Last month I spent a week diving in Bali - it was the first time I really overcame my fear of water, I guess all the preparation of walking around with a mask of water on my head and mental exercises worked. It wasn't really the idea of dying that made me panic, but the idea of flailing and having to fight under the water, suffocating. "It takes 3 whole minutes to drown," my teacher said. Apparently he meant it as a reassurance. Helpful.
Our guides were very matter of fact, their favorite expression was "goodbye until the next life," which they'd say with a smile and a wave. "The currents are very strong today so watch us. Don't look at the big blue... otherwise good bye until the next life."
"Excuse me did you say life? until the next life?" And then they laughed at me, not realizing it was a serious question. "One minute you're there, and the next WHOOSH, you disappear into the big blue. Two weeks ago, one of the divers whoosh - he was gone. We just found him now." Initially I thought that story was a happy ending, but I had misinterpreted the meaning of "him" - him meant the diving gear.
With those words in mind as I was rolling backwards off the boat, I didn't feel like it would be a very promising experience. But the moment I managed to descend into the water, and there was no surface to be seen, being underwater felt so peaceful, almost right. It was completely serene.
I couldn't help looking into the "big blue," it was endless. The water was cold, and the guides were right, the currents were so strong that sometimes we were forced to hold onto the sticks of coral in an effort to keep from being pulled down into the depths.
By the 4th day, I was comfortable enough to go deeper and follow the leader looking for the mola-mola. When I first saw a picture of mola-mola I didn't realized fish like that actually existed. They're fish that are approximately the height of a house about 2-3 meters high, but completely flat, like a disc.
We reached 36 meters that day, it was 14 C (yes now I think in metric... I had that realization underwater and it was enough to make me panic. I was shivering and looking at my watch, wow 14 celsius how cold. Wait what I think in metric now? Gasp gasp. gasp...") And out of the blue there was this silent shadow. A giant fish silent, unblinking. We would see 5 on that dive, all of us with our arms crossed floating with a stream of bubbles in this cold water, facing an endless blue, and a giant mola-mola floating within a couple meters. (sigh meters).
I wish I had better language to explain the way it feels under the water, the complete peace. I remembered some fragment of some quote I once heard about the color blue, and how looking at it made the brain feel both happiness and sadness at the same time. It's an unusual color in that way.
But that's how I felt, the big blue - I felt wonder at how something could be so vast and endless. It didn't look like it had a beginning, to reach into it would be to reach for a color. And how is that possible? It was a calming thought, silent and free, a place without a beginning or an end.