September 29, 2010

Swimming Through the Stars

Maia leapt off the bow and into the water. All around her galaxies exploded. "Look!" she said, pulling her arm through the silky warm water, "a meteor shower." We've been waiting for a night like this: a moonless sky, a calm anchorage and enough bioluminescence that the ocean shimmers all on its own.

We grew still, floating without moving, letting the stars grow dim. Below me I could see the glowing outline of a needle fish. I watched, fascinated as it swam away. "Okay, go!" Maia let us know we needed to kick and wave our arms as fast as we could. We were lit with enough luminescence we could see each others faces. Evan and Maia looked struck with awe. It reminded me of how I felt when I first saw a firefly.

Diatoms are the primary producers of energy in the ocean food chain and many produce bioluminescence. These complex one-celled organisms show traits of both animals and plants--they're claimed by zoologists as protozoans and by botanists as algae. In our life they are simply a thing of wonder: tiny stars that cling to our skin when we climb from the boat and that make Maia's ponytail twinkle until she leaps back in again, diving far under us like the gleaming magical mermaid we know her to be.

She surfaced near my face, her smile bright in the glow. We floated quietly again, letting the blackness fill back in. Then we made star angels, searched for constellations and splashed comets at each other.

We were reluctant to leave our solar system, and leave behind something that felt as close to enchantment as I've ever felt. As we climbed up the ladder we dripped sparkles. On deck we stood in the night and watched the sea grow calm and dark while the illumination faded away.

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Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Bioluminescence is one of the neatest things about being on the water regularly.

Deb said...

Thank you for that wonderful little piece of magical escape at the end of a very tough day.

S/V Nomad