After the excitement of the past few days, I’m going to kick us back on schedule and publish a few of the posts I had planned before Dan got all crafty and romantic and popped the big question. So without further ado…..
I spent the last bits of December and the first week of January gallivanting from Florida to North Carolina to New Jersey and New York City and everywhere in between. I have fancy phone photos to share from much of the journey, but first, I have to relate to you this tale of fears overcome and (near) terror realized.
Stage one of the journey brought us to Florida. I am number one a Colorado girl. Number two I’m a northern California girl. A number of my relatives live in California, primarily in or quite near to the Bay Area. As such, I’ve spent many a day near the northern California coastline. If you’ve ever visited that area, specifically the coast itself, you’re well aware that the water is frigid. Bone-smashing cold. The ocean in that part of the world takes no survivors. I’ve touched the water, gotten somewhat into the water (up to my knees only), and generally enjoyed the water, but I’ve never been fully submerged in ocean water. Ever. (That I remember. I may be blocking the memory, Jason Bourne-style.)
Mostly, I’ve been OK with this status quo. I have a renegade dream to become a full-time surfer, but that misplaced aspiration aside, I really don’t enjoy water. Water and I do not mix. We are not best friends. I’m terrified of the ocean is what I’m saying. (I’d make an awesome surfer, don’t you think?) It’s not that I’m scared of drowning, because that’s really not where the concern stems, it’s more that while in deep water, there’s this great expanse below you that you cannot see. There are hundreds of things (sharks), lurking below the surface (sharks), ready to grab you and you take you to its underwater sea lair (really devious sharks). It gives me the willies, those great depths. (Also, sharks.)
So, this inability to really enjoy the ocean water during my visits to San Francisco never bothered me. I could visit the beach, touch the water at a safe distance, and get all the benefits of beach time without having to worry about actually submerging myself in the water. (I feel I should note that while I severely fear sharks, I love Shark Week. My family doesn’t understand me either.)
But — and there’s always a but — in southern Florida, there are ample opportunities to go all in when it comes to the ocean. It’s warm and pleasant and beloved by all. While visiting Dan’s family there, we spent Friday afternoon at the beach. And sans a good excuse (hypothermia) to avoid getting into the ocean, I feared my time had come. Shark Week was about to get real, I could feel it.
Dan went first. Ever so brave, I wandered a smidge in, up to my thighs. It was a bit chilly, but once you acclimated to it, it was like visiting the neighborhood pool. Comfortable. In temperature anyway.
He went in to just beyond where the water was breaking. “It’s great,” he said, up to his chest in shark haven. He told me it was clear, you could see everything, come on out, the water is fine.
Anybody who has ever seen a horror movie, knows that it is not fine.
But, we had but one afternoon in this paradise. This was my chance for bravery. I got in a little further, and told Dan I didn’t want to fully dive in. I was good. Keeping my head above water seemed like a good priority number one.
“Just run right over to me,” he said, still about 15 feet away and at a depth that was dangerously close to fully submerged. “It’ll be fine, come on.”
“I don’t like this,” I told him. But, I couldn’t very well chicken out. Right? I mean, the odds of seeing a shark or a giant squid or Moby Dick were slim. Dan had spent many a day of his youth at this very beach, in this water, swimming to and fro. So, I reiterated that I didn’t want to dive all the way in, took a deep breath (checked once more for any signs of sharky wildlife) and lunged toward him.
The waves were choppy and doused a good portion of my still not fully wet self with salty goodness. But, I felt exhilarated and bold and after a little while of settling in I thought, I need to do this. Really commit. Dive in, get the full experience, go for gold. So I told Dan: Let’s do this.
We were waiting for a good wave, I turned toward Dan, anticipating his signal, when a look I did not like took over his face.
“What?” I asked.
“Get out of the water,” he said, looking at something just beyond my shoulder.
“You have got to be kidding,” I thought as I spun around to see what had startled him and saw what looked like a gray fin.
Believe you me, I have never been more motivated in my life. Cars that can go zero to 60 in six seconds have nothing on a woman fleeing Jaws.
We stumbled back on the beach and scanned the horizon. There were no signs of any threatening life laying in wait between waves. Dan decided to go ask the guards on duty at the lifeguard station not far away from where we left our things. Upon returning he said the lifeguards expect our finny friend may have been a stingray.
A stingray, guys. A shark. (OK, well at least a relative of a shark.) All my fears, founded. Though not typically aggressive toward humans, these creatures have stingy barbs. And those stingy barbs are, well, stingy.
In other words, we barely escaped with our lives. In all future re-tellings of this tale, there will be a huge posse of rays encircling us with switchblades clamped in their little mouths, while a riff from West Side Story hums over the waves.
Two words: Dramatic license.