I haven’t been taking as many pictures as I wanted to, but part of me is immensely proud of that. Like yesterday, when Giulia and I sat up on deck chatting in the morning sun, when we heard a splash and looked over the side of the boat, when she first spotted them, their bodies gleaming in the sun, their fins flicking through the water – I didn’t go get my camera then. I leaned into them, wrapped my hands around the rail and didn’t dare close my eyes or turn away. Dwarf spinners, we later identified them as, the dolphins that swarmed around our boat and rode our waves. They were small, so agile, cutting through the water, about fifteen of them, on all sides, racing us. That night when the sunset made the clouds placed in such a way as to make the term “silver lining” seem like an actual touchable string we might use to wrap around our wrists to remind us of times gone past, last night, someone said “if we move, we miss this moment.” I didn’t move.
There are many more moments of magic, one so precious I can barely find words to describe it. I am holding it like one would hold a rosary, rolling the beads between my fingers, savoring each second. As of this sentence, it belongs to me and Morgan alone. If I play my words right, soon it’ll belong to you too, at least in pieces.
For you to understand, you need to know that I was scared. That before passage, I felt deep fear vibrating inside of my bones, that many days I fought panic and wrote to my closest friends about the impracticality of a body often riddled with anxiety and fear of being trapped in one place setting sail into the middle of the ocean. If there was ever an action of stepping wildly, boldly towards the face of what scares you most, this comes pretty close. I was scared. We were getting ready to leave, preparing for passage, securing everything below, deflating the dinghies. I watched our mode of leaving Argo be folded and packed away, and played with my breath to remind it to go normally.
It is funny, because the word dolphin is such a childish one, something that belongs to sororities and towels on Florida beaches. But the first time I saw them, just two, just barely, in a harbor in Langkawi where they absolutely shouldn’t be, what I saw didn’t match the word I had in my mouth. It was just a moment, the first of many on our trip, they surfaced once or twice and disappeared. And then we set sail. But like light coming over the horizon after driving for a long night, there was a strange comfort in witnessing something previously invisible but consistently present.
The moment came later though, although it too consisted partially of porpoises and running water, it was built of much more. This is the part where I stop writing for myself, and start writing for you, because this belongs to me in a way that needs no words or photos, it is tightly tethered.
This time, it started with the sky.
Just picture sitting with head back and the slightly-scary-watch-team-leader, a gruff sarcastic man, looking up with me. Like everything good in life, there was no exclamation of the perfection of nature and stars and the world working as one.
Instead, he growled, “You know, stars are just God wrapping us in a blanket with holes in it.”
I, of course, found that wildly poetic anyways.
“No,” he corrected me, “God’s trying to smother us. It is postpartum depression.”
“At least he left a few holes in for us to breathe.”
“He’s mending them all the time.”
Secretly, I wondered to myself if that’s why I feel safer in nature than I do in the heart of a city. At least here I can see evidence of offered air. Maybe, if you believe my watch team leader, it is due solely to a lazy God making his way around the globe, but for now, with all these holes staring down at me, the ocean seems like a pretty safe place to be.
Next, once the sky had a chance to sink deep enough into our skin, to line up it’s lights up with our freckles, next it was the waves. Bioluminescent waves. In the ocean, there is a certain type of plankton that, when met with motion, light up electric blue and bright. Cascades of water sliding off the boat hit the dark depth beneath and blend from bright blue to black. Like the blanket above, the water blanket stretches miles and miles around us and beneath us, yet right where we meet the air, chemical reactions cause a million shards of bright to trace our every move. In our wake, there are particles the color of the brightest fire. Above our heads, a window of ripped air sends in small bursts of bright. In the middle of the ocean, it seems, there is nothing but dark, light and the places they meet.
Later, that night, Morgan and I sat with legs over the rail and tethers clipped behind us, and flipped our heads between the sky and sea, watching the light reflect in every surface our eyes found. There were shooting stars, which is important only because of the reflection, the reciprocation. From across the water, we saw them, except we didn’t see them at all. We just saw light. Streams of light moving toward us through the dark water. Bubbles and light and glowing from beneath the surface. We only knew they were dolphins, huge gleaming sheets of muscle, when they broke the surface. And when we saw their tails, wide paddles sorting the water on either side of them, glowing with every movement. The bioluminescent light had found the dolphins as well, so that their every movement looked like a light show. Morgan and I, we sat with our feet over the edge, and we watched. We watched them jump and leap and watched the light slide of their skin back into the water, we watched them crisscross under our feet, we watched them speed towards us, we watched them speed away. When they left, it was a mix of silence and speed, all of our words and none of them all at once. Morgan said, “How do we keep this moment?” I told her we would. We would keep it. And I would write it down. This is why we’re here.
I feel as if I am witnessing conversations between forces I wasn’t supposed to recognize. Like I am understanding, or rather recognizing sounds, in a language I never should have learned. Like I am privy to the whispered words of something I barely understand, but feel anyways. If these three months are filled with more moments of conversation, of words exchanged in the silent way they were in that moment, I am (as always) exactly where I am supposed to be.