About a 10 minute walk from our hotel in Apia, was Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. I went snorkeling every day and just loved it!
One of the things that I loved, aside from everything, was floating and staying still while these schools of little blue fish swarmed all around me. These little guys were generally out at the edge of the reef as it dropped down into deeper water. I tried taking several movies and photos of these fish, but that experience remains one of the most powerful and one of the most difficult to capture in images.
All my life I have had dreams about aquariums. Often, they would be neglected, I would have forgotten that I had them, sometimes the fish might even have gotten out of the tank and I would have to put them back, care for the tank and try to remember to take care of all these wonderful and strange creatures. I always imagined that these dreams represented finding lost or forgotten aspects of myself. I always had an exhilarated feeling of excitement that overpowered the feelings of guilt that I had neglected these animals in the dream.
After a few days of snorkeling, I started trying to figure out, in words, what it was I enjoyed so much about it. Definitely there was the adventure, the excitement, of finding strange and beautiful creatures. There was a feeling of danger and fear, of what I might find that I didn’t want to find, e.g. a shark or a rip tide. There was also a feeling of having to be deeply in flow and harmony with the currents, the reef, and the fish as I navigated through, at times shallow waters without much maneuvering room, and other times, very ample space, too much space, as I worked to not drift out into the deep unknown and stay close to the edge of the reef. I noticed how the fish reacted to me. Some quite curious like the little blue and the blue and black fish, others quite shy and difficult to photograph, like the parrot fish and some sort of long-nosed fish that always seemed to scoot away when I tried to get a good photo.
Eventually, I started to think about snorkeling as a trip into the unconscious, much like my recurrent dreams of aquaria. Peaceful and exhiliarating at the same time.
And for some reason, floating in the midst of a school of little bright, blue fish was one of the most fantastic experiences in the water. Like so many sparkling thoughts and ideas with my ego balancing and buoyed in the midst of all this activity. There was always more than I could consciously take in, more than I could see, always one more surprise, one more amazing fish, one more amazing underwater vista or panorama, continuously unfolding around me as the current pulled and tugged me one way then another.
“The sea is like music; it has all the dreams of the soul within itself and sounds them over. The beauty and grandeur of the sea consists in our being forced down into the fruitful bottomlands of our own psyches, where we confront and re-create ourselves,”
(C.G. Jung, p. 47, Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul, by Claire Dunne)