Standing in the middle of a large lobby area I wasn’t sure where to go first, right or left. I looked each way a few times before seeing an information desk with a kind looking lady with gray hair standing behind it.
“Hi, do you happen to have a map of the aquarium?” I asked with a smile.
“Sure do. Here you go.” She replied. Her smile matched mine, her blue eyes sparkled. “If you hurry you may be able to see the whale out there in the viewing station,” she continued, pointing behind me.
I turned around and saw a bunch of people outside all huddled together gripping the handrail and looking out into the ocean. The stationary binoculars were manned by eager onlookers. But I didn’t want to rush out there. I wanted to see what the Monterey Bay Aquarium had in store. I was eager to be taken into another world, an underwater world. I spoke with the woman another minute or two getting my bearings straight, deciding how I wanted to make my way to each exhibit.
I walked up a flight of stairs and towards a dark chute-like tunnel. As I entered the second story of The Open Sea I felt as though I was being transported into another realm. The light disappeared, New-Age music filled my ears, and a mechanical woman provided information over a loud speaker every so often. Immediately, my imagination and sense of wonder peaked. I walked up to a tank filled with purple-striped jellies pulsing through the water, their long and striking bodies glowing. I continued and my eyes fixated on the sea-nettles. Their long tentacles and orange color would warn off any predator with any sense. The moon-jellies were my favorite, I think. Their moonlike bells opened and closed as they pulsed through the water. They had a fringe of hair-like tentacles. Then I saw the cross and comb jellies which are much smaller yet just as beautiful.
I walked up to the million-gallon tank. I saw perpetual motion: schools of sardines steering around like swarms of bees, sharks and tunas gliding past the ninety-foot window, sea turtles lazily making their way through the water, and rays flapping their large wings.
The aquarium was just what I needed. I needed an escape, some downtime. I needed to get out of my own mind for a while, break up the routine, and realign my perspective. I haven’t been sleeping well these last few weeks. Insomnia and anxiety have crippled me in a way. I have been feeling discouraged and overwhelmed with all that it takes to get a book published and curate a cool website. The holidays are upon us, November is my birthday month, and the darkness sired by a lifetime of illness and surgery has been getting the best of me. I try to focus on the positive, the fact that I am still alive and have been given another chance at life. But being given another chance is a profound thing and I wonder if I am doing it right. I struggle with the fact that I survive off another’s kidney and a regiment of pills. My life seems so fragile. I walk a tight rope every minute of every day.
In the midst of all this I discovered that my father was going to Monterey for a work conference and other meetings in the surrounding area. He hesitantly agreed that I could tag along when I promised I wouldn’t get in his way.
The next morning, I found myself downtown, in a Starbucks, still thinking about the sunset I watched the night before talking to a good friend of mine about her new move. I was wearing a black beanie hat and black sunglasses. I had a black, lightweight, The North Face vest over a dark gray thermal. I wore my black joggers, black socks, and black Air Jordan’s. I didn’t even bother to remove my sunglasses when I ordered a tall Earl Grey tea. Tea in hand, I walked down the street towards the water. I found Fisherman’s Wharf 1 and walked down the pier, the restaurants lining each side not open for business yet. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day; the morning chill was fleeting fast. I found the Princess Monterey Whale Watching trailer and checked in. I was hoping to see something magnificent, yet I had no idea what I was in for.
About twenty-five or thirty of us piled into a fairly large boat that took us directly over the Monterey Submarine Canyon, the sea lions barked at us as we passed the jetty. The canyon is about a mile deep and spits the bay in half. It creates a scenario that is perfect for whale watching year-round. In fact, Monterey Bay may be the best place for whale watching in the world, so said the tour guide.
Feeling a little queasy I rode out the ride to our destination inside the cabin of the boat with a few other passengers. I leaned back in the bench, closed my eyes, and began praying. Lord, guide me in the right direction. Help me stay strong. I thought about the Gospels, in particular Mark chapter four. “Quiet! Be still!” Jesus said to the fierce storm as he and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee. When it quieted Jesus asked his friends, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
As I was realizing that I just need to believe and trust God I heard loud, “OH’s!” At once everyone aboard the ship crowded the bow. I looked out into the water, scanning for signs of a whale. Then I saw it, the blow of a great cetacean. And for the next two hours we watched the melee of humpback whales feeding.
On the way home, I felt renewed in some way. My problems seemed smaller, more manageable. My anxiety diminished, pushed away by the mysteries of this glorious world.