Destinations, New Zealand
comments 11

Swimming Under and Over Stars

Last night at Hopewell, five of us braved the cool sea and swam out into dark waters. Each person jumping off the jetty and giving a gasp or yelp as the crisp coldness enveloped our bodies. Soon the temperature was far from our minds as we marveled in the miracle of bioluminescent phytoplankton surrounding us. Their light activated in the movement made by our splashing and each person soon joined in a chorus of oohs and ahhsAs I swam, each arm made smooth and deliberate slow strokes in front of me. Tiny sparks burst out and trailed over and around my skin, then disappeared into the blackness. The recollection of sparklers on the fourth of July came to mind at the sight. Someone yelled out to look down at our feet. There, far below, a cloud of glowing bubbles spread out under me, my own little whirlpool of light formed from my kicking.

Suddenly a warm, blobby, yet firm form bumped into my back pushing out a shriek from my mouth. Then another touched my arm sending out another yelp. We knew there were jellyfish here, being told by the owners and other guests earlier. Not to worry they stressed, they aren’t the harmful kind. I had seen a few in the daylight when I swam the day before and they seemed so thin and delicate that if someone were to pick them up, they would deflate to a soft tissue in your hand. Yet, here was Rich, the sole man in our gaggle of girls, holding one up while telling us to touch it. I could barely make it out in the night and saw that it did not collapse, but sat like a big piece of round jell-o in his hand. I swam closer and hesitantly poked it and quickly drew my hand away with a residue left on my finger. I paddled away more than happy to never touch one again and exclaimed loudly into the night air, “It’s like… eww.”, when no better adjective could come to mind. We all laughed and thought it was a very appropriate scientific term for the occasion.

I realized after all the plankton and jellyfish excitement that I was completely out of breath and far out into the water. I lifted my legs and floated on my back to catch my breath, buoyant in the salty sea. The magic of the New Zealand sky was above. The sounds of my friends muffled under the surface of the water and a light clicking noise filtered in from somewhere below. Being in the southern hemisphere, the constellations were shifted. No Big Dipper graced the sky, instead Orion’s Belt shone bright, the three stars forming his belt and others the sword. Additional constellations sparkled further out, names unknown to me. Stars of the sky overhead and stars of the sea below made this moment one of pure magic. How rare it was to be there, floating in the night between two glittering worlds, seeing a different sky altogether than the people back home.

Yes, these are the moments no photo can capture and I struggle to create the words that will encapsulate the memory. Magic, bliss, childlike wonder, joy, and peace could all come together to describe it, yet none will ever touch it. It’s kind of like when you meet someone special for the first time and talk late into the night unaware of the hour. You might share a first kiss, one that is at the right moment and place. One that creates heat that warms a heart you thought was fine on its own until that second. Now your universe has shifted slightly and everything is elevated to different level. Then you wake the next morning and recall the night before, a smile lighting up on your face and fingers tracing your lips.

Last night was like that. A sweet experience that might not ever happen again, but one that my heart will trace over and over.

bioluminescent photoplankton

11 Comments

  1. Brian says

    No matter what type of camera is used for pictures I believe it is the person behind the camera that is what creates a good shot. Knowing the correct way to capture what you see thru the lens is not something all people possess. Celeste was telling me about different angles to consider before taking the shot as well as cropping afterwards. I am learning thru her not to just point and click! Your way with explaining the pictures , events ,and feelings you share is also a great talent. Makes me visualize a book in the future for your next project! But that may involve a desk job for a while soooo keep traveling!!!

    • Ha! So true. No more desk jobs! Unless it’s my desk… at home. 😉 I found the best way to learn is to create a project for yourself. One that requires you are out there every day or at least every week to work towards it. Pick a theme or subject and try to create something different or try a new technique each week. Flickr is also a great resource and they have groups on there where other photographers give feedback.Thank you!

  2. JUNE HUCHINGSON says

    SHERI,
    YOU CERTAINLY DID GET THOSE WORDS RIGHT … I FELT:
    THE SHIVER OF THE COLD SEA …
    THE WONDER OF THE SPARKLING PHYTOPLANKTON LIGHTS IN THE WATER,
    THE CREEPINESS OF THE JELLY FISH,
    THE MAGNIFICENCE OF THE STARS OVERHEAD AND
    THE WARM PLACE IN MY OWN HEART FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR WORDS.
    LOVE TO YOU,
    JUNE

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience Sheri. I felt like I was right there with you!
    Looking forward to your next piece.

  4. Annette says

    Thank you so much for putting this experience in such beautiful words.I know Hopewell and the Sounds very well and could never describe how I feel in these magical moments when nature is overwhelming you with beauty. The other day the little “fireworks” where covering my paddle board like a sparkling Christmas wrapping, coming back from paddling through the most amazing sunset….you have to see it with your own eyes…

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