In a time of uncertainty, Kirsty Andrews can draw upon some golden memories to stay in a positive frame of mind.
Join me in this scene. I am suspended, mid-water in a green and vibrant sea. It is towards the end of my dive and, on my way to the surface from a dive of exploration, I have some minutes to pause here en-route home. I breathe in and I breathe out, slowly, again, and again. I close my eyes. The pink string of my SMB is next to me, connecting me to fresh air above the water, but I have taken care with my buoyancy on the way up so I have that wondrous feeling of weightlessness.
The sea holds me, supports me as I drift in a gentle current. I open my eyes and watch tiny planktonic shapes move effortlessly around me, some barely visible to me but I know they are there. I savour this feeling of suspension: it is like the freedom of flight that sometimes I feel in my dreams. I may be wearing a cylinder or two or three, and a drysuit, gloves and hood, but I feel unencumbered, calm and at one with the ocean that surrounds me. How lucky I am. How confident and at home. I am a tiny dot in a vast, boundless, powerful body of water, but I feel the sea has accepted me and is gently looking after me until it is time to head home.
I have another moment to describe. In this moment the sun’s rays are more penetrating and cut through the clear water like the fingers of God. They shine through blue shallow water that is afire with countless orange and pink anthias, so appealing as they continually move in mesmerising patterns and shapes. Behind and below them, a healthy, vibrant, colourful reef of hard and soft corals is overflowing with life. The water is pleasantly warm on my skin.
The more I look, the more I see. Tiny crabs and blennies filling even the smallest holes. Coral polyps gently opening and closing. Pairs of butterflyfish, angelfish or cheeky pufferfish symbolise couples’ bliss as they meander along the reef, and vast shoals of silvery fish form baitballs, glittering as they glide past, pulling tightly together for protection as they tempt trevallies towards a quick meal.
Through this astonishing scene, I drift, feeling so privileged to be able to witness life at its most beautiful. If I concentrate I can hear sounds too - the pops and clicks and vibrations of this raucous collective. It is the Red Sea that I am thinking of, and this has been the scene for many happy memories for me. The reefs have a special place in my heart, as you can probably tell, and it’s also a place where I’ve had some great times with various friends over many years; laughing and living and sharing the fun.
These are real, cherished memories for me, and they are also experiences that I draw upon when I need to. They are my diving happy places. Thinking of them brings me comfort when the stresses of my job get a bit much or when I need to clear out negative thoughts and refocus. As I write this, the world seems a bit of a scary place. I hope that you too have your diving happy places and that they can bring you some calm and happiness when you need it most.
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This column was originally published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 103 June 2020.
Images in this online version may have been substituted from the original images in SCUBA magazine due to usage rights.