Sunday, January 27, 2013

beneath the surface

spotted eagle ray off the pier
I returned last night from a week on a little island off the coast of Belize. It's snowing outside, blanketing the world in white. I'm wrapped in layers, and my sunburned back and insect-ravaged legs are tormenting me with itching that nothing seems to relieve. But it's OK. It's more than OK.

I'm content.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a story of beginnings and endings and new beginnings.

Living in Minnesota has bred a deep love in me for complaining. It's always too cold in the winter or too wet in the spring or too hot in the summer or too windy in the fall. I'm well-trained by the whispers of my ancestors to guard my heart and hope for little and expect the worst. It's quite a safe way to live, and it's a habit of perception that mostly goes unnoticed. This is my beginning, my place of comfort, my warm cocoon of a normal life.

When I left for Belize I was flooded with little disappointments and frustrations: a missing phone, a delayed flight, a later missed flight, alternative hotel accommodations. They all invited me in the first 24 hours to settle into a self-absorbed state of disturbance. But for some reason, I had no interest in that. I spent about an hour obsessing about my lost phone, and then I made a decision that is still impacting me today: I would not waste another moment worrying over something that I could not change. I declared an end to discontent. I let it all go and invited gratitude to make a home in me.

The island was colder and windier and rainier and cloudier than we were expecting. The sun stiffed us the entire time. When you looked out at the water it was mostly a reflection of the grey sky. I didn't care one bit. I grabbed a snorkel and dove off the peer and from here on out my words are going to be weak and thready compared to the reality they are pointing to. Beneath the surface of the water was a riot of color and movement and life that is still astounding me, and probably will until the day I die.

Fan coral welcomed me first, its movement demure, like a geisha, strong and shy. A spotted trunkfish flapped it's tiny fins furiously, propelling his bulky shape through the current like a miracle. Thousands of silver fish flashed a living symphony all around me. Stately Grey and Queen angelfish kissed the coral sending out a tiny cloud of debris of whatever did not suit them. I saw colors that do not exist in the frozen north except in longing dreams, the dreams that we struggle to hold onto when waking intrudes. There were sting rays and moray eels and parrotfish like clowns pocking the endless reefs. I drew in a long breath and pushed all the sorrow from my lungs. I floated wherever the waves felt like carrying me. I didn't want anything else.

I didn't want anything else.

Those are strange words for me. I'm always wanting, even when what I'm wanting is peace. But for a little while on a faraway reef in a foreign country, I was completely satisfied.

And for some reason, I'm still satisfied.

I'm peeking beneath the surface of things that seem dull and grey to find the life underneath. I'm letting the current take me back to my life in new ways. I won't let myself be fooled by the color of the sky reflecting off the sea of snow. There's beauty out there, so available, just under the places I've always known. It's obscene that I've made a home on this beautiful reef in the North, and it's only just occurred to me that there's something worth seeing under the water of my normal life.

Perhaps this is me dying or perhaps this is me being born again. I can't tell. All I really know is that I'll never care as much about a lost phone or a cloudy day. None of that matters so much anymore. I'm glad to be breathing in the outrageous sea of blessing right here in this moment.


  1. I rather love this, my friend. Sending you hugs and much love :)

    1. I rather love you. Hugs right back at you dear.

  2. Dang terri! My first response is wow. This is hella profound. Thanks for sharing- This really did bless me today.

    1. I'm so glad it blessed you Nat. And I'm so glad to have you as one of the people listening in here and adding your voice. :)