“There’s no bottom, no walls, just this space that goes to infinity. And one thing you realize is there are a lot of sea monsters there, but they’re tiny.”
— Jeff Milisen, marine biologist and photographer
I read an article this morning in the New York Times about “blackwater photography” and its impact on scientists’ understanding of marine life and evolution. The article was fascinating and definitely will come back to haunt me this summer, if I am lucky enough to get back to the ocean. I immediately began to filter the details of the article through my metaphor sieve. The ocean, the darkness, the close examination of minuscule beings that are almost invisible… Of course, what finally began to fester in my mind was the idea that the unknown space is filled with monsters, even teeny, tiny ones, and that the space goes on infinitely.
I feel like every time I sit down to write–and this month has been 31 every-times strung together with no break in between– I am falling backward into this dark ocean, no bottom, no walls, just this space that goes to infinity. Like the photographer, I have my tools to catch the beauty that just might emerge with enough patience and, if I am lucky, someone else will find value in what has been captured. While the scientists explore outwardly, my exploration is always a journey within and I am continually surprised by how deep my waters seem to go.
No wonder my students are terrified when I bring them out in the boat, no matter how much I reassure them that the life vests will keep their head above water. Their monsters are likely much larger and looming closer to the surface, even if they seem harmless to seasoned divers. I wonder if, perhaps, I could find the equivalent of a glass bottomed boat for them? A vessel that would allow them to safely see what lives beneath the surface without asking them to jump in with both feet?
I am no longer satisfied with that safety and I appreciate that my swimming skills always seem to bring me back to the boat. I have been pushed into these waters over and over again during this past month and while I will miss the daily launch, I am certain that I will continue to investigate this vast unknown…I just hope that the monsters stay small.