I had survived the discomforts of being a 95 pound woman, improperly weighted, sinking beneath the jetty of Yaquina Bay.

seeking sharks

Mind & Senses, Freshly Washed.

In 2018 I wrote this down in my digital notebook:

How I Wish To Spend A Limited Existence–

  • Sharing moments and experiences with humans/creatures that challenge, intrigue and engage me. Curiously interrogating my relationships with fellow beings and properly appreciating the differences and similarities of minds; Greeting unknown varieties of my character that are born through rare connections with particular individuals. Sharing an intercourse of dialogue in such a way that creates opportunity for discovered thought. 
  • Capturing and creating; Making images, jotting poetry, publishing those efforts and pushing them out to the world; utilizing what I have practiced, refined and appear to be good at. Reflecting on past/dead moments in a way unlike many of our human ancestors could have the privilege. 
  • Embracing a twenty-first century existence; traveling, being deeply in touch with scientific progress and discovery, bringing myself face to face with extraordinary earthlings; great white sharks, whales, octopuses, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos.

By limited, I meant in duration. I had been growing to understand how short our lives really are. And that there's no compelling reason to think we will experience more than one occasion of consciousness. I found a rested mind and body in the acceptance of this probable reality. I felt compelled to compile my current list of things to do with my luck of having been given a life. And upon finishing that list- I realized I had already lost 26 years. Nothing about my life at that moment was going to lead me directly to the grand aspirations I had at heart. I had to start here and I had to be really brave. Brave enough, first, to release myself from the people and things that held me stagnant. And second, to hand my circumstances, my talent and my future to myself. To say "here, these are yours. And all of this- is up to you."

One year later, in September of 2019 I would write:

There is nothing to do but see;

Observe every sensation.

The gentle rocking.

The dim reading light 

Across my bed.

The sound of slushing water 

As it makes contact with the boat

And slides away.

The recent memory of watching pelicans soar into the sea and gulp their fishy prey,

While the Solmar drifts from the shore of Ensenada. 

Onward to Guadalupe, 

My eyes roam the ocean.

Across backdrops of rock and colored skies,

They slowly shut,

As the warmth from our star 

Relaxes over my faded yellow sweater.

On my belly, 

My cheek rested on my forearms,

I fall into sleep like a child under a book. 

Below my dizzy dream boat, 

Is the ocean,

Rocking me to bed.

The ocean, 

Where nature, as we know it,

Began toying with chemistry 

And creatures.

Below me,

Offering our past and our future.

Pleasant songs, and frightful horrors,

Rocking me to sleep.

I was 27 years-old. I flew to San Diego, got on a bus that took me into Mexico and boarded a boat set for 5 days at sea with 15 people I had never met. Every moment sat deep within me. And the entirety of the experience was unlike anything that I had ever felt as an adult. Like my mind and senses had been freshly washed, after years of looking out at the world through fogged windows. Months prior to the trip, that I'd planned for over a year, I started to suspect that I was truly in love for the first time. Jason and I had been seeing each other since the summer prior - and I, of course, yearned to take him with me. Every family member that heard I was going to Mexico alone to be close to great white sharks yearned for me to take someone with me.

This endeavor was foremost about witnessing a great white shark; experiencing that breath-taking awe somewhere beyond a screen. I knew it was also about me. Going after what I want, without the security or permission of another human being; especially that of a mate. The year before my trip to Isla Guadalupe, I had taken my open water diving course in Oregon and Washington. I had survived the discomforts of being a 95 pound woman, improperly weighted, sinking beneath the jetty of Yaquina Bay. The fall from a steep dive-site; carrying my air cylinder downhill and scraping my entire ass bloody prior to the 30ft descent. And my final dive in Hoodsport, Washington; wearing a wetsuit too big for me, shaking-cold as I navigated the low-visibility and removed my mask 9 meters beneath the surface. This final piece of the journey, the trip to the island, was for me alone. It was my opportunity meet the next version of myself, and to find out what she's capable of. To give her all of my attention.

Day Two onboard-

Today I noticed that I had been forced to breathe and live in this trip. Stepping into the cage, and slowly inhaling got easier every time. The disconnect from everything I’ve become accustomed to felt less burdening. As much as I wished to text Jason after every dive, I am grateful that I couldn’t. I was stuck here. In life. Without the option of distraction. My phone meant nothing to me. It was of no use. The clear blue water, the sun on my bare, salty skin, the gorgeous, ancient beings exploring the exterior of the boat; they meant everything. I was here. With me. And I haven’t seen her in some while. Not like these past few days. Brave. Daring. In awe. And present. This is a gift I have given myself, and I am forever, selfishly grateful. 

The details of life were becoming more visible- touchable. Every fleeting moment, I could see it. In all that we gain, we see everything that we will eventually lose. The sensations of occupying each unique corner of this boat haven't ceased. The smell of coffee flowing through the cabins in the morning, the texture of the interior seats, the warm light that illuminates the windows, the salted air that rushes the sundeck. I returned home with a renewed ability to see the expansive world that is within a single image. To absorb the fine details.

Day Three: Last dive day-

Curiously, they glide about the waters, nearing the cages. In some moments, I am no more than three feet from the black eyes, wounded gills and contagious calmness of a massive white shark. In the minutes before one appears, I shiver under the cool water that breaks through my wetsuit, and fumble in the discomfort of my mask and regulator. In the next instant, I am face to face with her. She moves slowly, her silver nose breaking through the distant blue. The pause between my inhale and exhale becomes a quiet few seconds, and I’m there with her, sharing space and time; a rare experience for a land mammal. 

I returned to Guadalupe in October of 2021. This time, a guest of the boat, to capture imagery for Pacific Fleet. Jason joined me for the excursion and we got engaged in the right-side surface cage on the afternoon of our third dive-day.

October 2, 2021: Onboard the Solmar-

Sway and rock,

The soft tilting 

Pulls me toward rest.

A heavy pulse,

Carries rings of deep echoes

Through my sinking body,

Inviting me to close my eyes

And listen. 

Behind my eye lids,

Blue water folds 

And our star’s rich evening light glistens. 

Sensation is everywhere,

Cradling every breath. 

Space seems to hold me here 

And time seems to float gently.

My dizzy mind drifts

Along the surface of the water.

Swelling and releasing.

Rocking and swaying. 

Fairly often, I'll imagine what my life could look like, had I not altered the course. Had I not ended comfortable relationships and work environments and bolted for the sea. The ripples of this shift are endlessly reaching. I can feel them at the surface of every present moment, drifting with me into the future. The thought of a 26 year-old me that doesn't become this version of 30 year-old me, fills my body with an ill sense. The idea that subtleties along our path can move it just slightly or not at all, is one of the scariest things I often imagine. One could lead you to a wonderland you didn't know existed - the other in a familiar loop that only ends when you finally drop dead. I was seeking a beautiful apex predator, whose ancestors shaped our oceans over the course of 400 million years. In her domain, I found the true expanse of the world and how we can recreate our brief moment within it.