Tuesday, April 26, 2016


a tide pool is an ocean from a sea-anemone view

as a child, i loved going to the tide pools. my favorite part was finding a sea anemone.  i marveled at its many arms, reaching out eagerly but leisurely in all directions.  it seemed hungry to grasp at many somethings, but sought after things in a contemplative manner.

i could never keep myself from sticking my finger in the water, to join it in its slow motion dance. the sea anemone, however, was never keen to accept me as a dance partner however. when poked or prodded the sea anemone pulls all its arms into itself, closes itself off to the world.

perhaps this was for self-preservation. 

turns out its many arms are both a means of reaching out for what it wants and defending itself against what it fears.  the arms are armed with venom-filled cells capable of paralyzing prey and predator alike.  (fortunately, humans are immune to most sea anemone venom.)

but, the sea anemone can’t stay closed forever.  it slowly, almost with trepidation, risks to open up again.  it reaches out an arm or two to test the waters before blossoming in full.  and i gleefully waited to watch it re-bloom time and time again. 

i didn’t think much then about how taxing all this must be for the sea anemone.  i didn’t ponder at what stamina is required to reach out with hope and then close up in protection and then to risk to open again to reach out anew.

i wonder about this now because i’ve lately thought about how taxing it can be to open and close oneself up.  we each are eagerly, even hungrily, reaching out for nourishment in this world.  we find nourishment in life dreams, creative passions, and most of all in people we love.  this is our marvelous, eager dance – the reaching out in many such directions, much like the sea anemone. 

but all the reaching comes with risk.  the risk is this: to reach for is to find.  you find goals, passions, and people you love.  that love turns those things into a need for sustenance.  however, sometimes, if not most times, those things can’t all be grasped at once.

the reality of this comes like my finger reaching into the water: a foreign, hazily defined force touching into our life. we’re not so sure whether it is something to open up toward or something to close down against.  untrusting, and anticipating pain, we close in ourselves.  we pull in all our arms.  it is not a choice, really, it is instinctual.

perhaps this is for self-preservation. 

this is a necessary and heavy part of existence.  we sometimes must pull inwards and away from the nourishment that we long for.  maybe it is because we have to reach back towards ourselves.  maybe it is to prepare for the reaching out in next, uncertain, but unstoppable tide.  maybe we just have to rest awhile, get used to being a bit nutrient deficient, so that we can better treasure the things that nourish us.  maybe we just need a bit of time in the dark to see all things around us in a new and dazzling light when we bloom again. 

honestly – i am jealous of the sea anemone.  because he has many arms to reach out into many directions at once and i only have two.  i have so many places i want to keep an arm reaching out towards, so may people there i want to hold on to.  and sometimes the reality of not being able to have my arms in two vastly different seas at once is so disheartening, that exhaustion sets in, and i have to collapse the arms inward like the sea anemone.

according to the oxford english dictionary, anemone means “daughter of the wind.”  what a lovely and  tragic image.  the wind often flows in predictable patterns, returning regularly to favorite haunts, sauntering through and lingering there.  revisiting the same tree canopies, same grasslands, same mountain passes.  but the wind is, usually, in constant movement. it never lingers quite long enough to call one place home.  instead, it gets to live a bit of life in many places, and stays connected to the nooks it loves most - even if those favorite nooks are distant from each other, and even if the wind can only be a visitor to any of them.

in any case, the gumption of the sea anemone is worthy of admiration. it acknowledges its need to  close down out of a need for occassional conservation, but it never fails to bloom anew, arms eager to embrace what the tide brings.

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