Sunday, March 08, 2009

Pondering my insignificance

The Indian Ocean is beautiful.
Ellie's school is located across a (very busy) road from the beach, so I see the ocean every day when I drop her off and pick her up. Although the wind usually kicks up in the afternoons, the mornings are almost always calm and the sea is gorgeous and inviting. Last Friday as we made our way back to the car, we looked down to the water and observed dolphins swimming along fairly close to the shore. There was even a mother-calf pair. Watching them swim was such a peaceful, beautiful way to start the day!

Ever since I've started taking Ellie to school, the ocean has been calling me to swim. The water in front of her school is shallow and clear, and it runs along the Cottesloe reef. I've often seen snorkelers paddling along, looking at the sea grass and reef outcrops, and I have wanted to join them.
The trouble is I am deeply afraid of swimming in the ocean (or any body of water in which I cannot see well). I feel so exposed, so small, so not-the-top-of-the-food-chain. Ever since I was nine when we moved to Florida and I heard of a shark attack on a girl my age who was wading up to her knees collecting seashells, I have been afraid to swim in the ocean. More specifically, I am deathly afraid of sharks.
And this area does have sharks. There have been so many sightings this year (and a death) that several official ocean swim races have been cancelled.

But the sea has been calling to me. Every day it calls, and I know I will feel foolish when we leave this place if I do not answer the call from time to time, despite my fear. So this weekend, I took the plunge. Markus stayed home with Ellie while Stephanie napped, and I grabbed my snorkel gear and headed for that crystal clear shallow water.
When I came home again, dripping, elated and energized, Markus commented that I hadn't been gone very long. Maybe not, I told him, but I definitely got in some serious aerobic exercise: I was hyperventilating into my snorkel the entire time.
He laughed at me and then headed out for his turn in the water.
Upon his return, he gave me a very serious look and informed me that perhaps my hyperventilation was justified. Apparently, from the relative safety of the kayak, he observed a "quite large fin" that was "very triangular" and "definitely not a dolphin" moving along the Cottesloe reef near the area I chose to swim. Markus went on to assure me that it was pretty far out from the shore, so I would probably be just fine where I swim. Ha.

The sea is calling to me.
But from now on, it can leave a voicemail.


Karly said...

Wow...I'm so proud of you for trying to conquer that fear and for going for that snorkel/swim in the ocean!! And, I think that for a while perhaps, letting the sea leave a voicemail is a good idea...but don't give up on it entirely...there will be other times I'm sure when you can go for a swim without any unwelcome visitors nearby.

Did I mention that I'm proud of you for going?! :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent job for going! But bad shark, BAD shark for eating little girl. Please not to eat you! You have a lovely pool to swim in, and I am sure there are some great and safe places to swim in Australia. But sharks can swim FAST and you are so sweet, I don't want them nibbling on your toes! If I am reinforcing your fear I am sorry but I am afraid of sharks too, and I saw not only Jaws but Open Water where a couple In AUSTRALIA died of sharks. So, go in the pool. Take your snorkel. Be safe and be happy. Come visit me. No sharks in my tub, I promise.


Anonymous said...

I understand your feelings. There was a doctor in Perth who swam every day with a swim club for 20 years at Cottesloe Beach. He was attacked and killed in waist deep water in 2000. Took his leg off at the hip and he bled to death on the beach, despite being with other doctors and getting immediate medical care. Since we had just moved there, it was a real "buzz kill" as far as considering swimming in that beautiful ocean.

Christine said...

Jennifer - I had to laugh at your final line... Good for you for trying, but now you've done it you can feel justified enjoying your swimming in the pool :)
I had a very close encounter with a shark whilst scuba diving, but it was a basking shark (plankton feeder) they're the only big ones we get in the UK - which is good as it was considerably bigger than our dive boat!
Of course statistically the drive past the sea is probably more dangerous...