diary of a mad
househusband

02 february 2000

 

 skinnydipping

In September of 1968, my job at the time had landed me in a beachfront motel near Santa Barbara, California. I couldn't sleep, and 3AM on a Sunday morning found me walking along an otherwise completely deserted beach.

Fog blocked moon and stars, and dimmed and haloed the few motel lights I could see, but the Pacific Ocean itself was aglow with a greenish-white phosphorescence-- something I had read about, but had never before seen. Immediately, I shucked my clothes and waded in.

I was fascinated by how clearly I could see my feet and legs moving under the water, and how little I could see above it. I could only see while I kept moving, though; if I stopped, the glow faded within a few seconds. I moved farther out, so that I could make bright trails through the water with my hands, and splash showers of green sparks into the foggy air.

How deep could I go and still see my feet? I continued until I was chest deep. I could still see them, but dimly, indistinctly. Then, I turned around and glanced back to shore.

It wasn't there. I was out far enough that the fog completely swallowed the motel's lights. All I could see was the part of me under water, and that only if I kept moving.

I didn't panic; the faint sound of the surf was a vague but reliable guide to the water's edge, as was the slope of the sandy bottom-- if the water got deeper, I was going the wrong way. But I did start moving back; that water was cold, and I was beginning to feel it. Along the way, I plunged my head in and swam a few strokes underwater. All I had done to that point was wade; how could I tell anyone I'd gone skinnydipping, if I hadn't dipped?

This would have been a more interesting story if I could report seeing ghostly trails of light from passing marine creatures, but I can't; no crabs pinched my toes, my feet disturbed no sand dollars, no fish bumped my legs. In that small region of the ocean, I was completely alone, except for the uncountable microorganisms whose light attracted me and lit my way.

Soon enough, I saw faint, deep amber in the general direction I was moving. I altered my course, and came to the beach only a hundred yards or so from where I had left my clothes. By the time I found them, I was thoroughly chilled, more than a little self-conscious, and wondering what I'd say to my roommate, if he had returned (he was out when I left). He was there, but sound asleep.

This reminiscence was triggered by a discussion in the Canada & Friends Forum, and originally appeared there.

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