Thursday, May 29, 2008


This week, I’ve spent a lot of time by the ocean. Tonight I went to an amazing presentation by an artist named Bryant Austin at the Hopkins Marine Laboratory in Monterey. Bryant spent months in the Kingdom of Tonga (in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) swimming with humpback whales and photographing them.

Bryant allows the whales to approach him on their own terms, creating a sense of intimacy and physical closeness that is very rare between humans and whales. He takes dozens of high resolution close-up photos so that he can create life-size composite pictures of these majestic creatures. His vision is to share these photos with people all over the world, particularly in places where whale hunting still happens. As he puts it, the goal is “to provide the viewer with an awareness that will give them reason to care.”

The results are pretty astonishing. The prints Bryant shared with us were small versions of the life-size 9 x 25-foot projections he shows. Even so, to glimpse the gentle eye of a whale staring directly at you is an incredible experience. Bryant is headed to Santiago, Chile, in a couple of weeks to show the full-size versions to the International Whaling Commission. Wow.

On Wednesday, I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I love that place so much that I joined as a member a few weeks ago – so now I can just drop in for an hour in the afternoon anytime I feel like it to hang out with the sea otters and the other ocean critters! The photo for this post is one of the otters catching some rays in her blue bucket. Nice life.

A couple of months ago on an aquarium visit, my sweetie Gina and I developed a great affection for the octopus… a shy and very intelligent creature who usually hides in the rocks of her exhibit, but on that day was very lively and moving in a beautifully poetic way across the water, almost like a ballet.

Yesterday, the octopus was also moving around quite a bit. An older woman and her husband were watching the octopus, and the woman jumped back a bit as the octopus started to move its tentacles, and she exclaimed, “That’s disgusting!” I was struck by how different our perceptions can be. Gina and I were enthralled by what we saw as the octopus’ beauty and grace, and we could have watched her for hours. This woman’s reaction was extremely different. A perfect case study in how our perceptions shape our ‘reality.’ I am grateful to have perceived the beauty of the octopus, but I could have just as easily had the same 'disgusted!' reaction as that other woman.

just wondering....have you had experiences like that, where you realized that you could flip around your perception of something in a heartbeat, either for the positive or negative... and what was that like for you?

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