Starfish, monarchs & glowing jellyfish

October 6, 2011

I spent last weekend at Appalachian Mountain Club’s cabin on Fire Island.  On Saturday, David and I walked along the beach from the cabin to the lighthouse at the west end of the island — about 3-1/2 miles.  Along the way, we found three baby starfish, still alive, that had washed up on the beach.  I put them in a large clam shell with a bit of water and a few small rocks and carried them to the lighthouse, where I released them onto some rocks on the calmer, safer bay side of the island.  Along the way, I got to know them a bit — each had quite a distinct personality.  One, which was missing a leg, was quite shy and hid under the rocks most of the time.  The largest one was quite active, very much the explorer. Near the end of our walk, when I picked up another starfish about three times his size and put it into a second clam shell, this one immediately went right over the edge of its shell into the other one and snuggled up to the new starfish.  (Maybe he was into older women?)  The third one was pretty mellow, just hung out in the sun and stretched now and then, except for when he reared up and gave me the finger!  I grew quite attached to my little family in their portable tidepool nursery.

  
 

All day, we were accompanied in the air by monarch butterflies migrating west, like small orange-and-black spirit guides.  They seem so delicate that it’s hard to imagine them flying hundreds of miles.  Yet I suppose they just take it a day at a time, like all of us.

The night before, as we were walking along the shore on the bay side where the waters are much calmer, I happened to glance down and see lights in the water.  At first I thought it was just my eyes making spots (you know, the kind you see when you look at a bright light and then look away), but when I looked closer, it turned out to be three jellyfish, each about 2″ in diameter, glowing a soft purplish/turquoise blue.  What an amazing sight!

Later that weekend, I found and purchased a necklace — a small silver starfish on a chain.  I haven’t taken it off.  Now back in the midst of hectic city life, I touch it and remember three baby starfish, a few dozen monarch butterflies and a trio of glowing jellyfish.  To have seen them and know that I share the world with them brings me a sense of calm and wonder.

Perhaps someday I will make a quilt inspired by them, but in the meantime, I’m finding that the memory helps open a space in my mind where I can imagine and create — a portable mental studio, like that little tidepool in a shell, where ideas, like starfish, can thrive.

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