02 August 2013

Diver Down: The Forbidden Isle, Pt. 5

[Sorry about the break in the blogging action—that happens to me sometimes when I try to do serial posts. My train of thought gets derailed (for whatever reason), and I have trouble getting it back on track. Then, I want to post on some pressing matter and don't because I fear I'll interfere with the series' continuity but can't seem to get back into the essayistic mindset. And then I become paralyzed. Arrrgh. I'll try to wrap this tale up soon. Thanks for your patience.]

Here are the previous posts in this series. Read from the bottom up; it's a blog.
While Wisdomie (voluntarily) and two of the other Dive Masters (our paid guides) were down 100' and more searching the deepest nooks of the dive site for the missing diver, Doug, most of the rest of us in the boat kept up our search on the surface. The boat made ever further forays downstream with the current, which was flowing in a northerly direction. We went out and back. Out and back in ever wider circles. More and more folks came up to the bridge to look out.

It felt crowded up top, and I began to feel superfluous—despite my vanity about my eyesight prowess. Also, after standing in the glare of sun and sea for about an hour, I was beginning to feel dehydrated, something you have to pay attention to in the tropical sun. I went down to the main deck and got a bottle of water from one of the coolers and half a sandwich.

I sat with Wisdoc and Wisdaughter, making sure they were staying properly hydrated, and filled them in on how the search was going. While we were talking, I noticed a woman sitting by herself in a beach chair one of the crew had set out near the rear of the boat. Shaked, one of my favorite Dive Masters ever, told me it was the wife of the missing diver. No one was near her. No one was speaking to her. No one, it seemed, was even looking at her.

I took it upon myself to bring her a bottle of water. She thanked me. She hadn't thought to drink even though she was sitting in the sun. It was approaching mid-day. I asked her if she'd eaten anything. She said she hadn't and that she wasn't hungry. I fetched her a half muffin anyway. Turns out she was gluten-sensitive. I went back and found a pack of potato chips. Salt would be good for the electrolytes she'd lost. I gave them to her, and she immediately tore into them. Turns out she was really hungry despite what she said.

I sat beside her and talked for a few minutes. Told her my name was Jim. Told her I was here with my family and had a son who lived on Oahu who was down now helping to search for her husband. She told me she was from Arizona and that though she was a novice diver, Doug was very experienced. I felt like she was trying to convince herself of something. That's when it sort of hit me: we'd been searching for Doug for well over an hour and hadn't seen any sign of him or his equipment. The longer we searched, I realized, the greater the chance we weren't going to find him. I looked at her and could tell she knew it too. She was bravely silent, barely holding back sad, desperate tears. I sat with her some more in silence just to be a physical presence, to be someone who at least acted like he understood what she was obviously going through—though nothing was said.

Because the back of the boat was mostly in the now-overhead sun, I felt my initial application of sunscreen wearing off. I excused myself from her presence and went forward to regrease. Wisdaughter sat down beside me and, in a chiding sort of way, asked why I was talking to this woman. "She looks like she just wants to be left alone," she said. I found myself disagreeing—and because Wisdaughter usually has a pretty good read of others' emotions this took some effort. I struggled to find the right words. I told her that what I felt was called for in this situation was "simple human kindness." Just being human—a nosh, a drink, an acknowledgement of her predicament. I couldn't relieve the despair or dread she must've been feeling about possibly losing her new husband, but I could just sort of be present for this woman, I told Wisdaughter as I sprayed us both down. And as I was spraying my leg, another person's foot asserted itself. It was Doug's wife. She said nothing. She had walked back to where Wisdaughter and I were connecting at a profound and meaningful parent/child level about what it means to be human together, and, without words, had asked me to spray her feet as well. Which, of course, I did.

It was a moving moment for so many reasons. Not the least because this woman felt comfortable enough with me and my simple human gesture to venture out of her own grief and ask me to anoint her with sunscreen. A little thing normally: people on dive boats often share sunscreen. But in this context, it was a statement of a deeper need.

Wisdaughter and I went back with her to her seat and one of us was with her pretty much the rest of the morning and on into the afternoon as the search for her husband continued.

[to be continued]

Pics (as always, click to embiggen slide show; mouse over for extras):
Jim H. hiking
Crossing the creek with rope assist
Into the mists with Wisdoc
Under the spreading Banyan Tree
Korean Studies Center at Univ. Hawaii @ Manoa
Wesdom cavorting in the falls
Bird of Paradise (fuzzy)
The unofficial county bird of Kaua'i. No wild chickens on the other islands 
Lights, camera, motion: This is a high school group at a Polynesian Heritage Festival
From a boat in a cave on Na Pali coast


mistah charley, ph.d. said...

thanks for continuing the story - i look forward to more

recently spouse and self have been watching (on dvd from the library) and enjoying the bbc documentary series "wild pacific/south pacific" - title varies, but since it includes hawaii the "wild" is more accurate - i like it

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Good on you and the family for supplying needed empathy, Jim H.

And I love those pictures. It's been a long time since the 90's...