Last night I watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix, a documentary about a filmmaker who, on the verge of a mental breakdown, gives up work to free dive off the Western Cape of South Africa every day.
Wetsuitless, he slips into the cold, turbid waters of the South Atlantic Ocean every day (without exception, whatever the weather), and spends hours exploring the beautiful, strange subterranean landscape of the kelp forest. He describes it as a three-dimensional experience, like flying. He spends so much time swimming between the long swaying stalks of the kelp that he becomes very familiar with the layout and the creatures who live there. He befriends an octopus, observes her incredible intelligence and eventually gains enough of her trust to form a reciprocal relationship that is absolutely astounding to watch.
If you haven’t seen this documentary, go and check it out. As the title suggests, it’s not just about the octopus. It’s about us, our lives and what it all means in the grander scheme of things.
I’ve always loved being underwater too – in swimming pools, lakes, the sea and even in video games. I hate it when characters can’t go underwater in games.
Watching the documentary last night, I asked myself why I’ve never pursued free diving. Fear, perhaps…being in a cold country with murky waters (at least where I live). I’ve also never found a friend interested enough to do it with me – and it seems like the sort of activity you probably shouldn’t do alone.
I was thinking about all of this today as I lay in the sun beneath a cherry blossom tree in my local park. I’d just finished planning a yoga sequence and it was so warm and peaceful that corpse pose soon morphed into just plain sunbathing.
I stared up at these gorgeous pink clusters of blossom – standing out proud and colourful against the bright blue sky. The more I looked, the more life I saw. Dozens of bees and flies darting in and out of the flowers, and a little robin who came to eye me cautiously. It occurred to me that the insects were just like fish skitting around a coral reef, doing their thing to survive.
I often find myself lusting after those classic grand experiences – free diving in some gorgeously warm, clear watery wonderland for instance, but the truth is that breathtaking beauty is everywhere. It’s right here outside our windows, in our gardens and parks.
If we visit nature with the right attitude – quiet, careful and observant, we can have the same astounding interactions as that South African guy did with his octopus.
Sometimes I neglect to just sit and notice things. I usually just visit nature to exercise in it, not to interact with it, or learn from it. I’m sure one day I’ll get into free diving and have those magical underwater experiences but for now I’m happy with the bounty of extraordinary life on land.
Today I learnt to slow down a little. I always feel guilty when I’m not doing something ‘productive’…but life is short, really, and the least I can do is notice it.
I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend too ☺️