There was something so allegorical about the little trip down the creek into the lake in Puerto Rico, but in fact it did happen and it was completely physical, completely real. So I shouldn’t talk about it being metaphorical, since the only thing it was a metaphor of was itself.
And there we were beneath stars, drifting gently in kayaks, sloshing around slightly in the water in the fiberglass, sitting on water. And then we were to form a single file and line up behind the guide, bumping too often into each other and the mangroves on either side of us. It was so dark, pitch black, it was utterly frightening. But then suddenly the creek widened, and above us was the nightsky, and the mangroves receded to each side, only to engulf us again as they clasped each other above us. This alternating clutch and release, this strange night peristalsis took us down… we were to lean back when the low-hanging mangroves swooshed at our faces, clutching at our eyes – lean back and not sideways, or we might land in the water. But worst of all were the kayaks coming at us from the other direction – swinging wildly, fumbling, driving us against the mangroves so even as my skill increased it didn’t prevent me from being flung aside because the skill of the oncoming kayak was the problem. So it was with sweet relief that the creek dilated a final time, this time opening generously like a palm facing the sky. And here it was – the lake we had come to see, and I hurridly dipped my hand in the water and shook it vigorously, and they were right: sparks! Somehow my hand shook with glimmers, tiny glowing green glimmers, illuminating the water for as long as I moved, then flowing back into darkness. Then I noticed the paddles were doing this too – they glowed briefly whenever they lapped at the water. And our kayaks had glass bottoms, so we were sitting on it, tiny, tiny comets shooting beneath us, streaking through the black water. And half the thrill was the sky: stars above and stars below, it was like a private galaxy. It was silent, utterly silent, except for us. I wondered what it would be like to swim in this: to glow with tiny sparks continually. We had heard the brief lecture before we went into the water: about the little bacterium, nourished by red mangrove, energized by the sun in the day, which let out little photons when disturbed by movement. But it didn’t make it look any less like fairy dust when we finally saw it. The starry heavens above me, and the starry heavens beneath me, I thought to myself.
And when the time came for us to leave through the creek again, I noticed to my surprise that the water continued to glow all along the creek, almost up to the point it met the sea. It had been there all along, we had simply not noticed it on the way in.