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Beyond The Picket Fence

Columnist Sherryanne De La Boise

Green Wobbegong Goddess

Have been watching Jacques Cousteau footage to get inspired to write this week's epistle. His innovations and portrayal of the deep as exotic and safe, made the oceans the attainable moon voyage for my generation.

Ok, so I'm in the local pool, getting ready for Raja Ampat. I figure I will need to be able to swim a mile a day to keep up with the Sexy Scuba Star on this trip and sure to be my best friend. She has been on the cover of National Geographic. I have been on the cover of True Romance. We goddesses must stick together.

At first, swimming for 20 minutes requires a long afternoon nap. The lithe, fast swimmers are trying to regulate me to the far right lane with exercisers of my speed, the pool walkers. However, in my flouncy blue bathing attire with matching floral bathing cap (No chlorine green hair for this blonde), I am blithely staying in the fast lane, creating my own wake. For I am just like my Mother, who drives her car slowly in the left lane, because it's the smoothest ride, honk away. We are staying put.

Now know that the reason they call them "laps" is because after a few of them, I am "lapped." But, should I stop to rest, up pops a goggled, fast swimmer hoping to replace me in my lane. One even accuses me of excess splashing in order to hog the lane for myself. Stupid stick woman. We traditionally built women naturally displace water (and float better). Who is going to survive this pandemic better? The woman who eats no food? Or, the woman with the fat reserves and thus requires no food?

While the swimming is good for me, recreational scuba is a sport of the drift. The diver is expected to quietly observe as the current carries them for an hour. New divers are notoriously spashy bubble generators. Seasoned divers will swim above them to get a delicious bubble massage. While others efficiently drop to depth, I safely descend to the depths, like a slow elevator going down, glug, glug, glug. Big bubbles of air.

The Sexy Star has invited me to join her, the Poof and the Hanger-oner in their selective scuba boat. I knew it! She has recognized quality. She is wearing her signature plunging neckline onesie. We are told that there is a photography site arranged nearby and asked to avoid it. The three time National Geographic cover photographer set up, on an earlier dive, leaving the equipment when he needed to surface for air and has gone back.

Of course my dive buddy and I drift right to it. Rats! If you get into a photographic site, you must remain for the rest of your time below. To find him so early in the dive ends the possibility of seeing anything else. Putting my finger on the photographer's shoulder, he signals it is fine for us to be there. We are looking at a large mossy green, mottled fish, lounging in a commodious coral bowl. All around the edge of its mouth are matching green, branching, intertwined 3" lacey growth that turns out to be tentacles. It's body is in a swirl, with its tail fins gently ebbing and tiding. An unsuspecting fish will mistake its tentacles as soft coral with trapped bits of food, and the tail as another fish. So, just like we look for other cars outside a restaurant, this must me a good place to dine.

The Wobbegong Tasseled shark snaps and turns the diner into dinner.

Probably would have not stuck around, had I every heard of this creature, it being a shark. The photographer is willing to wait hours, coming back again and again, to record the natural activity of this green fish.

Sexy Star, a.k.a. The Shark Whisperer, espies her chance to get onto a second cover! She maneuvers into the shot and intends to "talk to" and pet the reclusive Wobbegong shark. She poses, puts her bare hand out to touch the reclusive, green fish and smiles at the camera. The shark is having nothing of it and swims away.

"She's bloody lucky it did not bite off her hand," sputters the photographer, back in the boat. Lightening is flashing from his eyes. The recording of the shark has ended. The equipment disassembled. Hopes for documentation and a great shot, dashed.

On the plus side, my buddy and I are released to drift through the reef. This one has a flat, sandy area with a sundial type pattern about 12' across. There is a puffer fish working the sand. My buddy drops a few bits of shell. The puffer fish picks them up and adds them to a pattern of shells on the ridges of the design. This is his mating call. An impressed lady puffer fish will lay eggs for him in his sand castle of the deep.

Well, our hour of air is about up. We start to ascend, spending 3 minutes at 15' depth to allow our blood to de-gas, before surfacing. Thank heavens they have a little ladder for me to climb into the inflatable! The three celebrities are nowhere in sight.

20 minutes after the hour, the Poof and the Hanger-oner surface, very unapologetic for overstaying their stay. Being celebrities, the rules of mere mortals do not apply. They have no idea where Sexy Star is. She swam off on her own. We are all scanning the water's surface for bubbles. The Dive Master is hanging over the edge with face in the water looking for her. We have to radio back to the ship to send out a fresh diver. By the time the fresh divers arrive, 45 additional minutes have passed. She pops up a short distance away, happily waving.

She brushes off the Dive Master and the photographer, "I am a famous professional diver with films recording my work. You are here for the green divers (indicating me). In this beautiful dive site, why waste air? Why come up when my air lasts longer than 2 hours? Don't waste my time with your ridiculous restrictions. That shark was made uncomfortable by your set up. Don't you know who I am?"

Yes, I do. You paid to make the tourists believe this is an exclusive trip, a paid entertainer, a mere employee. And now that you have touched my life, I am not going to bite you, this green goddess is swimming away.