I felt so privileged to share this amazing dive with two of my all-time favourite Land Critters, my best buddy LP (who shot all the most amazing bits of footage in this video!) and my awesome brother Nathan (who is also one of my very best friends in all the world). While this was my Dive 314, it was only Nathan’s second dive and the very first time he has ever jumped off a pier! (That first big bubbly splash at the start of the video is me … the one that looks like a total dive-pro entering the water next and swimming towards the camera is my brother 🙂 )
Within seconds of entering the water, Nathan’s heart was in his mouth. I had descended quickly, but through the muffled water I heard him call out to me, then saw him pointing wildly as a huge smooth ray swam under the pier, gliding only metres past me. This was my brother’s first encounter with a stingray and we saw several more throughout the dive (including one that sadly had less than a full tail).
I have no mortal fear of stingrays, only the deepest awe and respect. Over the past few years, I have found the first response of people to the word ‘stingray’ is ‘But one killed Steve Irwin!’. Unfortunately, the story behind this world renowned incident reveals an extremely passionate and enthusiastic, high-profiled person who made a choice to come too close to an animal that felt threatened enough to feel the need to defend itself. Irwin’s death was without doubt a most tragic accident, but definitely in no way a vicious or malicious act on the part of the stingray, which since has become much maligned.
Generally, stingrays are docile creatures. Sometimes I have found them to be a bit shy, though at other times they demonstrate great playfulness and curiosity. Here’s another video I took almost exactly a year ago, where several stingrays initiated some playful interaction with me and my dive buddies:
Like every one of the ocean’s inhabitants – from fish to sharks and whales and everything in between, stingrays must be treated with absolute respect. They have every right to inhabit the ocean without fear of human threat, and it is not a right but a privilege for us to enter their water and to encounter, observe and learn from them. To watch these beautiful rays gliding through sunlight as it danced on sand flooded my heart yet again with awe, bliss, gratitude and peace.
Prior to his first dive (video here if you missed it the first time), my brother Nathan had been highly resistant to the notion of ever entering the unknowable ocean. (He and my father had shared conversations along the lines of ‘We get that she loves it, but there’s NO WAY you would ever get US doing anything like that!’) The thought of encountering large creatures such as stingrays was especially daunting. However after his second dive, my brother left the water with his prior fears about these animals dissolved by absolute awe. He was especially moved by the beautifully speckled baby smooth ray that swam up to us, then settled right beside me on the sand as I attempted to photograph a nearby nudibranch. Nathan’s entire perception of the ocean and everything in it changed at that precise moment. How could such a wild creature feel so safe as to settle in the sand only inches from a human diver as they delighted in mutual contemplation?
Life, my friends, is beautiful. Every moment, there is something worth celebrating, from the largest, most impressive encounters down to the tiniest subtleties and intricacies – from the biggest smooth rays right down to the tiniest squid or seahorse. If we still our hearts and listen carefully enough, we will hear whispers of joy even amidst our deepest moments of suffering. Yes, life can be filled with intense challenges and frustrations, with malignant, metastasised tumours, crippling fears and heart-wrenching circumstances that threaten our longevity, well-being and peace of mind. But fear itself time and again proves to be more debilitating than the objects and circumstances we have allowed ourselves to fear. And giving ourselves permission to confront and transcend our greatest fears can be utterly liberating and empowering. There is true beauty to be found in every breath, regardless of whether that breath be filled with pain or peace, and such are the gentle epiphanies that restore our souls.
This year, I am adjusting to the new life that was handed to me by last year’s diagnosis, and slowly I am coming to terms and peace with all that this entails. I will not wallow or grieve what I seem to have lost, but I will grow into the fullness of all that my life now has the opportunity to become. I will live vibrantly and without fear, immersing myself in the joys of life’s vast ocean each day every moment awake and gliding still through the deep waters of my dreams. May this unfolding year fill your heart too with abounding joy and peace that passes understanding, regardless of whatever challenges you too may be facing.
Love and bubbles,
ps Tanks so much for reading this blog post! Don’t forget to check out some more of my underwater and Bucket List adventures while you are here. And you can make sure you never miss a post by subscribing to this blog by email AND by following PINK TANK SCUBA on Facebook! 😀
ops The most awesome bits of this week’s blog post footage were taken by my best buddy Mark ‘LP’ Jones whose film ‘Ocean and Earth – One Heartbeat’ is being featured at the Ocean Film Festival Australia screenings in Melbourne next month! Please check out his awesome video blog at http://www.oceanandtheearth.wordpress.com and follow OCEAN AND EARTH on Facebook 🙂 🙂 🙂