I can't remember whether I was sixteen or seventeen when I spent the summer with relatives, but I do remember asking why the beaches were so empty in August. I couldn't understand why a whole month of summer was squandered. I was sure if I lived near a beach I would be wading in the ocean every day. That was what I was doing when I got stung on my wrist. If you've never experienced a jellyfish sting, imagine getting slapped on the wrist with a live electrical wire. I could feel the pain slowly travel up my arm, across my shoulders and down the other. Then I felt achy everywhere. Ever since that experience, I've had a sensitivity to jellyfish stings. Even the mildest stings cause me to break out in a rash.
It's difficult to believe a creature that looks like a cross between a mushroom and Jell-O gelatin could cause so much harm. Viewing them from the safety of the aquarium, they are one of my favorite sea creatures. Like colorful miniature bumbershoots constantly opening and closing, they propel themselves lazily through the water, gathering food. They seem so peaceful as they float along. With no front, no back, no brain, a mouth that doubles as an anus, are they really animals? Eighteenth-century scientists argued whether they belonged in the plant or animal kingdom. They ended up somewhere in-between, classified as cnidarians. Cnidaria comes from the Greek term cnidos, which means "stinging nettle." I'm guessing the scientists had a good reason for picking that name over the Greek word for "umbrella."
Plant or animal, it's hard not to appreciate the jellyfish. I know they left their mark on me.
And so another life lesson from watching animals: