The Monterey Aquarium

Monterey AquariumWhen Eric and I were in Monterey last week, I hot footed it over to the aquarium. I had never been before because it is pricey, and the last time I was in town, my brother and I were in full-on hostel mode. Truthfully, I still wavered a little bit about the price. But I spent several hours there and most definitely had $35 worth of fun! The beauties above are from the iconic jellyfish exhibit. I was truly astonished to see so many different kinds of them. I didn’t even know they existed!

Monterey AquariumI saw all kinds of iridescent fish, in schools and swimming solo, and watched eels and sharks glide by, but honestly I think my favorite part was seeing the deep-sea plants and anemones. They reminded me so much of the wonderful world of the Magic Schoolbus (children of the 80s, represent!), and I know that when I read the under-the-sea edition of that series, I shook my head in disbelief. But here it all was, right before my eyes!

Monterey AquariumDid you know that this is what live sand dollars look like? Covered with purple fuzz and happily camped on the ocean floor.

Monterey AquariumI texted Eric a picture of this gorgeous, yet slightly surly-looking fish. I loved it.

Monterey AquariumLook at this gorgeous eel!

Monterey AquariumThe best part was that this shrimpy-looking guy was trying to climb into this eel’s mouth!  Perhaps it was a joke, but the eel did not seem to like it. (UPDATE: This is a cleaner shrimp, which cleans the parasites from the mouths of eels and other fish. So cool! Thanks for the tip, Jim!)

Monterey AquariumAlso: penguins!

Monterey AquariumAnd more seahorses than you could shake a stick at! My favorite part of the whole experience was probably that they also have these touch pools where you can reach right out and feel a starfish or an anemone. Or a bat ray! I am sure these were designed for eight-year-olds, but I rolled my sleeve up and went shoulder-high into the freezing water. Half of my shirt ended up soaking wet, but I did not care in the slightest!

Monterey AquariumI am not ashamed to admit that I spent a good chunk of my time at the aquarium wandering around with tears in my eyes. I just did not expect to be so moved, but seeing this much beauty in one place filled me with gratitude and wonder. I really felt very close to God, staring at awe into all these brightly lit tanks and seeing things I had never even known existed. This seahorse totally pushed me over the edge. He is the orchid of the sea!  You have to look so closely to see his eyes and his body. As I stood there, overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of this creature, I wondered if, on some level he might feel the same way about us. And then I realized that we really are all this seahorse, unique and incredible in ways that we can’t even imagine, ways that we can’t possibly see ourselves. Whatever you believe, believe that you are beautiful. Because you are.

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