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WET & WILD : Laguna Beach Poet Plumbs the Depths of His Imagination

February 10, 1994|DAVID HALDANE | David Haldane is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff.

E\o7 nvision, warm and endless blue,

Coral canyons,

Gently easing through,

Fish surround me,

Angels of the sea,

Bright-color dancers,

Here to welcome me.

\f7 --Al Hornsby

*

Al Hornsby writes about what he loves. And for most of his life, he has loved the sea. For more than 30 years he has been an avid scuba diver, starting as a boy in the South Pacific.

"I have a very personal relationship with the ocean and its creatures," said Hornsby, of Laguna Beach. "There's a tremendous depth of emotion it can bring forth--deep comfort, belonging and rightness."

His poems of the deep have graced the pages of magazines and anthologies, while his recorded songs have been played in the bars of distant islands frequented by divers.

"There's a kind of correctness in being in a place where your body and emotions feel welcome," he says of his time underwater. "It just feels like the right place to be."

Hornsby, 44, first discovered that place at age 12 when he moved to Guam with his family.

"I spent the next few years on the reef," he recalled. "I never could escape it. I'm one of those lucky people who, the first time he put a mask on and stuck his head underwater, had no question about what he wanted to do."

Simply put, Hornsby wanted to spend as much time diving as possible. So, a few years later, he became a diving instructor before moving to California and getting a job in a dive shop.

Today, Hornsby is vice president of legal, environmental and public affairs for the Santa Ana-based Professional Assn. of Diving Instructors--one of the largest scuba-certification agencies in the world. He is also an accomplished underwater photographer who travels the globe in search of exotic sites.

Long a garage musician and dabbler in the literary arts, he wrote his first ode to the sea at age 15. Later, he published marine-oriented poetry in a local diving magazine and, in the late 1980s, had several poems included in an anthology called "Ocean Poets; Voices of the Deep."

A popular lecturer, Hornsby uses his poetry and photography in an underwater slide show he presents at six to eight international film festivals a year.

In 1990 he recorded eight original, ocean-related songs in a cassette tape, "Dolphin's Dance," which, for a time, was available at dive shops, gift stores and ocean resorts around the world.

And once I find my way down under ,

Feel the peace,

The sense of wonder, waiting,

I find the joy, baby,

It'll never end,

The sea's there waiting,

'Til I'm back again .

"I write from strong emotion," said Hornsby, who plays guitar and keyboard.

"As more and more of my life has turned around diving in the ocean, it was sort of natural that the emotion of my relationship with the sea became the starting point for a lot of my music."

There's also a strong ecological message, as evidenced by the title song.

We hear the dolphins singing ,

The ocean's lullaby,

But the way the world is turning,

We're gonna make the dolphins cry . . .

" Divers tend to be extremely environmentally conscious," Hornsby said. "They are probably more attuned to the environment than most people; it really feels good to be able to help give something back to the ocean by sharing this feeling with others."

Unfortunately, only a few places still play this environmentally correct tape, so you might have to travel a bit to hear it. Like to Yap, a Micronesian island between Gaum and Palau in the Pacific.

"If you sit in the bar there," Hornsby promised, "you'll have to listen to my tape all night long."

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