As I closed my work laptop on Friday March 6th for one last time, I had no real idea what would lie ahead for me. I had been so busy tying up loose ends before my last day of work and planning my upcoming travel I knew little about what was happening outside my own little world. Then my birthday outing on the 8th was cancelled wisely by my girlfriends out of fear for the elderly folks they cared for. While at the time it seems to be a slight overreaction to some pandemic threat, I understood and respected their judgement. I packed up the RV for what was to be a short visit to Spokane where I would help care for my grandson for a few weeks while my daughter finished her training and clinicals, meanwhile I started tuning into what was happening in the rest of the world and realized my timing to travel the world might be off… and now, I’m realizing my timing downright SUCKED!
I arrived in Spokane on the March 11th and my oldest daughter joined us for the weekend as well. It was awesome having almost the whole family together! The next thing we knew, most of the world was shutting down and then our entire country was asked to practice social distancing. Within days that request became a state mandate and our lives have been on hold along the rest of the world’s. My oldest made it back to Oregon and started working from home, while my youngest had her clinicals cancelled, later to be approved and started back up, only to be cancelled again just a few hours short of finishing.
I certainly did not think a pandemic would pretty much shutdown the world within only a matter of weeks. I really wanted to slow my life down and take time to enjoy some travel, but NOT LIKE THIS! I think I called it quits just a year or so too early, I mean I already had this remote work thing down to a science! Who would have guessed? Everyone is struggling now to some degree… I have friends closing businesses, others laid off and trying to navigate unemployment, and others trying to figure out these new work or school from home scenarios. Crazy times I never expected to see in my lifetime, but I am still alive! So many others are not as fortunate… It is heartbreaking and puts my travel wants into perspective rather quickly. So far 3 of my 5 major trips have been postponed and I anticipate the 4th to be postponed as well. I am holding out hope that my October trip will be doable but having my doubts as well. I keep telling myself “postponed, NOT cancelled” and some days it helps my disposition while others not so much.
My grandson has been staying home with me and grandpa while his mom works. I was supposed to be relieving grandpa so he could head out on his trip but everything shutdown including campgrounds. What are full-time RV’er to do? Another unintended consequence of the shutdown, but we will make the best of it here, together, very unexpectedly. So here we are with both RVs parked outside the house while we entertain our little human or depending on the situation, he is entertaining us! Lots of walks and bike rides to get us outside but I have seen the movie Cars more times than I care to admit. While my future plans or being reshaped daily, I think back to momma octopus and realize this is only an inconvenience. I am thankful to be here, safe, healthy and in good company. I think I might even get to take a break and go diving for some much-needed bubble therapy next weekend.
I realize this is all new territory and nobody really knows how to best navigate this mess, and we still do not… This is not just a state or U.S. thing, most of the world is in shambles right now. This certainly should not be a political thing but sadly we have made it one. Frankly, some of society’s reactions have been downright sad and embarrassing, yet others have been uplifting, heroic and calm. Can we come together in kindness and not hostility? Can we honor our life’s true needs and forego our wants for a while? I would like to believe our values have not been reduced to hording butt-wipe insight of a crisis. Can we treat one another better despite differing opinions? I fear that until this virus sucks the life out of someone we love and smacks us upside the head directly, we will not be able to fathom the horrible reality others are dealing with right now… it is just too surreal. Will our opinions change then? Will our level of accountability change then? Will life’s needs vs. our wants finally be realized? The future leaves so many unanswered questions.
For now, this life of privilege and comfort has a few inconveniences for the foreseeable future… and for now, we are still alive. Let us make the best of it.
I cannot help but wonder…
Maybe I did not stop working a year too early… maybe I quit a year too late?
I hope not.
Stay safe, healthy and most of all… be kind.
WARNING – I’m not a videographer, this is handheld video with a handheld dive light! While my 3-year old grandson won’t care, you may wish to take some Dramamine before watching!
My camera vacuum safety seal alerted me to a potential leak, so I just took the GoPro for the day until I can attend to the camera. I didn't have anything but my dive light, but I made it work for the most part. I wanted to show my grandson the octopus mom and her eggs if they were visible… and I got lucky! I was also able to guide a stand of octo-eggs back to mom. Not sure how they detached and ended up in front of the den? I certainly hope it was an act of nature and not some idiot wielding a camera into the den doing damage! I know once they start hatching she will "blow" them out of the den. Regardless, I felt it best to try and get them back into the den where they would be protected by their mom for a bit longer until they began to hatch. So few babies make it, I wanted to try to keep the odds a little higher. I suspect the hatching will be fairly soon as octomom was looking rather ghostly.
Here’s to octomom and relentless dedication to her babies!
Something special was instore for me in the water that Saturday December 21st 2019. I joined my buddy as she lead the Tacoma Scuba sponsored event at Sund Rock where she would be reaching her 600th dive! My first dive was with Michelle on the south wall where Michelle spotted two different octopus on eggs. Now I know their location and will be able to monitor their growth process. I think we found a total of 3 octopus on that 70 minute dive along with so many wolf eels I lost track.
Heidi was headed in with her buddy for dive 600 and by the time our surface interval was over, she returned for a quick celebrations and photo opp. Stena and Michelle decided to dive together and keep it short as they were both getting cold. I buddied up with Nicholas, my long lost buddy from Neah Bay!
We kicked out to the buoy since visibility was so poor after some horrific rain. Once down we all headed to the wall. I went to check on the resident octopus and I saw him sitting outside his den in the open for a change. A great photo opportunity too bad I had my macro lens on! None the less, I got the camera setup and strobes placed, then s l o w l y swam towards him. As I approached I framed a nice shot and as I snapped the photo - he moved. A typical underwater photographer's challenge but then I looked up and realized he was reaching towards the camera. I snapped another photo and then hesitated for just a moment wondering if he would quickly realized it was nothing he’d want…. Oh, was I wrong! I could hardly finish that thought when he basically ingulfed my camera! I had tentacles wrapped around my right hand as I held my camera and tentacles working their way up the lanyard to my clip. We signaled to Stena and Michelle who were just a few feet ahead of us and they came back. Realizing the situation, they all began gently peeling Mr. Octopus off of me and then my camera but he had secured a strong hold under the rocks and pulled the strobe into his den. Thankfully the camera itself was too large for the opening. As soon as I could, I unclipped the camera from my D-ring knowing I needed to be able to part with it should things get worse before they got better. We then proceeded to have bit of a tug-a-war as I pulled hard on the lanyard in an effort to recover the arm, floats and strobe that were pulled into his den. Trying to beat an octopus at a game of tug-a-war when he has his den and surrounding rocks as leverage was futile! And, trying to outsmart an octopus at 65’….just wasn’t going so well either. I went and found a small crab and threw is back into his den hoping he’d realize it was food and strobe was not. That failed. It was past the Stena and Michelle’s planned 30-mintue dive so everyone checked gauges, gave each other the “okay” and Nicholas shook his head at me and indicated “cut”. I shook my head in agreement. I knew what I had to do… I got my arm back into his den as far as I safely could, and since he was so obsessed with his new strobe that wasn’t hard, then I disconnected the strobe from the housing cutting my losses. The ladies signaled they were leaving. Nicholas and I went down the wall a bit and then I went back for another tug or two on the strobe arm but there was no use. I couldn’t think of anything else to do nor did we have anything with us that would really help in this peculiar situation. I was nearing my no-decompression limits considering I had already done a 70-minute dive earlier so we slowly made our way up the wall and through the shallows. We did see a cool wolf eel out in the open swimming with a big old kelp crab in his jaws!
I decide to cleanup and go get my tanks filled before the shop closed. I contacted my buddy Don to see if he could do a dive first thing in the morning in an attempt to recover the strobe. He agreed and we made our plans.
I posted something on Facebook incase anyone went diving before I could get back there. My step dad made a comment that for some reason suddenly made me realize that without being attached to the camera, the floats on the arm would make the strobe positively buoyant! Not that I could have done anything differently…. A surface marker would have just created a mess and potential entanglement for the octopus and I didn’t want that. If, and when, Mr. Octopus got bored he would discard his new play toy from under the safety of his den and it would surely float…..away.
The next morning Don and I went to wake the sleeping giant and frankly he could care less! He totally ignored us! We tried our best to look into his den and saw no sign of the strobe. However, we found the plastic checkered wrapper off one of the floats discarded in his pile of crab shells. Now I have to wonder if he chewed his toy up? We searched all around the dive site and along the bank to no avail. When I returned home I created a silly Facebook post and sent it around to every place I could think of and then created a flyer to distribute locally in hopes that someone might find it floating or washed ashore.
While the experience was somewhat incredible, in an amazing yet potentially scary way, I knew the octopus was just being a curious creature. Bottom line is that strobes are replaceable – buddies are not! I do hope he didn’t chew the floats to bits and eat any of it! I’m sure that would not be healthy for him.
My former neighbors from Tumwater live near Lake Cushman and have kayaks! They were always so amazingly supportive and generous as neighbors and still treat me so kindly. They brought their kayak to me Christmas morning. I must have kayaked over 3-miles looking along the shoreline… but again to no avail. I managed to squeeze that kayak into my Honda Fit and took it back to up to their cabin on Cushman. Even though I didn’t find it, I felt a little relief knowing I had made a good effort in my search. And, while kayaking, I picked up a big bag of trash! Sadly, within my first 5-minutes the bag and kayak were full. I will need to coordinate a cleanup here before I head out as it is much needed!
Now I’ll need to see what my insurance agents says! Can’t wait to explain this one….
Meanwhile, if you see a strobe floating or washed ashore – please pick it up. I would love to have it back to complete my story if nothing else!
Goodbye strobe and goodbye 2019 – and Happy Diving!
Pamela Treischel is a SCUBA diving enthusiast and underwater photography hobbyist....and now enjoys the fulltime RV life.