By Jackie Leavitt
How do you describe the indescribable?
What’s the point, really? You know before you start that you will fail. And yet we still endeavor.
We try to relate this wild, exquisite thing to other more common, relatable topics. Perhaps, we think, if we weave enough similes together, we can attempt to define the sublime.
Yet they all fall short, failing to capture it.
Such is the case with the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay within the island of Vieques, just east of Puerto Rico. We lower our anchor at the bay’s entrance, and all four of us climb gingerly into our inflatable dinghy, our path lit only by the stars simmering in the sky and the anchor light shining bright like the North Star, which will guide our way back. We paddle in silence, hearing the swoosh-swoosh of the waves rippling past the dinghy. The oars dip into the water, the resulting ridge seeming to reflect the moon on a moon-less night.
It is only as we make our way further into the bay, when that reflection grows in intensity, do we realize the luminosity comes not from the heavens, but from within the water itself. With each paddle, a slight glow billows out for a few seconds as it floats past our boat. It is the bioluminescent algae, dancing all around us with their energy sucked up from the sun.
I paddle forward, then back, and it looks like I’m waving a slow-motion flaming torch through the night air, shinning a light green-yellow, rather than a vibrant red-orange. I turn the oar to cut the water like a blade, and it seems like inverse ink painting on the flat, black bay. Even the dinghy’s wavering wake creates a gleaming ripple behind us. The sea creatures, lurking beneath the surface, leave trails around our dinghy with their sudden swimming darts, like squids squirting fluid to mask their escapes.
I run my hands through the water, backlighting my fingers into silhouettes. Small flecks of lightening sparkles cascade off as I rise my hands back up. But it isn’t enough, and soon I am breaststroking a path away from the dinghy, my body glowing. Square, green confetti swim down and vibrate in color as they attempt to escape my arm hair.
Can you see what I see? Can you see the magic, making the belief in fairies seem quite possible?
Why try, when any words or photos or videos will only provide a vague image in the reader’s head? To try is to fail. We have failed even before beginning.
And yet we still attempt.
Can you see it?