One of my favorite memories from my childhood growing up on the island of Guam was reef walking with my mother, siblings, and assorted friends.
Guam is surrounded by a coral reef that is quite a distance from shore. The water is usually shallow from the shoreline all the way out to the edge of the reef (where the waves break) and then it drops into Deep Ocean. At low tide the water can be even shallower – from ankle to knee deep – except where there are large holes in the coral shelf and it drops into Deep Ocean.
I spent many days as a child and teen walking barefoot on the reef, learning how to move carefully to keep from stepping on spiny sea urchins, gross slimy sea slugs, or on the sharp edges of coral. My mother taught us which seaweeds and sea creatures were edible, which of the cone seashells were so poisonous that they could kill (!), and how to never, ever, stick your hand in a hole lest it be the home of an eel who would bite down with serrated teeth and never let go. There was some truth to all of this – but my siblings and I made much more drama than was called for out of those remote possibilities.
Unfortunately, these days I can only bring forth brief glimmers of those exquisite moments in time. They now reside in a remote dream-like state around the edges of my mind. My mother’s instructions about reef walking, however, have remained fully present in my life today.
She taught us that when a wave broke at the edge of the reef and the white water came rolling in, we were to […]