Another Way to Connect

Pizza slices, cherries, flamingos, ducks, bulls, dolphins, sharks….plastic devices for floating down the Sante Fe River at Ginnie Springs whizzed past.

A steady parade of these and many more creative devices tied to the tops and sides of all kinds of vehicles, but especially pick-up trucks, made its way past.  The choking dust drifted over dive gear, into eyes and lungs and I wondered what in the world we were thinking. Sunday at Ginnie Springs during the ‘season.’ The season of wildness where people mount and ride the variety of colorful floats, some the size of a small room, while pulling coolers of favorite libations with portable stereos blasting country, rap, Mexican, hip hop, 80’s and everything except classical…there was no classical music. Scantily clad people from late middle age to toddlers demonstrated a different way to enjoy the 72 degree, clear water.

Generally I’m underwater in a cave at Ginnie Springs or in the cavern or just underwater playing with my camera gear and this during the cooler months when cold water and cold beer aren’t nearly as attractive when straddling a bull while floating down the river. But this is when the trip was scheduled so we dealt with the situation.

I hurriedly got my gear assembled and slid into the water while the other divers were getting situated. The canal or run going from the steps to the Devil’s Eye cave entrance was almost completely silted out due to bouncing, tube-happy, inebriated merry-makers. I wound my way through legs of all shapes, sizes and colors and tried to avoid being kicked or hit with wildly waving hands paddling underwater.

The Eye, one of two entrances to the Devil Cave system, was inviting. At about twenty feet in depth, the nearly perfect circle was empty at the bottom. I drifted down, grateful to be out of the barrage of insanity. Peace….

An open water instructor and a student or two came down for a while but eventually I had it to myself and waved at a couple of cave divers as they slid past into the gaping mouth of the cave. I knelt on the bottom and photographed….played for over half and hour with the light and shapes of people coming and going overhead.

Then I braved going out of the Eye and headed toward the Ear entry of the cave, hoping that the brown tannic water of the river would be intruding with clear, spring water just enough to create interesting photography. I had to wait for a few open water divers to leave and eventually they did. I dropped into the Ear and felt the rush of the fresh water spring as it blasted against me. I dumped the air from my BC (scuba vest) and landed on a large log at about seventeen feet in depth. I straddled the log and sat for another thirty minutes or so and watched as the brown water swirled overhead with the sun giving special effects. I didn’t want to leave but after an hour in 72 degree water in a wetsuit, I was cold.

On my way back to the take-out point I passed our open water divers and took a few images of them then headed into the chaos of the channel, back through more legs and thrashing arms and finally exited to dust, blaring music and screams of people enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

I couldn’t get in my car as my keys were locked in another diver’s truck, so I removed my soggy wetsuit and sat on the bench drinking water while watching as the parade of merry-makers passed in their trucks, golf carts, four-wheelers…all carrying their colorful and quite bizarre vehicles of floatation on top, tied to the hood, sides…anywhere they could secure them.

Some of our group of open water divers enjoying the Eye.

At first I admit there was judgment on my part about the noise and rowdy behavior but as I softened my attitude and simply observed, I saw how much fun they were having. They could have been sitting at home becoming brain-dead with televisions but they were interacting with nature and having a blast.  And somewhere in my surface interval I came to appreciate the fact that connecting with nature isn’t always about solitude and quiet.

A UFO (unidentified floating object) overhead from my perch on the log in the Ear.

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