by Dave Markwell

Several lifetimes ago, I drove to Costa Rica with a couple of buddies. We slept in my 1986 Vanagon with each other’s feet in our faces. We ate cheap street tacos and drank cheap beer. We wore flip flops and board shorts and occasionally a t-shirt. We gave away sunglasses and books and cassette tapes to the street kids hanging out at the many border crossings we passed through. We met locals and expats and drank and ate and laughed with them. We were tan and happy and free.

On Isla de Utila, off the coast of Honduras, we took a scuba diving certification class. For five days, we swam around the warm Caribbean waters under the “watchful” eye of our “instructor”, Eddie, a man of dubious credentials. On several occasions, eyebrows were raised in regards to Eddie’s teachings…but, we didn’t die, so it worked out.

Following our daily lesson, we would head to the local beach bar for a few Port Royals and to say “hi” to our “pet” tarantula which lived beneath the weathered planks of the palapa. He would pop out through a knot hole and was a furry little reminder of how far away we were from home. With our damp hair and salty bodies, we ate plantains and pork tacos and drank beer and talked and read and wrote. It was a special time indeed.

The highlight of this experience was the night dive. On the final evening of our stay, we rode with Eddie and crew offshore and as the sun went down, we dove. We had little lights illuminating the phosphorescence and the corals and fish. It was sublime. It was exciting and peaceful in the same moment. I’ve found that the best moments are like this.

As Eddie signaled that it was time to surface, we drifted out of the depths into a magical scene of sky and water and stars. The only light pollution was the universe and a white canvas of possibility sang from heaven as we slowly skulled ourselves back to the boat.

This was one of the finest moments of my life. As I lay back, gently pushing the warm waters, gazing at the stars, I realized that world is indeed a wonderful, mystical, and powerful place. It was a beautiful moment and I knew that I was beautiful to be a part of it. I was fully alive and understood that my life contributed to all life and that this mattered…

I recently read an article discussing the loss of this feeling for men. Our wanderlustfully curious, bold and brave spirits begin to shrink at some point in life’s journey and this shrinks us. It confounds us and makes us uncertain and unhappy and wondering what the hell happened.

When we are no longer simply driven by our quest or hunger or boredom or gas tank, and other schedules determine our days, we become unsettled, looking to scratch an itch. The article described in great detail these feelings and how denying the force of them poisons us and the killing of this spirit can destroy our lives. When we no longer feel in control or inspired or excited, this spirit dies and we die with it.

Gratefully, the key remedy to turning things around is simply recognizing it: When we see it, we can fix it. Everyone has their own itch and knows how to scratch it. We know this in the part of our spirit not yet diminished. And we always have some of this beautiful, little fire burning inside of us, waiting for us to add a few drops of gasoline.

So, while I can’t turn back the clock’s hands and swim weightlessly through the Caribbean Sea in the dark, I can look at my own hands and know that they did this thing, and many other things too, and they were driven by a spirit that still lives. This spirit lives in all of us…always…

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). He also runs the new Waterland Arcade, located at 22306 Marine View Drive South. Dave extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, Dave needs more friends – find him on Facebook here.

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