Thursday, August 5, 2004

A frenzy of light-lust

Life here in Bermuda has fallen into something vaguely resembling a routine. The standard day--which has not actually existed yet, except in the never-never land of averages and idealizations--goes as follows:

Wake at 6:00. Burrow under the covers for another fifteen minutes, because the air conditioning has been on all night, and it's cold in the room. Drag out of bed, go to the bathroom, which is even colder because that's where the A/C unit lives, pull on running clothes and shoes, grab key, go outside.

Thoroughly enjoy the blast of already warm, humid air for approximately seven seconds. Meet up with our TA Beth. Run. Observe sunrise through piles of rainclouds.

Return around 7:00. Shower quickly. Go to lab, turn on lights, feed squid. Throw away inevitable dead fish. Wash hands. Go to breakfast, where I am reunited with Beth and our two teachers, and, rarely, some other students from the class.

Read, wander around the library, check e-mail, and chat until 9:00, when class starts. Once class starts, work on Sephie LePodde comic. Keep an ear cocked for any new information which may be introduced during lecture. Sometimes, if I get sleepy, I make a mocha at break out of packets of Swiss Miss and machine coffee.

After lecture, we usually discuss the project and figure out what's going on the afternoon. Then it's lunchtime. And after lunch, research time.

Take net out and spend an hour or two catching fish. Return to lab, feed squid, set up for experiment, and maybe, if we're lucky, conduct a small bit of the experiment before it's time for dinner.

Eat dinner. Do background research, read literature, take notes. Possible engage in some enjoyable, relaxing evening activity, like football (soccer). Start yawning. Feed squid. Go to sleep.

Now that the theoretical framework has been laid down, allow me to present a couple of isolated and entertaining experiences.

Soccer, for example. As most of my readers are well aware, I've never really been one for organized sports, though I do enjoy throwing/kicking/shooting a ball around as a form of social interaction. But this experience has generally been limited to basketball and frisbee, because I don't really know any soccer players. In fact, I can't remember the last time I played soccer.

But there is an open green area in the middle of the station, permanently decorated with soccer goals and a volleyball net. The latter is used on Wednesdays and Fridays; the former, on Mondays and Thursdays. On Monday evening, as I was walking past the field, I noticed four guys kicking a ball around, and I was overcome with an urge to join them. So I put on sneakers, gathered my courage and some very vague memories of the rules, and asked if I could join.

I was motivated in part because it looked like fun, in part because I want to get more exercise and generally be in better shape, and in part because I miss hanging out with a crowd of boys. Of the eleven students in our class, one is male, not too surprising in a marine biology course, but I still feel a little overwhelmed with girliness. It was great to run around on the grass and indulge the scrappy little tomboy who dwells within me.

That one boy in our class, incidentally, was one of the boys playing, and he said afterwards that I was just as good as any of them, which was nice to hear and seemed more or less true. I missed a few passes and lost the ball a couple times, but so did everyone else, and I also stole it once or twice, made a good pass or two, and made one goal. So I fit right in.

Except for one thing. They had been playing since 6:30, and I joined around 7:30. We stopped a little after 8:00, and I was just destroyed. It's always amazing to me how exhausting sports are, because they don't feel like working out, but I was dripping sweat and gasping for breath when we stopped. So were the guys, but they'd been playing an hour longer. I cannot imagine that. It would kill me.

I will move without any attempt at transition on to the next subject (This reminds me, I wish to state that due to time constraints and the fairly cluttered state in which my brain finds itself currently, this journal may degenerate in coherency and writing style. This should not be taken as any effective lowering of my literary standards, and should I ever find myself in a position to publish these memoirs, they would undergo extensive editing and rewriting.) which are fireworms.

(Another quick aside: there is a beetle in this room which must be related to June bugs because of its massive size and incredible stupidity. It keeps running into walls, hitting the ceiling, and falling to the floor. Yet another distraction to excuse any lack of clarity in my writing.)

So, yeah. Fireworms. Fireworms are these fairly ordinary looking errant polychaetes (marine worms) that spawn at very specific times. The particular local species spawns fifty-four minutes after sunset on the third night after the full moon.

No, really.

So on Tuesday evening, we all tramped down to a bridge just a little past Whalebone Bay, which was already quite populated with various tourists and locals--apparently word had gotten out. Oh yes, and fireworms are bioluminescent. Hence the name. So right on time, little bright lights starting appearing in the water, here and there, swirling and dancing. They would spin for a little while, then explode in a puff of bioluminescence--the gametes--and fade away. It was quite beautiful.

But there weren't that many of them, and it was crowded on the bridge, so actually I though the best bioluminescent part of the night was later, when we were all in the bay, snorkeling, and we turned out our dive lights and watched the plankton sparkle around us wherever we moved. It was like swimming through the stars.

And then, I pulled off my mask and floated on my back and stared up at the sky, and spent a few minutes being completely overwhelmed with beauty.

When we turned our lights back on, though, the little schools of silversides got all excited, and started jumping out of the water all around us. It was so strange to feel all these little bodies hurling themselves against us in a frenzy of light-lust. Strange, and frustrating, because if I'd only had a net, I could have caught enough fish to feed our squid for a month.

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