There are moments that define entire chapters of our lives, instantly.
I woke up early on a Sunday morning and decided that this was going to be the weekend I pulled out the snorkel gear and went for a swim before Beach Dance. The group doesn’t start until 9 AM, and I could easily do a swim at a favorite spot adjacent to where the group gathers. I knew from a snorkel trip I took in December of 2012, that an area populated by lots of sea turtles (honu) was right on the same beach.
Pulling in to the parking lot, the weather was perfect, the sea relatively calm, and the water clear. I was a little nervous to be swimming in Makena alone. This was the place where shark attacks had been reported over the last year. I am not the world’s strongest swimmer. Doubts and fears were starting to creep in. If I drowned or got eaten by a shark, my son was still asleep at home. How long would it take them to find him, to contact him? I started having hyper-responsible Mom thoughts. I am not the reckless, footloose and fancy free person I might seem.
I decided that it was worth the risk. The water was calm and the conditions not the type that are usually a danger for drowning or sharks. Besides, I believe that if it’s your time, it’s your time… and meeting my end on a beach on Maui would be a pretty awesome exit given the alternatives. So off I went.
Just that morning I had been thinking about my new life as a single person. I love the freedom, the options available to me, the potential for something new to show up. But some days, I think “I’m probably going to be alone the rest of my life. There are pretty slim pickings out there. It’s pointless. There’s no one out there for me. I give up. I’m actually just fine by myself.” These thoughts were still swimming in my head while I was swimming in the sea.
I swam out along the reef and in the first 10 to 20 minutes all I saw was one strange fish that looked like a pointy noised bumper sticker. Otherwise, just clear blue water. No colorful tropical fish. No honu. I really, really wanted to see a honu. I have a special connection to turtles. I once tripped over one on a sidewalk outside by tai chi class… in a shopping center. I have a sacred turtle rattle that means the world to me. One day, when we lived in Sacramento, I was at the river with my son and a turtle turned on it’s side and waved at me from the water. Strange things. On my first visit to Maui, I swam in this same area with nearly a dozen of them. I just hovered and followed little groups of them. It was the highlight of my visit.
Hawaiians have a belief in the aumakua. The idea that certain animals embody the spirit of ancestors who guide and protect us. If there is any animal here that is my likely aumakua, it is the honu. Honu represent wisdom and peace. So, I was very hopeful to see one that morning.
All around the reef I swam. At one point my snorkel mask started to get a little water leakage, so I emerged from the water the clear the mask. As I looked out over the ocean, the reef, and the beautiful sky I was just grateful to be there and be having the experience I was having. It didn’t matter that I was there by myself. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen any fish or a honu. I was swimming in warm, beautiful water. I overcame a whole bunch of fears and jumped in. It was all good. I decided I might as well swim back to shore and go to meet the group for beach dance.
I put my face back into the water and right there, swimming toward me and just below me was the biggest honu I could possibly imagine! It was breath-taking. So graceful, so majestic, so terribly cute!
If honu are mind readers, this one heard me say, “Oh hi! I’m SO happy to see you! Thank you for coming! I love you. You are beautiful.”
As I swam back to shore full of wonder and delight, I knew that I wasn’t alone and that things can change in an instant… when you are content, grateful, and no longer looking. 😉