I wish I had more time for eloquence, because this morning deserves much more than I can possibly give it here and now.
We are conducting our research here in Tangalle, the sounthernmost state in Sri Lanka. Our village, Yayawatte, is several kilometers away, but our guest house is 25 meters from the Indian Ocean, and is a truly remarkable sort of paradise.
It is Saturday here, and I awoke shortly after 7 a.m. with a heart full of resolve to go for a jog along the crescent-shaped cove of beach we live on. My colleagues were already in the ocean when I arrived beachside. I slathered on SPF and began my jog.
Perhaps I should describe the waves here. In a word: terrifying. In another word: murderous. And one last word: thrilling. They roar like thunder, and lap at my legs intermittently as I make my way along the way. The stray dogs along the way greet me, in a way that is at least partially friendly.
I pass the fishermen, returning to land, pulling up nets, and their smiles and waves meet mine, illuminating as ever the incredible welcome of the Sri Lankan culture. After a kilometer or so, I arrive at a lagoon, where I spontaneously decided to do something I have not done in years. Yoga and meditation.
I situate myself beneath a small tree on the lagoon's edge, and do a series of sun salutations. Then I sit. The coarse sand coating my feet coupled with my tender, white thighs has the effect of sand paper. I cannot manage a lotus position. And so I sit, crosslegged, and close my eyes. After several deep breaths, for whatever reason, I open my eyes, and gaze at the lagoon.
There are these enormous, Komodo Dragon-type lizards all over the place here. I see one, roiling in the water. I think it is clinging to a log, but as I observe it, I realize there are two, locked in an embrace...mating?
I am transfixed! I stand, feeling incredibly fortunate to be witnessing this. A toothless fisherman points excitedly, leading me to believe this is a rare and strange thing to see. I watch the coital lizards as they are rolled along in the lazy current toward the inlet, where the lagoon is joined by the sea. They swim to safety moments before the violence of the waves swallows them.
I return to my seat, and meditate briefly, slowly being dissolved into the cacophony of birdsongs, the monkeys ululating, and the waves roaring. I hear a distinct voice in my head say, "I wish I could always be in meditation."
I wonder at this as I stand, and begin a slow, long jog back to the guest house. I know that meditation means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me, it is profoundly simple: The cessation of static filling your head. The ability to exist, for a moment, in the moment. It really is that simple. And that difficult.
I jog past a fisherman, who gestures to me, pointing to his elbow, "You like?"
I do like elbows, I think...but not particularly. I bobble my head side to side (the Sri Lankan version of nodding, 'yes'). Sure, I like elbows. Wait, maybe he means, 'swimming'. I bobble. I like that, too.
He gestures, "come". So I do. He lifts a beautiful lobster from the boat, "You like?"
Hell, yes, I do! "Keyaduh?" (how much) I ask?
He lifts 3 more out. Okay. "Keyaduh?"
He runs off, and grabs 2 more from a neighbor's boat. "$1,400 rupias" he says, grinning over the 6 lobsters. That's 14 dollars for about 3 pounds of still-living lobster!
I say, "Oh!" (which means 'yes').
His friend offers to bring them to the guest house, as I have no money on me.
I continue to jog. As I approach another group of fishermen pulling in their net, the lead man gestures to me,"You help!" he says. I join the group of 6 men, heaving at an impossibly heavy length of jute, strung with wooden floats, presumably attached to a net somewhere out in those murderous waves.
I grab on, and as they chant a strange, rhythmic call, I pull alongside them. This is an entirely different sort of meditation. As the waves roll in, you pull, and as they roll out, you plant yourself in the sand, straining against the more powerful party in this game of tug-of-war.
Within minutes, I am sweating profusely, marveling at these stringy men in their sarongs, pulling at what seems like an impossible length of net. I continue to strain my muscles alongside them, as pale as the flesh of the fish that struggle within that net. Another man joins us, and I take my leave, their wide smiles trailing behind me.
As I jog back, a behemoth wave is piggybacked by another 10-footer, and they magnify each other. In spite of my distance from the ocean, their wash takes my feet out from under me as efficiently as a lion takes down a gazelle. The ocean rakes my body across the sharp, granular sand, scraping my right side. I struggle to my feet, and run inland.
When I look at this ocean, I feel fear and awe. When I muster the courage to swim in her, I feel the same.
Still, I am in love with this morning, as I am in love with every morning here.
And I wanted to share it with you.