Once. A very long long time ago I visited the most beautiful place on Earth. This place had water and sand, and air. People and the stars and strangeness. It all started in a game of cards round a much too low table with a bottle of cheap gin and not enough tonic. Four of us, two pairs trundled out into the night to inhale some intoxicants and see what we found. What we found was pure, endless, beauty.

We approached the river-beach in the nighttime and watched as the water and stars spread across the wide open landscape like a momentary experience of everything and nothing in the minds eye at once. We tripped and stumped our way down over the sand, past the ghost boats left stranded on the seaside like fishes gasping for those gentle lappings of water, until we reached a gap by the waters edge.

We had, tucked under our excited arms, several firelanters and we discussed quite deeply the best place for them, while toking on heaped cigarettes and drinking more potent gin mixtures. Suddenly someone of the group gasped and pointed. Turning to stare deep into the sparkling blackness, we saw little green blinkers of light, flashing like tiny creature’s lanterns beneath the surface of the water.

Laughing and breathing deeply we edged closer, and one of the group fished their hand into the water swirling the lights around in spirals. We took to the water. Throwing our clothes off behind us strewn on the sleeping sandflies we crept in, closer to the lights. Our bodies bristling against the cold we began pulling big strokes of the water tumbling toward each other, making the glowing dots whoosh around like leaves in the wind. The whole group screamed and whooped becoming at one with the water in a dance of delight.

We began diving under, so all the sleeping birds could hear was a stillness for that one second before the people reached the surface or the water choking and screaming once again in pure extacy. Relaxing into the situation we began to lay back and let the water take us, staring in wonder at the tiny green blobs. For blobs was what they were- tiny little lit up blobs of green sinking and floating.

Changing shape and joining together at one with the movements of the rivers tide. One of the group began sticking them to themselves, and soon all of us were doing it, becoming- just for a second part of the movement part of the light. Grinning the two girls envisaged mermaids, and instantly – that was what they were, diving in spirals under the water and on their backs, moving their arms in time with their legs, creating whole one-light rainbows of colour through the inky blackness of the water.

After minutes. Hours. The group dispersed out into a huddled ball of shivery bodies onto the sand, where the tiny lanterned creatures could not follow. There, we sat smiling about our adventure into the unknown. We remembered the fire lanterns after that and I do not remember where we flew them, or how high they flew.

I remember the photograph I took with my eyes of the whole group- the four of us smiling staring up at the fire as it filled the paper balloon and tugged out of our fingertips and that instant, just that tiny instant in time, it is the light of the faces I remember the most.

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