Essay: A night by the black waters of Maine’s Muscongus Bay

“This is incredible!”

A familiar voice rises in a giddy crescendo from the black waters of central Maine’s Muscongus Bay. A small group of us from New York were visiting the coastal town of Friendship, and we had come to the shore that night to relax and look at shooting stars. Of course, as soon as we arrived, my companions heard the call of the sea and cannonballed into the frigid water without a second thought.

“You have to come in,” they shouted.

Having just gotten comfortable on the sandpapery, sharp rocks and still taking in the breadth of sky that vaulted over me, I was reluctant to comply. Maybe it was the year of quarantining, but our bodies hadn’t taken well to the great outdoors on this trip. One of us had already been to the ER due to a busted knee while hiking, and we’d collectively suffered through a biblical storm of mosquitoes and a mysterious rash. So all I wanted at that moment was to stay dry and enjoy nature from a distance.

I probably would have stayed put had it not been for the pure, incapable-of-lying joy in their voices as they begged me to join them: “Are you really not going to come see this?”

Before I knew it, I was clambering down the rocks that led to the water. “You’d better not be messing with me,” I yelled before jumping in.

Suddenly, I was submerged in sky. The stars had apparently fallen straight into the sea and were exploding with every splash.

“Bioluminescent algae,” one of my friends called out. “They’re early!”

I couldn’t stop laughing. Invisible from the shore, this brilliant blue starlight revealed itself only to those who dared to leap into the night-chilled water. After a year spent seeing nature through screens, here was a simple reminder: To witness the world, you have to dive in. After all, the water’s fine.

Leo Kim, a writer based in New York, is interested in the entanglements between nature and culture.

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