One of the neatest things I’ve ever seen in nature is phosphorescence.
I saw it for the first time on a Mexican beach, way down south. The ocean was dark, the moon wasn’t out. The only light came from the stars. When you are on a beach without light, far from any town, you can see so many stars! And if you stay out all night, you can see Orion and Sirius rise and descend, as well as hundreds of other constellations.
But I digress.
When I looked at the breaking waves, I saw them light up and shimmer with a pale, blue-green light.
It was spooky and very, very pretty. You cannot compare it to electrically illuminated waves. I have been in the ocean by night, with submersible lights. It doesn’t look the same.
Phosphorescence comes and goes with the waves. The light shows up when the waves break, and it gets thrown onto the beach amidst the white foam. It was as if a giant and invisible hand had poured soft bluish-green paint into the water; only, it wasn’t paint, but light! Light that increased, and then ebbed away, with the waves. Sometimes, it got thrown far onto the beach and remained aglow for a while, before it was eaten up by darkness again.
It was magic!
I stood for a long, long time, just watching. I had never seen the ocean’s light show before. Then, I went down to the tidal line and rubbed the dark, wet sand with my bare foot. Sure enough: it started glowing. I stepped in the water and tried to catch a little of the light in my cupped hands. But the glowing droplets always slipped away between my fingers.
I had never before played with light in my hands and under my feet. It was like an entirely new game, and I felt like a kid in wonderland.
Later, much later, I wanted to see what “it” was. Armed with a turned off flashlight, I rubbed the sand until it glowed. I scooped it up with one hand, then shone on it with the flashlight.
There was nothing!
There was nothing but wet sand.
I had expected to see something, animal or plant, just something. But there wasn’t. I couldn’t believe it, and rubbed, scooped and shone many more times.
Finally, I gave up.
I switched off the flashlight and kept it that way. I walked along the water line, delighted by the micro-creatures that kept illuminating the pitch-black waves with sprays of light. I don’t know how long I stayed at the water’s edge.
The spectacle was so perfect!