Andrew and Leslie are nestled next to each other on my side deck, sipping their dark and stormy as the sun goes down on a crystal clear day. It is finally cooling off a little bit, and the sweetness of flowers perfumes the air. My day is complete, I think I’ll turn in for the evening. I rest my bow on the mooring ball, and close my eyes.
Then, I feel the feather flutter of one million eyelashes against my mast. “What the…” I stir a little bit without opening my eyes, hoping that a minor adjustment will rid me of that delicate tickle that sometimes interrupts the early blink of sleep. The flutter continues.
“Andrew! Look!” I hear Leslie say and open my eyes to see icing on the already perfect cake.
Today has been a great day. We woke with the sunrise, Andrew and Leslie enjoyed coffee in my cockpit and we all watched the golden light warm the semi-circle of the Padar anchorage one more time. Once the current switched, we upped anchor and headed out to sea for a destination fifteen miles a bit further South.
We pass tall mountainside made of volcanic rock, sheer cliff walls broken off facing the open side of the Indian Ocean. Storm waves have cracked apart the mountain face, opening red soil against the black outer layer. A large, open arch decorates stretches from the ocean to the sky, leaving it’s gaping mouth open in the shape of awe. As we enter the Rinca anchorage, we are wrapped in the almost perfect circle of a collapsed volcano. Dolphins bring a warm welcome, swimming under my bow wake for a few moments, an eagle soars around my mast with his feathers reaching for the wind.
The air is heavy with humidity and stillness, sweet yellow flowers billow from jungle bushes on the cliffside. The mountains are so steep, they form an optical illusion that we are surrounded by a screen, Leslie reaches out her hand, brushing it against the “cliffside”. She imagines she can feel the fuzz of one thousand miniature jungle bushes beneath her palm. I look tiny against the cliffside.
We find a nice protected mooring ball, and before we can even settle in, Grin is tugging backward on me. “Guys!, Guys! I can see a dragon. Let’s go see the dragon!……uuuuuuummmmmmmmmgggggggggg.” He groans with the strain of trying to pull 32,000 pounds of me where he wants to go. I barely notice, and instead he drags behind me at a strange angle. Leslie is concentrating on bringing my bow around so Andrew can catch the mooring line, she doesn't notice either.
As soon as we are settled in, Andrew suggests Grin take them for a scuba-scouting trip. This completely distracts Grin from the Dragons. “SCUBA!” Grin exclaims. “We can go diving here?” Andrew confirms cannibal rock is just across the way, and that if Grin does his job well, he can take them diving. So, it’s not long before they zip away to analyze the current, tide, water clarity and any information they need to plan a dive in a day or two.
I take a nap, and wake to the sound of Kitty’s motor put-puttering next to my hull. “Sonrisa, Sonrisa, Sonrisa, we saw dragons! I found dragons! Dragons, dragons, over there! Right there! We were over by the dive site, and I could see them on the beach, so I made Andrew and Leslie get out and we went to go find them, and we found three of them! THREE! All sunning on the beach. Dragons! Leslie, Leslie, show her the pictures. DRAGONS!!!”
Grin is beside himself. I look over Leslie’s shoulder at her photographs and I admit they are cool. The biggest lizards I’ve ever seen, 6 - 10 feet long with their tail, claws like talons, sharp and heavy.
“Does it look like they have opposable thumbs to you?” I ask, their hands and feet look like they could peel the skin off bone. In several pictures, a long, thick pink tongue flicks out, it’s sharp forks curling as it folds back in the mouth.
“They look pretty docile.” I say, looking and one stretching his neck up to catch the sun on his chest.
“Docile, Sonrisa, they are Dragons! They could eat me in one gulp. They could eat you in two gulps!” Grin tells me, wide eyed and breathless. Then, Leslie shows me a photo of one in his fighting pose. Yeah, he looks like he could eat Grin in a gulp.
“Yep, I found Dragons….and two sharks, and some turtles - five turtles, actually.” Grin tells me, proud of himself. “I think Andrew will let me take them diving. I did well today.”
Leslie smiles and agrees Grin did well.
In the heat of the day, we all settle in to read. Leslie’s reading the Art of Racing in the Rain, and Andrew is working his way through season nine million and seventy two of some show about the wild west. He’s a binge watcher.
As the sun goes down, Andrew breaks out cocktails and Leslie moves the cushioned chair to the side deck. They watch the sunset and smile about the magical day with Komodo Dragons. As darkness tucks around me, Andrew goes below to make some pumpkin soup for dinner. One little bug lands on Leslie’s knee and blinks at her in the twilight, a pinpoint of white light. “Oh, hello little lightning bug.” Leslie says. Leslie lays her finger on her knee, giving the bug a ramp to walk upon. It toddles into the palm of Leslie’s hand. Her palm glows with the tiny light in the center. She’s mesmerized for a moment, until she looks up.
This is when I’m trying to shake that feather, flutter tickle off my mast. “Andrew! Look!”
A cloud of one thousand, maybe one million lightning bugs have surrounded us. They are crawling all over me, flying around my mast, floating in the sky like upturned snowflakes teasing gravity. Their white-green light reflects in the glassy stillness of the ocean. Flashes of light, strings of light, stars suspended between sky and ocean.
Andrew jumps out on my deck. “oooooohhhhhhhh….wwooooooooowwwww!” He says, awe wrapping his voice in a sharp exhale. He reaches his hand up, too, chasing the nearest firefly who does not so much flee as glide in the air like a star sliding right and left to avoid Andrew’s touch.
And if this weren’t beautiful enough, Andrew jumps into Grin, who settled a bit lower in the water. “Come for a paddle with me!” Andrew says to Leslie, who follows behind. Andrew takes the paddle and he pushes it through the water. A swirl of neon green phosphorescence glows against the ocean’s blackness. Andrew swipes the oar across the surface of the water, and he throws a glowing, green splash ten feet.
“Yeeiiikkk!” Leslie yelps with delight and grabs her own oar. They splash and paddle around me. Phosphorescence from below me, fireflies all around me, a million stars in the clear sky above me. Sometimes, reality is more beautiful than anything you can create in your imagination.
We all stayed awake as long as we could hoping to watch until the last firefly went to bed, but, they outlasted us. When Andrew and Leslie finally climbed down in to my bunk, my ceiling was dotted with little white-green stars, like those plastic glow in the dark appliqués teenagers use to add a starry glow above their beds. I take a few deep breaths through my nose, recording Rinca so deeply in my memory that I will be able to conjure the smell of cool air, ocean salt, and sweet yellow flowers for the rest of my life.