Communication; it takes two. Stay with me and I’ll explain.
Today we took the boat once again to Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) Island. A glorious day, and where we chose to moor, so calm that one could barely tell where water ended and land began. The family left the boat and decided to walk along the coastal track to the lagoon and bay where we wished to swim. I had brought my kayak with me and decided that I would paddle round to the bay. Maria Island has snakes here and there and I figured I’d rather take my chances with the water than snakes as anyone who has read this blog knows I have a snake-phobia.
But today was beautiful and surely the water would offer a wonderful experience. The kayak is our spare and quite new and has a silky bottom so that it glides through the water with barely a ripple. The only sound was the dip and lift of my paddle, the light catching on the diamond drops of water as the paddle arced in the air. The sun was warm, so much so that I wore one of my father’s old business shirts to prevent sunburn. The water was so perfect that I could see shoals of silver salmon flicking this way then that . . . the only sign a metallic flash of light as they turned that way then this. Patches of weed coloured the bright white sand sporadically and occasionally I would pass over a rock marking the outer edge of the shore.
The rhythm of my paddling lulled me into such a state that I barely realised what was beneath me until a black shape shot out with the speed of light, away from the shadow of my kayak. Attention drawn, I realised I had just passed over an eagle ray. Another and another. Three together, overlapping each other. There! A huge one, one and half times the width of my kayak. More.
I wasn’t frightened. Just cautious.
Then I saw a shape ahead. Half-dusted in sand. It didn’t move. I let my paddle drag, it seemed as if it were a shadow. I floated directly above it and still it stayed motionless and so I decided it was just a sunken piece of driftwood from the recent floods. I pushed my paddle down into the water to lever the wood up and it fluttered its wings, shook off the sand and rose almost to the surface. Thus began Part One of my communication with a fish the width of my kayak.
I uttered a cry and the rest of the family, pacing along the track, came down to the shore and my son yelled, ‘It’s an eagle ray. Be careful, Mum. He’s not happy.’ At the same time said son dragged madly at his dry-bag, trying to get at his camera. Thus began Part Two of my communication with said fish.
I didn’t back away for two reasons; one being that I seemed to be floating over an absolute plague of eagle rays and secondly because this one had made me curious. The closer I paddled to shore, the closer to shore he preceeded me, his tail flicking from side to side in the water. Finally he and I could go no further, and on reflection, I should have taken note of the message he was trying to communicate which was ‘Leave me alone, I want peace.’
His last method of communication was to lift his tail over his back like a scorpion. The barb was perhaps four inches long, the whipping tail about eighteen inches long. This fellow had about twenty two inches of pure aggression arched purposefully into the air. And he was as black as night.
He turned toward me and I confess to being frightened. I back-paddled, giving him enough room to fly underneath my kayak and away. There was no doubt he’d been trying to tell me to back off right from the start. If I’d been concentrating on his needs more than my own curiosity, maybe I wouldn’t have been scared. But then again, maybe I would never have seen such a superb sight and such brilliant armoury.
It all happened in seconds before my son could drag his camera from his drybag, but even he, a boatsman and fisherman for ages, said he’d never seen a ray lift his tail like that before. It did remind me for an instant what must have happened to Steve Irwin and to be frank I was happy to back off, pleased to paddle away and begin a whole other communication with nature elsewhere.
Not that I have a one track mind or anything but your description of the eagle-ray made me think of Sir Guy.
Interesting account, thank you for sharing it….
How funny you should say that. As I wrote last night, I did think of the black and the danger … no, surely not!
My thoughts exactly, Ann Marie, even before I’d seen your comment. Not that I have a one-track mind either.
Such a beautiful idyllic day, rendered even more memorable by the sudden injection of danger.
Eagle-rays and Gisborne, it does not do to mess with either.
Then suddenly this morning the comments from the Guy Girls and I realised we all are either obsessive or there is a mindful connection! Giselle, it was absolutely idyllic, I can’t begin to tell you and only 25 minutes from home!
Mes! I’m surprised Steve Erwin didn’t pop in your mind as SOON as you spotted ANY stingray! I had a lump in my throat right away. But now I know why you brush so close to Guy’s darkness … curiosity!! *giggle*
There’s stingrays and Steve Irwin’s stingrays and I have to say that I thought I was safe in the kayak. But then later, paddling back to the boat, the last one I passed over made me realise they are HUGE when grown out. Not as big as mantas but huge anyway, especially when you are in kayak.
The movement that this fellow made had to be seen to be believed. The tail poked out of the water and UP IN THE AIR! I’ve never seen anything like it.
Isn’t it funny how we all make the connection to GG!!!
Wow! My mind went the Steve Irwin route too… but it sounds like I need to spend more time on your site and get to know this Sir Guy guy…. *grin*
Aimee, Guy has a worldwide following. In his alter ego (Richard Armitage) an even HUGER one! Better looking than a stingray, although a similar elegance of movement!
Don’t bother wild animals.
Still, the description of the event is beautiful. Do you find that your work as a writer and the imagination it requires makes real-life experiences more vivid and strong? It seems to me that as you’ve gotten more writing mileage, your depth of observation has increased.
Pat, I remember the lines in a favourite movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy: ‘You don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.’ Somewhere in the sheer curiosity of the moment, I forgot that. Mind you, if it was a whitepointer shark, I would have paddled up into the trees that grew along the shoreline! When my son was diving earlier in the day in another rocky bay, he asked that I paddle along as he worked the rocky shelves. I was on shark-watch and I really can’t imagine what I would have done if a whitepointer had appeared apart from scream hysterically and flap my paddle. Especially as I was between the outer water and my son! Which meant that I was conceivably the bait!
I swear you could not have been unimpressed with the day yesterday. It had such a pure, crystalline beauty. So much so it almost hurt your eyes it was so unblemished and perfect. It sounds like so much drivel, but it was perfection in a visual sense, let alone the actual experiences of the day.
It’s interesting in respect of the writing. I would say I have always observed and then written the experience down in the pages of my memory. But since actually writing novels, I am inclined to push the experience to its limits, to see what I see, feel what I feel, hear what I hear and so on. I have begun to take a notebook with me wherever I go. Perversely yesterday, i left it in my beach-bag at home. My dry-bag had sunscreen, insect repellent, lipbalm, camera, towel etc. But the experience itself was so marked that I can see it in colour in recall, so that’s okay. The biggest issue in terms of writing would be that any editor would remove the extranea of description, of colour and light etc, and “refine” it down to the absolute bare bones. I often wonder how much writing is lost to readers when that happens…
Quite simply, Wow.
A single perfect word to describe the day: Wow!
What a wonder to be there! I love the sea and its magic colours and I’d love to live by the sea… You’ve warmed me up in this cold night here. Off to sleep. Thanks, Prue. I’m sure I’ll have wonderful blue dreams, now. MG