I don’t know why but I successfully freaked myself out. Thoughts of a body we pulled out of this creek ten years ago dominated my mind. I have nocturnally snorkeled here at least a dozen times, and not once did I focus on that night. But tonight, for some reason, visons of the young man lying in the creek bed set up shop and were reluctant to leave. It made me want to continually look over my shoulder.
I got into the water that was still cold with winter, and my existence tightened into the tiniest circle of light. The world became whatever my headlamp lit. Everything else was black. I started to feel claustrophobic. I picked my head out of the water and could barely make out the opposite shore, even though it was only 10 feet away. The creek felt so big from the surface, but underwater it felt like I was swimming in a linen closet. I could only see what felt like a dime sized spot of light. I was on a very alien world, like I left earth and landed underwater on some foreign planet full of ghosts. And I thought I knew this place.
A large case maker caddisfly hunkered in the sand behind a larger rock. Some kind of minnow stayed motionless in the lee of another. I forgot about the ghost of the man we pulled from here ten years ago. I forgot about the aliens. The fish didn’t move, but tolerated my closeness, headlamp spotlight and blinding flash as I snapped pictures. I don’t know what kind of fish this was, but that didn’t matter right now. My world came into focus on that fish. Not yesterday, or tomorrow, or the dead guy we recovered ten years ago. It was just me and this fish, and now. Which is one of the draws of river snorkeling and exploration. It puts me into the now. It grounds me. River snorkeling refocuses my attention on what is real and important and it makes the alien ghosts disappear.