Hammond Raffetto Art
If you’ve ever kept an aquarium of saltwater reef fish, or even just watched them on TV, you’ve seen their brilliant colors, their breaking movements, their schooling. But it’s different on dry land, breathing dry air, staying dry, watching through some sort of glass that makes everything two-dimensional. It’s when you get in the water with them, whether you walk in through shallows, or jump in from a boat. Everything living and mobile somehow disappears when you first enter the water, and for that moment or two, you are alone, unarmored, and staring in every direction at nothing but the brilliance of turquoise and teal, and aqua and every other shade of blue imaginable. The surface light alternates brilliant and close, dim and far. Before you see them coming, you are surrounded by dozens of Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish. So many you cannot make out the larger shadows behind them, that you know are the sharks and rays. It doesn’t matter, right now, you are in the middle of a blinding flashing mass of gold and yellow and white and black that somehow floats still and weightless in the roiling current, and then impossibly moves instantly, as if teleported to another spot, each flashing brilliant in the rays of sunlight. And then they are still again, hovering in the ebb and flow of reef tides. Riding the water like some endless amusement park ride. On cue, they break and swim across your mask, your arms, raising your goosebumps, all around and over you, and regroup, and do it again. And again. You stay and watch mesmerized for however long your air or lungs last. It’s time out of your own time, a time you’ll never forget.