Hair & now

"I just wanna be myself & I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself & I want you to know, I am my hair
I've had enough, this is my prayer: that I'll die living just as free as my hair...
Don't wanna change & I don't wanna be ashamed
I'm the spirit of my hair; it's all the glory that I bare"
-- Lady Gaga

Aboard el barco a.k.a. the boat again, the group of snorkelers cast off for "Shark Ray Alley."  I assure you I was the least -- & my boyfriend, the most -- excited of the group.  I am the scaredy cat who passed on snorkeling Australia's Great Barrier Reef because I was menstruating & convinced I'd be instantly devoured by a ferocious Great White Shark.
My hair tie floated away earlier, lost forever to the Caribbean Sea.  The scene at Shark Ray Alley was just as crazy as my hair: dorsal fins & tails whipped through the water and air alike; the sea's surface rippled from the battering wind; el barco pitched so much that I thought it safer to stay in the center of the deck & let the other snorkelers be the first to topple overboard.

Like all mindful hosts, Carlos was the first in the water.  Underwater was a washing machine of fish: Nurse Sharks of varying sizes, Horse Eye Jacks & Blue Tangs swirled around the chum-spewing vessel.  The ocean current was so intense, one minute I was yards away from el barco, only to be pushed directly into its side the next.
Again, I watched Carlos The Conjurer choose his next victim from the audience. At first he frolicked alongside a smaller Nurse Shark, then placed one open palm on each side of the fish, delicately sandwiching it.  Continuing to swim normally, Carlos simply rotated the shark onto its back the way a father supports a baby. Placated, our guide motioned for us to come see & touch the Nurse Shark (anywhere but the mouth).  From afar, the Nurse Shark looked like flat shades of gray, however, up close it resembled a Pointilist piece with its salt & pepper flecks.  Its mouth reminded me more of a sting ray's in shape & the fact that it lacked the stereotypical sharp rows of teeth.  I also expected the Nurse Shark's skin to feel smooth -- I assumed less drag helped it speed through the water -- but its lateral fin shockingly felt like sandpaper.

The last pit stop on my tour of the Meso-American Barrier Reef was appropriately titled Coral Gardens.  This was a great dénouement to the action-packed day since everyone was free to explore on their own.  Away from the pack again, I drifted in a trance-like state in the tranquil sea & stared at the gorgeous, undulating sea fans whose purple was the most vivid I've ever seen in nature.
  
It's true Mother Nature is the best teacher, as evidenced by the biodiversity in this microcosm of the Gulf Of Mexico. For example, there was coral that resembled large-scale pinecones stuck upright in the sand; the easily identifiable Brain Coral & ubiquitous lumpy coral; coral in little pellets like rabbit feces; some coral grew so randomly & ornately it was truly, living art. My hair also resembled art... Jackson Pollack's.
The advantage to this abundance of coral was spotting the numerous types of fish hiding in and beneath its structure.  Plus, without the distraction of larger sea life, I focused on finding tinier, camouflaged creatures.  Vibrant yellow fish with black-tipped tails; bright blue, tropical fish; the Sergeant Major Damselfish -- rainbow-bodied with vertical black stripes like a zebra; a much tinier aberration of the Swordfish;  fish of assorted colors (some with polka dots); and this gem -- literally -- a juvenile Damselfish.  Like a magpie, I hunted Baby, drawn in by his cobalt body & dazzling specks that made abalone seem lackluster.  In every light, at every angle, Baby glittered (oddly, adult Damselfish have completely yellow tails & aren't nearly as deep blue). 

The day had been so frenzied, half way though Coral Gardens both the GoPro & Canon's batteries died.  There was nothing left to do but enjoy the remainder of my day at the Meso-American Barrier Reef.  I pulled myself onto Carlos Tours' barco one last time, chilly from exhaustion. My pink skin was so sticky from the salt I could barely get my faded shirt over my head. My hair was practically a dreadlock.  It was wild, sun-damaged, lithe & in your face... the embodiment of the day's adventures & my spirit.

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