On wobbly bare feet I made my way to the stoney edge of the Sea of Cortez which is where we’d been directed to pee. My breath caught as my brain efforted to make sense of what I was seeing….was I looking up or down? There seemed to be no difference. Were the stars being reflected in the sea? Was I disoriented enough by this new environment to be hallucinating?
I clicked off my headlamp.
What was this wondrous world of star-full surrounds?? I was stunned and in awe. In every direction there were stars attended by the gentle nourishing sound of quiet water lapping.
As I squatted the starry phenomena came closer in. I noticed these stars moving…some darting off…others moving with the placid waves.
Suddenly I got it…. it occurred to me that these were not stars but rather something equally as enthralling and magnificent…this was bioluminescence! Tiny lights of life moving with and in the sea.
I had stumbled into a world of magic!
We live in a magnificent world…surrounded by miracles and yet, and yet… we suffer…afloat in a stormy sea of ache while all around us the world keeps making beauty.
In the small leaky boats of our humanity we paddle against the fierce wind that seems to endlessly barrage us with an onslaught of toxic stories. We are battered by them and our muscles are tested in their effort to continue on. Each of us struggle to navigate while the sting of salt water obscures our vision.
I bear witness to it far and near…. Attuned to the multitudes of stories of sexual and emotional violence, my sister stretches to contain these spoken horrors and is left drained. Sensitive to the assault of the disassembling stories of the multitudes of homeless refugees and other forgotten innocents, my friend’s inner fire roars in defiance. Vulnerable to the blatant disregard of the plight of Earth, our home and Mother, I falter in my resolve to protect and fall to my knees in a paralyzing disbelief….crumbling into tears.
Have the great scales gone off kilter?
Have we in an effort to self protect, slipped into a kind of anesthetized stupor that is meant to keep us safe from the pain but simultaneously numbs us to everything, or spills us dramatically into emotional toil? Are we filling the pin pricks of light with a black goo of hurt, thus disappearing the world that carries also, such great beauty?
Take heart my friends…let us build wisdom from the literal brilliance of bioluminescence that has been lighting up the dark and mysterious ocean for billions of years. Oceanographer, Edith Widder tells us that most of the animals in the ocean, make light. In the absence of light, we must become it. Most often in the ocean, the light seems to be for defense, finding food, attracting attention, or a fashionable flirtation.
But what if it is also for something more mysterious?
Whatever the reason for the creation of such light producing creatures, let us see them as guides for dark times. Though darkness is also fertile, it seems to often get the task of being the word to refer to the weight of turbulent times…..so in these times, what if we are being invited to shine our light even brighter? Yes, maybe it is a way of saying help or attracting nourishment or friends in the task, but it is also astonishingly gorgeous and can instill beauty in a world desperately in need of it!
The ocean is inhabited by a language of light. It captures our imagination and fantasy and intrigues us to know more and lean in. What if we use that same language of light in our dark ocean of these troubling times.
I do not mean light as a tool of denial or to slather a kind of airy fairy ultra sweet oooie gooey light onto things. Nor do I mean light as an experiment in self serving ego flattery. No, I mean it as an act of soul-initiating beauty, of love and creation. A light that truly illuminates us and others to our divine origins.
Years ago when I lived on a horse ranch in southern Washington in a small thin-walled cabin under the 7 largest Ponderosa Pines on the entire 1100 acres, I painted a quote in yellow letters on the side of the green fascia that faced the large communal garden. I loved this quote by Dostoevsky, and I wanted it to capture the imagination of the young children that came there for summer horse camp. The words were “Beauty will save the world” and was from the book The Idiot. Without having read the book, some deep moon child inside of me entirely grasped the heart of the quote and knew it was hers to pay forward. I wanted just this notion to eclipse the cultural idea of beauty and offer up another way to imagine the world and ourselves….especially the young women.
Bioluminescence, in all of its mystery and charm that has us dreaming into how we might bring our light into the world, is just the kind of beauty that could save the world.
Use your light and trust in its brilliance, it seems to say.
Back on the island my bare feet quietly found their way back to my tent there on the edge of Danzante Island in the Sea of Cortez. With bits of sand and memory, they carried with them a sense of fairies and magic and possibility, and the illuminated beauty of the dark worlds beyond us. I learned that this island is rich with a history of mythic ceremony and stories of once upon a time ritual dancing that carried the dead to the next world.
On this night I was ignited by this beauty that only exists in the darkness and was most surely carried into worlds beyond my own.