When you finally see

Jeff and the boys at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, December 27, 2002

Jeff and the boys at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, December 27, 2002

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.” — Dave Barry

I’ve always found it interesting that some of the most marvelous sights in our universe were unknown to humans for many centuries.  I’m not talking primarily about outer space.  I’m talking about the undersea world, which is every bit as fascinating and terrifying to me.  Because I have a healthy fear of spending much time underwater depending on SCUBA gear to breathe, probably the closest I’ll get to seeing the wonders of ocean life is visiting a good aquarium.

There are many wonderful museums that feature marine biology, but the best one we’ve visited is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, located on the stunning Pacific coast just north of Big Sur in California. I could easily spend an entire day just admiring the views of the water’s surface there, but as Dave Barry says, the real show is underneath.  Large, clear and well-lit tanks will give you views of all the dolphins, sharks, jellyfish, rays, fish and turtles you could ask for, and if you get tired of deep sea life, you can always enjoy the delightful antics of the scene-stealing sea otters.

The undersea creatures are so unique in their many colors, forms, and patterns of movement that watching them never fails to underscore my belief that our planet is the work of an amazing Creator of unfathomable (no pun intended) power, love, enthusiasm and passion for life.  I hope you can make some time to visit an aquarium near you, and enjoy getting to know a small part of the vast drama that unfolds daily, largely unobserved and unexplored, over 71% of the Earth’s surface.


  1. God Morning, Julia. Thank You for your sharing your meditation today and reminding me of flying over the ocean on way to DR mission trip. For the first time underneath the crystal clear waters for miles upon miles I saw mountain ranges and valleys beneath. Was a marvel to behold; the world beneath the waters. Never have been scuba diving; yet, thankfully have been able to see the Creators AWEsome creations up close the aquariums OH, SC and Cal. looking forward to sharing this experience with my 2 yr old gr-grandblessing as I remember my children’s amazement at the sightings. Best time to share the Creators amazing gifts to us. You & yours in my heart and prayers with love.

    • Thanks Kate, it is always so nice to hear from you. Isn’t it amazing how clear the waters are in the Caribbean? A whole world undersea. I hope you and your family are doing well! Thanks for being here.

  2. Sheila

    Good Friday morning, Julia. Yesterday “was what it was” in blogosphere. I was excited to see the blog email as usual this early morning. Have you seen the aquarium in Chattanooga, Tn.? You can experience the natural fresh water rivers to the wonders of the ocean in one setting. It is so well done. Things are about to get LOUD here in the Myrtle Beach area. It’s 10 days of Harley Davidson bike rally. I hope a great weekend awaits y’all!

    • Sheila, believe it or not we have never seen the Chattanooga aquarium, despite its convenient location almost exactly halfway between Jeff’s family’s home and mine. I didn’t realize it had ocean displays; I thought it was strictly a freshwater aquarium. We do plan to go someday. I’m glad I’m not in your area right now – motorcycle noise drives me crazy! but we have friends who love to ride. One of my good friends who is a retired school teacher has just started riding – she and her husband (who is older than she is) just got a Harley and love it, but it’s hard for me to imagine her riding – although I love the idea of it. Hope you and Bill have a wonderful weekend. P.S. this is the post I told you would be coming re: aquatic life! 🙂

      • Sheila

        We had two Harleys before Bill became sick. We sold them when he could no longer ride because of his lack of strength. It’s ok! We’ve ridden safely and have good memories! Bill has come a long way in his recovery; the power of prayer. Sheila

        • Wow I am always surprised when I find out who rides motorcycles! I hope you don’t miss it too much. I think the RV would be more fun anyway :-). I’m glad Bill is doing better and YES the power of prayer can accomplish more than we imagine.

  3. maggie clure, Cartersville, Ga.

    Good morning Julia! I wanted you to know how much I enjoy your site! Your photographs are always so beautiful! I don’t post on the UR site as much as I used to, but I do continue to to read the devotional and the comments each morning and pray for my UR family. I wanted you to know that I am praying for Jeff and for your son!I I enjoy your writing also. Keep up the good work amd may God continue to bless you and yous!

    • Maggie, thanks so much for visiting here, and especially for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m so happy that you like this site. If you’ve read many of my posts, you probably know that I’m a Georgia girl myself, so I always get a kick out of meeting folks from there, even just online. Thanks most of all for your prayers. Jeff and I really believe they are making all the difference for us, not just in his dramatic response to treatment, but also in our ability to keep going and stay positive. Thanks again!

  4. Michael Bertoglio

    This gets me reminiscing about Hanauma Bay (sp?) reserve on Oahu. Spent many off days there on my year in Hawaii and hope to return. I was once bitten by a reef trigger fish-Picasso trigger- which are very territorial and will protect their nest.
    Update on Rachel: Had a tough delivery and it was touch and go for a time and a C- section was imminent, but she delivered naturally after all. John- Michael Levi -at six-pounds 7 ounces. The cord was around the neck and the heart rate dropped. But all are fine. PTL. I wonder sometimes about the baby stuff on face-book. His whole life will be cronicled week by week on /facebook. What do you think of that?

    • Mike, thanks so much for the update on Rachel and CONGRATULATIONS!! Just yesterday I was wondering how she was doing, and said a quick prayer for you all. I am so happy and relieved to learn all is well, and I will keep praying for them. Please keep us informed as to how they are doing.

      The Facebook question is one that challenges me, as it was quite hard for me to get used to seeing everyone’s daily life made so public. In fact, doing this blog and making it public has been a real source of anxiety in that regard, because our family normally prefers to live very private lives. My husband and sons prefer relative anonymity even more than I do. In the beginning, Jeff kept telling me not to write anything about him at all, but I told him that it would be impossible for me to write from my own life and observations without including him and our sons. He has rather reluctantly tolerated it, and I understand his discomfort. But those fears are balanced, at least for me, by the conviction that modern life has largely isolated us from each other to a dangerous degree, and online interaction seems one way to re-connect.

      I have made so many generous and caring friends online ever since the early, text-based days of the internet when I was in graduate school. And I will always be grateful for the prayers and good wishes of all the people who know us only through online contact; you have all been a large part of my ability to keep going through some very tough times. For all the bad things that can happen, I’ve experienced much more good than bad from being online. Our younger generations are far more comfortable with it, generally speaking, than those of us over 50, and whether we like it or not, the digital revolution is changing almost every aspect of daily life. So, while I have mixed emotions and strongly advise educated prudence in deciding what is made available online, overall I see it as a blessing that can be used for good purposes.

  5. Michael Bertoglio

    Also the Atlanta aquarium is the most amazing aquarium I have witnesssed.

    • WOW, and here I’ve never even been there, either! I’m learning so much from people who read this blog. My “bucket list” keeps getting longer; at this rate, I’ll have to live to be 150 at least! Thanks for letting me know about something in my own (former) hometown that I’ve never seen.

  6. Michael Bertoglio

    It is kind of unfathomable that you have not seen the Georgia aquarium. They have this amazing walkway that feels like you are swimming with the fishes. What else can I tell you about Atlanta? Of course you remember the Swan Mansion? A favorite site visit for me. Also Cyclorama at the zoo. The problem is my son is now in Canton about an hour north. I did get out to Stone Mountain last time which was awesome.

    • I have an excuse (sort of) for not going to the aquarium; I left Atlanta in 1978 and was in college in Tennessee for four years before that – then literally thousands of miles away for the next 25 years, so any time in Atlanta was usually far too limited, and was spent visiting my family. My folks don’t get out all that much anymore and even when they did, their favorite pastimes were their lake house and their organic garden. At least we did make it to the botanical garden. I saw the cyclorama long ago in the original and revised versions, the zoo (ditto), and visited Swan House many, many years ago with my girl scout troop. And I did attend Georgia State University for one semester in college, and worked at Rich’s for five years. So I have lots of Atlanta connections, but my memories are of the more mundane variety. Of course, we did manage to make it to several Braves games over the years! You know how it is when you live someplace; you think “I can do that anytime” and then end up never doing it. It used to blow my mind that many people living in Honolulu had never gone to the Arizona memorial.

      • Rene

        Yep, just missed the Ramona Pageant (“California’s Official Outdoor Play”) for my 12th year in a row, despite living in the area & having been to the Ramona Bowl last year for a graduation. I’m really annoyed with myself.

        • Rene, I had never even heard of that, but after reading your comment I looked it up – wish I could have seen it! There is so much that we missed while we lived in CA. I have wanted to go to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach since even before we moved there, but STILL have never made it there. Oh well, we can always tell ourselves “maybe next year” or “maybe someday.”

          • Rene

            I have seen the Pageant of the Masters, and it’s pretty cool! If you ever come back to CA in the spring or summer, look me up & we will be accountable to each other to go! 😀

            • Rene, that’s a great plan. It sounds like one of the most unique productions I’ve ever heard of. We do hope to come back to CA sometime in the near future. All three of us miss it and would love to visit again.

  7. Kathy

    Looking at the picture you posted of the Pacific Ocean makes me yearn to see it in person. I’m an East Coast girl. Just looking at the many shades of blue takes my breath away! One of the things on my bucket list is a drive along the coast of CA and a visit to the Redwoods….I think of I ever lay eyes on those majestic trees, I will probably sob!!!!

    • Yes, I spent my first 2-3 years in Virginia pining for the beautiful Pacific ocean and asking myself “why are Virginia’s bridges so ugly?” But every place has its charms, and the first dazzling autumn on the east coast did much to even the score. Including two tours in California and one in Hawaii, we spent nearly a dozen years on the Pacific Ocean, and its beauty far surpasses that of the Atlantic, except in places like Bermuda and the Caribbean, where the blues are also dazzling. I’ve never been south of the equator, so I don’t know what the Atlantic is like there. The redwoods are definitely another California treasure, and they’re lovely on the northern coast, but also spectacular inland, near Yosemite, King’s Canyon, and (of course) Sequoyah National Parks. What was so fabulous about living in northern California was being within a very easy drive to so many amazing sights in every direction.

  8. One can never get bored watching the ocean. My hometown has no coastline and so itself beaches were our favourite picnic spots. The city where we live now has an aquarium – someday we should go there with the kids and enjoy the beauties of the water world.

    • Yes, we need to do that too. We have not been to an aquarium in years. It is hard to get accustomed to living inland after being on the coast. When we came from Hawaii we lived in Texas for three years, and though I loved it there, I really missed seeing the ocean.

  9. Absolutely – the inner life of the waters is a story. More like a saga. But the waves alone never ceased to fascinate me even when I was a girl. The repeat lulling laps, constant but each, unique.

    • I find it so soothing to be near the sound of those waves. And it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch them.

  10. What a fantastic idea putting windows underwater so you can explore the beauty down there. I have an undeniable draw to the water, love it in every way. That’s one reason we choose to live at a lake for so many years. When we were in Maui, we went whale watching twice we loved it so much. With Pacific Whale Watching, your fee’s go to education and research. We were not disappointed and got a whale of a show! Pun intended, HA. (photo’s at post ‘That’s a Keeper’)

    • I hope I wasn’t unclear on the aquarium message – the windows were to large tanks; I don’t think they were directly to the water. I’m pretty sure sea creatures live there, much like in a zoo, or we wouldn’t see so many of them at one time, probably. I have never been whale watching because I have heard stories of people who went and were disappointed that they did not see anything. Once in awhile, we would be driving down the Pacific Coast Highway between Lompoc and Santa Barbara, and would see schools of dolphins (or porpoises? I’ve never really known the difference) leaping into the air, all together in a beautiful arc. It really is a thrilling sight.

      • That sounds beautiful Julia. I would guess you saw dolphins since they travel in larger pods and are more likely to be play in large groups. We would have been happy to just be on the water on a beautiful day but seeing whales was amazing. The funds support research so you can’t really go wrong choosing the Pacific Whale group.

        • I hope Jeff and I can go someday! 🙂

      • Rene

        I thought the tanks did abut the ocean though…I might be remembering in wrong because it’s been so many years since I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

        • Rene, I think they did. According to Wikipedia: “The basic design of the aquarium pumps 2000 gallons per minute of Monterey Bay ocean water, night and day, through the more than 100 exhibit tanks. During the day the water is filtered for viewing clarity. During the night, raw (unfiltered) seawater is pumped through exhibits, bringing in food in the form of plankton. Waste ocean water from the aquarium is returned to the Bay. This design makes the aquarium ecologically essentially part of the ocean in the Bay, and allows the culture of organisms such as Giant Kelp which are not suitable for ordinary saltwater aquariums. The acrylic plastic (the same plastic as Plexiglas and Lucite) that makes the various tank walls ranges from 3 to 13 inches in thickness, enabling them to resist the pressure and high total force of the water behind them.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monterey_Bay_Aquarium Oddly, I could not find this same info on their website, although it may be in there somewhere that I missed. There are some great photos, though.

          • Rene

            Wow! Talk about a feat of engineering!! It makes me want to go back.

            • Yes, it really was amazing just to read about it. I want to go back too!


  1. Occupied by jellyfish | Defeat Despair

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: