Sunday, November 29, 2015

In which the fish discerns her friend in the darkness

I'm not sure when it became usual to have endless stretches of dull grey weather in summer. Today is yet another one: flat light, mean grey skies and churned water. The wind and the sea endlessly bickering and throwing themselves against each other in an ugly way.

The surf runs out, taking sand and froth with it, in a half hearted tantrum, and I catch the rip out to the point, noting that the rhythm is uneven and fast. Not the time signature of human breathing today but short sharp gasps. Hanks of weed hang suspended from the surface and eddies of sand drift up from beneath. It's hard to get a rhythm here today, it's all chin tucked in and exaggerated body roll so that every few seconds I am gaping up at the dull sky.

In the pale olive dimness I think I see something move, though I can't be sure. Whatever it is, it moves quickly away from me, decisively spooked. As I peer into the murk I run into a huge clump of weed and am startled, shifting my focus from far to near. I continue on, and again a shadow. I look hard, and make out the familiar shape of a shark, barely visible against the sand.
There you are, my friend, I say. 

My pale-eyed friend fades into the shadows, causing me to wonder what else might be nearby, unseen. In the deepest part of the bay,  the waves are colliding from different directions, so that as I raise my arm I am tipped right over, spinning like a fishing lure. Below is just opaque darkness.
I muse that Great White Sharks don't approach shallow enclosed areas, whereas this place was deep enough that mother whale once came to safely hide her calf. 
I think about that whale, and wish she would come back.
I am still waiting for her to return.

There are humpbacks in my ocean, travelling home. Last week on a long journey swim along the coast, past headlands and cliffs, I could hear them. Just off the Freshwater Headland, where the water was luminous and deep and the colour of pale aquamarine, I suddenly sensed that there were humpbacks around. Right at that moment my friend bumped into me, and I pretended we were humpbacks. 
Later from home I saw the whale watch boat heading out, so I had not been mistaken.

I swam across the bay and turned around with my head down against the rolling chop. Back across the darkness, back through the bouncing waves a sole kingfish swam around like an overconfident bully, not flinching one bit as I swam over it. Having the urge to scare it, whispering hey Hiramasa, what do you think of sashimi?  It merely rolled its eyes and waved its yellow tail, resolute in its efforts to ignore me.

Heading for the point, I finally saw the shark just a metre below me. 
Its large pectoral fins like cat's ears, its pale gaze fixed firmly ahead. I followed it quietly, watching it sway back and forth. 
Where have you been? I asked. Where are the rest of you?
I wished to wrap my arms around her and rest my face on her rough skin and let her carry me to the darkest part of the ocean.

Between myself and the shore an expanse of white water, chopped and ripped. Hordes of small children in their nipper hats were running, marching and swimming distantly on the sand. Following the shark until it faded into  sandy opacity, it occurred to me that were my shark friend not so well hidden by impenetrable water, all hell may well break loose on shore. Sirens would wail, parents would scream.

Stay hidden, friend. I said. Stay safe.
She disappeared then, and I tucked my chin in, swam hard, in battle against a sea trying to do  its best to drag me backwards and outwards, but today that was not to be. 
Emerging from the water the silence vanished, and all the noise roared in.