A couple of weeks ago, J.D. and I decided to run away to the coast. (Have I mentioned lately that I love living in North Carolina?) We got up early on a Saturday, drove down to Wilmington, and spent the day playing by the seaside. (Really. We are so fortunate to be able to take day trips like this. Two hours to the ocean.)
With it still being winter, it was a rainy, chilly day. Not exactly your dream beach vacation day, but we still made the trip and opted for an indoor activity. The North Carolina Aquarium has four locations – at Pine Knoll Shores, Roanoke Island, Jennette’s Pier (which is a literal fishing pier hosting educational events), and Fort Fisher. We actually have a running joke about going to the Fort Fisher aquarium because we have tried to visit at least three times. Every time, we have managed to pull into the parking lot about five minutes before closing. Even when we have the best of intentions, and plan out our timing, something inevitably happens, whether we hit traffic or try to squeeze in a late lunch and wind up running behind. This time, though, we finally made it (probably because we made it the priority of the day instead of trying to squeeze it in during the afternoon). And it was worth it.
One of the first things we saw was a brilliant sign warning folks to watch out for the plants in the river habitat. Brought to you by someone who clearly adores their thesaurus rex.
And then we visited the sea turtles (one of my favorites!) and hung out with this little guy.
Did you know that the NC Aquarium actually supports efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured and sick sea turtles? We learned about the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center when we visited the Roanoke Island aquarium last summer, and loved it. (You can find more information about STAR here.) . **NOTE: I am not affiliated with the STAR Center in any respect. I think it’s cool that it exists, but if you are interested in supporting it, you should really do your own research into the program.**
We were also lucky enough to drop by the big tank for the Q&A with the divers. A lot of the kids were excited to talk to divers about the sharks swimming around them. And we managed to get a wave, too.
We also stopped by the jellyfish tank and watched them float around. Aren’t they weird animals? I’m amazed at how these creatures have absolutely no bones and manage to swim around so gracefully.
And that they are simultaneously so beautiful and yet so dangerous. In fact, they are the reason I have trouble relaxing if we walk on the beach at night. I’m always terrified that I’ll step on a jellyfish by accident in the dark, and wind up writhing in agony. Because I am a worrywart of the first degree.
And, of course, we had to pay our respects to Marlin and Dory. Since I’m kind of obsessed with Finding Nemo.
Pretty amazing to see all these creatures in the same place – all of these animals that live and swim together out there in our oceans. And they’re all so different from one another. Vertebrates living alongside invertebrates. Fish and sharks and anemones and turtles and coral. Each one has a specific purpose, and each has a part to play in the larger scheme of things. Sure, they don’t always get along perfectly. In the wild, there is a food chain. That’s just a fact of life. But that’s part of the larger plan of how this habitat works.
Even on land, the principle remains the same. We all have a part to play in this world, whether you’re a shark who is always moving or a jellyfish floating on the current. (That doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. Even invertebrate jellyfish can sting when necessary.) The fact remains that we all have to live alongside one another, and sometimes we need each other to get through rough days or dark times.
Please, be kind whenever possible. And while it may not always be easy, it is always possible.