Beachkeepers Diary #4- Yoga at Alligator Rock

The first walk down the beach from Atlantis to a pile of rocks at Hidden Beach is serious business.  I am looking for telltale turtle tracks indicating a new nest and also checking to see if hatchlings from previously marked sites have left their nest overnight.  That is my job as a beachkeeper for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire.  It takes about a half hour to walk this stretch of the beach.  It’s a bit more than a mile.

But on the return trip to the car, my tasks are less demanding.  I pick up trash on the beach, note dog tracks or tire marks in the sand, and take a hard look for fishing line, deadly stuff for turtles, especially when washed into the water.  The pace on the flip-flop is always slower, more relaxing.  And by the time I reach Vista Blue about midway back, it is time for a bit of beach yoga at Alligator Rock.

Alligator Rock is one of the small rock promontories that punctuate the coastline.  It resembles the snout of a gator pointing out to sea.  In between this and the other rocks are smooth sands, relatively easy entrances beckoning turtles to come ashore.  The beach is always deserted when reaching this spot.  I throw off my camel pack, ditch the binoculars, shed the t-shirt and find a flat, sandy spot to do standup yoga.

I always begin with a position called the complete breath standing.  It’s pretty simple.  You take a deep breath while raising your arms sideways and above your head with your eyes to the sky.  I always pause at the top and stare upwards.  Clouds, pushed by the trade winds, rush by in a blue sky.  Sometimes a brown pelican or pink flamingo interrupts the heavenly scene above, but in a very good way.

After this pose, I do a series of others; standing side bends, chest expansion, even a couple of warrior poses when I’m feeling so inclined.  The only witnesses to my beach yoga are a couple of American Oystercatchers.  These cartoon birds with oversized crimson bills and bright red eyes stare at me curiously.  So do the fishermen, I suppose, who troll the blue in wooden boats parallel to the coast, but they are quite far offshore.  With the sounds of the breeze and the waves breaking on sand, I am about as isolated from distractions of the modern world as people can get these days.

But my favorite pose during these beach sessions is trikonasana, or the triangle.  This starts legs spread, arms straight out to the sides.  I look out to sea, concentrating on the distant line where water meets air.  Then I bend to the left, moving my right arm over my head, but parallel to the beach.  My head is sideways to the earth.  Looking at the far horizon now, the line between sea and sky is curved.  It is bent.  Am I seeing the curvature of the earth?  I continue the trikonasana, this time to my right, reversing the position.  The same thing occurs.  The horizon curves when I view it sideways.

This visual exploration of looking at the world differently reminds me of a college buddy called Kerry Trippe.  Each day when he rose, he would stroll to the window in his underwear, open the curtains and say,  “Good morning, world.  Happy to see me?”  Trippe was the eternal optimist and to this day, I still admire him for it.  He also liked to interject during heated political arguments between friends by bending his neck at a ninety-degree angle to the floor and declare, “Did you ever think of looking at it this way?”

And that is what I am doing now as I complete the triangle position during my beach yoga.  Head straight, horizon level.  Head bent, horizon curved.  I wonder if Columbus ever did this before he departed Spain for the Caribbean in 1492.  I think it would have given him great assurance that the Pinto and his other two ships would not fall off the edge of the earth.  And somehow, I think Kerry Trippe would thoroughly enjoy the beach at Alligator Rock.  There is one thing for sure.  He would easily settle any squabbles between the two American Oystercatchers there.

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