Look closer, Lembeh teaches, on the first day as your eyes adjust to the tiny. No, closer, comes the whisper. Can’t believe this shrimp is so tiny! No, look closer, Lembeh teaches, by the third day as the shrimp is one-sixteenth the size of the last one. No, closer, Lembeh urges, as that speck comes to life and moves.
Be smaller, Lembeh teaches, as my hulk of 250 pounds of loud, smelly body with gear and lead and tank and deafening bubbles blunders about in this delicate soup. Move smaller. Breathe smaller. Fin smaller. Like all hunters I must mimic my prey, so shrink smaller, take up less space, melt into my background and be still and quiet, for every twitch and wiggle gives me away. Be smaller, Lembeh whispers, as my loud, bumbling American-ness is too crass, too clumsy, say the wrong thing and laugh big, step with my big Imperialist feet in the middle of a delicate conversation that was just fine without me. Take it down a notch, Lembeh urges, to my defensive secular feminist post-industrial judgment, and let us have our moment. Every twitch could damage everything. Breathe smaller. Breathe slower. Just watch with small eyes.
Look closer, says my guide, as he stops pointing out anything an inch or larger, because I have learned to see. No, closer, he laughs, as he points out the tiny thing atop the tiny thing I was looking at. There is more. He has learned to find the miniscule. He has learned to be guide, divemaster, photo stylist and cinematographer as the divers keep coming and coming, with grander and bigger cameras taking smaller and finer photos. His grandfather was a fisherman, ship-builder, served the Japanese or the Portuguese, and now we blunder in with our cameras worth more than the average annual salary here- he doesn’t own one but can make your camera sing. Be smaller. And watch your fins.
Look closer, Lembeh urges, as this reluctant photographer gives up and falls back into the drug of my people- technology. My eyes have failed but the camera can zoom, the screen can crop and grow and show my tiny eyes what I can’t see, can’t understand. There is too much to remember. Even closer, Lembeh whispers, because I like to write, I like to draw, I keep a wonderful logbook and no photo albums. You can’t remember it all, Lembeh says, you must have a lens, a micro-memory stick. Lembeh makes photographers because there is no other way to see. Crop and condense and edit. Be smaller. Look closer.
Even smaller, Lembeh teaches. Rinse the nutrient-packed water from your ears. Rinse the sand from your eyes, rinse the clutter from your brain. Rinse what you have known and are; Dissolve into the soup. Be smaller, and cleaner, and clearer. Be with this tiny creature in this tiny moment. Watch as it eats, as it births, as it defends. We are all such tiny bits of stardust making our desperate way. So be smaller. Why are we here if not for our species? Who are my logs and photos for if not for my child who will never read them? Why must we feel we must be bigger than we are, last forever, post more. Be closer, Lembeh counsels quietly. Be here with me in this tiny moment. This is it. This is what I teach. Breathe slowly. Look closer. Be simple. Exhale. And let it go.
– Photo and Blog by guest writer Kelleen Lum