Snorkeling

Every year around this time, my usual beach activity of snorkeling with my family becomes more thoughtful and profound. I guess it’s because that is the season in which we find ourselves. This is the time for reflection and preparation. So, while I float it’s hard not to get deep, so to speak.

I love this place because the Virgin Islands took me in and accepted me as family. I learned quickly to honor and respect the culture and habits of the VI and have found that in most ways the more I adjust my sensibilities to the vibe here the more in harmony my life flows here. Oh, I still get a good old-lady rant going from time to time, but it’s mostly performative.

I begrudge no one the same experience I have found over the years of living here and being a part of this community. I want everyone to enjoy our beautiful beaches and gracious hospitality. However, it does disturb my spirit when I see what feels like disrespect to my adopted home.

Our usual haunt, it seems, has been discovered by the yachting set. Where there was once a broad horizon sparsely dotted with small fishing boats and sailboats there are now large yachts pulled up next to and in some cases over the buoy line.

Upon seeing what has been a serene bay now jam-packed with boats of all sizes, I did not expect to find the peace and revelation I usually get from my last-week-of-the-year snorkels. To avoid the crowd in the middle of the bay, we decided to explore a quieter, less visited end of the beach.

Immediately upon entering the water I knew that day’s visit would not be diminished by the rather large influx of visitors who had discovered our spot. Rather, we had been given the gift of discovery of a new world. As we drifted away from shore, we made our way through a large school of tiny silver fish. Unlike the almost opaque “bait ball” we sometimes swim through at the far end of the bay, this was a less densely-packed group that seemed just as fascinated to swirl around us as we were to be surrounded by them.

Once you start focusing on the tiny things, suddenly a myriad of creatures come into view. We watched a puffer fish carefully picking its way through a crop of sea grass. We saw a flat fish completely camouflaged against the overturned remnants of a long-ago sunken boat. We swam over a small crop of coral and saw a whole world. Small, yellow-striped fish sought refuge in black, spiky sea urchins and multi-colored fish zipped in and out of holes in the coral as we swam by. We saw one of our favorite turtles and his little companion fish.

We saw so many different types of coral. It was one of our more magical trips.

So, of course, I got the lesson. Sometimes what you see as a disturbance is really a blessing in disguise. That, however, was not the only lesson. In that moment, I thought of one of the principles of Kwanzaa, Imani or Faith. The real lesson I got from my swim was a renewed faith in our life here.

Watching the little fish rush to hide in the spines of the sea urchin reminded me of how we look out for each other here. When things get hard, we put aside affiliations of island, neighborhood, school or street, and we watch each other’s back. I have faith in that.

Seeing the symbiotic relationship of the turtle and the fish reminded me of how we depend upon each other. Life on an island forces a sense of interdependence. We ignore our effect on each other at our peril. I have faith in that.

Looking at the coral, I was glad I paid attention to the many notices and messages about the harmful ingredients of most sunscreen and wore a sun shirt instead. It reminded me of the benefits we reap when we take actions, big and small, to protect each other, our community and our environment. I have faith in that.

So while I may at times feel powerless to do what needs to be done, I choose to have faith in our leaders to foster a safe and beautiful community not just for the people who visit us and not just for the people who live here but also for the creatures and living beings on land and in the sea that surround and sustain us. I will have faith that they will look out for us, the constituents who gave them their job and pay their salary, and, if not, ultimately, I have faith in the power of the people.

I have faith in us. As much as things change and those changes encroach on ways of life we have come to depend upon, I have faith in us.

I have faith that we will always choose to help each other, lean on each other, protect each other and demand that others do the same.

— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at warriorgriotspeaks@gmail.com.