The beginning of a brand new year can be inspiring for most of us. Last year I experienced something I never thought I would do. This is a re-post from January 2016. I hope you enjoy reading this once more.
Several weeks ago, while vacationing in Baja, Mexico, I had an amazing opportunity to swim with whale sharks. If we were having coffee today, I would recount that experience with you and explain what the experience taught me about my life. I’ve got a lot of coffee and tea, so please don’t be shy!
About Whale Sharks
Whale sharks are sharks, not whales. In other words, they are fish…the largest fish in the ocean. They can range in size from 18 to 40 feet long and up to 21 tons! They are literally as big as buses. They also do not have teeth, but instead, like many species of whales, are filter-feeders, using baleen which filters plankton and krill into their four-foot-wide mouths. Ironically, whales and whale sharks, the largest creatures on the planet, eat the smallest living organisms in the ocean.
Whale sharks are surrounded by small schools of fish that also feed off the bits of food. Remora are fish that latch onto the shark’s body and feed off the parasites that cling to its hide. Whale sharks live in tropical waters and are considered endangered. See more about these incredible creatures here or here.
Swimming with the Sharks
To see the whale sharks, two friends, my husband and I chartered a small boat on the Bay of La Paz. The charter companies specialize in whale shark sightings and fishing activities.
After a 20-minute ride to the edge of the bay, our captain stopped the motor and pointed out a few feet to starboard. There it was, a gigantic whale shark! My heart was pounding! We took some photos, and quickly threw on our snorkeling gear, and one by one, we quietly slipped into the water. I was the last one in. As I adjusted my mask, the captain stood above me and pointed down. I shrieked into my snorkel with both fear and delight as the huge whale shark serenely swam just two feet below me.
In my mind, I knew they were harmless creatures. In fact, they reminded me of giant cows lazily grazing in a pasture. These humongous creatures swim with their toothless mouths near the surface feeding on the plankton-rich waters, with no other care in the world.
We all took turns taking photos of each other swimming alongside the sharks with an underwater camera. At one point as my friend took several of me, as he swam backwards to get a better angle, he bumped into a second one that appeared. It was as if he jumped five feet out of the water in surprise and fright!
I had plenty of faith knowing that my other friend had gone swimming with the sharks before, and therefore knew what she was doing. I have a healthy respect for all members of the animal kingdom due to my outdoor nature. And even after swimming alongside for a while, feeling like a mermaid, most of my fear dissipated, until…
I instantly was surrounded by three of them!
People on a nearby boat giggled at my realization when they heard me shriek into my snorkel again. Curious, but respectful, I cautiously reached out and touched the gentle giant just twelve inches away from my outstretched hand. The skin felt like the texture of wet cement. At that moment the shark loomed before me as if it were my whole world. The shark, unfazed, continued to feed as if I did not exist.
To these magnificent creatures, we puny humans appear as insignificant as a fly on the wall of the world’s ocean. When they finish or grow tired of human interaction, they merely dive and completely disappear in the murky depths and move on to their next meal. I imagine with dread, their huge, powerful tail fins could inadvertently send someone somersaulting through the water.
Seeking Inspiration and Time
Back in 2016, I was uninspired with my blogging before I left on my winter vacation. I felt that I had told all the stories I had to tell. I had been wanting to spend time writing a non-fiction book and was seriously ready to shut down the blog. Blogging and its care and feeding take a lot of time. My part-time work teaching as a university lecturer has taken much more time than I anticipated in developing new curricula and prep-work. Something had to give. I’m supposed to be (semi) retired!
As I struggled with finding time to fit everything in, swimming with the whale sharks taught me a few things. Their whole lives are about feeding. They swim, feed, produce young, and repeat.
I realized the daily mechanics of writing my book could wait until summer when I am away from classes for three months. Since I will be writing about leisure, participating in summer leisure activities will provide me more content that I can use for the book. There is no hurry to write and publish this project. But it will get done.
Read here about my renewed blogging inspiration.
What Swimming with Whale Sharks Taught Me
Swim slowly through life and enjoy the journey. Things done well take time. There is no hurry for excellence because it will manifest itself when work is carefully crafted. Patience really is a virtue.
Take time for leisure for continued growth and motivation to succeed. Try new things, have fun, and do it with passion and gusto. Be open to new ideas and accept the sense of adventure… and prepare to be exhilarated!
Embrace a healthy fear and respect for the animal kingdom. Our planet is not infinite and neither are our lives. Appreciate the beauty of Earth’s creatures and the environments in which they live. Some may not be there tomorrow.
How small and insignificant my problems really are. Our circles of family and friends hold significance for us as we share our values, passions, and love. To each other, we ARE significant. Just like the remora and schools of fish that swim with the sharks, we exist in a helpful community.
The really big things in life are harmless in the grand scheme of things. What may seem like an insurmountable or massive problem can be whittled down to plankton-sized bites to be taken in slowly and dealt with in digestible portions.
Have you had adventures that taught you lessons about life? Do tell!
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