I groggily rub the sleep from my eyes. I shuffle slowly through my morning ritual and, mind still fuzzy, begin brushing my teeth as if I had a mouthful of molasses. Toothpaste foam rimming my lips, I nod politely to the turtle swimming past like acknowledging a neighbor walking past the front porch. Yet I’m not in a house.
I double-take and remember that I’m on the deck of an old sailboat moored in front of an island that looks like a still from Jurassic Park. In the clear turquoise water surround me, a gentle green sea turtle pokes its head above the surface. I love turtles. Since meeting one in Oahu’s Hana’uma Bay, years ago I have felt a strong spiritual connection to the wise creatures. With my toothbrush still in hand, I’m overcome by a desire to introduce myself to this one and look frantically about for a pair of goggles. For a brief moment, I dip inside the galley, pick up a pair and down some water to rinse. After all I can’t swim beside my spirit animal with toothpaste in my mouth. I wipe my lips and swivel back to face the sea.
The turtle is gone.
Distraught, I scan the surface for signs of a leathery head, a fin, a shell, anything. No luck. I refuse to give up my search and dive in anyways. For half an hour I search the nearby reefs, swimming through ribbons of morning light that flutter about the coral and white sandy seafloor. Eventually I resign to the fact that the turtle has gone away. I’ve missed my chance. If only, I’d dove in immediately.
Going into our last day of sailing, I’ll keep this lesson with me. A fundamental law of nature is spontaneity. The world does not wait for you to brush your teeth. Come what may, I’ll be ready to dive in, frothy mouthed and all.