Consider The Octopus

“Please let me make something beautiful
A thing that reminds us there’s good in the world …
Let it be something wonderful
Let it be something beautiful”
— “Make Something Beautiful”, by Ben Rector

The other night, I watched the documentary “My Octopus Teacher” and now, I want to meet an octopus.

My first thought as I watched was to note the sheer beauty and wonder of the ocean, for the depth of intricate wildlife is beyond astonishing. When the camera would hover yards above the water, taking in a larger view of the scene from the outside, it didn’t look impressive. It just looked like a couple of shades of blue. But then we went with the documentarian, the photographer who snorkeled among the fish, crabs, snails, jellyfish, sea anemones, pajama sharks, and the octopus. Just below the surface lies a riot of colors, and some of the most bizarre creatures on this earth. When he meets the octopus, he’s intrigued by her before even realizing just how intelligent she is, and how curious, playful and adaptable she is of her surroundings, including him.

I was also struck by how the documentarian was healed by nature when he went into the ocean, bracing against the cold until he craved it because of how alive it made him feel. The outdoors is like that. When we seek out the quiet spaces where the only sounds are the creaking of trees in the wind, the chirping of birds, or the lapping of the tide, there we can find soothing restoration. From dust we are and from dust we’ll return, as the verses say. In the wild places we feel life’s grandeur, like a cathedral which doesn’t end.

We are reminded of how small we are in the world, let alone the whole universe. Watching the story unfold, I was in awe of the octopus, and in being so, felt humbled. We can take for granted that we are the higher species with our cities and arts and degrees, yet even so the amount of life on this earth is so much more vast than I believe we can truly comprehend. As a child, I enjoyed thumbing through books on various species: birds, trees, reptiles, and flowers were among my favorites. Imagine if someone set out to learn about every species ever known to man. Every mammal, plant, marine life, winged creature and the rest across the face of the whole earth. What about the ones which are extinct? What about the ones which are being discovered just now? We become proud of what we know, yet I believe it’s just as important to take pause and acknowledge what we don’t know. This is perhaps one of the great delights of existence; we could fill a slew of lifetimes with what we don’t know, so that we always have a reason to keep exploring and learning and cramming new marvels into our brains.

I want to meet an octopus, though chances are likely that I won’t. It’s possible that I could have a chance encounter while snorkeling, but to form a friendship the way the documentarian did would mean living beside the sea and going out in a dedicated way. So although it’s unlikely, still, I’m inspired, and that’s the thing with good art; it inspires others to create or do as well, or even to simply soak up more of the world through books or films or tactile creations. I am inspired to soak it up, and right now, to share it through writing. Perhaps, one day, I will become a parent and will share any art I consume with my child. The art my parents shared and encouraged — from books on species, nature journals, music, literature, and exploration — nourished me. It grew me into someone who has remained curious.

So, may we seek out art and nature, knowing that even when it’s simply from our screens and backyards that if it nourishes us it’s enough. May we be elated with the new things we learn, and reminded of the never-ending swell of new things to learn still. May we create if that is our temperament, and share with others whatever lights our spark. May we consider the octopus, and may we be filled with wonder for as long as we live.

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I’m a essayist, poet, and storyteller who writes to try and understand and be understood. I also blog at https://wayfaringwordsmith.blogspot.com

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Sonnet Alyse

Sonnet Alyse

I’m a essayist, poet, and storyteller who writes to try and understand and be understood. I also blog at https://wayfaringwordsmith.blogspot.com

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