Ocean of wonder

I have not always loved the ocean.  Oh, there are memories as a child of playing in tide pools and of class field trips to the beach where MY dad found an abalone.  BUT that fascination didn’t last.  That’s the problem with growing up on an island.  The ocean is always there and sometimes you begin to take it for granted. 

I grew up on a small island in what the locals call “the pan handle” of Alaska (i.e., Southeast Alaska).  I wasn’t a part of a fishing family, so I didn’t grow up on the sea.  I just grew up near it.  And at some point I learned to not see it there any more.  Until college when I met Jason.

He was SO in love with the ocean (it shouldn’t have been a surprise, he wanted to be a marine biologist) and he opened my eyes up to what I couldn’t see any more.  And thankfully, after Jason left, I had time to visit it on my own.  I would sit beside the sea and write of it.  I would visit it at night and share the stars with it.  I got to swim with sea otters and kelp.

And years later, everywhere I would travel I would visit aquariums and marvel at the wonders underneath.  Then I went to Hawaii and snorkeled with the fishes.  It changed me to be that close to them.  I became obsessed.  I learned more and more about Hawaiian fish.  SO much so that it bled into my classroom.  I told my kids one story about my travels there and they asked for more and more.  Soon I was sharing pictures and videos and teaching them about Hawaiian fish.  How many generations have I taught the pronunciation of Humuhumunukunukuapua’a?  I cannot say.

But it doesn’t stop there.  I went on my last trip to Victoria British Columbia and didn’t think I’d learn anything else about the wonders of the deep.  I was wrong.  On a side trip to Sydney by the Sea, in an aquarium, I discovered more fish and a book by a marine biologist that led me recently to write a story of my own, two years in the making (unbeknownst to me).  It is an odd little thing and I couldn’t be more proud of it.  What will become of it, I cannot say, but it is written.  And my passion for fish and oceans has culminated in this one story (though it is not to be the last).

WHY do I talk of this here in my writing blog?  Because tonight I went to see Kate DiCamillo, two time Newbery Award winner and now “National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.”  She talked about growing up in Florida and seeing the wonderful world below the ocean’s surface through a glass-bottomed boat and about the importance of stories.  She said, “Stories are glass-bottomed boats, they contain worlds of wonder that we get to know and love as readers.”  And I was dazzled by the comparison.

As a reader, I certainly know this is true.  And as a writer, I want to create those worlds.  Only time will tell if that is able to come to pass. But as I continue to practice and learn my craft more and more every day, I am reminded of a quote from Lois Ehlert: “I created lots of art, though not for books right away. But I didn’t worry. Everyone needs time to develop their dreams. An egg in the nest doesn’t become a bird overnight.”

Tonight, as I always am after listening to another writer, my heart is full.  It is full of hope.  It is full of dreams and aspirations.  It is full of an ocean of wonder.  The world around us has so much to see and explore and learn, and I dream of sharing it with future generations.

About jenabenton

I'm an elementary school teacher, writer, illustrator and storyteller.

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