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.