“If I die, it will be in the most glorious place nobody has ever seen.”
Jill Heinerth is acutely aware that when most people picture cave diving, they wonder if she is out of her mind. She mentions the story of the Thai team on page 25 of her memoir, and on page 234 she says this:
“When I describe the act of cave diving to most people, they think I have a death wish. Why would anyone want to spend all their spare income to enter a world of complete blackness where a single mistake could leave you dead?”
Deep into her book, she points out that her “genetics may be driving [her] to seek adventure and partake in what is seen as risky behavior.” (234)
Scientists have found that about 20% of us have a gene (DRD4-7R) that drives curiosity and exploration. I am definitely not in this group. But the people who are risk-seeking have gone into the unknown in a variety of fields and have broadened the horizons for all of us.
The tale Jill (lives to) tell isn’t the story of a desk worker who ran away to the Cayman Islands (although that is true). It is the story of an awakening and a search for purpose, meandering for a long time, and ultimately finding a call to advocate for herself...and for our planet’s most precious resource -- water.
She documents her journey to become a film writer and producer and the lengths she goes to in order to educate others about the urgency and necessity of water conservation. The drawback to her book is that by the end, her readers are no more educated. While she gives us a glimpse into the universal story of sharing our planet’s resources, she offers no practical steps for us to take immediately. This is her personal story and needs to be, but I wonder if she could have widened the lens at times in order to move her readers to action. Many people want to help and yet don’t know where to begin. While this might not have been her chosen platform for educating us (she has produced many videos and books on diving and underwater photography instruction), her other works are not accessible to all. You can watch her documentary “We Are Water” about water conservation on Amazon. She also co-wrote a children’s book about a manatee who needs children to help him clean up the water he lives in. These are all available for purchase, although my town’s extensive library system doesn’t have them. Her memoir is the first widely published material she has created, and I wish it had contained her larger message about water conservation.
What is conveyed unmistakably in her descriptive prose is how vast our planet is and what majesty lies beneath its lands. We dance around on the surface, creating industry and pollution, while underneath, an ancient rhythm persists, with a deeper truth of the ecosystems that will silently crank the planet back into balance. We must humbly accept that we are just a small part of the greater forces at play.
If you don’t fancy donning a wetsuit, challenge yourself to at least dive into Jill Heinerth’s book and let her take you to an underwater world that will open your eyes in new ways.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.