The Continuing Adventures of a Middle Aged Fat Woman

When I was 20, the summer I lived in Israel and Italy for the digs, my friends and I travelled one weekend to Eilat, on the Red Sea. We visited one of the world’s greatest coral reefs- spent the entire day swimming lazily through a long narrow bay, w very calm water, walk out beach entrance, looking underneath the water surface at the marvelous sites below. 30-100 feet below, in amazingly clear well lit water, we saw the most magical things you can imagine - like Disneyland, a great aquarium, a movie - all rolled into one, only real. Exotic colorful fish and corals of all different kinds. All around us, reddish mountains reflected in to the water. An electric eel swam right up to me, intrigued by the twinkling gold necklace I had on, and tried to bite it. I had to cover the glinting metal w one hand and swim away w the other. As we floated through the water, we were guided by channel markers to follow a path, with some things labeled w signs, below. Finally looking up, I noticed I was waaay out in the ocean, and had to swim back. Young,healthy,and strong, I never experienced fear. Suffered one of the worst sunburns of my life, on my back side, bc I was too focused on all the beauty below to notice I was burning. When the sun finally set, turning the red mountains purple, life and the world around me felt so anti-climatic. Nothing again would ever be so beautiful.

Ever since that experience, I have wanted to repeat it. Yesterday I got the chance.

Rick and I got up at 3:30am, grabbed an early morning flight from Curacao to Bonaire, to join a day trip tour of the coral reefs (also some of the top 10 coral reefs in the world, as w Eilat.) on Klein Bonaire, a tiny little islet next to Bonaire. We were taken out into the middle of the channel on a catamaran sailboat, and accessed the reefs directly by jumping off the boat into the middle of the ocean. The surface of the water was various shades of bright turquoise to dark indigo blue, indicating shallow or deep areas below. There was a fair amount of chop from the winds. The best coral reef observing zone was right where the two color bands of water met, bc this color change also indicated warm to cool convergence zones, where lots of nutrients, and lots of fish would be. This time, I was not young, healthy, and fit - I was fat, middle aged, with numerous health problems and terrified. But I wanted to experience that other worldly beauty one more time. I had a panic attack when I hit the water, but jumped in, anyways. I had problems w my mask. My asthma kicked in to high gear. But I kept going. My swimming is fine, my breathing is problematic. Eventually, our dive guide just towed me around, clinging to a boogie board. I was humiliated. The stereotypical fat American. But I kept going. For it was every bit as beautiful as I remembered. Sugar white sand on the ocean floor, shadowed light and dark by the sun sparkling through waves on the “ceiling” of the ocean’s surface. Corals of every kind and color- purple tubular , yellow, red, green and orange brain, dark green moss, orange staghorn, reddish brown pine tree, purple and yellow fan corals, and more. Parrot fish, angel fish, puffer fish, blue fish, color changing fish, zebra fish, eels, turtles, black and white fish, and more. It was too beautiful for words. I can’t tell you how happy this made me. And of course, today Rick and I each have a terrific sunburn- in-spite of slathering ourselves w sunscreen, wearing rash guard shirts, etc. But that’s ok. I got to experience that beauty one more time.