Jelly Fish and Giant Squids of the Night   3 comments

Growing up in an apartment house in a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, at least a little bit aware of differences in the desireability of real estate, I would comfort myself in thinking that at least we had a “waterfront” view of the sky. We lived on the third floor, higher than the surrounding two story private houses, and got a good view of the sky. Every Saturday evening, my mother and I would stargaze from our window, leaning out, with pillows to cushion the window ledge, watching for three stars to appear, the signal that Shabbos was over and we could turn on the electric lights and go to the appetizer store for onion rolls and smoked fish.

While looking for stars, we would see other things, mostly airplanes flying low from all over the world as they approached the LaGuardia airport not so far away in Queens.

Now I am an old lady and every day, in many ways, is Sabbath-like. I can’t work or handle money or cook or clean the house. Not counting the many hours each day devoted to managing my illness, my major activity is very consonant with the Sabbath: It is wondering at the Creation, of which “I” am a part. One of the things I can’t do is go on safari, like my friend Shelley and her family, on some great wildlife expedition, to the Galapagos to see blue-footed boobies or to the Costa Rican cloud forest to see chartreuse and purple orchids in trees…. But I do have a front row center seat on my wild self. So I might as well enjoy it!

Actually, I like nights best. Every night is like a clean sheet of black paper on which mind-born wonders unfold, as if I were viewing Kandinsky at play with buckets of paint.

I feel drifty, like a hot air balloonist in the pristine dark landscape. What will arise as I gaze out intently? Whose wing will I brush?

I live on the edge of Monterey Bay, a bare half-mile away, one of the greatest wildernesses on the planet, they say, the underwater canyon more than half a mile deep, deeper than the Grand Canyon, full of marvels. Submersibles from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Center are out there all the time, scanning tne underwater wilderness for the extraordinary creatures that live here, giant octopuses and squids, all manner of astonishing jelly fish, large and small, gold and pink and lavender…..

Truth is, they live here too. Front row center because I have nothing else to do, especially at night.

This is definitely the upside of the downside of having nowhere to go and nothing to do.

3 responses to “Jelly Fish and Giant Squids of the Night

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  1. Your blog, Judy, is sheer poetry. It seems to me that it is completely different from your memoirs (which also had much poetry in them). It brings out ALL of your creative language and imagery. I read your “Brooklyn” reflection tonight but saw there was more down the column so will savor that part tomorrow. The blogosphere was made for you. More later. Betty

  2. I have to admit to a certain envy when I think about how much time you have to just… think, dream, imagine.

    In grad school, one of the other students had put one of those comedic lists on the door to a lab, of how you know that you’re in graduate school. Only one of the items sticks with me: “Sometimes you think about how relaxing it would be to be in jail right now.”

    A lot of amazing people with dazzling minds have done a lot of important work while confined (Thoreau, Gandhi…). So in your drifty nights I imagine there are amazing people to talk to about the jellyfish, the Kandinsky works, the faintly illuminated landscapes.

  3. Hi Jude,

    I spoke to Kate this morning, and she told me about your project here – lovely and inspiring, as ever. There was an article in the Feb 10th issue of the New York Review of Books about the relationship between a woman, recently confined by debilitating illness, and the creature which comes unbidden to share her room – “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating”,” Elizabeth Tova Bailey. The pleasure she takes in the snail made me think of you.


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