Wednesday, February 27, 2013

From captive reefs to Saudi seas, for sea slugs, & beyond!

Don't leave meeeeeeee!
Last night, I chased a train.  My sneakers, a thick boxy pair of skate shoes, greatly protested the inappropriately quick pace they were not designed to handle.  So too argued my jeans, winter coat, laptop bag, half-eaten bag of pita chips, and frazzled mind.  A tooting whistle signaled imminent departure; as I rounded the last bend, leaning into my own momentous curve, I saw the taillights at the platform.  "ah-HeY!" I squawked awkwardly, a scrambling stork, dropping pita chip fragments - "YOO-hoo, HELLO? Wait!!"  Disembarking passengers walked past, some with grins, urging me on; others with embarrassed grimaces; the worst with blank detachment from the comedy of life.  As I stared at the burning red beacons of budget travel, I noticed the lights were not getting closer.  I looked at my feet; they were still moving, crunching salt and ice crystals as they went.  It was merely at the same rate the train was departing.  A devil-on-the-shoulder thought grabbed my mind- "Sprint," it said; "grab the rear car; sprint, and make your athletic endeavour an unsung secret victory!"  Whether it was maturity, prudence, sanity, or the anti-adventure shoulder angel, I stopped running, and watched the blazing red beacons burn away into the night.  A pause.  The mind reboots.  With a shrug, I dropped all my belongings and heavy outer layers.  I looked up to the heavens and let loose a barbaric yawp of primal frustration.  And I called Tommy's Taxi for a more financially burdensome ride home.  The night was an omen from an unseen shade; the spirit of travel.  I was being welcomed back to the realm of adventurous uncertainty.

The night was my last working for Tropic Isle Aquarium, my savior job since moving home, and it was a little frantic - like every work day.  So it did not surprise me that, given my choices to fight the American norm by going car-less, I found myself farcically running an improperly-attired 1.9 mile gauntlet to the Framingham station to catch the P535 in 14 minutes.  A little over two weeks ago, I informed the owner that I had gotten the rare opportunity to return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a research cruise.  Dr. Michael Berumen, director of the Red Sea Research Center's Coral Reef Ecology Lab, where I had studied for my Master's, has known of my sea slug passions since the show I put on there last year, celebrating little sea creature diversity.  As a mentor, he would like me to consider continuing my studies in this field; and I have certainly thought of it.  Indeed, I have found no stronger peace of mind and soul than exploring the reefs of the world, and I have been actively applying to career jobs that give me the chance to return.

The Lybia crab carries anemones for defense!

You may have noticed I have not written much on this blog since I began the 40-hour week at the aquarium.  While I am incredibly grateful to the job that allowed me daily interaction with ornate and ecologically fine-tuned Pom-Pom Crabs (Lybia spp.), flighty Palette Surgeonfish (Paracanthurus hepatus), and the always inquisitive Rockmover Wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus), it was mere life-support to the nature lover's soul.  A business is not academia; as I often told people, we ran a zoo that we sold animals out of.  I worked there because I wanted to learn more about the aquarium trade, for a story I have longed to tell so strongly that its become a personal mythological Siren, driving my life onto sharp rocks.

The Oxynoe sp. 4 I collected off Jeddah
Though I hesitate to return to academia, where I have found solace in the sea but not solace in science, I cannot resist the chance to give it another look.  Among the impressive names on the cruise are Dr. Terry Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Science, as well as Dr. Gustav Paulay, a curator at the Florida Museum of National History, who I visited in Florida last year (and apparently failed to write about).  These two giants of the invertebrate zoology world will be side by side, snatching up secret sea creatures left and right, and hopefully helping me write up technical reports on my own opistho discoveries - like the potential range expansion for the slug I found in Saudi Arabia last year.  In addition, I'll have time for some whale sharking and photography diving.  As I am running out of time to write this story, let me just say that I will endeavor to document the story of the science we are performing over there; insh'Allah it will be invigorating more than just aesthetically.  Let those who'd call my attitude juvenile, optimistic, flowery, flagrant, or perky be damned!  This is nature through Noah, and it will be documented!

When I retun, I will be left with choices once more on where to go next.  Ah, the sweet anxiety; what is it I need?  Richie, my taxi driver last night, called it "permission to leave," and was of the opinion that it is very hard to give it to yourself. He's a fellow American who has lived in Chile, driven from Boston to Tierra Del Fuego, and written for literary magazines, and he wanted to share with me three things after hearing about my imminent journey(s)...  The first, to protect your spirit; the second, to not be afraid; and the third, to know that there is no ceiling in life.  The $65 ride, paid after missing the $3.50 train, may have been fate's way of relaxing me before tomorrow's flight back to the land of Ibn Saud, to the still mysterious Red Sea, to search for the slugs of yesteryear and tomorrow, and other dream-creatures yet to be known......  I hear them calling as I sit in my parent's home, bags of scuba gear, photographic equipment, and a few articles of clothing piled up by the door, waiting for the airport limo to sweep me off my feet.

1 comment:

  1. My Dear Friend Noah
    My spirit soars after reading you are returning to the sea!!!! I am so greatful for whatever catalyst that finaly caugh fire and sent you back to the dpth you belong and out of MA!!!!

    Enjoy the adventure my young friend! Live large take lots of photos and KEEP WRITING!!