Superstitions or Manifestations? Bananas on a Boat in Belize, You Tell Me…

I am often talking about the power of words. As a writer, words especially provide an outlet, a conduit, a connection or a divisive element, depending on the content. We use words to convey our thoughts, emotions, ideas…they are the foundation of our interactions with the world. But, after acknowledging the significance of words in our world, how much power do you REALLY believe they possess? I’ll tell you a little story. A true story. A story I wasn’t sure I was going to live to retell. But, here I am, back in the States, with another tale from the trail. Last winter, I had an opportunity to spend a few months in San Pedro, Belize on Ambergris Caye. (If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it.) It’s one of the few places I will revisit. My standard in travel is not to return to the same country twice. Because, there are still so many I have yet to see. San Pedro changed all that. My job on that island was not unlike on this island. Skydiving stuff. Making sure everything went smoothly. And, being in disbelief that while staring at the Caribbean, sitting in the sun, waiting for tandems to make their first leap from a moving aircraft, I was at work. We had a big jump set about 5 weeks out, into the Blue Hole. Two tandems and two instructors would fly from San Pedro, an hour out to the largest living barrier reef in the world, and land, intentionally, in the water. My ground crew partner, a big hearted Canadian named Gord and I departed on the 3 1/2 hour boat ride out at 5am. I crammed a few snacks into my back pack, a water bottle and made my way to the diving company taking us out, radios in hand, wind indicator rolled up and ready to wave. Now, all we needed was cooperative weather, and it was looking like a blue bird day. We departed the dock before sun up, and it was an incredible sight, watching the sunrise over the Caribbean, in the middle of the Caribbean. I was riding upper deck with the captain and a couple of his hands when hunger struck and I climbed down the ladder to the lower deck, where all our gear was stowed. I took out my water bottle, a granola bar and a banana. The boat was full. Half divers, half snorkelers. And, the forever-misfit skydiver. I was walking toward the stern to watch the wake of the Kool-Aid blue water when two of the boat hands looked at me like I’d shot someone. Mouth half full of banana, I mumbled, “What.” Not a question. A, “What the hell are you looking at…” They both physically, but gently guided me back into the lower deck and said, “Do NOT, tell the Captain you have a banana. Throw it out. Now.” No. Effin. Way. I was hungry. I quickly crammed the rest of the banana in my mouth and they looked like they may pass out…one from disbelief, one from fear. One grabbed the peeling and tossed it into the ocean, directly behind the boat, to avoid the Captain seeing it. What, exactly, was this all about. They were beyond eager to tell me. As we took the closest empty spot, the guys, speaking way too fast, began explaining, simultaneously. I had to stop them, to get them to take turns. “You don’t know? No bananas on a boat! Ever! Ever! BAD LUCK! Bad weather, motor breaks, no fish bite, PROBLEMS, many problems!” As the other hand waited his turn, he was nodding emphatically, in agreement with everything his Belizean counterpart was relaying. He reiterated everything his coworker had just said, and I was sufficiently reprimanded. And, repeatedly warned not to let the Captain know. Then, it got worse. The guys got the attention of every other passenger on board and informed them of the severity of the infraction and of the danger of the Captain learning of the crime. “Guys..it’s a banana.”… “SHHHH.” They didn’t even want the word spoken. Ok. When in Rome… I was sorry I’d created so much tension as the word spread to the rest of the hands, about 10 in all. Each time, the finger pointed to me, the eyes of the informed narrowed, their lips pursed, their head slowly shaking at my ignorance. I couldn’t believe how guilty I felt for something as simple as bringing a banana on board the boat. The eldest hand came and sat with me, he was kind. He flung his arm around my shoulder, and started speaking, “You did not know. Now, you know.” I told him the truth…that I still wasn’t sure what I’d done that was so terrible. He spent the next half hour telling me stories dating back to the 1700’s of bananas being bad luck on fishing boats, but the omen had spread to boats, in general. And, in all  his years, his one profession had involved boats. He had yet, he told me, to see things go well when a banana was carried on board. But, the Captain, who was already an intimidating, stoic man of 6′ 4″, and as sure of his skill driving that boat in the dark of night in open water as the rest of us driving a car at noon in our own neighborhood…he was the one from which this information MUST be kept. I was in. I was prepared to deny I had ever eaten a banana in my life if it meant I escaped the Captain’s wrath. As the lull of the motor, the rather predictable, slightly choppy waters and the calming colors of the Caribbean soothed us back to a more normal state, I started to forget about the banana. All was well. Disaster diverted. The passengers, all aware of my deed, were each wearing their opinions on their face. Some gave me wide eyes and a shrug, others were sympathetic and the rest? They clearly knew not to bring a banana on a boat. EVER. Finally, our pilot made contact with me on the radio. They were 7 minutes out. It was go time. The chase boats were on the ready. I had Andrew, our pilot, loud and clear. We were all a little on edge, as we had never intentionally landed TANDEMS in the ocean. (or accidentally, as far as that goes.) As I watched the minutes tick down, I spotted the jump plane overhead. Andrew called, “Jump ship to skydive,”…”Go,”…”We’re being told to return to base, immediately,”…”Copy. Who is instructing?”….”ATC,”…”Give us 5 min, Kilo Charlie, we’re calling ATC now. Ask for 5 min,”…”Negative, skydive…ATC disapproves hold, we’re headed back.” And, just like that, two jumpers, paying an insane amount of money to jump into the Blue Hole never even got a good look at it from the sky. I stopped the radio checks on the third failed attempt at any further communication.   Skip ahead, several hours. No real fish sightings by the divers. They stayed shallow.  I think I got blamed for that. The seas, predicted to be calm, were incredibly choppy.  Several people got sick. The boat hands cut their eyes at me. Many times. The clouds rolled in. The rain started. It was cold. No one was dressed for that…we wrapped our towels around us and huddled up next to strangers. And, the seas were getting rougher. Damn the banana…  Suddenly, several of the guys were lifting panels off the floor of the boat, and smoke billowed out of the motor. We lost one completely. And, it was clear we weren’t going much further. We were informed that another boat would be on the way, two, in fact…one headed for Caye Caulker, and one for Ambergris Caye. I was headed for the latter, so, I held out for boat #2. Completely dark, now, still raining, not a dry stitch of fabric on any of us, no dinner, sea weary, and just wanting to be back on the island, the enthusiasm of having seen one of the wonders of the world had long waned. As boat #2 arrived, I was grateful, making my way on to our rescue craft. In less than 30 minutes, this boat didn’t even give us sufficient warning, and stopped, abruptly. No. Way. I’m dreaming it all, at this point. I must be. Boat #3 arrives. It’s tiny, it can hold 8 of us. Fortunately, only 8 of us trusted this tiny, metal fishing boat with a motor that was ever sinking under the weight of the 8 of us plus 2 captains. Whatever. I’m ready to swim, at this point. They made us don life jackets, the ocean sloshing over the edge every few seconds. Our feet were completely submerged. This time, we had been riding for about 15 minutes in the rain. We ran out of gas. We’re in a tiny, TINY boat, in open water. In the rain. In an overloaded boat. And, we’re out of gas. One of the guys radioed to another boat and instructed that they bring us fuel. Another half hour, and help arrived. We had started dipping the water out of the boat as best we could, between the rain and the ocean’s churning, we were taking on a lot. After we fueled, we made it rather quickly back to the dock. As they guys were helping each of us step out of a too short boat onto a too tall dock, the eldest gentleman who had been so kind earlier asked, “Did…you have more than one banana?” I almost fell backwards into the boat. Right there, on my back, in my pack, I had a 2nd banana. I wanted to lie to him. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. My face said it all. I walked inside Ambergris Divers only to find the captain had made it back. He crossed his arms and looked at me like I was the spawn of Satan. He couldn’t find the words, so he shook his head and stepped around me, barely clearing my personal space. I dug through my backpack and threw the banana away. I stood under a hot shower for a long time, resting my head against the shower wall, thinking of the events of the day…of the entire banana fiasco, of the specific predictions made by the guys who had worked on boats all their lives, of the jump plane being told to return to base. And, I thought of the power of words more than luck or the lack thereof. I thought of all the decades of reinforcement given to the bad omen of bananas on a boat. I thought of all the times I’d held firmly to the belief that words had power, that we spoke into existence, much more than we wanted to believe, our realities. Our illnesses were reinforced. Our scarcity and lack. Our worst fears. Our failures predicted, came to pass. Our outcomes, both positive and negative, were spoken by each of us, at some time, in some way. I knew that I would never again take a banana on a boat as long as I lived. I also wondered if bananas were somehow ever seen as a good luck symbol on all boats, as they all refused to leave the dock without the harmless yellow fruit on board, and their praises sang- would the luck change? Would the fish bite? Would the divers see schools upon schools of fish? Would the boats reliably return to shore, the weather hold out and all events go as planned? I knew my answer. And, it was, absolutely. Call it the power of attraction, call it manifesting our desires, or self-fulfilled prophecy. Whatever you call it, blame or credit, first the words, not the fruit. Our thoughts and words have more power than we can possibly imagine. It won’t be in my lifetime that the banana is seen as a good luck symbol on a boat, especially in Belize. But, what I learned that day, as every mouth uttered the very happenings that took place, one by one, was that words not only have power, they ARE power. Speak things over your life that you wish to happen. Speak health, abundance, peace and love. Speak resolution. Speak kindness and truth. Speak the best possible outcome. And, when your mind drifts like a boat toward the banana plantation, adjust your sails and think good, big, healthy thoughts. If your very cells don’t thank you, you can always run around shouting the boat is sinking…before it begins to take on water. You can always go back to owning all the things you wish to deter from your life. You can always attract lack. Even if you don’t believe, believe that what I saw is enough for you to at least try it…don’t speak it if you don’t want it. And, if you ever make it to Belize, whatever you do, do not…DO NOT…take a banana on a boat. Speak Peace, Warriors

AirBrush_20180128093749.jpgForgiven…

 

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