This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "ocean":
We found ourselves on a rocking boat in the Atlantic. Hours of sea spray dosing us made us feel tired, our skin covered in salt crystals. Yet we energetically checked our gear in preparation for the dive of the day: the wreck of a 19th-century royal mail steamer, whose innards splayed out below us like a human rib cage.
Our leader settled us as we readied to enter the water. He told us how the ship had left a nearby island heading back to Great Britain, with a large crew and an experienced captain. Somehow they got caught in a gale, an unusually strong one, and navigating incorrectly, found themselves near an unusual configuration of huge jutting rocks. In the darkness, this invisible peril rose out of the waves without warning (the rocks were visible clearly in daytime). This nighttime storm thrust the ship squarely upon the sharpest one, delivering a huge gash to the sturdy underbelly, and sinking it immediately.
We listened, captivated, imagining the fear and panic this crew must have felt. I felt deep sadness at hearing the tragedy's details, and our leader asked us how we felt. Many shared similar senses of loss, at how unjust life can be, how quickly life can be taken.
Then our leader had one last fact to share.
"The ocean doesn't care," he said quietly.
I remember squinting my eyes and coughing as I took in what he said.
"The ocean doesn't care," he said again quietly. "And because the ocean doesn't care if you are the nicest person in the world, or the best wife or mother, or that you've got a great career back home, or that a million people depend on you, you have to treat it with respect. The ocean has a power and unpredictability that no one can fully grasp until they've felt it. Yet to fully experience it is risky, and I don't recommend surfing in hurricanes or riding out sea squalls on a boat."
Then he took a deep breath and continued. "Today the sea is choppy, and the currents are stronger than usual. We've ridden hours to get here, and we're going to dive. Remember that the ocean is just the ocean. If you don't follow procedure, and you wind up making a fatal mistake, don't rage at the ocean — rage at yourself as you join this steamer ship's crew below us." He then turned to check the oxygen level in his tanks.
All of us made it back to our land lives. I've told this tale many times in the past few years — in thanks to the leader who kept us safe, and in honor of the sailors, long gone, who we visited below.
For more takes on "ocean," click here.