Baby, right behind you

I just spent ten days in Hawaii.

And I learned that in Hawaii, all anyone can talk about is Sea Turtles.

Where are they? Turtle town? Where’s that? How far out? 100 meters?

How big? Oh, I saw bigger over at Makena beach. You shoulda’ been there. It was thick with turtles.

You see one?! Where? Point, show me! Where??? Is that it? I think I see it! No, nevermind that’s just a rock.

I wish I could say that I withheld from the search. That I instead sat on the beach and meditated on the state of global warming. But I didn’t. I was right there with them, shoving kids aside and pouncing on dark shadows and fervently searching the clear water.

It was turtle or bust.

For a solid hour, we stood in the waves in front of our hotel searching for a big turtle that had supposedly been seen in that spot earlier in the day. There was a big group of us, all manic with turtle fever.

Wave after wave, but nothing. He had moved on. The group slowly fell apart as people took off to drink more or search in other areas. Finally, we were the only ones left.

“One more wave and I’m done,” I told Andrew. The next wave came and there was nothing.

I turned my back on the ocean. I was done searching.  It had been a tough trip - full of in-laws and hangovers and sketchy AirBNBs. Sometimes, beautiful vacations don’t make us happy, they just serve to highlight how happy we wish we were.

“Baby, behind you,” Andrew called out. I braced myself for yet another kid to bump into me in their recently-purchased Costco snorkeling gear.

“Baby, right behind you,” he said again, in a voice that either meant “shark” or “big shark.”

And there it was. Suspended in a wave that was about to crash around me. A dark shadow against blue. His shoulder almost bumping my hipbone. The biggest turtle I’ve ever seen.

It was amazing, but it was also sad. Because as soon as I saw him, I realized that I should never have been hunting to see something so old and magical. That to search so hard is to somehow take the power out of the moment. To make the wild world my personal zoo.

That I was looking so hard for something, and it was never in front of my face. Instead it was  right behind me, where it belongs.

The thing you’re looking for, maybe it’s right behind you.

Maybe it’s almost touching you.

Maybe all you need is to stop your frantic search.