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Solstice Swim at Beach 69, Puako, Hawaii
Article ID: 13406
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: June 28th. 2009
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(June 20, 2009)
It has become a kind of tradition with us. Every summer solstice since we moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, my wife and I have been going for a swim at noon at our favorite bay. Originally we were drawn to this bay because there was a small clothing optional beach in a cove, but since the birth of our kids, we have been going to the more family oriented beach known as "69's”, referring to the milepost on the old highway.
Today would have been a workday so we had no intention of doing our swim today. But our days off usually include a quick trip to the beach, so we planned to do it then.
“Maybe tomorrow when we’re off, ” we had said.
But this morning we found the sniffles, coughing, and sore throat that our daughter Amber had been dealing with earlier in the week was sounding worse, and now affecting my wife Sylvia and our son Rowan as well. We decided to not open the restaurant today. Sylvia told me that I had to go down and put a sign in the window for our customers, so I did that and returned home, having a fudge brownie and tea for breakfast on the drive. When I got home, she asked if I had also changed the outgoing message on the telephone line. I said no, and she told me I had to go back and do it.
The prospect of another hour's drive round trip bugged me. I didn’t want to go back, but I knew I had to. So as a conciliation prize of sorts, I decided to reward myself with that traditional solstice swim. And since I wouldn’t be watching the kids, I decided to bring my mask and fins.
After fixing the message on the phone, I drove to our beach. It was a clear hot day and the water was calm and flat, perfect for a snorkel swim. I picked a leaf of Naupaka, thanking the plant, and went to the water’s edge. Standing in waist deep water with my fins floating in front of me, I cleaned my mask with the crushed naupaka leaf. I tossed the leaf in the water and gave thanks and praise to the Glorious Sun and to the Great Mother Earth. I asked permission to enter her life giving ocean womb, and I dove in.
It was just before noon. I floated on my back for a bit and let the waves of stress and tension flow from my body and into the ocean. Feeling energized and relaxed, I rolled over and started swimming out. The sun was high giving the reef a brilliant sparkling light. I love snorkeling when the light is like that. Seeing my shadow float over the coral, rocks, and sand far below always makes me feel like I’m flying. I usually have good dreams after swims like that.
Although the water was relatively clear and still today, there were areas of water filled with tiny transparent organisms. They looked like tiny spherical jellyfish. As I got farther out from shore there seemed to be more of them. At first they were avoidable in the water, but soon it was too dense for that. I began thinking about how I was swimming through them, getting them in my hair, maybe swallowing some. About two thirds of the way across the bay I decided to turn back.
I was four hundred yards from the beach in water about fifteen to twenty feet deep. As I swam back towards the shore, I allowed myself to be mesmerized by the squiggly sun ripples dancing across the sea floor, juxtaposed to the direction of the rippling shadows caused by a brisk offshore surface breeze.
And there was my shadow twenty feet below me, moving as I moved. I did a few dives down to the bottom whenever I saw anything interesting. There were tangs, butterfly fish, a few puffers, some trigger fish, large parrot fish, colorful wrasses, - all skittering about the reef, each with their shadows chasing them.
I swam on being lulled into a rhythmic bliss- my stroke, my breathing, the pulse of the ocean, the dancing sunlight. The electric rays of the sun refracting through the water and over my body were like some kind of gentle psychic massage. Up ahead on the sea floor I saw a large dark shape that I thought was a rock sticking out of the sand, but it moved so I knew it was a shadow.
I calmly thought to myself, “What would make a shadow that big? A school of fish?”
My gaze drifted upward to see the answer. Fifteen feet in front of me was a huge manta ray! Its wingspan was longer than me, so I would guess between six and seven feet across. It was banking in a slow graceful circle with its mouth open. At first I was seeing its leathery dark grey back. Then its arc brought the magnificent animal directly in front of me, exposing its bright white underside.
I knew in my mind that this was a gentle and harmless creature, but the surprise of seeing anything that big, that close, that far out in the water, by myself- was a bit startling. I stopped swimming and watched it glide by. As soon as I regained my composure, I realized what an incredible gift this experience was. The manta ray did another big slow circle through the hazy cloud of the tiny clear organisms floating in the water. It made perfect sense. It was the magic of nature. The reef spawns, the mantas come to eat. Blessed be.
I lifted my head out of the water to see if anyone else could see this, but we were too far out for anyone on the beach to identify the manta. I felt so thankful and blessed to have been there at that instant. I watched as the thing flew silently through the water away from me, fading into the cobalt blue of the deeper water.
A feeling of immense satisfaction and happiness came over me as I leisurely swam toward shore. I could hear my own laughter echoing in the water through my snorkel mouthpiece.
“That was cool. Happy Solstice, Loetree.”
Location: Kamuela, Hawaii
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