A Florida beach after a storm. Calm after the chaos. Driftwood and seafoam and the odd unmentionables here and there. As you get older, your eyes zero in on all that shouldn’t be there. Avoid stepping EVERYWHERE. Wish for the power of levitation.
When you’re a child, you can’t see the dirt or the debris or the evidence of bacterial contamination. All you know is this: OCEAN, AMAZING. I, INVINCIBLE.
This is how we make it to adulthood, by the by.
And then all your adult filters and all your I-know-betters get washed away and right before tumbling from your very high horse, you see the most beautiful shade of purple your eyes have ever seen.
It’s perfect. Taut, transparent and fragile but also playful. Majestic. Hypnotic. A crazy little child’s toy, adrift.
And then you see your six-year old reach out for it. You see yourself reach out for it.
The toy’s logic-defying beauty is seductive, puzzling: why do I want to just reach out and grab this beautiful and otherworldly thing? I don’t know, but I WANT IT.
My mother just stops cold. She becomes reason. She is reason.
We can hear her voice far, far away telling us or perhaps shouting NOT TO TOUCH IT! WHAT IS THAT ANYWAY?!
The spell is broken. We see the tentacles. We back away.
(But not before a little pre-come-to-senses photo-op.)
We Google it up, later: Portuguese Man O’War.
Beautiful, bewitching cnidarian: you won this war.