Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's not easy being green . . .

. . . Unless you’re a sea turtle. And no, I didn't take this picture; I got it off the web. I'll tell you about the turtles in a bit. But first:

Blogging News

The latest Change of Shift is up, posted as a series of limericks in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and I'm proud to be included!

I’ve also been tagged for a fun blog meme, but I won’t be able to participate until I get back home and have more time. Thanks for tagging me, Universal Health!

Today’s Erratum

In my last post, I said that the mandatory boating distance from whales is 100 feet; that should have been yards! Obviously, my vacation is eating my brain.

More News of Mice

The latest FoM review, by Victoria Strauss, is up at the SF Site. It's another very enthusiastic notice, although Straus joins Lalumiere in considering "GI Jesus" the weakest story in the collection. (I feel like I'm watching a tennis match, trying to keep a tally on this one!)

The Second Whale Watch

Here in Maui, yesterday’s expedition wasn’t quite as exciting as Tuesday’s, because we didn’t have hundreds of Spinner Dolphins surrounding the boat. The trip did start out with a spectacular whale breach, followed by pectoral fin slapping; after that, though, things quieted down. There were lots and lots of whales, including mamas, babies, and something called a “competition pod,” or “compod,” where two or more males head-butt each other (or maybe they only lunge at each other) over a female. But most of that was happening under the water, and while the naturalists claimed that they could see what was happening because of their polarized sunglasses, the rest of us with polarized sunglasses couldn’t see a thing. Either the naturalists were making it up, or they have x-ray vision.

We still had a good time, but it was a more placid good time than we’d had on the previous trip.

The Snorkeling Expedition

Gary and I have discovered that we love snorkeling. The boat’s first stop, at Molokini, allowed us to watch gorgeous little fish darting in and out of coral groves, and often swimming almost close enough to touch. Our optical masks worked very well: we could both see fine, even though we’re usually blind as the proverbial bats without our glasses. I heard lots of whalesong under the water, although Gary didn’t hear it. (There were a mama and baby whale quite close to us, and other people saw them breach, but we were watching fish when that happened.) It was really stunningly beautiful, and I can see how snorkeling could easily be a profoundly spiritual experience: just you, the water, the wildlife, and the gentle sounds of whalesong and your own breathing.

Unfortunately, my spiritual experience this morning was marred by three factors:

1. Gary and I were using proper snorkeling form: a dead-man’s float with gentle scissor kicks when we wanted to move somewhere. We were parallel to the plane of the water’s surface. This was how the instructor had told us to position ourselves. Unfortunately, most of the other people on our trip were hanging vertically down into the water, with their fins pumping as if they were on exercycles, popping up to chatter to each other and then plunking their masks back into the water to peer down past their feet. This meant that our own view of fish and coral was often blocked by a sea of pumping legs. I know that any true spiritual experience includes love for one’s fellow humans, but I was having some trouble with that this morning.

2. We had the first iffy weather of the entire trip: it was very cloudy and much cooler than it has been, and the water was very choppy. This meant that Gary and I both got chilly, even wearing wetsuit tops.

3. Probably as a result of #2, I wound up feeling very nauseous on my way back to the boat. Once I crawled aboard, I was okay, but it was touch and go there for a bit.

Me and My Turtle

On to Turtle Town! We saw more Spinner Dolphins on the way, and also had some more whale action. I’d told myself that it would be okay if I didn’t see any turtles, but I really wanted to see one . . . and sure enough, I did! I saw one large turtle, swimming placidly here and there, and I followed him (her?) at the required ten-foot distance. It really was ten feet this time, and not ten yards, because green sea turtles are no longer considered endangered, although they're still on the "guarded" list.

Later I learned that other people had seen a baby turtle: lucky them! I just saw the one. Sometimes I had to back up because I was too close to it. My turtle -- I became very proprietary towards the turtle very quickly -- was graceful and streamlined and soothingly green, and I was very happy; although, once again, my spiritual discipline of lovingkindness towards all living creatures stopped rather short of the idiot who swam about three feet from my turtle and flapped his fins in the creature’s face while trying to get a good shot with an underwater camera. My turtle appeared much less perturbed by this than I was, although it did make a dignified exit for its coral cave shortly thereafter. Honestly, dude: how would you feel if someone did that to you?

I thought about looking for other turtles, but I’d started feeling bad again, almost as green as my turtle was . . . and then rapidly more green, until I had to yank my snorkel out of my mouth to lose my breakfast and yummy boat snacks into the ocean. Delightful.

After that fun experience, I had to swim back to the boat, which wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t been feeling violently ill. I managed to get there, though, and was keeping my remaining cookies down until everybody else got back into the boat . . . at which point I made a mad dash for the railing and hurled over the side of the boat five or six times in quick succession, while the other passengers stared at me. (“And now, ladies and gentlemen, our next eco-tourism adventure: Wild Vomit!”) The captain was very nice; she brought me a glass of cold water and told me, “You’ll feel better when we get going again, hon,” and then told the others, “We’re going to head back now, for the benefit of those of you who aren’t feeling so well.” It turned out that at least one other passenger was also sick, although I didn’t realize it then. When I apologized for fouling the water, the captain said cheerfully, “Oh, no problem! It’s fish food! The fish love you now! They want you to come back!” As Gary observed later, far better I should be sick into the ocean than into the boat.

Gary, alas, saw no turtles at all. He still loves snorkeling, though.

We made it back to the dock without incident, although it took a good ninety minutes for solid ground to stop rolling whenever I stood up. It’s the worst experience of sea legs I’ve ever had.

After a light lunch, a nap and a shower, I felt infinitely better, and Gary and I went for a nice walk on which I found fun inexpensive earrings and a new suitcase. The zipper on my old one had died. The new one is bright red, with yellow flowers and white turtles on it. It’s a little garish, but I definitely won’t have trouble spotting it at baggage claim.

So that was our exciting day. The whalesong and my turtle made everything worth it: I’d happily be that sick three times over, for those two experiences.

Tomorrow’s agenda: a quiet day of beach-lolling, probably a long walk for me and Gary, and then a fabulous dinner at an obscenely fancy restaurant, Nick's Fishmarket in Wailea. We went there for our farewell-to-Maui dinner last year, and it may be becoming a tradition.


  1. Awesome! I saw turtles when I was in the Bahamas but they were under water and I was on a boat so I've no idea what color they were. Lucky you to get so close!

    Interesting that you get sick off the ship and then feel better once back on board. For me it is the other way around and definitely gets worse in choppy seas.

    Glad you are having fun!

  2. That all sounds like so much fun!

  3. I'm sorry your experience was diminished by fellow divers incapable of being in sympathy with their fellow creatures. I've been (occasionally) watching one of those heartbreakingly beautiful natural history series, this one about a freediver who frolics with whales - but does it in a way that is almost as graceful as they are. A similar experience had her gracefully apoplectic.

    I guess they are the same people who have ride their trail bikes through virgin forest, ride their jet skis through a peaceful lagoon...

    I hope your vacation has left you refreshed.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.