poetry, spirtuality, Uncategorized

Diving into Night’s Ocean

black-spotted whip ray

Discovering the Deeper Shades of Blue: How to Night Dive

Let go your idea of needing vivid sun
or the 10,000 shades of transparent blue.

Embrace night’s serene satin, and slip in,
flashlight in hand, to seek life absent during day.

Many divers will wave their torch wildly about,
unable to focus the light they have, uncontrollably
blasting your eyes as if to blind you
without intending to. Move on. 

Let go of certainty and greet the unexpected. 
You’ve changed your lens, are looking
with different intention now. 

Shine your light into hidden crevices
and spot a parrot fish snoozing calmly 
inside a protective mucous bubble.

Go slowly. Gliding along a wall of flower coral
stretching, and retracting their delicate tentacles. 
Hold your magnifying glass close to their daisy-bright 
bodies, and then to ghost shrimps’ gleaming copper eyes, 
their tiny segmented feet intently searching for food. 

Skim past morays’ grinning faces ever peeking
from their window holes, waiting for news of a meal.
Notice others scurry from crevices, swerving
between rocks, looking for better digs.

Take time to shine your light beneath ledges
absorbing a Spanish dancer nudibranch’s salsa,
flexing, bending, and swirling its foot-long scarlet skirt.

Cast your torch across the seafloor to spy
an octopus scrambling to climb a coral-covered rock, 
skin mimicking its color and texture in an instant.

Your air tank nearly diminished, and safety stop complete, 
turn off your light and whirl your arm through the water,
watching plankton trail your movement 
in spiraling beads of green phosphorescent glow.

Daylight holds one world,
night another.

There are worlds within worlds,
things you’ll never see 
if all you know
is what daylight holds. 

Drop into night’s starry sea.
Let yourself be carried into a deeper blue.

Anna down under

There are things we love and look for. There are things we’re not ready to see or embrace though they are present, and there are those things hidden from our site that we only see when we look beneath the surface, willing to greet the unexpected, as the poem suggests. When diving at night, the diver typically moves slower, eyes focused on the band of light one’s torch illuminates. Though vision is limited to what can be seen in the frame of light a diver carries, diving into a night sea encourages a more focused, intimate observation of what might otherwise have been passed over. Similar to how stars are visible at night, things appear in a dark sea that can’t be seen at other times.

There’s a lot in the news these days to carry a person into a metaphorical dive into night. The Smithsonian reports the Colorado River is drying up, drought threatening the electric supply for hundreds of thousands if water levels drop below what allows the turbines at Hoover Dam to turn, writes Robyn White in Newsweek magazine. According to a recent article in CNN, climate change produces more atmospheric rivers making the possibility of another 100 year flood in California more likely. Antartica experienced a heat wave in March, and India its hottest month in 122 years. Wild fires in the Czech Republic, and Spain. Millions in East Africa live on the edge of famine because of prolonged drought. Drought, fires, and floods, we live in a time of uncertainty.

Everywhere we turn, disasters seem imminent. These are global concerns and our futures are woven together. There’s a place for mourning says author and Buddhist scholar, Joanna Macy, yet “what a time to be alive,” she exclaims in this video interview with her, “Climate Crisis as a Spiritual Path.” Be with your suffering. Ground it in gratitude, Macy suggests, so that when panic subsides you can recognize you’re held by life. Our greatest gift is our full presence to life. Suffering can open us to each other and help us find a shared strength in life, she explains.

scorpion fish

When facing the uncertainty of diving in the dark, it’s beneficial to do as the poem suggests, and “greet the unexpected.” Divers have to trust the sea will continue to lift and carry them, even though they can’t see their way. How do we look at difficulty with different intention and find the resources and courage to dive into the dark? Catherine Lombard, on her blog post, Cultivating Radical Hope as Our Planet Collapses explores this article by ethicists David Schenck and Larry R. Churchill  in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, “Ethical Maxims for a Marginally Inhabitable Planet,” giving six ethical maxims for living forward into the future with the dangers we face and that can serve as a kind of light while swimming through a night sea of uncertainty:

Maxim 1: Work Hard to Grasp the Immensity. (…it is always difficult to accept bad news that has a finality to it…Some turns of events demand a change in one’s whole view of the world.)
Maxim 2: Cultivate Radical Hope. (…[only] when one reaches a certain level of despair can new resources of hope emerge, in oneself and in the new world in which one finds oneself.)
Maxim 3: Have a Line in the Sand (things you won’t do, modes of living you won’t embrace.)
Maxim 4: Appreciate the Astonishing and Unique Opportunity. (Appreciate the opportunity you have to accompany humanity in this extraordinary transition and to be present to the earth and the biosphere at this time.
Maxim 5: Train Your Body and Your Mind. (Learn skills for getting beyond the emotional and physiological limits of ego.)
Maxim 6: Act for the Future Generations of All Species. (Speak for those without voice: the poor, the future generations, other species. Speak for the forests, the seas, the mountains.)

moray eel

We view things newly and understand the world differently when swimming in a sea of circumstances where it’s difficult to see beyond the band of light directly before us and yet it’s still possible to feel free. As if an eel smiling from inside a rocky crevice or the beads of phosphorescence bubbling in the water’s surge, because of the challenges to vision night time brings, new insights and ways of responding to suffering can emerge from beneath the interior ledges of our selves. While humanity has not previously faced the kind of ecological collapse scientists indicate is coming in the decades ahead, we do have examples of how people have endured hardship with hope. In a recent Time magazine article. “Far From Home,” Afghan women now living in various parts of the world tell the story of what life is like for them, one year after the fall of Kabul. What especially struck me as I read the article is the women’s repeated expressions of determination to build a meaningful life though they have lost a world they knew and held dear. These women have endured serious ongoing hardship, yet when asked how she would describe herself in one word, one of the women interviewed, Batool Haidari says, “I am a warrior. Not because we are at war but because we are fighting to survive.” Another Afghan woman, Masouma Tajik says she is “unstoppable,” and Najiba Ebrahimi describes herself as “free.” Certainly, these women have cultivated radical hope, and continue to train their minds to grasp what has happened to them, as well as to respond to the opportunities they now have.

schooling lattice soldierfish, Seychelles

We can practice transformation now with every difficulty we experience in daily life and we are not alone in our effort. As Thich Nhat Hahn says in a practice called touching the earth, we have the energy of our ancestors in us, “wisdom transmitted from so many generations…I carry in me the life, the blood, the experiences, the wisdom, the happiness and the sorrow of all generations. The suffering and the elements that are to be transformed, I am practicing to transform. I opened my heart and my flesh and bones to receive the energy of insight, of love and of experiences transmitted to me by all my ancestors… ”

There are worlds within worlds,
things you’ll never see 
if all you know
is what daylight holds. 

Drop into night’s starry sea.
Let yourself be carried into a deeper blue.

Lying on the earth, your floor, or imaging yourself floating through the sea, you can prepare for transformation as you listen to Thich Nhat Hahn’s Touching the Earth practice, allowing yourself to be carried into a deeper blue.

Pacific Ocean, Santa Cruz, California

The poem, “Discovering the Deeper Shades of Blue: How to Night Dive” is part of my newest book of poems, Buoyant, published by Bellowing Ark Press.

5 thoughts on “Diving into Night’s Ocean”

  1. Thank you for your beautiful words connecting (your) art to the earth. “We can practice transformation now with every difficulty we experience in daily life and we are not alone in our effort.” I think so much transformation is needed, and what is needed to effect it is as basic as looking up at the sky, or into a stream.

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