In another lifetime I was a docent (read unpaid volunteer) at the newly opened Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. I thought it would look good on my college resume to have volunteer time and I am an unabashed nerd for all things relating to marine biology. I had to learn, in an 8 week crash course, the intimate lives of all the marine species starting with invertebrates and progressing to mammals, to include ovoviviparous birth and such things. I loved it all. Sadly, largely due to my own poor actions, my high-school GPA was grossly under 3.0 and dreams of university vanished. I still enjoyed my time at the aquarium and it started a life time love affair with jelly fish.
So they aren’t the most cuddly of ocean species. Nothing like great sea turtles, gamboling sea otters, or beautiful flowering anemone, grabbing your digits and hopelessly using their tiny neuro-toxins as they clutch my finger like an adorable infant, but maybe that’s because I know they can’t penetrate my skin. Yet, jellies always grasped my attention and my love. They oscillate so beautifully, their lacy tendrils flowing behind them like forgotten ball gowns, in blatant disregard of decorum, half dressed in the drapes Scarlett O’Hara style. I can’t discern their eyes, brains or bones. They are free, limitless in their fluidity and movement with nothing physical holding them back.
I finally checked out the National Aquarium in Baltimore with M for his birthday outing. To be brutally honest, don’t waste your money. Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aquarium of the Pacific or according to M the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, but apparently we are spoiled. We dredged through the tiny, cramped exhibits and I dragged M through to the jellies, finally finding my peace, except they were playing ridiculously loud guitar cock rock through the speakers. Those poor jellies could use some Erik Satie that’s for sure. I walked enthralled in the semi-darkness as the jellies blossomed, opening and closing like so many e.e. cummings small hands.
Next time you need some slow, enthralling peace go to the aquarium and sit in the semi-darkness and watch the ballet of delicate movement behind the glass. If you are in the Baltimore area just be sure to bring headphones.