As a child, I used to fantasize that I was a mermaid (this was before the days of Ariel and her movie), happily flipping my tail and swimming with friendly creatures in a magical underwater garden. It was a little bit like popping the Santa bubble when I found out that the ocean wasn’t such a friendly environment and that the creatures of the sea actually EAT each other. But the imagination is a separate, wonderful place after all, and in that place, I can still have it the way I used to see it.
The same goes for visiting an aquarium. Harmony reigns in the underwater caverns of an aquarium—at least as far as the visitor can see. And I can still imagine myself cavorting contentedly with sleek sharks, relaxed rays, jostling jellyfish and all the other inhabitants in my mermaid’s garden.
Last weekend I attended an after-hours party at the Waikiki Aquarium—a little gem on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Once through the door, I headed straightaway for the galleries, leaving the people to chitchat, and, in the outdoor exhibit, the monk seal fast asleep (whiskers twitching and snoring loudly, I might add). Inside, the cute orange-and-white clownfish (remember “Finding Nemo?”) were darting in and out of the venomous tentacles of their host and home, the anemone; the spotted jellyfish were, as always, pulsing gracefully up and down in their tank; and the octopus had come out from behind the rocks and was in a playful mood (either that, or it was giving me some secret octopus signal that said “get lost lady”).
In any event, I enjoyed some alone time with my childhood friends before going back out to rejoin the adult world.