The Joys of Travel and Life: Choose Your Miracle

Diving at Channel Islands National Park

blog by Ken McAlpine

Welcome to our weekly blog about the joys of travel and life. For the two are one. Travel, like life, is about making the most of our moments, for we only have so many. With that in mind, another moment together. Thank you for coming along for the ride…

Choose Your Miracle

Beneath the water off Poipu Kauai there is a tidy underwater grotto, a small collection of winding rock passageways called Sheraton Caverns. They’re lava tubes actually, and they serve as a haven and resting place for green sea turtles. In the hazy-blue waters, sea turtles are everywhere. They swim with leaden grace, banking smoothly, rising to the surface like enormous mossy bubbles.

Inside the shadowy caverns, more turtles rest on rock shelves. They watch visiting scuba divers with dark marble eyes, though some turtles are wedged into their slots head first, and so show us their prehistoric rumps. Now and again a resting turtle rousts itself, pirouettes in the milky cavern waters, then lofts leisurely upward through the openings in the cavern ceiling, rising like a waking sleeper to the sun.

They are beautiful, and when I climb back on the boat I say so.

A fellow diver scowls.

“They’re just turtles,” he says. “You see them all the time.”

Even in the egg, sea turtles are set upon by fly larvae and fungi. Scrabbling across the sand, an instant after birth, they are attacked by birds, crabs, raccoons, rats and a host of other opportunistic mammals, including man. Those that manage to scurry into the sea may swim in the open ocean for years, feeding and slowly growing, the stoic majority struck down by sharks, disease, fishermen, and bits of plastic they mistake for jellyfish and ingest. A thousand eggs are laid so that the one turtle will survive. Each hatchling bursts forth as if they are the chosen one. A chance at a miracle.

When we prepare to dive again, my fellow diver stays on the boat.

“I’ve seen enough turtles,” he says.

Back in the water, I fin slowly through a narrow passage. In a stirring of sand, a turtle worms off its ledge and rises along the cavern wall, a scaly flipper inches from my face. Did you know that the sea turtle’s flippers contain the same bones as our limbs, the long limb bones shrunken and shortened, the bones of the wrists and ankles widened and flattened?

One of mankind’s finest minds once said, There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

The turtle is a male, big and old. He makes for the surface, this prehistoric survivor, sunlight rippling along his platy underside.

Albert Einstein offers two paths.

The choice is everything.

Ken McAlpine has traveled the world as a writer, from the depths of Palau to the heights of the Andes, but no matter where he goes, he can’t wait to come home to Ventura. We hope his stories remind you of why you love the place you call home, and this gift called life. For more info, please go to www.kenmcalpine.com.

Top image by Jack Burleigh.

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