Creative Nonfiction · Death · Spirituality · Trauma · Zuzu Irwin

Zuzu Irwin Dreams With Jellyfish

Jellyfish by Carrie Ross

Los Angeles, Spring 2001.

Wendy was murdered just a few months before and I was struggling to keep my life together enough to graduate from university. My dear friend, Stacey, decided that to cheer me up, get me out of my head, she’d take me to the Long Beach Aquarium, which was having a special jellyfish exhibit.

The jellyfish were in a dark room, the tanks provided the only light available, save for the incandescent creatures themselves. Their gliding motions were hypnotic, glowing bodies mesmerising, sizes ranging from a pen-cap to basketballs. I felt at peace watching their lithe movements through the glass: Trauma took a back seat for a precious few moments.

Around me people were tapping on the glass, trying to get the jellyfish’s attention but achieving the exact opposite effect. Could you blame the jellyfish from shying away?

I placed my index flush finger against the glass and I left it there. In a matter of moments, a jellyfish approached me and lay herself flush against the glass on her side, fitting up right against the shape of my finger. She stayed there. It was probably only five minutes, but it was endlessly beautiful. She saw me! Around me other people stopped their tapping and put their fingers against the glass instead. Stacey stayed with me until I grudgingly removed my finger, telling the jellyfish “Thank you for the visit. Thank you for acknowledging me”. I could have stayed like that forever.

In the years since that incredible moment when time stood still, me and the jellyfish who “saw” from her world into mine, I’ve felt a special connection with the creatures even though I am terrified of the water. I have a recurring dream of a jellyfish tattoo that moves all over my body as if the ink had been infused with their spirits. The tattoo appeared on my shoulder, forearm, back, leg, even on my head. Vibrant with pink, iridescent purple, a cosmic cerulean that wrapped me in its fold and made me feel safe.

After a long period of being out of touch with another dear friend, she sent me a beautiful card with jellyfish all over it. A new friend and hybrid sister, Tara Lutman Agacayack, recently sent me a package with a card painted by her mother of a school of jellyfish. Neither of them knew of my jellyfish encounter, but I think maybe the jellyfish whispered it to them.

The film Seven Pounds hit me to the core with its pivotal jellyfish character, and even though I am not a fan of Finding Nemo, the scene with the school of jellyfish gave me chills and reminded me of my encounter in Long Beach. Most recently, jellyfish synchronicitously appeared in The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, a beautiful tribute to Heath Ledger, who I am connected to by having exactly the same birthday.

To me, Jellyfish medicine is one of connection. They move in a group with one mind, but Jellyfish also have their own mind that reaches out and reaches within. Their glowing bodies are filled with colours that teach us to glow, to allow our souls to reflect Jellyfish beauty as an individual and also in our own collective. Jellyfish do not have a brain or central nervous system; instead they have a nerve net through their skin that responds to touch and light, teaching us to reach out as well as look at the world through our Third Eye. A Jellyfish bite is telling you that you have forgotten how to glow, calling you back into your body to take note. Jellyfish, in life and in our dreams, remind us that we are never alone.

Do you have a relationship with jellyfish?

© 2010 Sezin Koehler, image by Carrie Ross, photographed by Zuzu Arbus

Stay tuned for the next encounter: Zuzu Irwin and the Crocodile Farm.

4 thoughts on “Zuzu Irwin Dreams With Jellyfish

  1. Sezin,

    This is a hauntingly lovely writing. I am mesmerized. I took a video of a column of jellyfish at the New England Aquarium that I need to find and send you. Thank you for putting it all down on e-paper and sharing it with us. I know that this will help your healing process.

    With love and jellyfish possibility,


    1. Dear Judith and Catherine,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. This is a very personal series that I must admit I had second thoughts about sharing, but you have reaffirmed that my first instinct was a good one. I am glad that you were both able to find some inner glow after reading this! That makes me so very happy and I got chills reading your comments. I’m not sure if I’m blessed to remember necessarily, I sort of feel it is a survival instinct of sorts that these animal encounters ground me in the reality of my life. It’s so easy for me to bounce around my brain and not come back to Earth. Thinking about these events with Mother Nature’s creatures reminds me of my own place in the physical world, and especially as grief surfaces and goes back under, these moments help keep me real.

      What do you ladies use to stay earthed? Or is there another challenge that you face rather than this one?

      Much love,


  2. Dear Zuzu Medusozoa Irwin,
    To me your special friends are the efflorescent ballerinas of the sea. Seeing Carrie Ross’s depiction of these amazing creatures on your blog gave me a thrill. To read that a live beauty gave you moments of solace while in mourning for your friend Wendy touched me profoundly as well. You’re blessed to recognize such moments. Thank you for sharing something of yourself, again.
    xoxo Judith
    PS I love the new look of your blog!


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