New England Mermaid
For Christmas this year, my favorite merman gave me these 2 beverage holders – one for each of my favorite beverages. Mermaids do rely on coffee and wine for nourishment. I do want to address a myth. For decades, maybe even centuries, there have been terrible rumors about mermaids singing to human men, tempting them with their beautiful voices, and then … well … mating with them and then killing them … like a praying mantis. I just want to be very clear … these horrible lies are simply not true! Anybody who has heard my singing voice knows this! So you need not worry about my merman.
Looking back, this year has taught me a lot. It has certainly taught me that I do need to put aside more time for writing, so I hope that 2024 will bring more activity to this space. It also taught me about concepts of delight, how to handle fame (that was weird) and more about how to enjoy the moments (above and below water) which is related to delight!
This is not a play by play of my year. It’s about some lessons that I learned – of humor, of wonder, of delight, and well … a little bit about fame.
Let’s start with this fame thing, because it’s easier. September was one of the most surreal times for this mermaid and her merman. You may recall that my last post talked about how we rescued a baby shark during a dive. Surprisingly, an AP reporter saw the post, published an article, and it went international! And then, things got weird. The phones rang, texts came in, emails flooded. Just google “Glastonbury baby shark” and there are pages and pages of results. My photo even became a meme – which was quite funny, and one newspaper (well, it’s really kind of a tabloid) managed to find pictures from this blog site and included the picture of me as a mermaid with the caption explaining that I have taught scuba for over 30 years. So now the world knows – apparently, somebody who has taught scuba for over 30 years turns into a mermaid with beautiful blue scales and fins. And then came the radio interview. My merman and I were interviewed live for WCBS radio Newsline with Brigitte Quinn September 14, 2023. Not able to hear the broadcast as we were hanging out in the zoom waiting room, we later learned that our segment was introduced by the playing of Celine Dion’s carpool karaoke version of “Baby Shark.” If you ever need a new earworm, this is it: “Baby Shark – doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo” … And after our segment, we were followed by none other than the delightful scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson. If there was ever a lesson in humility and how to not take ourselves too seriously, this was it! That said, I was thrilled that, through these unexpected media opportunities, we were able to include the message of the problem of marine debris, and I can only hope that this impacted at least some individuals who stop by to recreate on the beaches of our underwater homes. I will add that for weeks following, and occasionally still, somebody will mention this story to me, and I cannot count the times that people have sang verses of “Baby Shark” to me when they saw me.
Short-lived fame over. Let’s talk about delight! I’m not a scientist, though sometimes I get involved in citizen scientist projects. Before I learned more about delight, I used to focus more on trying to learn the scientific aspects of the fish and environment, and I continue to enjoy that. Yet there’s something about the magic and delight of the ocean world that is even more amazing to this mermaid. I was reading “The Book of Hope” which is based on interviews with above-ground amaze-woman Jane Goodall. She describes herself as a “naturalist” rather than a “scientist”, explaining that she looks for the wonder of nature. Wonder – what a beautiful word, isn’t it? She says that she listens to the voice of nature as she tries to understand it. Whereas a scientist is more focused on facts and the desire to quantify, naturalists need empathy, intuition, and love. So there you have it! I’d rather be a naturalist. I realized that when I focus too much on science, I lose my sense of wonder. Besides, I’ve never met a scientist who would believe that I’m a mermaid. And now I don’t need to learn all those Latin names and just appreciate “that pretty yellow fish.” (OK, you got me. It really does matter to me if that pretty yellow fish is a yellow tang or a yellow butterfly fish, because it’s fun and interesting, but if I don’t know, I can still love it). None of this is to say that science and delight do not often go hand in hand – of course they do, as we can learn from the aforementioned wonderfully delightful scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson (I wonder if he had “Baby Shark doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo stuck in his head).
Wonder often leads to delight which is a wonderfully delightful way to feel. About a week ago, I turned on the radio, and it was mid-way through an interview on public radio. I later learned that the gentleman speaking was one of the leaders of Nu Haven Kavelye, a New Haven based Klezmer group. One of the first things that I heard, without yet having context, was something like “We educate through delight.” This really struck me – I aim to achieve this through this site. I really hope that I do. See how this is all coming together? Wait, there’s more! Yesterday (New Year’s Eve day) I zoomed into a New Year’s Day service entitled “Beloved Mystery.” They sang a hymn that I had never heard before – “We Celebrate the Web of Life”, words by Alicia S. Carpenter. There was a line that I could not love more! You may recall that I wrote an entire post on appreciation of barnacles – “What Happens in the Tidepool Stays in the Tidepool.” This hymn, in celebration of all living creatures on the earth, includes the phrase:
A fragment of the perfect whole, in cactus and in quail,
As much in tiny barnacle as in the great blue whale.
I am now a huge fan of the work and humanity of Alicia S. Carpenter, as well as that of Jane Goodall.
All of this is so fitting. I love how things connect. On this New Year’s Day 2024, my merman and I took a drive to the shore. While he captured photographs, I wandered and wondered. I watched 2 swans fly above me, less than 20 feet overhead. I watched waves paint the beach as they changed the patterns and colors of the sand. I watched a child explore the shore, full of delight. I climbed over and across boulders to access the tidepools. Then I creeped down and lay across the boulders, ass to sky, as I reached my head as far down as I could to look into the crevices where, on this winter day, the periwinkles and barnacles continued to live – and watched the beauty of their feathery limbs (cirri, for anyone who feels sciencey) dance in the water as they feed. And it was wonderfully delightful.
I wish all of you, my above ground and underwater friends, a year full of wonder and delight. Whether we experience life’s large, can’t miss them, wonders and celebrations like a whale (or a wedding, graduation, promotion, birth of a child) or the harder to find and appreciate ones like a barnacle – those that happen everyday and everywhere if we look (the seeds of a dandelion, the dog’s wagging tail, the smile of the cashier at the store), let’s find and create delight.