This is sort of a spin off from a prompt (of the same title) from Reverb 10.
Moment. Was there a time this year where your life changed in a literal moment? What was the moment and how are you different now?
I was in a wetsuit, probably one of my least favorite places to be. In a muddy river, which is definitely one of my least favorite places to be. 30 minutes prior, our little tour group thought we had spotted a dolphin that had come into the bay of the river from the Gulf of Mexico. Our tour guide laughed and said, “Oh no. That’s a Tarpon. They can get pretty huge.” A fish the size of a dolphin with a gaping mouth like the lake bass of Minnesota I was used to (but still terrified of)? A chill, seizing me with fear, ran down my spine.
I tried to keep still, floating on the surface of the water. The pace of the day matched that of the river, slow and deliberate. Unlike at home, on vacation my mind remained restful even when the events of the moment were utterly unremarkable.
And then, from near the tips of my flippers, something moved. Was moving. Towards me. My heart started to pound rapidly, as if to warn me that we should take flight and to let me know it was ready when I was. But my brain chimed in with a reminder to be patient and let my curiosity keep me calmly in place. I took in one deep sigh through my snorkel and relaxed myself. Within that half second it became clear, what was moving towards me was exactly what we had come to this muddy place to see: a manatee.
He swam peacefully and quietly. He made no disturbance to the water and yet I could feel his presence deeply in my chest. He was slow and deliberate and expressed some curiosity at the wide-eyed young woman floating in the river. Nervously, I reached my hand out towards him. At first my fingertips just grazed his sandpaper rough, propeller-scarred skin and I startled. I reached again, applying a bit more pressure to his rough skin and sturdy body and he paused– just for a second– looked towards my face and then swam away.
From the time I spotted his whiskered nose near my feet to the time his tail disappeared into the murky shallows could have been no more than 30 seconds. Thirty seconds seems so insignificant– not even a blip on the radar in the time span of my young life. But that short amount of time melted the barriers I had set up in my head between me and the natural world around us. I had an incredible sense of connection to the environment, to the planet. And an incredible sense of responsibility for all living things.
He, a water-loving creature the size of a Volkwagen, and I, a land-lubbing interloper. Had manatees been an aggressive creature, certainly his size and heft could have found a way to kill me. Conversely, he would certainly have been justified to be afraid and avoid the area where we gently floated. But the manatee’s soul is tolerant and his mind curious. In that moment, I was sure that something very special and very divine, indeed, was happening in this world.