There Are Some Things You Can’t Take a Picture Of -or- Facing Fear Among a Billion Fish

Before coming to the Caribbean on this trip, I spoke with a woman at my cell phone provider about the plans I would need to come down here. Of course I told her where I was going, and she asked me a few questions about what it was like down here.

I always default to snorkeling stories, because I couldn’t believe how many fishes there were to see. I was absolutely awestruck, not only because of the seas teeming with life, but also because until I actually put a mask and snorkel on, I couldn’t imagine why you’d want to stuff your face into something uncomfortable and stare down into some water.

I’m from New England, and the water’s rather cold and nearly everything under the surface is brown, or dark brown, or light brown, or puke green. Beautiful in its own way, sure. I love it at home.

Anyhow, the nice gal on the phone says she couldn’t possibly do that, says she’ll only swim in a pool, and says I’m brave to swim with sea creatures. I laugh it off, but she’s actually stumbled upon a truth. I’ll share it with you now.

Every time I get in the water to snorkel, I’m nearly paralyzed with fear. Nothing’s ever happened to me, but there are pointy things, bitey things, and stinging things under the water. I’m no creampuff, but I cringe at the thought of touching something slimy by accident or at the possibility of having to remove an urchin spike from my foot.

Sigh. There it is. I said it.

But OH! THE PAYOFF! I take a few deep breaths, look around and know I’m not being followed by some eerily-sentient, fictional barracuda my brain made up… and there’s the cool blue expanse of the most beautiful salty water waiting for me to see what she’s got. Grasses, corals, starfish as big as your head, iridescent fishes, turtles, spotted rays… all of them couldn’t be bothered about me and I swim with them, pretending I belong there too.

And I do, I suppose.

So the other day, when we pulled up in a sleepy anchorage at St Kitts where it’s rumored to be great snorkeling, I didn’t even have to get into the water to see a potential threat. Colin and John couldn’t see what I saw in the water… clouds of white dots, tiny dots in pairs, were moving through the water. I googled descriptions of them along with “jellyfish” and “fish spawn” and got nothing.

Both lads went into the water and checked it out… just clouds of some very young transparent fish, so many of them it obscured the bottom of the anchorage, only 25 feet down.

I went in the water anyhow, my brain immediately making up fictions about being able to feel them, or being able to get into my ears and buddha-knows-where. I nearly hyperventilated, but then I just swam, focused on them and not trying to stare past them, and it became amazing.

What a cloud of LIFE. Moving, struggling, striving, swimming life. What a joy to be surrounded by it and what a mystery they were to me, not looking a thing like how they’d turn out to be and probably a thousand miles from where they’d end up being.

Have you had to overcome a fear to enjoy a moment in time? I’d be glad if you shared.

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