Issue: October 2002
Six Square Inches

Iwas married on a swatch of coral and magic off the Atlantic coast called Bermuda. The bells of St. George's had barely stopped ringing before Johnny and I were slipping on wet suits and tanks, leaving the well preened golf courses and sweet oleander for the indigo realm of the reef. There, just 30 or 40 feet down, we were suddenly weightless, limitless, immersed in a world of color and wild imagination. What was Mother Nature thinking (or smoking) when she painted the parrot fish, the honeycomb cowfish, the blue angelfish? One morning, the dive master called and said the weather had stirred things up too much where he had wanted to take us, and would we mind awfully if we returned to the same reef we'd dived the day before? Johnny laughed. "I could look at the same six square inches of that reef every day and never see the same thing twice," he told the dive master.

Lately, I have been learning to see the Bay the same way. Let's face it-unless you boat on the southern Bay, where the water sometimes looks as clear as that Bermudian blue, and the sea's salty tendrils slip in like wild vines, inviting oceanic travelers like dolphins and turtles to wander in, the Bay can start to feel . . . well, a little drab. Everyday life can attain that same sort of muddiness. Familiarity breeds indifference. How often can you get excited about seeing the same patch of water?

Plenty, I'm here to tell you, if you open your eyes and look closely at those six square inches. We were anchored in our favorite little spot off Eastern Bay in June and the hook was barely down when Johnny shouted for us all to come forward. Swimming just beneath the surface were three skates, gliding and soaring right next to us, their great wings overlapping one another. When they banked away, one wing tip sliced the water's surface. "He waved! He waved at me!" Kaeo yelled. He's only five, but I bet he'll never forget the skate who waved at him, right there in his favorite creek. The next day we beached the dinghy and waded in the flats just offshore, and this time it was Kaeo who saw it-a tiny horseshoe crab, no bigger than a walnut, scuttling in the sand right next to our heedless feet. And then another. And another.

A couple of weeks later we were bringing Luna home in the dark up the Severn River, when once again Johnny beckoned me to look over the side. Our perfectly ordinary bow wave and wake had been transformed into a sparkling trail of tiny greenish stars, a silent surprise from the comb jellies who wheeled and tumbled and flickered with our passage. I stared into the spinning galaxies all around us and wondered when I had last seen them here. When had I last looked over the side on a moonless night? So what if it's not a reef in Bermuda, or a talc-white beach in the Caribbean, or a turquoise lagoon in the South Pacific. It's a big world out there, and most of it you can see right here, if you care to look closely enough, in just six square inches.