Isla de la Piedra Stories and Tips

Beach Light, Pts. I, II, and III

The rising north wind is chilling the beach, and chasing the waves over the flats, piling up riffles high enough to catch and block the low pink rays of the sunset. The wind-piled ripples are sharper, more triangular in profile than the gentler shapes of the wave-created ripples, and they fan due south, parallel to the beach and across the grain of the foaming wave runs.
Whenever a depression in the flats forms a shallow pool, the surface dances with the windrows, each ridge a prism projecting slashes of pink light onto the bottom, only inches below. The parallax projects the pink slashes below the wavelets where I see them through the waves themselves. The instant impression is that leeward slope of each wave is pink, the color coming and going as the wave moves. The contrast against the grey-green bottom and the greenish water reflecting darkening sky works very well, pink waves dashing and dancing against green. If the water deepens to more than about three inches, the illusion falls apart and the pink light is clearly seen as a refractive projection of a wave, just like the pulsing webs on the bottom of a swimming pool.

As I walk along the flats, the rising tide sends sheets of water over the sand, wetting it for the time it takes to sink in and seep back to the sea. A flicker of light on the sand catches my eye, shining brightly, then fragmenting as water washes over the spot where I saw it. The light shatters, swarms, and re-figures as I walk and as the wetness ebbs and flows. I realize that it is the reflection of Orion, trying to resolve in front of me. Seeing that, I can start to pick out other stars and constellations shining up through dark water, shivering to flinders like quicksilver drops, sinking into the sand as it dries.

The bioluminesce only lasts two days, but that's enough for something so magical, such a biochemical circus coming to town for a light show. We're out fooling around with it all night, skipping stones across the flatter water, the impacts drawing dotted green lines out into the night, tracers back to some source where light, gravity, and friction join. We splash dishpans into the water, the insides lighting up like flashlights as the little animolecules give up their flash for out entertainment. We drench each other with the water, seeing ghostly green outlines of people in the moonless dark. Slime beings lurching and dancing, then fading out like dying instrment panel glow. Two of the girls strip off and jump in, slashing green glow around them, then swim into the dark water, their progress announced by green fire, like alien flames from a hyperspace exhaust. As they walk back in, they are formless shadows, but each wave that breaks over them momentarily borders them in green, which fades like a radar blip, then repaints with the next breaker. The waves aren't really big enough to surf, but Pablo tries it, aching for carving green neon lines.
But the best effect is later, when I walk home. The flats in front of the palapas are flooded, swampy to damp to firm. I kick through a puddle and Francesca gasps, pointing down at the green fire I'm kicking up in the wet sand. We stomp and roll in it, experimenting with different consistencies of sand. Francesca likes to kick up big gouts of blazing green mud, but I think the best lick of all is walking along the edge of the muck, where the water permeates the sand and is set off by the pressure of my feet. I place my foot down and it forms a green outline. I put more weight on it and the light spreads out around it like a shadow of light. For some reason I can see how the glow is going deep, creating a hemispheric bowl of light under my foot. I bob on the foot and the green glow pulses with it, like thin ice. I lift up my foot and watch an eerie green footprint fade down into the sand like an X-files ending. I find I can walk a circle about four feet around, reaching my previous footprints just as they fade, my second passing giving them a new lease on light. Phillipe says, "I wish we had some acid for this." Terry says, "Screw acid, I want some of that stuff." The funny thing is, you can buy it in little plastic tubes. But why?

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