Occupied by jellyfish

A spotted jelly performs at The Jellies Experience, Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA, December 2002.

A spotted jelly at The Jellies Experience, Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA, December 2002.

“The real world is in a much darker and deeper place than this, and most of it is occupied by jellyfish and things. We just happen to to forget all that. Don’t you agree? Two-thirds of earth’s surface is ocean, and all we can see with the naked eye is the surface: the skin.”Haruki Murakami

When I’m staring, mesmerized, at the vastness of the ocean, I’m usually thinking only of the surface; of the play of the light on the waves, and the endless rhythmic motion.  The sheer expanse of it leaves me breathless.  If I stop to think about the teeming life beneath, extending across the unimaginable distance, it becomes really mind-blowing.

I think that’s why some of us get the creeps when it comes to entering the parallel universe under the sea. There’s something otherworldly about it, but we are faced with the jarring realization that this “other” world is the biggest part of the one we live in, and we depend on it in more ways than we realize.

I don’t think I’d ever make a good marine biologist, but I am glad some people are drawn to that career.  And I’m glad aquariums exist for the benefit of the rest of us, who stand, as it were, at arm’s length from the drama of life in the largest kingdom on earth.  Even if we only visit aquariums occasionally, it’s an effective reminder of how much we do not know; how small a detail of the big picture we see each day.

One year ago today:

When you finally see


  1. raynard

    Julia, you just reminded me of our visit to the Aquarium in Baltimore last year. It was my first time back since they remodeled it. When it was”feeding time at the zoo (no pun intended) they have several divers”go in the tank and feed the sharks by hand. I was sure”one wrong move and they were going to be”sleeping with the fishes” or wind up as”the food. be blessed

    • Raynard, I would hate to have that job, or for that matter, sell insurance to anyone who did. 😀 Seriously, I always wonder if there is someone standing by with a dart gun at such times. Perhaps having an abundance of food to give out is a sort of protection, but I still wouldn’t want to do it. For that matter, even jellyfish and such give me the creeps. I think it is so scary that the Crocodile Hunter (Steve Irwin) was killed by a stingray of all things. Nature is definitely NOT all “warm and fuzzy.”

  2. Amy

    We always loved our time diving but as you note here it was just a small bit of what is under the vast waves. Very cool!! Stephen was stung last year on our first day at the beach so he is not as enamoured of the “jellies”. It was one of the worst stings I have seen (not that I have seen a lot) and he still has scars. It wrapped around both ankles. We had only been on the beach a few minutes. OH WELL!! The sea is a wonderful mystery from God.

    • Amy, I am totally scared of jellies. I will never forget going to the beach at Corpus Christi one time and seeing them washed up all over the sand, where you had to be very careful where you stepped. It was very yukky. I would totally flip if one got wrapped around my ankles. Like having leeches except much worse! I like to enjoy the sea at a depth that only covers my feet! Or else be on an air mattress or in a boat.

      • Amy

        YEAH that would be yucky. I only go out for a few minutes to cool of but mostly I like to lie on the sand and listen to the waves.

        • Yes, even the best sound machine can’t capture what it’s like actually to be there! We’ll have to go to OBX or Virginia Beach together sometime if you ever make it back down to our York home. Or even the little beach on the river in Yorktown!

  3. Carolyn Miller

    Julia, I want to wish you a Happy Mothers Day. I know that it will be good since you have Matt home. Hugs and love to you, Jeff and Matt and Drew and family if they are with you this week-end.

    • Carolyn, you are right, this Mother’s Day will be especially sweet for me, spending it with both Jeff and Matt. I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day too!

  4. Aquariums are one of my favorite things in the world. I have discovered many amazing things in them around the world. The jellyfish display in Monterray Bay was one of my favorites. As was the leafy seadragon in Chicago. I’ve also developed a love of snorkeling in Hawaii to observe the variety of fish there. The many wonders in the ocean never cease to amaze me. 🙂

    • I looked up “leafy seadragon”and wow, what a fascinating display that critter would make. We never got much into snorkeling in Hawaii as nobody but me was interested, and when we went to Hanauma Bay, the water was so crowded and murky as to make it impossible to see anything. However, I have heard people talk of seeing amazing things while snorkeling and scuba diving in Hawaii. Of course I would be wanting to have a camera. 😀 The sea is mind-boggling.

      • I was quite enthralled with the seadragons. And last August I rented an underwater camera to film the fish at Haunama Bay. I was determined to share my experience with my students. The fish there are amazing. Despite the tropical storm that shut the beach down on my first trip there, I still got some great videoes to share with the kids. 😉

        • That is so neat! I am guessing students in Alaska don’t get to see too many underwater videos that were made by their teachers! Do you have them posted to YouTube? I’m so happy you were able to see them during your time in Hawaii!

          • I don’t have them posted on YouTube. I wasn’t sure anyone but me would be interested. If you’re curious, I could attempt to upload them (or send you a disc of them). But I wouldn’t recommend watching them all in one go. That tropical storm (Flossie) was tossing me about in the water more than I realized. 😉

            • Oh, don’t worry about doing that. I just thought if you already had them posted, I could click over and watch. Someone gave Matt the beautiful DVD set Planet Earth, and it, along with the gorgeous Northern Lights DVD you sent, will give me plenty to “oooh and ahhhh” over! 😀

              • Lol! Well I can’t say the videos are “ahh” worthy, which is why I didn’t post them. I had no idea how hard it would be to stabilize a camera or follow a fish while being tossed about by waves. Lol! And my grand vision of making a fish movie for educational purposes died a painful death. But I still enjoy looking through the videos and sharing them with students. 😉

                • I would be lucky to get ANY kind of video if I tried it. In fact, I’d be lucky not to lose the camera. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. I think it’s great you have the video because your memories can fill in the gaps between the camera’s limitations. If nothing else, it will give you a deeper appreciation for National Geographic! 😀

  5. Oooh, I love this post Julia! I love the sea, it is the place where I feel I am me best. When I stand and stare out at it I always feel the enormity of it, the far horizon and the far depth. I feel the weight of the water and my soul sings. I think I must once have been a mermaid 🙂 But you are right, I seldom think of the life teeming beneath it’s surface, for inwardly I see only watery space and hear only silence.

    • New Zealand must be a fabulous place to live in terms of the sea and other natural beauty. Jeff’s friend who has been literally everywhere on earth many times over says that New Zealand is the prettiest place on earth. But no matter where we see it, the sea really does have a deceptive silence about it. It’s almost like the microscopic world, in that we have no idea how much is going on that we cannot hear, see or imagine. I’m so happy you liked the post!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I just read an article in our paper about marine activity increasing as water temperatures get warmer. Schools of fish, jellyfish, and stingrays have been reported. The ocean intrigues me with its everchanging presence, the treasures it leaves behind with wave after wave, and the beautiful background music that’s always there. Beautiful photo! 🙂

    • Thank you Sheila! Schools of jellyfish and stingrays sound terrifying to me. Almost like a sci-fi thriller – “Attack of the menacing sea creatures.” But ocean life is intriguing for sure. When I was a very young child there was an old black and white TV show I used to watch called “Diver Dan.” I can remember it seemed quite scary to me at times, despite the lack of realism (the fish were puppets and one of them (a villain) literally had a “cigarette” hanging out of his mouth at all times)! It’s amazing how crude those first attempts at children’s television were, before people like Mr. Rogers came along and changed things.

  7. I used to dive. I loved spotting & watching all of the marine creatures. It’s a very beautiful world down there.

    • I envy people who go diving. I’m not sure I could do it, but I’m glad other people do. I like the photos and stories they bring back!

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: