I look down and see a little fish wading in the waves. She is drawn to shore by the pull of the tide, swept up in currents that keep her disoriented and visible in the shallow water rolling onto the beach this late afternoon. She flutters her delicate fins, small and close to her sides, with a pleasant sense of curiosity. Her silver-black body moves with the flow, gently exploring the small pool she has come across, unsure where to swim in the confusion of her surprising arrival. I wonder what she must be thinking, finding herself suddenly in a place so unlike the dark, serene depths she has always known: a clear puddle of light with an edge breaking into someplace else. Perhaps this is the first time she has experienced the edge of her world, where the firm bottom of sand and the brilliant heat of the infinite sky come perilously close together, suggesting a meeting of these far-removed elements just beyond the span of her habitable space.
What does she feel as she reaches the boundary of what she understands to be real? Does she wonder about this land-world? Can she imagine water, her life-medium, dissipating, the wind touching sand, and dryness bringing refreshment to creatures that do not perpetually know the taste of salt? Is she frightened as the primordial, deafening rush of waves disrupts the echo of leagues-deep sea, pushing her into a once-invisible, now imminent realm?
As the water becomes shallower and shallower, does the fish feel she is about to cross into uncharted waters (which are not waters, but ‘waters’ by name because she calls them by the only reality she has comprehended)? If she should flop onto the span of dry yellow seaweed and broken shells, and search with her unblinking eye a world of palm trees and cotton candy clouds and human children in bright clothing, could she know how to tell the wide ocean what she glimpsed?
When, suddenly, everything is unlike anything, language becomes more of a fence than a bridge. Often, I have built fences around my encounters with the abnormal. Perhaps, by confining them, I suppose I have a better grasp. Perhaps I do this so that no one else can access these moments, analyze them, and tell me I am crazy or, even worse, wrong. How can I fully convey the transcendent feeling when, in the jungles of Haiti, a nondescript little girl and I shared a moment of spontaneous ascension to a higher plane? How can I explain that, once, a shamanic drumbeat drew me into a place where light and dark danced, and faces (but somehow not-yet-faces) emerged from the meeting of these forces, and I danced among them? Why have I dreamed of events before they happened? Unless the confines of our consciousness stretch, how can we convince ourselves that our illusory, layered lives are meant to be explored?
I have many questions.
Do fish hear waves?
Can I imagine what it is like to breathe salt water?
to choke on air?
to know the feeling of fluttering fins?
to move constantly in the currents?
Has light ever confused my fish friend?
caused her to wonder about the ephemeral ripples of gold at the bottom of her world?
She is, like me, both bounded and freed by the physical restraint of her material form. Though she is limited to knowing the world as a fish, she is also, then, privy to the secrets only fish will know. Being human, I will never know what this little fish must have surmised as she felt her way along the edge of water and air, Ocean and Land. I, though, am privy to a special human knowledge, a newer branch of knowledge in the scheme of life on this planet (and perhaps others), but no less sacred or secret. The broad possibility of human knowledge: an untapped well of wonderment.
I carry these secrets, perhaps by virtue of being human:
At times, I see someone on the fringe of my vision that is not actually on the fringe of my vision, but somehow near and unreachable, and I feel their presence although I am alone. It is as if this presence perches on the precipice of my psyche; I cannot tell if it comes from within or without, or if there is any difference.
At times, I hear a whisper in a voice unlike any voice I know, spoken right into my mind, or heart, without sound and beyond a structured language, yet I understand. I feel certain you could hear a voice, too, spoken as it is particularly for you.
I also feel certain that, if I have seen you, I have seen you glow. I do not know how to describe light that does not come from the sun, through my eye, to my brain; however, I experience this light when I gaze intently at people or other beings, especially when they are being their most essential selves, or when, like plants, they cannot help but love.
Sometimes, when I gaze at a flower or stare up at the stars, I feel a rush and hear the roar of another place – a place that is not this earth as I usually know it, but coming close, as relentless as the ocean waves, in dimensions I can't quantify. I suspect that if I leapt fearlessly through the threshold, I would finally know who and what was waiting on the other side. If only I could dismiss my fear, hold my breath, and surface.
After a last flounder in the moments between one break of a crest and another, my fish friend swims back to her life of saltwater and sand. I imagine that the fish and I both fall for the delusion that our realities are limitless. We forget there is a mysterious line between this world and that, which may be as subtle, or as startling, as the transition from saltwater to salt-air.
Suddenly, immersed in the slightly-other, slightly-this, one might, like the returning fish, call air a dry water that is drunk up invisibly by creatures who have long appendages like octopi and smiles like dolphins, still blinded by the glare of a fiery light sphere and reeling from floating in a different direction. After a bright moment of clarity (or confusion), swept back to familiar, dark depths, one may wonder, What else might there be?
As I gaze across the Atlantic, I see a dark shadow move in the periphery. I turn to look, but across the span of sea, only the clouds and sea foam are scuttling. From nowhere and everywhere, I hear a roaring whisper, telling me my name in the language of the stars I cannot see. I let the water and sunlight assail me, and for this time, try not to answer the lingering questions about a reality that is so tantalizingly elusive. My arms open, my eyes close, and I breathe deeply the ocean spray.
I stand on the edge of a world where the cool sand and warm sky meet, where the roar of the waves reminds me of all I have yet to see.