The sun cast across deep dark aquamarine sea. A clean Belgian owned boat of avidly active foreigners, so ready to dive, and sun browned Indonesian divemasters. I'm not sure of the best word to describe the crimson goldfish-like fish at Batu Bolong. Hordes? A flood? Drifting clouds? And at Manta Point, those straight-edge cut black wraiths passing suddenly below, huge and alien. I dive and we cover a coral garden with drifts of fish, projecting crags of rock and coral, thin garden eels poking up from the sand. Clouds of tiny transparent fish with electric blue hearts and heads. Orange black-tipped fish that hug close about a coral tower, flicking back inwards and outwards again like tongues of flame, fire disintegrated into separate components moving in sync. On the third dive, mostly flat fish, perfectly disguised till they rill themselves away. Fourth dive, early morning stroll in the coral garden. Little lionfish, their spines held stiffly away from their bodies like unforgiving demands of a Brazilian parade costume. A nudibranch, the nudibranch I once painted, like a stretchy-gum pull of black stripe white edge yellow edging blue. My favourite thing I saw, old friend. Big silent groupers and sweetlips further down. The sea and all its life. Ah, the second dive and the mantas, of course. They approach in gangs. THey are not as thin nor paper-like as they appear, when in person they are cuboid-rhombuses, big, white, sizeable. The fifth dive, a comical disaster. The current streams at times, ifting us up and outwards, horizontal. I was annoyed initially by the profferred hand, I am a stubborn person, I think I know how to swim in scuba. Now, linking arms become an urgent necessity. I wonder if someone is dynamite fishing nearby, these shockwaves that rush and stream us like lifted ribbons. The force plasters us against the wall and brings us into contact with anemones, which raise hand-stinging bumps on my hands. Like touching a jelly nettle. Sixth dive, a current sweeps us along a wall that rushes past, too fast to appreciate.
Now, brown water river banks of pandanus jungle. That cresting crocodile, and a hidden monkey. Orange tree-hobos await, somewhere. What do they see? What do they think?
Face like it is encased in a prehensile moon. Flat, with radar panel or satellite-dish likeness. Eyes small black round marbles. Rufous orange-red hair. My hair colour, when it is due for another dye.
Arms longer than legs. They shamble. Do they look like ET walking, or does ET look like a walking orangutan?
A smell rises off it, animal oil. They move by hand holds. No coiling, no jumping.
Nose and eyes concentrated together in the centre of the face. Bodies rotund, like a filled sack. Like a teardrop with comical limbs. But they can move fast when they need to. No lurch, no pounce. Just move with an unchanging motion of immense strength.
I dive at a shipwreck in Amed, shortly after dawn. Afterwards, stunned by the darkness and strangeness, I write this.
Lichen-encrusted, sprouting whorls of polyps and silicates. Pieces that have fallen into helpless decay. Velveteen fish with large unabashed eyes. Fins open and close in side-fan-flicks. The bumpheads are tooth-jutting, jaw-juttingly ugly, faces afixed in solemnical disgust. One huge one peels away from the flock to investigate us closer. Wringled green-grey dull skin. Moss-stained teeth. A jaw-wired-shut grimace.
A hawksbill turntle, beak downturned in an old man's disapproval. Eyes flick and twitch to take us in. Fins scoop with praciced motion through the water. Crazy-paving dark brown, cracked choc ice coating over yellowed white.
They wear scowls, these turtles. Everything underwater runs on slow motion. Flits of fish become miasma around the corals. Bluish water stains the ground brown and the corals yellowed. Its fins describe shapes. Nemo wrestles amongst the avid fingers of sea anemones.
Breathe, breathe. Hold breath frequently at different volumes. Long to exhaule. Ears that refuse to pop, an eye that keeps filling with salt water. So many tribes, all around, everywhere. I need to know their names. From above, snorkelling, they look mindless. When amongst them, they look like life. Like nature. Nature eerily close. This doesn't happen above the surface.
Drive in the darkness to the end of Amed, where a Balinese band play decent reggae covers. This is backpacker music and oddly hard to find in Bali. I eat a glass noodle salad, sip a cold beer, write this.
Happiness tonight is live reggae, a scratchy singer's voice, and warm night air. Myopic eyes, contact lens fogged, but so all is sensuality, all is warmth. Human connection and my own sense of mobility and independence to take me to those places of connection is a continuous ouroboros I treasure. Do I have the fire? What is the fire now?
The next day I snorkel through two bays in Amed. There is another shipwreck. Looking down, face plunged into the sea, I spy a thick and ugly face glowering below. I'm so surprised I yell into my mask. Thick-lipped and ugly, a huge black moray eel poking its head out. I turn, twist, peer through shoals of tiny flickering fish to see it again. It retreats slowly into the shipwreck. Cold and warm currents twine from underneath.
In the other bay, I swim out so far I can scarcely see the bottom. I like doing this, because I'm not a good swimmer, never have been, so it's a treat to feel myself float and pull through the water without fear of drowning. I like feeling like a speck floating upon deep water, looking at a seabed so far below that I can't see it. It's like floating above a mystery. I find a tiny sunken temple closer to the shore. It would be pleasant to come out here each day to pray.
This was my favourite painting from The Art Book, a well-thumbed miniature bible to art which my brother had won for his work.
I'm very pleased another writer / scientist has used it as a springboard to discuss the future of human embryo research in the US.
Not quite a blog, but things that I have written.