Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thursday's Turtles (3rd of 3 days of turtles)--lots of words and pictures

Thursday of last week (my Hawaii trip with Jenni) I was intending to check out of my hotel and wander around a little and maybe have lunch with a friend (Adam, who put my kids and I up last time; Jenni left the night before) before catching my plane.  I had a much cooler day than I expected.

I got my stuff mostly packed, then walked down the Waikiki beach to the wall where I saw turtles in June with the kids.  It was much earlier than they seem to come toward shore.  At the beach on the north shore, they were coming out of the water mid-day and staying out unitl at least late afternoon.  When they were feeding by the wall in June, we saw them around 1 or 2pm and watched them until at least 4 pm, when they moved to deeper water.

So that was a just-in-case walk and a chance to take pictures before putting my luggage and gear in hotel storage so I could walk around.  The wall itself is pretty with boats and surfers and waves behind it.  It was a beautiful day and watching surfers is really fun.  My favorite was a girl surfing with her dog.  Awesome.

After that I checked out and stored my stuff, then headed deeper into Waikiki to get souvenirs for the kids and to swim.  I found a great beach spot and started laying out my mat.  The woman next to me looked at me, her chin dropped, and she said in disbelief, "there's a turtle out there!".  I had to stare at her for a second before looking out to where she was pointing, in the middle of a crowd of swimmers along the most crowded area of the crowded Waikiki beach.  But there it was, lifted up by a wave, its green sillhouette tilted toward us and framed between two swimmers.  I went into the water but didn't see it again, so after a while I got out to get my binoculars.  I wanted to see if there was a crowd by the wall, because if there was one turtle by the crowded beach, there could very well be more.  I could only see a few people by the wall, but they were clearly staring down into the water, so I packed up my stuff and jogged up the beach to the wall.

When I got there I watched the first two turtles for a long time rolling in the waves.  I took a few pictures and videos with my little camera, then decided it was worth going for my good camera.  I should have been eating by then, and I hadn't had any coffee at all yet, but I hurried all the way back to my hotel and got my camera (and an underwater camera that Jenni bought me as part of my birthday present that was still half empty) and came back to the wall.

Luckily, I didn't get my good camera out right away.  The tide was high enough to stick the waterproof camer into the top of some of the waves that rolled by, and since there were turtles in those waves, I may have underwater turtle pictures.

As I stood in the exact location where a wave had destroyed my cell phone in June, a wave from the same weird angle (rebounding off another wall) drenched me and took my sunglasses right off my head.  The couple in the photo above watched with me as they danced around in the waves on their way to the bottom.  It wasn't very deep where they fell, so when the nearest turtle swam away from the wall, the couple lowered me down to where we thought the sunglasses might be.  As I leaned against the wall, a crab the size of my hand just happened to be right where I put my hand (without looking) and made me jump.  Being in the ocean makes me a little nervous and I couldn't see very well at all.  No luck with the glasses, but the couple passed down my underwater camera.  As I put it underwater they told me the turtle was coming back, so maybe he's in my picture.  Then they pulled me back up the wall.

After they left, there remained a fairly small number of on-lookers, with most people moving on fairly quickly.  It was great.  As the waves got higher I balanced on the wall and there ended up  being turtles on both sides (though the east side of the wall was packed with swimmers).  Turtles on the east were followed around for most of the time at close proximity by a small number of tourists.  Others stayed a respectful distance and one group, who was there before the turtles arrived, were unphased and kept playing catch, which also did not phase the turtles.  When there wasn't anyone in the water, turtles got close to me on both sides.  Especially when I was sitting down.  I had two huge turtles come up for air right beside me, one on each side, but the one on my right got caught in a wave that tossed it right toward me.   It was cool to be that close (again, in a setting that wasn't bothering the turtles) but that particular turtle was probably about 400 pounds (seeming significantly larger than the 300 to 350 pound turtles I'd seen the day before.

I got the best views after I put my camera away, but that was OK.  They would have been too close for good pictures and I was ready by then to just enjoy them.  I knew as I sat where I was sitting that it would be possible to get knocked off by a wave, but it still caught me totally off guard when it happened.  I was airborn and luckily missed all the rocks and on the way to the bottom.  The Australian that told me about the shark I had unknowingly swam with the day before (described in the blog about Wednesday's turtles) was ready to jump in and save me if she needed to.  But I was perfectly fine, so she helped me keep track of my hat so I could grab it.

There are amazing moments you can't recreate, and the day in June at the wall was incredible.  Especially since me kids were with me and because I was so obsessed with seeing them, and there they were.  This was incredible, too, though.  They got closer and closer and as the water rose, they were so near.  The waves tossed them around and they just rolled with the waves and came back gradually to where they wanted to be when the waves took them away.  Obvious life lessons to be had from turtles.  They didn't give up and float out to sea but they didn't waste their time fighting the ocean or the tide.  You can't watch sea turtles, especially in the water, and walk away without some difference in your capacity for balance, even if you are entirely unaware of the difference.

Since June, I often see turtles rolling in waves when I close my eyes, whether I'm consciously trying to draw up that image or not.  As I said in an earlier blog, I was obsessed with seeing them, but especially since being sick.  I didn't think they were going to cure me, but in a way I kind of did expect them to.  It's beyond my words or anyones words to explain how and why and to what extent, but seeing them and watching them truly has helped me.

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