A very full October

Written Oct 20 2016

Dear October,

This is crazy. You’ve only just arrived and now you mean to tell me that you’re leaving so soon?

Honestly, it’ll be hard to say goodbye. You’ve been a month of many firsts. First humpback whale sightings. First sperm whale sightings (a whole pod of them! (if that’s what you call a group of whales?)). A white tip shark sighting. And an evening spent in the shadow of a baby volcanic island that only just rose above sea level in January of 2015. The chance to venture into limestone caves in Tonga and swim in the freshwater found there. Too many beautiful beaches to count, each time walking into the water feels like another cleanse, another chance to brush the grease and grit of daily trials off and to start anew. The first “bit of breeze” us new sailors have experienced—a low pressure system that moved into our cruise track, leaving us with high winds and seas for a full day and a bit. Bus tours around islands in Tonga with breathtaking cliff views of the sea. Food that sustains—like incredible fish tacos made from freshly caught mahimahi and green tea sesame wahoo also caught by the Seamans crew. And music that connects across cultures, especially when an impromptu square dance is called with a bunch of American and Tongan students learning the steps together amidst laughter.

October, you’ve introduced to me to a world I’ve never seen before. The ocean surface possesses so many characteristics. It’s cold and metallic and deep, deep blue at times. But it can also be cobalt and crystalline and flashing, like the gems whose colours try to copy it. It can be still while also quivering with movement. It can be ferocious, frightening, smashing loudly against the hull of the ship. Sometimes I’ve found that I’d forgotten what it was like to view the ocean from land. Even though, until you came around, October, I’d never really viewed the ocean from the middle of it.

October, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about water (this won’t be the least bit surprising to anyone whose seen that sort of stuff I’ve been writing about for the last few years). But on this trip, I’ve realized that you can only ever enter a space of water from the edge. Be it walking, wading, diving, jumping in, the mode of entry is always from the outside inwards. Us humans? We cannot live in the ocean. In a similar way, we are always only ever visitors to water and to places of water, just as we live only temporarily here on earth.

Despite that, October, just as you contain so much despite your brevity, our brief sojourns to the water can be powerful. At the freshwater caves on Tongatapu, there was a beach just a stones throw away. At first, I’d been too scared to join most everyone in cliff jumping in the freshwater caves. Feeling embarrassed about my fear of heights, I sought out solace in the washing of the salt stained waves. It worked. I was calmer. I was braver for the strength of the waves. Eventually I went back to the caves and jumped into the water.

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