I blinked several times and allowed my eyes to focus and adjust to the darkness in the room. I was lying in bed and Diane was just a few feet away pulling something from her closet. I pushed the stem of my watch to activate the tiny light. It was 2 A.M. I said nothing to her. This was her time and I didn’t want to intrude. I watched for a few seconds as she pulled a lightweight, cotton windbreaker from its hanger, closed the closet and left the bedroom. I smiled, knowing what she was up to, rolled over and fell immediately back to sleep.
Earlier in the day as I was out running errands, Diane called to ask me to bring home a large, powerful flashlight. We have several smaller ones around the house but I knew what she had in mind when she asked for a more powerful one. Tonight would be the night!
I awakened again at 4 A.M. Diane had not yet returned to bed. Awesome! She must have had some luck. I decided to go check on her. I pulled on my Superman pajama bottoms, slipped on some boat shoes, grabbed a small flashlight and headed out to the beach only yards away.
As I expected, I found Diane watching a large sea turtle just beginning to return to the water after laying her eggs in the sand almost directly in front of our place. For the past month as we walked the beach, we could see the tracks and depressions of dozens of giant sea turtles who had struggled up the sand to lay their eggs and return.
“I have to see that” Diane had told me several times. “I’ll camp out on the beach if I have to!” She had an inborn interest in these turtles and had researched their lives and breeding habits. In fact, a turtle rescue facility is the primary setting for a romantic beach-read Diane is writing.
As the mating habits of turtles is one of the many things I know nothing about, she had spent some time explaining the difficulties and challenges of their mating process to me to include the enormous task of emerging from the surf, dragging their huge bodies through the sand, digging a large hole, laying their eggs, covering the hole and dragging themselves back into the sea often 50-100 yards away. These female turtles have to select a mate and then carry him around on their backs during the mating process, periodically swimming to the surface to allow them both to breathe as well as fighting off other male turtles who attempt to knock her mate from her back and take his place.
“Oh, my God!” Diane exclaimed as she noticed I was approaching. “Look at her! I saw the whole thing!” Diane was vibrating with joy and excitement!
Diane moved closer to the turtle, personally escorting her the last 25 yards to the surf. I remained behind allowing this experience to be between Diane and the giant turtle. It had taken two and one half hours from the time the turtle emerged until she completed her task and drug her enormous body back into the water.
After the turtle had returned to the water, Diane returned to where I was
“That was amazing! She looked right at me with those huge black eyes! She was so exhausted. She pulled herself along for 2 or 3 feet and then collapsed, her head dropping to the sand. She rested a few seconds and did it again and again. She was looking RIGHT AT ME!
I was trying to read all the emotions Diane was projecting. I’m sure I failed. It was a powerful experience for her; one worth far more than the cost of the flashlight.
“As she got closer to the surf, she sensed it and moved more quickly” Diane continued. “When the first waves crawled up onto the sand and touched her, she seemed to become stronger and the last 5 yards went more quickly. Once back in the water, she dove below the surface and she was gone.”
She took my hand as we walked back to the elevator and returned to our condo.
“I’ll be along in a few minutes. Go back to bed”, she told me. “I’m going up to the roof terrace to absorb all this.”
I lied quietly in the bed enjoying the ocean breeze from the open window and reflecting on our lives and experiences. While most folks were asleep, an epic struggle was playing out on a beach in Cancun, Mexico and other beaches around the world; a struggle that few even know about and far fewer ever witness. It was like we personally observed a National Geographic special.
Not that long ago while driving along a jungle road in the Rio Muchacho Valley in Ecuador, a small jungle cat, a Jaguarondi, crossed the road directly in front of me. A few seconds earlier or later and I would have missed that very rare sighting but it is captured forever in my memory.
Our lives as expats have presented many opportunities to explore parts of the world and see and do things we would not be able to do otherwise. Just about ten days ago, as Diane’s best friend was visiting us for Diane’s birthday, they went on a guided tour of underground rivers, pools and caves wearing hard helmets, masks and snorkels as they crawled and swam along, banging their helmeted heads on low rock formations. (I said “no thanks” to that fearing my slow pace would hinder a group excursion and the physical requirements may be a bit beyond my ability and mobility these days. Diane said I made the right choice)
Diane has calculated the approximate dates of several turtle hatchings on our beach. Being present for a hatching would be wonderful for her. Hope that happens!
So far, we continue to love Cancun!!