Into the Deep

Every summer, for nine years, I've headed to Orcas Island (in the San Juan Island cluster, just off the coast of Seattle) for the Family Spirit Camp hosted by Indralaya Retreat Center. My parents go, my sister and her family goes, and for the last eight of those years... Biff and our kids have gone as well.

And every summer, for nine years, I've heard about the bioluminescence. 

In the ocean surrounding Indralaya, microscopic plankton emit a bioluminescent light that reacts to movement in the water. So in the dead of night, when the sun has completely set, you can swim in the pitch black ocean and your body will light up as it moves. Everyone at camp does this midnight swim at some point in the week every year... except me. 

I don't know what to tell you. I don't like the cold. And also I don't like being anywhere in the complete dark. You can't see the bottom of the ocean in the dark! What could be in there?! Sharks?! Those deepsea fishes with the giant teeth and suckerfins, ready to latch onto me like the prehistoric creatures that they are?!


But this year, when camp time came around, I remembered my commitment to say yes to more things. Top surgery? Yes. Swimming in the icecold ocean in the middle of the night while on an island with limited cell service and no rescue service? ...yes....?


I found an accountability buddy, who pinky-promised that she would not let me weasel out of it. She promised to count to three and then jump at the exact same time I did. She promised to cheer me on. So we all headed down to the dock in the dark. I trailed behind the young adults who didn't even need a flashlight because they'd taken the forest path so many times. The cold air whipped around my bare legs and I wondered what I had committed to. Other reassured me that there are no sharks in these waters, and if there were... we would see them coming because they would be lit up (obviously). 

We formed a line and I realized everyone else was taking off all of their clothes. "We do this... NAKED?" I whispered furiously to one of the teens, who laughed. "Yeah! Of course!" he said as he stripped out of his jeans and jumped in. I couldn't see anything but faint outlines of bodies in the moonlight. I took a deep breath. I hate being naked. Nude beaches, locker rooms, family changing areas... I'm never naked. But it was impossible for anyone to see me, really, and I realized it would be much less unpleasant to have dry trunks to step into when I got out of the water. 

Besides, people were in the water and I could see how magical and surreal the luminescence was around them, forming an eerie glow that reminded me of mermaids, unicorns, fairies... otherworldly things. I wanted to be a part of it. To say yes. 

So I found my accountability buddy. It was our turn. We made our way out onto the rocks, a foot deep in the frigid water. She held my hand, we counted to three, and I didn't think... I just jumped. I felt like an ant jumping into a cup of ice water. It was so cold. My body froze up and breathing was hard. Everything hurt and I thought surely I might die. "Move your arms and legs!!!" everyone screamed, so I did. 

And suddenly my body was magic. Everywhere I moved, my skin lit up with surreal green-yellow-blue glow. I was an alien. I was the primordial creature I'd been afraid of. I wasn't cold anymore... I was the ocean. I was the stars. I wasn't naked anymore. I was born this way. 

We all splashed around and played with the glowing water before heading back to shore. We put our clothes on and hugged and high-fived, and I was exhilarated. THIS is what I was afraid of? A little cold? What was that when compared to the feeling of being the stars?! 

My adventures of saying yes continue. 


Into the Deep

THIS is what I was afraid of? A little cold? What was that when compared to the feeling of being the stars?! 

My adventures of saying yes continue.