It had been a long while since we'd taken a real vacation, so Tara and I headed out for an adventure filled with the following criteria: quiet, warmth, swimming, snorkeling and diving. We went to St. John's in the USVI, which is about 80% National Park, looking for time away to renew and sharpen our skills in the art of Having Fun.
We settled on the south side of the island, which is more desert-like, undeveloped and remote.
We were also shielded from the northern swells, which were particularly rowdy on our arrival.
With the grace of good health, we explored many of the cays and points on the south side, most of which were only accessible by 4wd, hiking or boat.
There's something edgy about snorkeling in remote areas. While we are both confident swimmers and with wet suits, felt both warm and buoyant, I was aware that at the furthest point in many of our ventures we were often a half-mile swim to a half mile rock scramble to a rutted road to a long drive to anything remotely medical.
Fortunately we had nothing but good fortune. While the reefs had degraded in the years we'd been away, there was still a raw beauty that continually kept me inspired and awake. We swam with turtles and tracked an octopus swimming and then magically congealed into a little ball under a rock. A big manta ray swam inches under me in shallow water and we watched crabs stuffing themselves on sea veggies as we floated by.
At one point the variety of fish racing around the coral outcropping was so overwhelming I started laughing. Who invented these crazy-looking creatures? Occasionally I would wonder if I was dreaming.
It seemed clear that the process of natural selection was exquisitely precise and conditional. The little blue fish with the sparkling sides seemed only to exist only between three and ten feet of depth and only with a certain type of coral, while the long-nosed, spindly ones never seemed to go more than six inches under the surface, and only in a specific temperature.
Each day we learned more, saw more of this exquisitely sensitive world.
Ten days I think is the perfect length for a getaway. Like being on a meditation retreat, it takes time to let go of the past and get immersed into the present.
(As an experiment I took all photographs on my iPhone and edited them on my iPad with the the Snapseed photo editor.)