Poetry

Album Cover by Columbia Records
Album Cover by Columbia Records

I was just listening to satellite radio when “Mr. Tambourine Man” was played. The original, by the composer. You may remember him. I was struck, for the first time, by what a damn fine poem it is. See for yourself and click here for the lyrics from the official Bob Dylan website.

Back at Bowling Green State I knew a bunch of poets, and as I edited a literary annual (called Inkstone, if memory serves,) I saw a lot of poetry, though I was the prose editor. I didn’t understand a lot of it. I wondered why people liked poetry so much? I mean, if you can’t tell what it’s about, where’s the point, right? And I still agree with that assessment. Because, as it happens, those were terrible poems, or at least, most of them were.

But over time I came to understand how a poem is supposed to work, and to really enjoy good poetry. I learned about Imagism, for instance, which is what Bob Dylan writes. Bruce Springsteen, too. I can’t imagine some of my professors back then liking either Dylan or Springsteen, but I sure do.

Aside – I once helped two fellow students write a poem by drawing random stolen lines out of a hat. Their instructor particularly liked the line, “Holds you in his armchair so you can feel his disease.” That’s from Come Together by the Beatles.

I believe that fiction writers can learn a lot by studying poetry. Consider this famous poem, the absolute poster child of a poem for imagism, by William Carlos Williams.

The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends upon
The red wheelbarrow
Glazed with rain water
Beside the white chickens.

It’s a single sentence, actually, but every time I read those lines I can see that wet wheelbarrow shining next to some white hens. There’s a chicken coop there too, of course, and other stuff not mentioned in the sentence. And that is my point!

If you can write a sentence like William Carlos Williams could, and pack so much meaning into it that the reader can see just what you’re describing, you pretty much have the secret of great writing. The poetry I follow is mostly song lyrics, but I have read the (supposedly) best: Eliot, Pound, Williams, Thomas, Whitman, etc. and found them to be excellent.

And the reason that they are excellent is that they are very, very, very clear in their meaning.

Like I said, I could learn a lot!

Moorea

Photo by Leslie Godfrey
Photo by Leslie Godfrey

In 2009, I met my friend Moorea.  She completed her summer clerkship at the same firm I worked for, then continued on through the years as one of the sharpest attorneys with whom I have had the chance to work.  Not only is her name Moorea, but she is actually named after an island in the South Pacific her parents once visited.  Fate had connected me with a daily reminder of where I was headed. As a result, our Moorea landfall has lived in my imagination more than any other landfall we have planned.  As we arrived, I was immersed in the soul-buzz one feels when ten years of planning, patience and striving culminate in the achievement of your objective.  The feeling is a mix of memory, hope and satisfaction. Even better, Moorea did not disappoint.  Opanuah Bay is marked down as one of our favorite locations in the world so far.  We enjoyed the company of our Norwegian friends, beautiful sunsets (we even witnessed a second Green Flash!), clear warm water for swimming/snorkeling, a white and beach, an easy row to the Hilton for a Maitai and amazing island vistas.   ….wait, Leslie.  Did you say “row”?   Yes, I said “row.” ….didn’t you say Andrew was going to fix the outboard motor “once and for all?”   Yes, I said “once and for all.” On our second morning in Moorea, Andrew hopped into Grin to take him for a spin.  Overjoyed that the motor was finally fired up, Andrew zipped to and fro planed out and throwing a wake large enough to waterski behind.  He covered miles and miles, exploring the nearby bay to determine the best landing spot to start a recommended hike and the best landing spot to find groceries.  The buzz of the outboard echoed against Moorea’s steep cliffs.   After breakfast, Andrew gathered Sonrisa’s crew and we traversed the mile to a trailhead to hike to a marae where human sacrifices were made, see the sentinels of the ancestors, and hike through a pineapple plantation. Did you know that a pineapple is a really beautiful flower? We drink a coconut at the top of Belvedere point. Crackers, salty salami and a soft French cheese pair well with the view. We end our hike at a little shop where we buy pineapple vanilla jam and sample freshly made Tahitian vanilla ice cream.  I’m here to confirm, Tahitian vanilla is different than any other vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.  It is good. In addition, I am developing a taste for ice cream along side espresso.  The warm bitter espresso is a perfect palate cleanser to make sure you can taste every bite of the ice cream.   After this long day of hiking, we were tired but we needed a few things from the grocery store to round out Crystal’s dinner plans.  Andrew hustled us out of Tahiti so fast that we did not get our second round of grocery shopping accomplished.  So, we fire up the dinghy and head to the other side of the bay to fill up with the items we need.  We grab a box of fresh veggies, some canned goods, and some new baguettes.  We load up Grin and head in the direction of home.  A Tahitian man in a Va’a (the missile shaped canoe) spies us zooming across the bay and falls behind us to surf our wake.  Now, THIS is what a dinghy outboard motor is supposed to do!   We are all happily bouncing along when suddenly, the RPMs of the motor rev and Grin falls flat in the water.  The motor is screaming like we are about to take off on a drag race, but we are going nowhere.  The gentleman in the Va’a almost skewers Grin in the hind end, but steers to port just in time.  A look of confusion is pasted on his face and ours.  What the hell? Andrew fusses with the motor for a second or two, then learns a grim fact.  The drive shaft has bit the dust.  Mind you, the drive shaft was not the problem we were wrestling with in Nuka Hiva through Tahiti.  That problem was the shifting cables.  This is an entirely new (and rather major) problem.  Andrew is pretty stoic about it, though.  The only external response is a calm request that we take up oar (again), and begin the long row to Sonrisa.  We can see her in the distance, but just barely.  We are going to have to row a mile-plus across the channel to get back to the anchorage, loaded with four people a 75+ inoperable outboard motor, and all these groceries.  We’ve got this, though; all these months, we have been training for this one moment.   We are the Rowersons.   Crystal and Kevin are good sports, and they take up oar first.  The row, row and row until they hit the next red channel marker.  We switch, and Andrew and I row, row, row.   In the distance Crystal sees a dinghy preparing to head back into the bay.  “Hey!  Is that the Norweigans?  Maybe they will give us a tow?”  Crystal waves and flags them down.  Three men in a dinghy (with an operable 15 horsepower Mercury outboard) approach; not the Norwegians.  We explain our plight, and they agree to tow us an

Source: Moorea

A Weighty Subject

One foot in front of the other. Unknown photographer.
One foot in front of the other.
Unknown photographer.

It’s been a long time since I posted anything on running here, or anywhere. That’s because of a string of things that pretty much kept me from heading down the road for at least a couple of years. I kept trying to start, but it never worked.

First, I started running out of breath. I was running marathons at the time. One thing for sure, once you’re trained up for a marathon, you never lose your breath. You run 26.2 miles, stop and within five seconds you are breathing normally. (Try it if you don’t believe me — I dare you!) Turns out I has an overabundance of ACE (an enzyme that constricts blood vessels) and the net effect was to overtax my poor heart, and raise my blood pressure. Ouch! So I got on Lisinopril, which tamps down production of ACE, and my blood pressure was okay. But then my heel started to hurt. I forgot that, though, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the end I had the traitorous gland removed (Gleason score 7, so I did it just in time.) Couldn’t much run then, could I?

As I was recovering I saw a podiatrist about the heel. Hey, howdy, plantar fasciitis! I got orthotic inserts for my shoes, and did some research to find the best shoe for running when one has plantar fasciitis.

It is the Asics Gel Noosa Tri, according to all the reviews, and I have to agree. Excellent shoes, and they even cost less than what I was using before. They are supposedly for triathlons, but I just skip the swimming and bicycling part.

Unfortunately, my sore feet keep right on keeping on, so after several more months of trying to run I gave up, stored my running equipment (in a pile next to my dresser) and didn’t run any more. I love to run. When I hit the zone (I guess it is) I feel like I’m gliding along, and that I could run forever. (I know, I’ve done marathons. No, I can’t run forever. Eighteen miles is, um, interesting, huh?) I missed it. And I also was, as you might expect, getting more weighty as the months went by.

Eight months ago I quit drinking Coca Cola, except at movies, or in the rare case that a restaurant has nothing to drink but soda pop. If I’m going that way, I got with the best, right? But, basically, three or four sugary drinks per month is all I do. I craved sugar for a while, so once a week I’d let myself indulge, with candy, or maybe a piece of pie or cake. (I didn’t just quit drinking sugar, I quit eating anything that was overtly a sweet treat.) At that time I weighed 237. And my blood sugar was in the “pre-diabetic” range. I didn’t get hungry, I started feeling sick.

After I cut back on sugar (and I only cut back — lots of things you eat have sugar in them and you probably don’t even know it,) my weight began to drop. Not drastically fast, but fast enough, apparently. I had cut my blood pressure med in half (literally) a few months after my surgery, but now one day I was driving my truck through Williams, Arizona when I had a dizzy spell. I’m not sure that a dizzy spell when you’re operating a 3600 pound vehicle on a public street is such a great idea. I pulled into the Safeway, which is where I was going anyway. Inside, they have one of those blood pressure cuffs with an attached screen that gives you all sorts of medical opinions. My blood pressure was rated “fair.” Because it was too low! Damn! It was something like 105 over 57, not dangerous, but when sitting in a truck, apparently not enough to keep my equilibrium.

So I took no more Lisinopril, although I have a bunch left over. And not long after that I started feeling merely hungry, not sick. I can ignore hunger, at least up to a point, which meant that life got more pleasant as time went on. And after a couple of months I quit caring about sweet stuff anyway. I mean, it’s okay, but I don’t feel especially attracted to it. It’s a treat, innit?

Then, this morning, I weighed 219.2. I’d told myself that when I was under 220, I’d start running again, and I did. And I felt like I was gliding, and that I could run all day if I wanted. (I stopped after half a mile — I’m not crazy!)

So, apparently, sugar is an addictive drug, just like they say, and by gum it isn’t particularly good for you either. In fact, it’s the opposite, and I feel a hell of a lot better since it isn’t a staple of my diet any more. And, most importantly, my feet are back on the street!

Woo-Hoo!

See you at the 10K!

 

Papeete, Tahiti — Odd Godfrey

We made landfall at Papeete at sunrise.  The green cliffside glowed as the black sky turned grey then blue.  We hail port control as instructed by a large painted wall outside the bay, receive permission to enter, and find a spot at the marina.  Instead of wrestling with Grin, we step off Sonrisa and onto the dock.  Terra firma is just a hop, skip and a jump away.  Showers!  Laundry facilities!  Alleged internet access!   Papeete is a bustling metropolis.  200,000 people total live in all of French Polynesia’s islands, 180,000 of those people live in Papeete.  In addition to 1,000 jewelry stores selling pearls, it has a McDonalds, a large market for fruits, vegetables and Tahitian crafts, fabric stores boasting every manner of Tahitian prints, a craft brewery, parks with workout equipment in use, and several marine part supply stores.  There are crosswalks and people traversing to and fro on the sidewalks.  We have not seen a city this large since February 28, 2016. As soon as we are tied up at the dock, we jump into this fray and start exploring.  200,000 people isn’t that large, but everyone is pressed between the sheer mountain side and the ocean.  It feels a bit like Las Vegas with the tourists milling around and the locals pushing through the mass to reach their own destinations.  We can feel humanity pulsing around us.  The cacophony of cars, human voices, shipping boats, island ferries, restaurant clatter, and music is a more noticeable din for us.  We smell grease from restaurants, diesel fumes, rubber from the warm tires rubbing on the asphalt.  All our senses have been directed toward the slow, the quiet and the fresh for so long that the smells, sounds and movements of human business rise to the foreground in a way it never has at home.  It’s a little uncomfortable, but also familiar and filled with possibilities. Andrew’s first item of business is to find the marine parts stores, but after wandering around to get the lay of the land, perusing pearl stores, and eating a cheeseburger, he ran out of time.  The marine stores were closing for the day.  Instead, we ran into our Norwegian friends (and one Swede) who had been in Papeete for a week so they already knew where the brewery was.  Andrew was diverted for his first India Pale Ale since February 27, 2016.  Our days in Papeete were spent in a blur of shopping:  groceries, marine parts and of course more pearls.  Andrew was bent upon repairing the dinghy motor once and for all, so the majority of his time was spent acquiring and installing the new shifting cables while I caught up on internet needs — blog photos and more importantly, our absentee ballot requests for the November elections. The internet is free, but one must purchase something at the cafe.  I always make the healthy choice: a cream puff stuffed with vanilla ice cream, covered in whip cream, chocolate syrup and sprinkled with sliced almonds.   Crystal and Kevin sought out and determined the most economical pearl shops of many, trying to find Crystal the perfect green, blue and purple pearls that were missing from her collection. We particularly enjoyed the Tahitian vanilla ice cream squeezed between coconut chocolate chip cookies.  Yum. The marina was filled with friends. Sonrisa met another Valiant, and we chatted with its owners. One of our Norwegian friends was leaving the boat to go back home, so this resulted in a full night of mischief before his departure.  When Andrew abandoned all of us without warning and fell asleep, he was at risk of being abused in any number of ways.  Stifling snickers, everyone took Sonrisa by the dock lines and guided her around the end of the dock to face the other way.  Sonrisa gamely stayed silent and did not float away from our grip.  She did, however, put a stop to further shenanigans when she sprung a leak in her toilet tank and peed all over Crystal’s pants at 3:00 a.m. – always defending her favorite.  I spent the wee hours of the morning mopping up the mess, and my mood was dampened.  So, I defended Andrew’s honor, too, and shooed everyone away.   Andrew woke first at 6:30 a.m., ready for the day.  As he stepped out on the dock, all seemed right with the world to him until a few moments later a confused flashed across his face.  “What the…?  Well, the least you guys could have done is turn Sonrisa to put the outboard motor toward the dock so I can work on it.  Andrew and I then hand turned Sonrisa the other way for the benefit of maintenance repairs and also to trick the sleepy Crystal and Kevin.  When they woke, they blamed the new arrangement on the Norwegians who swore innocence.  We enjoyed our time in Papeete, but we are down to the wire on our 90 day visa.  We have to keep moving if we want to see the windward Society Islands of Moorea, Huahine, Raiataiah, Tahaa, and Bora Bora before we mus

Source: Papeete, Tahiti — Odd Godfrey

 

Per Stephen Stills, this is at the bottom of a “downhill run.”

Traditional or Indie?

Image is in the Public Domain
Image is in the Public Domain

I’m not going to answer that question, because it’s something that I’m wondering about. I read an article posted to Facebook today saying that by 2030 there won’t be any actual traditional publishers left, just some folks using the same names that mainly cater to Indie publishers.

And it makes some good points. You can make the same money with one-tenth as many sales as an Indie publisher when compared to what you’d get from traditional publishing. That’s like, okay, $5k per year, or $50k per year, you know? Hmmm.

If you have any informed opinion (I mean informed, please, I’m doing enough speculating on my own) then please post a comment including said opinion below.

I’ve always expected the world to change constantly. And I’ve never been disappointed in that yet.

Shark Bait, By Sonrisa

We need to carry a bit of momentum if we are going to experience the windward society islands.  So, after three days, we pick up anchor and head to Fakarava’s Southern end.  The wind is spectacular at 20 knots off my port beam.  We sail along inside the atoll, so there are no waves.  I hear Andrew and Leslie praising my speed and agility, and I turn my nose up with pride. Then, I hear someone say “Take out all of her heavy cruising gear and she would be an excellent lake racer.” What?!  Lake racer?  That’s crazy.  No.  No, no, no.  I’m claustrophobic.   I hyperventilate about the possibility of being landlocked until I hear Leslie say “I don’t think she would like to be surrounded by land.  She has a pretty serious case of wanderlust.”  Right, exactly. I return to enjoying Fakarava’s waveless lagoon, and look!  Kevin is smiling, too.  We stop for the night at about the half way mark.  The crew heads ashore to drink a beer and they meet a handful of other sailors to chat with.  We don’t stay long, though, and the next morning, we pull out again.  For the first time ever, Andrew has decided to tow Grin behind me.  He is tied up tightly to my stern, and I look back to see what he is doing. As Leslie warms up my engine, Grin bops happily in the little wind chop waves. “I don’t know about this.” I think.  But Grin can’t imagine what could go wrong. We make quick headway under genoa sail alone.  The wind is blowing steadily behind my quarter stern, and whitecaps are forming even in the protected lagoon.  Leslie is at the helm actively steering, but with the whitecaps and passing clouds it is hard to spot coral heads.  I am nervous.  We slide by a coral head only two feet below the surface just to my starboard side.  We missed it by maybe 10 feet.  I couldn’t see it, Leslie couldn’t see it, and it wasn’t on the chart.   “Woah, look at that!” Kevin says, pointing.  Leslie gets a sick feeling in her stomach thinking about what could happen out here.  Andrew is then posted on top of the boom as coral spotter.   As we arrive, and I immediately start making friends.  I meet a super yacht named Vertigo next door, ramoras attach themselves to my underbelly, fish swarm around me, and sharks join the fun. Andrew hops in the water to check out the anchor set.  “Ayieeeeeii!  There are a lot of sharks down here!”   My crew spends the evening chasing sharks, eagle rays and fish right below my keel.   My captain, on the other hand, spends another night in/with The Boat of Punishment trying to fix the outboard motor that has so aptly been named Groan by a good friend/blog reader.  While Osmond listened to Andrew cry tears into his beer over the continually inoperable dinghy motor, Osmond mentioned that he would like to scuba with the sharks, too.  This cheered Andrew quite a bit, and Andrew set to work to find Osmond an adequate scuba apparatus.  Success was achieved with at lock tight bean canister and some butyl tape.  Osmond ventures where no owl has ventured before. Fakarava South Pass is famous for a wall of a thousand sharks.  So, later that afternoon, my crew left Osmond and I to relax while they scuba dived with more and more and more sharks.  I am jealous, but I plan to check them out as we leave through the pass in a couple of days.   The wall of sharks did not disappoint. We were going to leave the next day, but rain and heavy winds prevented departure.  So, Grin took the crew onto land to explore the tiny village.  But, when I look across the water and I see Grin drifting along in the current, all alone.  What the….???  I look and look and look for the crew, no crew.  Are they still on land?  How will they get back?  What if Grin is swept out to sea?  I try to brainstorm options, but there isn’t much I can do.  So, I wait and fret.  Grin is drifting directly to me, so that keeps me a bit more at ease.   As Grin moves closer, I see a rope tied to Grin’s bow stretched out forward and attached around Andrew’s waist.  Andrew has his fins and snorkel on.  Leslie, Crystal and Kevin are floating in the water, free diving and swimming along behind.  They had been drift snorkeling in the current the whole time!   All is well.  Leslie’s anxiety is starting to rub off on me, I think.  The snorkel pictures are awesome.  I can’t wait to motor through the pass, so I can see the sharks, too! The next day, we drop the mooring ball and head out to sea.  Onward, ever onward to Tahiti.  And here is some bonus material for you.  I couldn’t get it to embed here because I am a technologically disinclined sailboat, but click this link https://youtu.be/boV0t-riFuw to hear Sister Pooh’s warning about swimming in the Shark’s House.  You will laugh.

Source: Shark Bait, By Sonrisa

The Shark Highway

After Ali Baba Canyon, we were all so excited about Fakarava diving that we decided to stay at the Fakarava North Pass one extra day to dive the Pass one more time during slack tide.  Loic explained that at slack tide, the sharks hover near the coral for twenty minutes or so, open their mouths and let the little fish clean their teeth.  Sometimes, the sharks get a little woozy because if they stop swimming for too long, they won’t get enough oxygen moving across their gills and they will essentially start to pass out. When the tide starts to shift, the sharks form a line heading in the direction of the pass where they can sit in the current and breath deeply without having to swim so much.  Loic says it looks like a shark highway.  It’s not to be missed.   So, instead of tidying up and getting ready to go, we head to town and find dinner at a little cafe on the beach overlooking Fakarava’s tranquil turquoise lagoon.  We enjoy a savory crepe with thin, Paris style cured ham, cheese and an egg with a rich, bright orange yolk.  We also order a panini with mozzarella, tomato and chorizo – also good.  For desert, Crystal and I share a butter and sugar crepe topped with banana ice cream.  The grains of the sugar crystals remained fresh in the butter sauce, so when you put the bite in your mouth you taste the rich melted butter and the texture of sugar crystals.  The French, what can I say?  Andrew ordered a nutella crepe with dark chocolate ice cream, topped with whipped cream.  I shared his crepe, too.  So, I really got the best of all worlds.  The sugar/butter crepe was better. The wind was piping all night, and the wind generator kept me awake.  It sounded like I was trying to sleep under spinning helicopter blades.  Nonetheless, I was so excited for the Shark Highway that I popped out of bed at my 6:00 a.m. wake up call.  Back at the dive shop, Andrew and I take a Nitrox test so we can continue to dive using Nitrox 21% Oxygen/79% Nitrogen rather than just regular compressed air for the next two dives.  I complain the whole time because I am “on vacation,” but I pass anyway.  We gear up and head back out to the pass.   Wetsuit, weight, BCD, regulator in my mouth, goggles on face, roll back, sink, go.  Pretty soon we are on the bottom again.  This time, we spend a good amount of time on the coral ledge outside the pass.  Early in the dive, Kevin starts banging his tank and pointing skyward.  I follow his hand and see a sailfish!  Sailfish are like marlin or swordfish, only they have a large sail-like fin on their backs.  They were so far away we didn’t get a good picture, but it was still awesome to see.  I will insert a google image for your reference. Loic was right, the sharks were stupendous!  Even more numerous than yesterday, they line up swimming in thick, floating lines just like the Jettsons in their hover cars.  At slack tide, I watch the sharks sit with their mouths open. One sits so long that he suddenly wakes, thrashing about just like a human does when we have a dream about falling.  He swims away.   We find a giant colorful fish eating a white starfish, and a group of little “Nemos” (the same kind of fish from the Disney movie Finding Nemo) snuggling down in an anemone.   Soon, I feel the current shift and where the water was still and quiet it is now blowing past my face like a stiff breeze.  My goggles feel like they could be pulled off in the wake.  I am hanging onto Andrew’s hand with my right hand, and my left hand is anchored on the coral.  Andrew’s right hand is anchored, too, and both of our legs are flying backward.  Loic says it is time to go.   Even faster than yesterday, we wiz along just above the coral.  My body is sideways to the current, I am pushing Andrew along.  We drift into a valley with a coral ledge, and an arch.  Sharks are everywhere.  A few get so close that I can see the white of their eyeball and the diamond shaped pupil in the center.   Their mouths smile from the underside of their body.  Sometimes they seem curious about us, but never aggressive.   Another giant Napoleon approached Loic who is swimming just in front of Andrew and I.  When the Napoleon is only about ten feet away, his thick shapely lips pucker together and his cheeks puff out.  Then, he opens his mouth and spits several shell fragments out.  He swims right in front of Andrew and me, eyeing us wryly. “What?” He seems to say and continues on.  I am laughing through my BCD and giving Andrew the “Did you see that!?” crazy goggle eyes. I did not get a good photo of the Napolean either, but google images to the rescue so you can imagine what I am talking about. The Napolean looked just like this. Our dive lasts 54 minutes, and when it is time to go we let go of the coral and fly into the abyss.  We slowly ascend while drifting very quickly over the ree

Source: The Shark Highway

The Blue Drop, Fakarava North

I hold my goggles on my face and my regulator into my mouth, and I sit on the edge of the dive boat.  The captain counts to three, then I let the weight of the tank pull me backward.  My body ruptures the surface of the ocean and I am churned in the waves with whitecaps cresting.  I pull the cord to deflate the last bit of air in my BCD, and slowly sink with my eyes half in and half out of the water.  I find Andrew’s hand, and keep my eyes on Loic, our dive guide.  We sink, and I am surrounded in Big Blue.  It is above me, in front of me, below me, behind me, to my right and to my left.  I am inside a sphere of nothing but blue.   This is my first “Blue Drop” which means that we are descending from the surface far enough out in the open ocean that we cannot see land at all once we drop under water.  We use our dive watches to track our decent, stop at the appropriate depth, then float the current until we reach the edge of the 5000 foot cliff that is Fakarava. It takes about five minutes before we find the edge of the atoll, 100 feet below the surface.  In that interval, the blue sphere places a soft pressure on my ears, ribs, lungs.  The only motion I feel is the weight of falling in slow motion.   The only sound I hear is the sharp “suck” of air intake, and the round hum of bubbles slowly escaping my regulator as I exhale.  My goal is to exhale a slow, long thirty seconds, wait three seconds, then inhale sharply again.  This technique will extend our tank time if I hold still and float rather than swim. Loic gave us a full discussion of the profile of this dive, and it sounded challenging to my inexperienced self: blue drop, fast current, coral canyons, a “washing machine”.  I was nervous in the dive boat, and almost bailed out.  Now that I am sinking, I am relaxed.  Andrew’s right hand rests in my left.  He gives me the OK sign every few feet, and I respond with an OK sign.  All is well. Soon, the edge of the cliff comes into view.  It’s just a shadow of coral at first, then as we drop it comes more and more into focus.  We find the bottom, and grab hold of a strong coral head with two fingers to rest, group up, and look around.  The current is so strong, as we hold onto the coral head our legs fly backward.  Andrew holds my hand and gives me a wild-eyed stare.  I wound him up in the dive boat, and he is still a little fretful. We see a group of barracuda; sharks drift above us.  For the most part, they ignore us.  A giant Napoleon saunters by; it is as big as a human is long, but more rotund. If I put my fingertips together over my head and make the shape of a circle with my arms, the Napoleon just might fit through the “O”.  He is huge. It is a colorful bright green.  We see white starfish, little blue fish, yellow and black striped fish, red fish.  Soon, with a wave of his arm and a point, Loic indicates that it is time to move forward.  We let go of the coral, and the current takes us forward.  We are pushed into the slot of a canyon that runs along the bottom.  We are whisked through the valley, while colorful red, blue, green, and white coral grows tall on either side of us.  Using our breath to float up or sink down, we follow the contours of the canyon until it is time to skip up and over a plateau, then sink down into the famous “Ali Baba”.  Looking in the distance, you can see rolling hills of coral long into the distance.  Tiny fish hover over the crevices, ready to jump in and hide as we pass through.  A moray eel sticks his nose from his coral hole and watches us parade by. As we reach Ali Baba, we descend into valley dusted with broken bits of coral and discarded sharks’ teeth.  We stop and look around.  A school of thousands of fish watch us watching them.  They swirl around us, while sharks swish their tails back and forth above us.  We sit here and watch as long as our tanks hold out.  It is amazing.  A shark swims past the orb of sunlight 50 feet above me; he is back lit, with a white belly.  Loic starts frantically waving at Kevin, whose belly is dragging close to the ocean floor.  Kevin looks down and sees a nudibranch (a sea creature that is a lot like a caterpillar).  They are usually very colorful and interesting.  I have only seen them in photographs on the internet, never one in person and up close.  This is another bucket list item for me.   Three weeks ago, we didn’t know anything about the Tuamotus.  We hadn’t planned a stop here; we just knew there were atolls between Marquesas and Tahiti that we should try not to smash onto.  Sitting in this underwater paradise teaming with wildlife, I am struck with awe over the variety of experiences I am enjoying in this wink of lifetime I am given.  I seek out some of these experiences, but so many others are happy accidents. Ferdinand’s energy, Manihi-Mama’s hospitality and warmth, Fakarava’s wi

Source: The Blue Drop, Fakarava North