This is Megan, as per usual, which merits saying because there’s going to be an extra author on these posts—my little cousin, Tal, who is an old woman in the body of a twelve-year-old (maybe not an old woman. She’s too cool to be an old woman. But she’s definitely older than twelve. She just taught me the word “phrasal,” which apparently is a real word, as in, “‘Gearing up’ is a gerund phrasal!” which is a sentence she just said to me, out of nowhere. You thought I was kidding about her, didn’t you?)
I’m currently on a family vacation that I’ve been taking with my grandparents most years since I was eleven years old and got my scuba certification. I’m on an island called Bonaire, which is right next to Aruba and really has nothing to say for itself except for coral reefs and the exceptionally blue ocean. But time has moved, and my youngest cousin is now old enough to come with us, so she and her mother Wendy have done so. It is the first time I’ve ever been here with anyone in addition to my grandparents, and it’s fun beyond belief. The thought of being here with Tal—bringing her to my favorite places, showing her the reefs and teaching her the names of all the fish that my grandparents taught me when she was my age—makes me feel motherly and proud and happy in a way I can’t quite describe.
I usually keep a journal when I come to Bonaire, because the things I see and learn here aren’t things I want to soon forget. This time I decided to make it into a blog, and I asked Tal if she would join me. Here are our impressions of Bonaire. (This first post is just Megan, but the next one, about Day 2, is the both of us jointly.)
Today the five of us—my grandparents, Wendy, Tal, and I—did an equipment-checking dive at the Carib Inn. The Carib Inn is like a second home at this point. It is run by a charismatic crew of kindhearted people who welcome us back every year: my grandparents for 25 years, me for ten, and now Wendy and Tal for four.
The dive was largely uneventful but for a few equipment malfunctions which we dealt with. But it was my first time diving with my little cousin and my aunt. This may seem like a mundane thing, but it feels amazing to me. Tal might laugh at me when she reads this, because I’ve said this to her so many times, but it bears writing down: Tal reminds me of myself in so many ways, only better. She has my hair and my eyes (or I have hers). She loves animals. She uses words like “esoteric” and “phrasal”. And, above all—like everyone in my family—she is a fish. She has waterblood. She learned to swim, if I remember, nearly at the same time that she learned to walk (at the same time that I, a little younger than she is now, was learning to scuba dive). And now she is the youngest diver I have ever known besides myself, and even though I remember a time when she couldn’t swim, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk—indeed, remember a time when she didn’t even exist—she is one of my very favorite people, and I got to hold hands with her today 40 feet under the ocean surface. It is a place that very few people can get to, and a place that we both love dearly, and I am glad that she was by my side there. I’m proud of my adventurous family.
Anyway. The details of my adventure are probably way more interesting to you than my nostalgia. There wasn’t much of unusual interest in today’s dive—it was just a crazy delight to be back to diving, which is really flying, movement in three dimensions. I may turn myself completely upside-down, nose nearly to the reef, to scrutinize the rubble for creatures, and then with a lazy flicking of a fin I can turn over to gaze at the twinkling faraway surface and blow bubble rings. We did chance across a sleeping school of tarpon, monolithic fish that emerge hulkingly from the darkling distant dim like weird sea gods. They are about 5 feet long with steely scales that reflect the surrounding water and make them look like empty outlines of fish until you are right beside them and realize just how immense and solid they are. Huge fish, with their slow grace and lidless alien eyes, have always both fascinated and scared me, but I found today that my fear is much less than it once was. I played with my new confidence by getting as close to them as I could. They yawned and finned off slowly into the darkness of the deeper sea.
When we got back to the dock, Tal, Wendy and I stayed in the water a bit longer than we needed to to watch a school of silversides that had pooled under the dock. They had attracted the attention of predators, needlefish and barjacks, and they were making evasive movements as a unified school—bunching, flowing, wheeling, their sides flashing in the sunlight like torrents of mercury. Every now and then the needlefish made arrow-like attacks from above, while the jacks mostly just careened around the seafloor looking irritated (jacks always look irritated). The silversides flocked and flowed around us, until we were completely surrounded by billowing, shining life in the dappled light of the underwater sun.
On to day 2!