I had an experience while in the Keys a few weeks ago that I keep trying to "process". Yesterday, thanks to a Truth I heard my beautiful husband speak through the poetic words of Thomas Merton written in his New Seeds of Contemplation
, I am thinking that I now simply need to accept what I saw and what I felt as Mystery...It is all part of "The Cosmic Dance."
Fluidity. It is all about fluidity, I think.
Manatees Are Fluid.
Part dolphin, part cow, part elephant, part walrus, part seal, part dinosaur, part human, part angel, part river, part sea, part you, part me, part we...
The three of us were still on the snorkel boat pulling into dock when the man besides us points to the water and shouts "Manatee!" Immediately, I am on my feet, searching and scanning the water - frantic for a glimpse. My husband sees bubbles right beside the glass bottom boat parked in the slot next to us., but I see nothing.
After seven years here in South Florida, I have only seen one shadowed manatee's silhouette near the beach and the bubbles from another manatee much further out in the ocean. Recently, I saw one swimming several feet from a friend's boat while it was anchored in the Intracoastal Waterway but really just barely. Many other times I have been with people who have spotted them all around me.
Somehow, I think I must just strain too much. I want to see one so desperately that in my striving, I miss them entirely.
In minutes, we are off the snorkel boat and walking up and down the dock scanning the water for bubbles. My husband, son and I look and look for the manatee for many minutes. I could feel how close it was, but I still couldn't see a thing. Suddenly Scott sees the manatee swim under the glass bottom boat and toward us, but again, I see nothing. He and Dylan continue to walk up and down the dock long after I had essentially given up and headed up to the bathhouse. I found myself starting to feel dark and exceedingly grumpy despite a really lovely day on the water as a family...
I walk back to the dock by the kayaks, and they are both still there staring into the water along with some other French tourists. Everyone is looking in all different directions. I quit feeling sorry for myself and get swept up again in hope and join them. Scott sees them first - not one but TWO - swimming directly toward all of us. The manatee silently glide under the metal dock we are standing on and disappear for several seconds which feel like hours. I am nearly trembling now, on my hands and knees, trying to feel beneath me what I still cannot see.
And then, they appear. A mother manatee and her calf. They are gray-speckled and massive with fan tails, almost looking more leopard-spotted by the sunlight pouring into the river than the dark gray color I had always imagined they would be. The water is so shallow and clean and clear, that they are suddenly more visible and real and tangible and silent than anything I have ever seen in my life except perhaps the azure-blue, almost transparent eyes of a homeless man named Rodney (but that is a story for another day).
I am captivated. Half gasping with joy, half crying, I watch them swim over to the mangroves. The baby calf moves under his mother and begins to nurse. A young woman paddles up in a kayak, and we are all pointing at the two manatee who are literally a foot from her, yet she cannot see them. My heart aches for her. We tell her to look right then left, and that now they are in front of her, and now under her. She looks bewildered and confused and just keeps saying "I can't see them, I can't see them."
They swim downstream for a bit into the inlet, and most everyone leaves except the three of us and the kayak guy. I am unable to pull myself away. And then, they are suddenly back, under us again, and I am now nearly on my belly, chin to water, waiting, waiting, waiting....The mother swims through first, back toward the mangroves. The baby follows and then, turns back, curious perhaps about this odd weeping woman perched so precariously on the dock behind him.
Whiskers - wrinkled nose - then polished black granite eyes surface less than three feet from me. He breathes out almost in slow motion and then back in again, eyes fixed on mine. I feel his warm air on my own face, smell the river on his skin, and then he is gone. The water is once again silent.
And I am left with a Joy that still, weeks later, defies words...