After depositing our belongings in the hotel room on Thursday, Neal and I braved the icy blasts and walked four blocks to Ripley’s Aquarium. I was fully decked out in sweater, toque, parka and mitts, plus Jody’s white scarf wrapped tightly over my nose and mouth. Oh my God! I was just so cold. My mind started heading to “I’m bad” but I nipped that in the bud. Not bad, just sick.
Inside the building, I revelled for a minute in my senior reality. I saved $10.00 off the adult price. But the glee faded quickly when I saw the first tank just down the hall, populated with wild splotches of colour. What came through was the warmth of peace. I was somewhere special.
The upper tank was a tall cylinder full of large fish of every hue. Actually, some seemed to have no hue, but all of the residents moved with such grace. A lower and wider tank was teeming with small fishies, just as glorious as the big guys.
I just stared at all this flowing life. Soon, I saw us human beings inside that aquarium too. We’re so different from each other in how we colour our lives. Some of us show the world a bigness of spirit, and some of us keep that part well hidden. But we all can swim.
I didn’t know the names of any of these fish, although I could have studied the nearby signs. I didn’t want to. No labels please. I just wanted to drink in the beauty.
Further down the hallway, I came upon a giant cylindrical tank that stretched way above my head. It was crammed with silver fish, each about six inches long. They were in a “school”, and seemed to hover in place … all these parallel lines of beings. And again I saw us, this time how we are identical in our hearts, in wanting to be happy, in wanting to love and be loved. I stared some more.
Many more tanks of fish beckoned me along the way. A long pedestrian tunnel showed sting rays and sharks above, accompanied by far smaller swimmers. The world was full of movement. The curved glass distorted the size of the fish. And soon it was my head that was swimming. Dizzy. Nauseous. All I could do was sit down on a bench and wait for Neal’s return. He came and went and came back again. I sat and reeled. I closed my eyes. Families passed by in bubbles of excited chatter. I faded. My stomach rolled. Both the happy variety of fish/human beings and their exquisite school of sameness were long gone. I was sad.
I decided to follow the path of overhead fish to its end, and emerged to sit in front of a blessedly flat tank full of sting rays. The huge ones rested on the sand floor, occasionally rousing themselves to float over the rock outcroppings. The small ones pressed their bellies near the glass and climbed. Although I was looking at their breathing apparatus, it sure looked like a lot of smiling faces to me. And I had to smile back, despite the pain. Messengers had come to tell me it would be all right.
And life is definitely fine, thank you. I’ll just keep swimming through all the waters of the world. Sights abound.