I asked him if the ocean was glowing like this the last time we surfed together at night, and he said, “Thankfully, no.”
Probably because I was naked then, and he was grateful for as little illumination as possible.
I’d been at his house for a 4th of July BBQ around the turn of the century. The homemade fireworks had long since expired on the tile deck when he emerged in board shorts and headed down the stairs to the beach, under a full moon dancing over the glass ocean. I didn’t have trunks, but I followed him anyway, and left the jeans already clinging loosely to my bony hips on the sand before jumping on a borrowed board.
I paddled out next to him and tried to adjust myself on the fiberglass. He did a double-take at my situation, moved a perceived safe distance away, and turned his back. I laughed, he laughed, and we spent the next hour hooting at each other’s rides, until we paddled back in to find that someone had stolen my jeans. We laughed more.
That was twenty years ago, and since then, everything has changed. We’ve both moved, and he’s married with a growing family. He brought one of his kids up to Idaho a few years ago, where we hiked up the mountain behind the barn to watch the moon pass over the sun, engulfing the entire valley in shadow.
Last night, a sliver of the same moon barely lit up the thick, black sky, as we trudged down to the water in our wetsuits. We didn’t mind the dark, though.
The ocean was glowing.
Every swirling hand, every dangling foot, every darting fish, every breaking wave, initiated a light-show of bioluminescence that eclipsed Disney’s best wet dream. Magic exists, and whenever the red tide plankton bloom offers this otherworldly nautical display, I’m reminded of how easily nature dwarfs whatever we humans can create.
After an hour of hoots and laughter, we paddled back in and blindly picked our way over the rocks. We hugged goodbye, two men unsure of when they’d see each other again, but completely sure that when we did, everything, and nothing, will have changed.