Saturday, October 9, 2010

What animal would I like to study?

     I was invited to spend my eleventh summer in Bermuda where my grandfather lived. I swam daily at a nearby beach that had a lifeguard. One day, a young girl (frolicking at the shoreline) stepped on the tentacles of a large, live jellyfish. The child screamed and writhed in pain as welts and lash marks reddened her foot and shin. I was stunned, became fearful.

     Near the end of the trip, my granddad took me on a long ferry ride: It happened to be during a week when locals said jellyfish were abundant. While exploring the ferry, I chanced to look over the stern and was transfixed by the ballet below: Countless jellyfish were billowing, slowly swirling as if in the dying moments of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake". Then the vessel's powerful propellers sucked them into a death spiral and chopped them to bits right in front of my eyes. It was so contradictory to see beauty dancing to ugliness and senselessly destroyed. Scared though I was of these creatures, compassion surged through me---not unlike what Coleridge wrote of the drifting sailor's epiphany (after cursing sealife earlier) when watching electric eels in RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER:

"....Beyond the shadow of the ship
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
As I blessed them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea...."

     And my point is? Just that jellyfish mesmerize me---I would like to learn about them in the animal kingdom.

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