. (If you would like to see what mask squeeze looks like, click here.) I remember feeling that achieving my Dive Masters was bigger than anything I had achieved in university.
But when I saw that first sea star underwater, it was like a lightning bolt went through me. I knew. It was as if I heard a click, as if a puzzle piece fell into place. This was going to be important. But I could never have known how important.
It felt like a lot of puzzle pieces clicked into place that year. Since then, some have fallen out of place leaving an odd shaped hole. This is certainly how life works. Some pieces never were a good fit or were only part of the big picture for a brief while. Okay, enough already of that puzzle metaphor and about what has come and gone, but was once essential in getting to where I am now.
Now . . . 1,000 dives completed.
Now . . . the extraordinary privilege of knowing one small part of the planet from individual fish to individual whales. “Knowing”? Correction . . I am learning from the life in these cold, dark waters.
Now . . . “The Marine Detective”. It’s a handle that I hope captures the mystery and the correct humility. I am a student of the Ocean and, in recognizing that privilege and importance, I want it to count.
The Ocean. Mother Ocean. The ultimate teacher. It’s where life began and upon which life depends. It’s often where the impacts of our disconnect and misguided value systems appear first. It’s our opportunity to have the humility to realize how little we know. It’s our opportunity to connect and to heal and to know how little we are.
Leaving solid ground. Being adrift. Better knowing when and how to fight the current. Learning so many lessons about the life around me and, about myself.
What lies ahead? Another 1,000 dives. More lessons. More puzzle pieces. More trying to make it count.
I am so grateful for it all – to have the health that makes this possible; to being able to live where I do; to my dive buddies; and to you who care enough to read these words, making the effort so worthwhile.
From the depths – thank you.
Here is a past reflection on diving. I wrote this poem after my 600th dive. It still all applies.
Constricted by my dry suit,
Thirty pounds bound to my waist,
Hunchbacked by my cylinder,
A mask suctioned to my face,
I leave the world we’ve cultivated,
To attempt to meet our every whim,
To where Nature’s voice can still be heard,
Far above civilization’s din.
No governments, no borders,
Nor economies present.
When down here, I’m reminded,
Of life’s depth and true intent.
I’m an awkward and brief visitor,
In this world of colour and perfection.
I fill with humility, wonder,
Passion and quiet introspection.
For Mother Ocean is home to life,
Older than mammals can comprehend.
I’m grateful that I may learn from her,
Leaving solid ground when I descend.
Diving brought me greater purpose,
Love, vision and camaraderie.
I think that what some find in a church,
I find . . . deep . . . within the sea.
Below, additional photos from yesterday’s dives shared with fishes, friends, and so much more.