Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Running with SHARKS !
A close encounter with a wild fin on Sanibel Island

It was a cloudy day in January on this Gulf island and even the alligators were hiding from the cold, much to my disappointment. Having cruised the wildlife refuge for a sign of the behemoths the only way to save the day was to take a walk on the beach to see if some dolphins might surface.
Parking the car and walking the private beach path to a largely deserted sunset view I began searching the surf for signs of black fins circling out about one-hundred yards. Last night I was treated to a surprise school of bottle-nosed dolphins fishing within easy view of where sand met the sea. I walked the raging surf a good clip to keep up with the five or more dolphins closest into land. It was a marvel: the paintbrush rosy sunset as backdrop for these sleek creatures parading up Sanibel islands’ coastline. Ah, perfect end to a growth filled day.
Today, however, was so far a bust – no alligators, minor sunset, cold as autumn in the NW, and no dark fins in sight. I sighed, and let go even as I cried out to dolphin community of my desire to meet again. Alas, I shook it all off and greeted the sandpipers as I strolled purposely toward some good exercise, at least!
That’s when I saw it. You know, at first your eyes catch a glint of something out of the ordinary in the water and try to make sense of it. Then I noticed evidence of this unconscious tactic: my brows furrowed, and frown on my face. Then that moment of realization: riding the surf eight feet from where the tide touches my toes was a fin. A tan colored fin. Not a big grey or black dolphin fin. It was something else. It hugged the edge of where the tide crashed in like it had a homing beacon (which it probably did). It was a fin coming out of the water as the tide came in and it was traveling about as fast as I could stride my long legs forward without running. When the tail came out of the water ever so slightly my suspicions were confirmed: it was a Shark!
By god, I asked for a dolphin and I got a shark. It was too cold for alligators but this creature was out fishing like it was born to surf under the waves. My pulse quickens. Was I supposed to be scared, and run away from shore? Don’t some sharks EAT people or at least bite them if they are swimming. My lord, this thing was not more than ten feet from me and I was not even in the water. If I was, would he bite? Nah, some deeper voice inside me quieted gulping fear.
Or was he a companion on this walk? Hmm, Was there such a thing as shark spirits to commune with? Of course the answer is yes to both, yet at that moment all I could do was go with my tremendous excitement and that inner urging saying: “Walk with him, run as he swims, keep up as he journeys. Play “follow the leader” and have a ball.” And so I did , for over a mile up the Sanibel island coastline - with wild abandon! I could taste Young blood surging in my veins all the way… but I am getting ahead of myself here. So here was my adventure:
During this whole time my goal was essentially to dance with the waves and get as close to him as I could without actually going in the water. A few times it was close, maybe a little TOO close. I wanted to see his face so bad I almost fell in - and over him - as the swells calmed enough for me to see his fin and backside. Yes, and I talked to him. Really and truly. I Called him pet names. I Gave him a ribbing when he seemed be gone like I would a buddy in a bar who was not telling me the full story of his latest encounter. What was I thinking, after all. I was walking and talking to a shark, for god sakes!
I could not keep in him out of my sight yet often in order to keep up I had to juggle running in and out of tide water surges while dodging spiny sea urchins and sandpipers feeding or flying away just over my head. The wind came up and blew my hat off a few times and had to run back to catch up, nervous I would miss him. Or a fright took me: when would he just end his fishing and that would be our time, our “moment?”
(It was thrilling, engaging, like playing hide and seek – with a crocodile. I felt just safe enough, yet riveted to the screen, which was the lenses in my glasses. )
An older couple walking past me in the fading light greeted me serenely and than I pointed to the water, and said “that ain’t no dolphin, eh?” The woman looked aghast, the man interested and in broken german accent said something as he nodded his head and walked along same way a few paces. Than they were gone as the commitment to keep up was too much. I wondered if they were concerned for me, this solo walker on the beach driven to follow a shark as it rode the edge of surf. And one slip, and I would be …what ? shark bait? Our moment would not end up that darkly, would it?
Well, truth is: we did have a moment. I got gutsy/ballsey/all daring and started demanding he come out of the water more and show me his stuff, just for a moment. (Even as I said) I wondered and spoke my plea aloud: can you actually come out of the water and onto the edge of the surf next to where I am standing? A question more than a request, it seemed. My partner never once answered in words yet as our running together took us into an area where the tide changed its course over a shallow reef I lost him. For a few minutes he was no-where to be found. I let go after a time, ran forward several paces than began walking back. I remembered seeing some kind of movement in the water right before he disappeared. Ah, maybe caught something. What though? I walked back from where I had paced ahead, squinting in the twilight, sunset almost finished its painting lesson to all of us.
Then a flash of light – a reflection from the last pastel glow of sky -- the golden fin appeared. I sighed in relief, a strange thing given that at some point either he would swim out to sea or it would be too dark to spot him as dusk settled in. “Shark spirit,” I prayed out loud, “show me your beauty before you go.” As he slipped easily between waves I threw him some sea urchins. He never changed course to check out what entered the water. Interesting, I thought. Now back to shallow area the fins seemed to swerve this way and that. I walked with rapt attention as close to the shore, leaning over the edge like I could do a roll aikido style. Then it happened, all at once, and I jumped up and a little back: He came out of the water back tail toward me as the tide pulled in. I saw all of him as he forcefully chewed on something he caught. His form was a marvel. Though I could not see his teeth his top/back/dorsal fin was much taller than I thought, almost prehistoric in its shape, like a stegasauras plate. It was only a moment, but after all our running together these past 20 or so minutes it was the answer and gift I was looking for. Wow – he really came out of the water, and thankfully, not at me – but at another prey. Whew! And Woo-hoo!
Then as soon as the next wave pounded in and he made off with his meal my welcome companion departed for good. And it was good. I walked around looking for him here and there for a time as it became dark and marveled at it all: It was an encounter alright, an adventure not even imagined. With the upcoming Caribbean cruise I had considered paying $$ for a ‘dolphin” encounter, all safely administered, undoubtedly. But a SHARK ENCOUNTER – holy ___. How can you script that?!
As I acknowledged it was over, this running with the fin and tail, all I could do was stop, take a breath --and bow. And so I did. Bending forward I breathed in, I am Grateful. Breathing out, Yes. Here it was, yet another treasure beyond measure. At that moment my intuition caught a big fish: I knew the next thing was to run back home to my Tahiti drive house and write the whole thing down. The wild masculine spirit in others would appreciate this true story of a man who survived a close encounter with a shark. In fact, they might even eat it up …
© Copyright 2009 Timothy J. Malone

** Help!! Please send your feedback or comments, including on the title …*
directly via this here blog: or send to your friends via

*Alternate titles:

(He was ... ) Running with a Shark …

(or, the man who runs with sharks // ran with a shark)

NEW writings: Poems & Haiku from the last 6 months journey

Haiku U: 18 dragonflies over a lotus pond*

© Copyright 2009 Timothy J. Malone

I. Out of a VisionQuest in the Desert come these patterns: Oct. 2008 near Moapa Indian Reservation, Valley of the Fire, NV

1. Beyond the call to
“Taste” lies voice to go deeper:
Listen, red rock speaks.

2. Golden Eagles fly
wide circles over (ponderosa) gnarled pines /tops;
one sound, wind through wings.
no sound, (but the) wind //shifts.

3. Flecks of gold dancing !
Ah, Dragonfly wings -- reflecting
The(Hot) desert sun.

II. “Return from harrowing one month in Asia” Haikus:

Two from the shores of the great River Phra, Bangkok, Nov. and December 2008

4. Watching the Lotus
I noticed truth: Bees stay and drink
from flower to live.
[ from flower//drink from its source//sup from its center .//bees know to drink there]

5. Over Wat Po’s pond
Butterfly lands, wing expands

6. Into the dark I
Sank, noise of another life
heard: Not your home now.

7. Middle of night, awake -
To emptiness, silence –

8. Unfolding life
Taking a different form;
What it is, don’t know

9. Still on sabbatical
Forget not: this time of spac-
-iousness feeds,

III. Haiku from a hermitage deep: February 2009

10. Spirit weaving the
Next forms; my task – to simply
Stay out of the way!

11. So Quiet inside;
This new place, space, pace – is yours;
Welcome home, at last!

12. Liquid Lava: Energy
flows – or It does not,
blocked; Love is the Same.

13. In the sanctuary
Kept sacred, the silence,
Zen steward, Monk’s cell.

14. Drink morning still-
ness – heart flutters – gentle me;
“no thing, we have to do.”

IV. After storms, inner and outer (from February hail to stomach flu wail):

A storm settles in;
Wracks siding and sinew, sweeps
Out ... winter, purging

16. Silence: no words echo
here For (many) hours. Heart rests in still ness/ point.

17. Transitions: from what
I’ve known -- a tunnel -- to new
Pastures, green and gold.

18. “Take care of me, dear”
Speaks body. In sickness lies

Each Haiku © Copyright 2009 Timothy J. Malone

V. SO, NOW ... Tell me some of your stories …. :)