The smell of wet neoprene has already joined the ranks of dusty hay, lilacs, and library bindings in my sense memory hall of fame. Evocative of pools–and soon the ocean. It’s been a week since I last used the wetsuit and it still isn’t dry. I suppose it doesn’t really matter since I am about to walk off the side of the boat into the ocean, but I find myself worrying about all sorts of things as I prepare to leave. My mouth feels slightly dry. A byproduct of caffeine or Mild Terror? I’ve packed ginger pills for nausea and a flannel sheet for the sheet-less bunk on board the boat which will sail from the quaint port of Oxnard, but I wish I had a little flask for whiskey. Last week we read “Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor” in class and I’m not thinking of sharks so much as the endlessness of the ocean, how border-less it is, how impossible it seems to me that people can actually create boundaries between national and international waters.
But I’d better can the poetry for now, and get on to more practical concerns like packing….and signing this petition to place covers on boat engines to protect great whites who follow cage diving boats in South Africa.
I’ve been meditating for a little over a year now. I try to do it twice a day, although I admit sometimes I miss a session or two. But my meditations aren’t limited to those periods that I sit for twenty minutes with my eyes closed. Lately, I’ve been concentrating my attention on this image of a great white. I’ve posted it before. I don’t know what exactly sets it apart from countless other terrifying images of white sharks with tooth-ringed-death-tunnel-cavern-mouths, but in this particular photo, the shark not looks as if it has ambushed its prey (the viewer?) but is itself, startled, surprised.
In my anthropomorphic projection, I read a sense of wonder in the black eyes and open mouth.
As I study this picture, I remember something from the meditation lecture I went to a month or so ago in which Thom Knoles paraphrased the words of Guru Dev:
Transcend where you are
Go Beyond the field of thinking
Then Transcend that
After that my lecture notes are garbled, excited. Words like “simultaneous,” “integrate,” and “alternate” fill the margins.
When I go beyond thought (thoughts largely involving “terror” and “death”), what is there besides the creature itself? If I go beyond thought, am I then allowed to take in the silence of the shark, its essence, which feels a little like cold sea water seeping in under my skin?
Yesterday, I had students respond to E. O. Wilson’s famous line, “In a deeply tribal sense we love our monsters.” Why do we love them? I asked the class, scrawling their ideas on the board. “Because they are free,” someone shouted. “We want their freedom.”
Maybe this solitary project should become a group meditation.
A former volunteer at the The Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro (not to be confused with the Marine Mammal Centers in Santa Barbara, Sausalito and Laguna Beach), wrote a brief and astonishing description of her time there. Apparently, a sea lion admitted to the facility was recovering from a severe shark bite. Volunteers swaddled the animal in honey-soaked wraps to help his skin regenerate.
Continue reading →