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Yemeni Journey

Sea Dance

The shoreline here is littered with the refuse of a village; or perhaps, villages- I don’t know how much of what is on the shore is washed up from other places, perhaps miles and miles away. Walking along, one reads the stories in a ripped net, an antibiotic bottle, a baby’s shoe, twisted and without laces. Certain areas seem to collect more of this detritus than others. I tend to do my best to ignore all these reminders of careless, unmindful, humanity. Sometimes, however, I spend a few minutes, eyes raking through piles of rocks, bottles and shoes, looking for shells or sea glass to take home to the children. My husband, who is much better at this than I am, often finds the most beautiful, delicate creations buried in the sand, and gives them to me.

We hadn’t walked to the beach since the Eid, a couple of weeks ago. Why, I can’t really say, since we have made walking together a part of our lives for years. So when he asked me if I wanted a sunrise walk, I immediately took him up on it. Something in the act of walking, of breathing deeply and looking at the world around, of simply being together, brings me peace of mind and clarity of thought.

For days after the holiday and the downpour that accompanied it, we could see that the usually blue sea was brown from the washout from the village. Now there were no traces of this deluge, beyond perhaps a bit more refuse along the shoreline. Khalil pulled two flat rocks as near to the sea as possible for us to sit on- tempting the playful waves to try for our feet once in awhile, as we pulled them up under us, laughing. Shoulder to shoulder, we looked out at the town’s fleet of fishing boats. There weren’t as many as usual, perhaps most of them were farther out. Maybe twenty small boats were spread out before us, from the rising sun on our left to the horizon to our right. We could see where the fishermen had already gotten a net full of fish, or were possibly cutting bait, by the dozens of sea birds circling certain boats.

Suddenly, forty feet out from shore, I saw a large head appear from the waves, struggle forward briefly, and disappear.

Not being well acquainted with sea life, I wasn’t sure what I had seen. I hoped, in a vague sense, for the Arabian Sea equivalent of lady Loch Ness, but was pretty sure that the creature responsible was more mundane than that. Maybe even just a big fish. Having seen dolphins at play in the waves here before, though, I had hope for something more exotic.

A minute later, another head surfaced, this one nearer. A moment in the sun, a return to the depths. Another. Then another. I finally decided to ask Khalil about them. I had to wait a bit until I could actually point one out to him.

“Turtles!” he said, confirming my second guess after the elusive Scottish monster.

As we watched, more and more heads pierced the surface of the sea, some farther out, some closer to shore. The closest we saw was perhaps twenty feet from us, in the shallows at our feet. Every once in awhile a large wave would rear up, and we would see the turtles silhouetted against the greenish blue backdrop of seawater- some had to be at least a yard in length. It became a game, as we sat and talked, trying to see as many of these shy, beautiful animals as possible.

Thus an ordinary day became something special, a day to be remembered.

Upon returning home, we told the children about the turtles, and they went down to the shore to see for themselves. They were as amazed and entranced as we were, especially Mu’aadh, whose always large eyes were as big as saucers when he and his brother and sisters burst through the front door an hour later.

This morning, the turtles were still there. I assume it is some sort of seasonal migration. That’s the mundane, scientific answer, anyway. In my heart, I know that our bearing witness to the beautiful dance of these wild creatures was a soothing of our souls, a reminder of the wonder of creation that is around us every day, if we open our eyes, and our hearts, to see it.

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3 comments

Thurayah Stoehr on December 1, 2011 2:31 pm Reply

Turtles, huge turtles!! What a “once in a lifetime” experience! The earth continues its cycles of life no matter what we puny humans are doing. Somehow that feels very comforting!

Shaakira Rech on December 22, 2011 10:36 pm Reply

The sea turtles seem like a beautiful gift from Allah to you and your family. Alhamdulillah, it is a once in a lifetime kind of moment. Thanks for sharing.

umm qaasim on July 12, 2012 9:04 am Reply

ohh wow you saw the turtles,i figured i would wait for the day i get to visit sacutra b/c i can never seem to get over all the washed up items .the children they tell me of all the beautiful things they saw,full of excitement.and i realize that Allah has blessed us in this place with all of its cons there are pros.very beautiful ones.i’m glad you had a chance to experience that sight.