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Beyond The Picket Fence

Sherryanne De La Boise
"Adventurous' Entertaining"

Widow Wilma Meets The Clown Fish

I'm feeling a bit guilty about abandoning my husband to snorkel, while I scuba, but Vixen Vicky has been pushed aside by the age appropriate Widow Wilma, who is gently helping him get his snorkel vest untwisted.

A true sailor, that woman knows her deck lines: Have you been snorkeling before? Would you like to sit on a cushion? Can I freshen your drink?

Sigh, I know his needs will be attended to. I know that by the end of the snorkeling, the Widow Wilma will have invited herself to sit at dinner with us. She will be all dolled-up, and seat herself cozily next to my husband, and then be furious with ME when she figures out that I'm not his daughter.

Oh, these church casserole ladies! Thick ankles, handbag swinging from the arm, large hat, always on the prowl for a man. Everywhere we travel, one appears, wanting to meet my father. And then, she always gets mad at me, for taking him off the shelf.

Don't get this wrong, I love my husband. But, women his age passed him over for some good reasons. That is, until he started travelling with me. Now, they circle with their manicured talons out, ready to snare him into their nest.

While he snorkels, I am off to my second dive in Raja Ampat. There are many beach-less limestone islands here in Alyui Bay, their shores undercut by waves. The limestone filters rainwater, which creates dramatic vertical mineral streaks in the limestone. Blotches of black bacteria on the white limestone adds ferocity to the islands. Topped by a tangle of tall trees with shallow roots, mangroves and vines, the vegetation looks like the illustrations in the book, Where the Wild Things Are. Most trees are hosts to other plants, like orchids, ferns and even other trees growing in their branches.

In the scuba boat, I try the Indonesian that I learned from Berlitz. Always like to know a few phrases of the local language: Saya mau ayam goreng Kentucky.

The driver roars with laughter. My fellow passengers think I am saying that I am from Kentucky. But no, this phrase translates to I want Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. Bet you didn't know that the Colonel beat McDonald's to world domination. Colonel Sanders was a favorite in Indonesia by 1992.

Dropping into the water, we are on the prowl for nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, pipefishes. Having only seen seahorses and pipefishes at the Shed Aquarium, my little camera is ready. The seahorses are so tiny that I am completely dependent upon the dive master to spot them. Other divers have magnifying glasses with them. Nudibranchs are the wildest creatures you never knew existed. There are 3,000 species, all less than long and brightly colored (google them).

My newness to diving is showing, as I'm distracted by the big stuff, instead of focusing on the minute local unique offerings.

I am angered to see a giant 8' high yellow table cloth snagged on the top of a beautiful coral reef. How can people be so careless? This is supposed to be a pristine oceanic reserve, a heritage site. I want a picture to document this disregard for the environment, but the camera is just being awful. Why is the dive master so amused at my fury? Boats are not allowed near these islands. And yet, someone has pitched their trash, including the table cloth, overboard. As I scuba closer, oh the joke is on me! Huge and high on that coral reef is a soft yellow coral. Able to grow because no motor boat engine has chopped it to bits. If spread out, it would drape nicely over a Thanksgiving table and is thick. Its' tucks and folds billow like fabric in the current of the 86 degree salt water. The ribbon pattern on the cloth are snake sponges. Other things are starting to grow in the folds. Can't wait to get back and tell my husband all about mistaking a soft coral for a table cloth.

Poor man has had a miserable time snorkeling. His mask leaked. His eyes stung. He saw nothing. Widow Wilma tries to shame me for clowning around with the scuba folks. So, after lunch, I'm going snorkeling with him. I suppose my doing the Deadman float to observe the reef below is rather like Winnie-the-Pooh believing he was fooling the honey bees: I honestly believe that the fish below will think I am just a low flying cloud and continue about their business. Getting my splashing husband to just press his mask tight to his face and float quietly was not easy, but we are rewarded by a clownfish couple in a stinging anemone. (The fish in the movie Finding Nemo was a clownfish). All clownfish are born male, proving once again that females are a higher evolution, not a plaything for Adam's sons.

The smaller male cowering deep inside the anemone, is guarding the eggs, while the larger female pops out and attacks anything that comes near her husband.

Wonder what the Widow Wilma fish looks like.