Jellyfish

DSC_0890_JellyThe year is 1981. I am snorkeling in my gym shoes by myself in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mombasa not too far off shore. I wear the gym shoes because there is a deadly species of urchin and poisonous rockfish that dwell in the shallows. Something isn’t right. I feel a tingling sensation across my body. It turns into a burning sensation and I swim hard towards shore. The burning is gone. I look around  in my mask but I don’t see anything. Standing on the shore, I have a rash and some welts that go from my right shoulder, across my stomach, and on my left thigh. A black man points to a picture of a jellyfish on a large outdoor chart showing all the dangerous creatures in this sea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The year is 2005. Max and I paddle a tandem sea kayak in the Pacific Ocean off the coastline of Sitka Alaska. Bruce and Brooke ride in a second. Our guide rides along in a kayak by himself. We paddle over a bloom of moon jellies: white, translucent jellies with white circles on the top of their bell like a four leaf iridescent white clover. There are thousands of them.  Our guide tells us that no one knows how these brainless creatures find one another. It seems especially prudent not to swamp here.

 

DSC_0887_JelliesPresent day. Max, my mom, and I watch the jellyfish from the safety of the Monterrey bay aquarium. The orange glow of the pacific stinging nettles against the blue backdrop offers the most vivid display. The orange bell looks like the hull of an alien spaceship. Curly white strands hang from the bottom center of the bell like some disemboweled fish. Long black stinging strands hang from the edges like the strings of a deployed parachute missing its diver. The bell flattens expanding at the edges. The center surges forward as the jelly expels water to move forward. The motion gracefully ripples like a pond ripple through the body inching the jelly ever so slightly forward. So goes the last of my significant encounters with these ancient ubiquitous denizens of the sea: both beauty and the beast.

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Retro Travel Blog

Max silently reads his book Ecotopia resisting my attempts to turn him into an audio book. Krakauer’s heady and not so upbeat audio book Missoula on rape can only be listened to in small doses. We’ve already listened to all the CDs we picked up from the library including the Doors, nirvana and Coldplay. So I encourage my mom to continue her travel blog. Her bandaged finger protecting a cut tendon and exposed nerve from a defective garbage can prevents her from writing so I will have to take mental dictation. Continue reading “Retro Travel Blog”

Star-Spangled Banner

After driving one hour from Baltimore, we (my sisters Betty and Emily, Betty’s two daughters, Emily’s twin boys, Vincent, and me) arrived at Union Station. The Union Station feels like an international airport. It’s got lines of shops, travelers with their luggages, and walls lined with screens that show arrival and departure times. Busy travelers thread through each other, and intermingled them are tourists or out-of-towners with slower pace and leisure attires. The dome ceiling is so high that I wonder if a bird fly in to the station by accident, she may likely not notice that she is trapped.

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Kayaking Under the Cliffs

The swell rises up the cliff wall, covers the barnacles and retreats. The red footed Pigeon Guillemot perches on a narrow black ledge of volcanic rock above the cave entrance. I glide along the base of the cliff a few feet from the rocky wall staying in the shadows to avoid the sun. A group of cormorants sit and stare at each other on the snow-covered rocks that reek of bird urine. The long fronds of giant kelp stretch out parallel to the wall tracing the current like the tail of a kite. Fry dart in and out of the brown leaves. A couple of pieces of squishy flattened tar rest on the floating leaves. Blue fish move among the stalks and leaves of the kelp trees. The water is tinted aqua blue when shallow, its surface is surprisingly smooth.

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Wet and Wild

Bruce, max, and I climb six floors worth of stairs in the blistering las vegas heat that gives the air resistance like wading through deep water, quickly moving over the sun baked concrete stairs that sear the bottom of our bare feet. The top of the platform offers a great panorama of the Las Vegas valley, the mountains holding the city in a deep saucer. The Las Vegas skyline is visible in the distance, the entire city stretching out in front of the platform. Boulder strewn mountains lie directly behind us; mountains tilt to our left, the uplifted strata slanted to the sky. Towering cumulonimbus hang over distant mountains rising into the upper atmosphere flattened out on top as if pressed down by a giant hand.

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