I still marvel at an encounter of swimming with this beautiful greenback turtle somewhere in The Turks and Caicos Islands. It was unexpected as I snorkeled and it was just me and her alone but in this great big togetherness of sea.
She was this marvelous beauty of movement and of spectacular wonder before me as something about her as much collected all times. She looked deep into my eyes and fluttered some air bubbles as if to say you have this instinctual mechanism, too. Follow me.
So, I did.
I was floored by the elegance of such a large gentle creature performing such beautifully fluid water ballet before, under, above and all around me. Something about her way let me know that we have what it takes to get through this, and that we can through whatever we name The Great Anything.
My, don’t let false assumptions about someone’s character fool you. She taught me right then and there how deeply perception isn’t everything. She was nothing shy of grace and ease and was she ever a fast swimmer. Her absolute weightlessness in the great sea enraptured me. So too, her effort to communicate and become a moment of oneness with me. She taught me so much.
The greenback stayed calm and gentle and as hugely steadfast in everything she did. She glistened into her own musical note as I watched her moving as soft as air. There she went spinning into a graceful tower of sea pirouettes right before me, dipping happily again and tickling my hand and my feet, fanning out her majesty so she became her own boat with wings. She was an easy body of a complete welcoming.
She was happy to have me in her spell repeating the steps, showing me how touching that effortless knowingness within is done. And though gentle and deeply kind to the visitor swimming through her territory and even showing me clear evidence of a sense of humour, nothing of her was afraid. She was a master class to me that day of what it is to be in your element.
Before I could question my own knowingness, she let me coast above her back as rays of sunshine spotted her nose and dimpled the Cleopatra dress she wore on her shell. She didn’t mind my company at all right above her and there was such a feeling of generosity that filtered into me in her easy acceptance to take me for a ride. I laughed gliding along with her. I knew she felt my joy with her. She was glorious.
Years later, I wouId get to meet one again. I jumped down into her underwater resting hole and met her head on in the belly of the Galapagos. I smiled so wide to find her. Solid and weightless, she appeared, flying out of nowhere from the great bottom, pushing upward like a flower rooting into open sunlight and extending out into sky all easy as air. I squealed in amazement and to my great happiness she didn’t mind at all that I couldn’t contain my joy.
She went back underwater and suspended herself at the moment her many story eyes met my eyes at the waterline and her shell’s underbelly tenderly met mine. The loggerhead then curved her flippers beside me in the formation of a sheltering hug. The swimmer in me was speechless.
I followed her cue and submerged along with her. For a few long moments, she made her sea my sea. I watched how she let the house of protective water she created around me with her flippers be my only skin and I stayed humble to the way she let her sweet nose blowing out playful air bubbles be all that was touching me.
Her flipper brushed me ever faintly to let me know it was time. Then she opened her flippers like wings and we rose up together for air, our air bubbles now merging. I believe our inner laughter merged, too. There was such a sweet poetry in her huge eyes. A great humility soaked me in a wider majesty. I felt love.
Admire me, she said. And admire the weightlessness of your enormous beauty in this larger space, too. I understand you.
I felt her patience to her own great mystery in that instant and her openness to It with a shedding. I felt how much she may have gotten lost and broken along the way but in the end somehow found.
I felt right then in all her Beingness she was sharing with me, too, that the life cycle of her quiet everyday births and heroic everyday deaths is also mine.
Trust in the mystery is all you need to know about turtle language, really, she seemed to say.
Her pretty head rose a bit as if raising our consciousness and the sunlight filtered between us allowing her inner light and mine to lead the way.
She flapped a wave as I felt her begin to go into that next story of her ever incomplete self somehow trusting her way whole. And then kissing water again into the infinite, but now leaving me a little more whole, she disappeared.
Determined to hold her blessing, I smiled to this fresher start in the sea, spotted my boat, and followed the wave.
Photography by Marina Mashaal