In Finland, most people are divided into two kinds: the lake people, and the sea people. This has to do with where one spends one’s summers. The lake people cannot understand why anybody would need storms, big waves, smelly water, and to be tangled in seaweed when swimming. The sea people on the other hand cannot understand why anybody can feel alive in the confined spaces of a lake in the woods, without the promise of vastness and escape, and with the mosquitoes, and the sour water.
If you have read my writings even for a short while you have probably figured out I am a sea person. I need the sea because it teaches me, like Pablo Neruda said. The aquarium of Biarritz is one of the grand, old aquariums in Europe, originating in the 1880s. Since 1933 it has moved to a fabulous, art deco building that on the outside looks like it grew from the bedrock, and on the inside feels like you are part of a never-ending maze in the ground.
And so, I could spend hours wandering around the maze of the aquarium watching the strange and colorful world under the sea. The ocean is beautiful from the shore, indeed, but it is so much more astounding underneath the surface, where one rarely gets the possibility to peek. We think we’ve seen it all, but once we see phosphorescent creatures, fish with lamps growing out of their heads, fish with tiny legs, giant squids, and that weird thing called sunfish, we understand how limited our imagination really is.
Once I spent weeks tracking dolphins on the coast of Kenya. As part of the project, we also surveyed the reef. Like a kid I waited for the daily, one-hour immersion in 3D live-streaming television, better than any silver screen movie.
When girls grow up, they often want to work with animals, and thus hope to become one of three: a) veterinarian; b) horse trainer or rider; and c) marine biologist. I got a couple of points away from entry to veterinary school (I now know I took the better road), and I do have a biologist’s background training, but I never ventured into marine biology. Do I have regrets? No. But I have basic field training, and I ensure I have time to study the world under the water while tracking dolphins in the Amazon or in Kenya. And maybe one day I will find myself spending much more time with the sea than in the air.
Regrets are much more than wasted thoughts – they are misguided energy. So I try my best to choose how I live each day. And perhaps I one day choose to spend more time studying the sea.(Biarritz, France; July 2016)