Sunday, June 29, 2008

An octopus stole the show

Yesterday morning, as soon as everyone was awake and ready to go, we headed south, towards Monterey. It is hard to believe that we hadn't been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium during the two years we've lived here.

My first visit, during a Powell Family Reunion, when I was about 14 years-old, was life-changing. I was in awe. That's when I decided I was going to be a marine biologist. ; )

I next went there with Sam and my Aunt Kay when Sam was three-years-old but that was over seven years ago.

Cameron had never been. As much as we love nature, learning about animals and museums, it was time to go.

The fog was so dense on the Golden Gate Bridge that we couldn't see anything but fog off either side. It stayed gloomy for most of our drive down. We took the freeway most of the way which got us there quickly and took us past some green scenery. Workers were in the fields, busily picking strawberries. I need to remember to thank them the next time I eat some. Cam had raspberries and other healthy treats for us to eat on the way down.

When we finally exited, things started to look familiar. Parking was easy and it wasn't too crowded when we arrived, around 10am, shortly after the museum opened. Our first stop was at the otter tank. We watched them diving from below then ventured out onto the deck where we saw harbor seals lounging and pointed out sea stars. (This Flickr set has more pics from 2001.)

Our next stop was the touch tank, where we were able to feel giant cucumbers and observe live abalone. The rays allowed us several nice touches. The flounder or halibut, who burry themselves in the sand were fascinating to me too.

But the star of the show yesterday was a giant octopus. One of them seemed to be sleeping and wouldn't show much of himself but the other one was very active, flowing around the tank, reaching with his tentacles, stretching and showing himself from every side. We were given such an amazing show.

We saw his eye on top, the openings in his head, him propelling himself around and changing from a vibrant red to more of a marbled reddish white. We learned about how intelligent, expressive and emotional they can be.

The jellyfish

Before we left, I wanted to see the otters from above. The four of them were very active, swimming on their backs, rubbing or scratching their glistening fur, turning flips, rolling, wrestling and frolicking alone and in pairs.

While I'd never seen anything like the show the octopus put on, these guys continue to be my favorite.

We grabbed some lunch at the Thai place across from the aquarium, on the other side of Cannery Row. We read about how Steinbeck's book by the same name was based on the area where we were standing and discussed that it was probably worth a read. Cam and I talked about how moving Grapes of Wrath was for each of us.

Sam's class recently read a book called Espiranza Rising about people from Mexico who came here to find work and faced hardship similar to the characters Grapes. Huge shout-out to Cameron who shared about 10 of his free Fridays to volunteer for Literary Circle in Sam's class. The teacher and I were greatly appreciative of his presence and contribution. I wasn't in the class but to be part of the experience, read Espiranza Rising on my own. One day, maybe Sam and I will read Grapes of Wrath together. (We're on Tolkein's Return of the King now.)

The weather had cleared a bit and we decided to take Highway 1 home. On our way, we listened to some of my new favorite music.

While driving, we talked about coming back to explore the state beaches south of San Francisco another day and remembered how Cam and I'd stopped at several beaches, in 2006, on our way home from Big Sur on the day after Thanksgiving.

We talked about what an amazing place we live and where we might go on our next adventure, whenever that may be. (Apparently, Sam told his dad a couple of months ago that we might more to Italy. This is nothing we'd ever discussed. I guess Sam was speaking to the possibility that we may go anywhere at anytime. We are restless and curious but we are also happy. Right here, right now, there is no other place I want to be.)

We stopped at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We were surprised that we weren't chilly staring off into the distance from there. The ocean breeze was mild yesterday. The lighthouse itself was closed but there were educational displays in a nearby building. Sam and I enjoyed learning about how the lighthouse lenses were developed.

We considered stopping at Cliff House for a snack since Sam hadn't been there before or explored Sutro Baths but we weren't that hungry just yet and thought we'd save it for a time when we could have pop-overs. ; )

Cam tossed out the idea of In and Out Burger. Sam is almost always up for that option. For once, I wasn't in the mood for fries or a milkshake. We decided to pick-up an order to go for Sam to eat at home.

Then, Cam took me out for dim sum at Harmony, a restaurant in nearby Straw-
berry Village. We've now had two lovely dates there.

It was an action-packed, thoroughly enjoyable day.

No comments: