Earth Day

Dear Flynn,
Your dad and I celebrated Earth Day by riding our bikes downtown. Not that this is particularly unusual. Actually, we ride our bikes downtown more often than we drive. After all...

...the parking is so much easier!

We stopped at the bookstore and got you some books. You'll come to know this bookstore. Your dad and I, we're regulars.

Seldom have I seen such an utterly spectacular day on which to celebrate Earth Day. The earth was certainly showing off for us! Every sidewalk and street corner was decked out in the best of nature's spring finery.

This week's big bloom has been continuing apace, and white and pink boughs now mingle above dappled sidewalks. Every breath, every shift of the breeze, contains a different perfume.

Here's your dad, riding his bike under a particularly lavish old-growth tree in our neighborhood. I love the fact that our 'hood has been around so long that trees like this, once just slender whisps, have grown craggy and gnarled over the decades, dense with bloom, arms spreading generously across streets and sidewalks, casting great pools of variegated shadow.

This is what it would look like if you were to ride beneath these same boughs yourself, and look up through this tree's lacy branches...

...like a canopy of fragrant bloom.

There are so many different varieties of trees in Denver that, when we don't know the proper name of a particular tree, we make up a name for it. Your dad calls these "snowball trees".

We'd decided on the aquarium as our entertainment-du-jour. It's been a while since we've been to the aquarium, and although we wanted to wait for you, we thought it might be time to sneak in a quick "refresher course" in the meantime.
Having skipped breakfast, we stopped into the aquarium's resident seafood restaurant for a bit of lunch. Oh, you'd like this restaurant, Flynn. Look at the salt and pepper shakers in the shape of seahorses! Overhead, glowing fishes are suspended as lamps among the rafters. Gardens of translucent "kelp" grow between the booths and the walls are made of coral, embedded with shells and barnacles. And then there's the show that's going on behind me.....schools of jacks and snappers shimmering in the refracted light, lurking groupers and cruising tiger sharks! If you have the time, the waitress can tell you a little about each and every fish that swims by.

As difficult as it is to concentrate on food with all this to look at (can you tell I'm a little wide-eyed with excitement?), we managed to order a shrimp and crab dip, fish 'n'chips with vinegar and po'boy sandwiches. Phew, that was a lot of food! Then, on to the rest of the aquarium...

Now, Flynn, I can't say your dad doesn't occasionally have a penchant for the goofy...

...but in situations like this, he needs to be taken with a grain of salt...a BIG grain of salt! You'll learn quickly. Here he is, dripping with irony in front of another corny tourist display.

The first section of the aquarium is the river habitat, and here your mommy always rushes to the otter tank, her very favorite display in the entire museum. On this day, however (woe is mommy)...not a single otter in sight! Where were they? Who knows, maybe they were tucked up in bed with the same bad cold your dad has been fighting for the past week. Perhaps they were squinching their eyes and blowing their heavily-whiskered noses into big wads of tissue. Perhaps they were in their pajamas, watching cartoons and eating oatmeal with butter on top. In any case, not an otter was to be seen in the otter tank.
Now, under ordinary circumstances, your mommy would have been very, very unhappy... very unhappy indeed. Unhappy, that is, if it weren't for one single exceptional duck.

Maybe now is a good time to tell you that your mommy likes ducks. She really, really likes ducks. And there are plenty of ducks in the river habitat at the Denver aquarium. Plenty of perfectly good, perfectly serviceable ducks. Like this one here, for instance. As you can see: a perfectly good duck.

Or these two. Also excellent specimens of duck-dom. These two were flirting a bit...it is spring after all! Just look at the amorous expression on his face...those dreamy, Casanova eyes!! And look at how very hard she is trying to be coy, all the while arching her back and fluffing up her wing feathers! Oh yes, perfectly lovely ducks.

But this one...Oh, Flynn, this is a duck of a different color!
Sure, I know, it looks ordinary — just sitting there on top of the water. Slightly squat. Rather small. A little chubby. Plain brown in color. Nothing special about this duck, you might think.
Oh, but you'd be wrong!

This, my friend, is a very special duck indeed.

This duck can dive.
Well, OK. So most ducks can dive.
But this duck can dive better.

This duck can dive faster, longer, and with more thrilling acrobatic skill!
You might even say this duck has diving superpowers!

Just look at that form! Now, I ask you...have you ever seen a duck that could do all this, without ever coming to the surface for air?

Here, he is pretending to be a fish. If you didn't look closely, you might not even notice him! He's been under for quite a while at this point. The fish don't seem to mind. Looks like he's got them fooled!

And he's off again!! Diving for the bottom. Once there, he will swim around, ducking under fallen branches, rooting beneath river rocks. This is a duck that can hold his breath!

When he's done exploring, he'll relax and let the trapped air in his body buoy him back to the surface again, where he'll pop out of the water, cheerful as a rubber duck in a bath tub!
Now that's what I call a good duck.

When I was finally able to tear myself away, we went on through the "flash flood" room to the "prehistoric" room, where this fish from the dinosaur days is fossilized in a wall. Your dad went through too fast for me to snap his picture, but if he were standing next to it, you'd be able to see that this fishie is probably FOUR TIMES the size of your dad!

You may not know this yet, but your dad's a bit of a daredevil. Never one to shy away from danger, here he is trying to attract the attention of a school of red piranhas!

And here he is strolling, unscathed, into the rainforest habitat.

Yup, that's your handsome dad, like a gorilla in the mist.

And here's your mommy, rainforest bound.

I gotta tell you, Colorado has many a good quality, but when you live in a climate as dry as this, any form of artificial humidity is like catnip! It's like your pores open up and your skin breathes a sigh of relief.


One thing you should know about your mommy, though - she's a little bit pigeon-toed. When she was a baby, she used to sleep on her stomach with her feet turned in, and her mother was afraid that one of them would never straighten back out on its own. She was right to be concerned - that foot never did quite straighten out, and to this day your mommy walks with her toes turned in a little.

Oh, yeah. Look at that pigeon-walk! In fact, she still sleeps on her stomach with her feet turned in.

But, it hasn't done her any harm in life, so....

In case you thought there weren't any fish in the jungle, here's a fish that's ready to prove you wrong. Sheesh! Look at the size of that thing! I think it could take my dog in a fight.

Only slightly shuddery after looking at that huge fish, your mommy went looking for tigers. Sometimes, if you're lucky, the tigers are playing with a big red rubber ball in the waters of their habitat. But on this day, the tigers were napping. We could just see the huge, sleepy orange head of one of them resting on a ledge high above the jungle, looking not unlike our dog Max when he's taking a particularly long and lazy nap in the sun.

Back in the undersea world, your dad went strolling boldly through the shark tank. We even saw a giant sea turtle swimming languidly through the sun motes over our heads.

And here, Flynn, is your mom's nemesis. No, I don't mean that sleepy shark on the left. Mostly, your mommy is OK with sharks...well, except for that one time in Belize. But that's a story for another time. If you look closely (she's well disguised against the variegated coral) you can see the giant grouper on the right. Once, when your mom was just thirteen and snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, she read a book about fishes that told of a giant grouper so big that it had occasionally been known to swallow a SCUBA diver whole, swim around for a bit, and then spit the diver back out, causing the unfortunate diver to have to swim to the surface under what was described as "traumatic circumstances". I'd say that's a bit of an understatement. Our waitress at lunch told us that these groupers could grow as large as a Volkswagen bus. Afterward, we debated whether she's said a "bus" or a "bug". Either way, that's a pretty big fish. Your mommy is still just the teensiest bit nervous about these giant groupers. Just a bit.

This is a sight that your mommy remembers well from her days of SCUBA diving off the coast of Belize. Well, without the coral reef, because the waters were much deeper there. Barracudas and Kingfish like to hang just a few feet below the surface of the ocean, far above the teeming coral reefs and white sand below. When you dive from a boat, the first thing you typically pass on the way down is a barracuda, just hanging out. They may look a little intimidating, because their mouths tend to hang open, showing all their teeth. But they are generally undisturbed by divers, and just hang there serenely, watching you drift past on your way to the bottom.

These are lionfish, spectacular in their striped and bristling finery.

And I don't know what this was, because it didn't say on the sign, but it was a sight to behold! From the front, it looks a bit like a lump of rough stone, ugly and gnarled and grey. But it does a wonderful dance, girating like a fan dancer in every direction at once.

And from the back, it's spread wings look exactly like the wings of a monarch butterfly! Simply amazing! I never cease to be astonished by the wonders of nature.

And this one, Flynn....well, I'm going to need your input on this one. I just don't know what to say. This guy leaves my mind boggled.

Jellyfish! You don't want to touch these. That much I know. But from a distance (a good distance!) they are some of the most graceful, delicate and surreal wonders of our great oceans.

Here is your mommy trying to pet the stingrays. Rays are wonderfully silky to the touch, like wet velvet, and as long as you are very gentle with them (and, if possible, offer them a treat) they are quite friendly. This first one wanted nothing to do with me, and skittered away before I could touch it.

This one, however, knew on which side its bread was buttered, and came right up for a petting.

Sadly, your mommy had not thought to shell out the two bucks for some fish to feed it. Rudely, she wanted to pet it without offering any sort of material compensation. Understandably, the ray had been expecting compensation, and was not at all happy about being thwarted. Realizing its mistake, it slapped the side of the tank angrily and swam off in quite a huff. Your mommy still feels bad about that faux pas. She can just imagine the ray thinking, "Sheesh. I let that ugly creature put her filthy paws all over me, and she didn't even have any fish to give me in return. The colossal nerve of her!"
Next time, needless to say, your mommy will come bearing many, many fish.

And on an entirely different note, here is the wolf eel that your dad felt the need to take a picture of. I don't even know what to say about this one. I really, really don't.

I have a feeling, Flynn, that if you play your cards right, you might be able to wheedle your dad into getting you something from this extraordinarily tempting snack stand when we come to visit the aquarium again. Don't tell him I told you, but he's kind of a sucker where you're concerned. Wink, wink.

After the aquarium, we got back on our bikes and rolled off down Cherry Creek. Remember I mentioned the crabapples and their pink blossoms? Well, they were nearly in full bloom, and the whole canal smelled like a hothouse.

Here's your dad posing on the bike path.


After stopping in to a new rock'n'roll baby store down on Broadway to pick up some T-shirts for your cousins, we headed back up town.

Back in the 'hood, and headed home to make pike and spicy soba noodles for dinner. Your dad - I may have mentioned this before - is quite the cook. But you'll know all about that soon.


TBG Happenings said...

what a great day!

I am lovin you letters to Flynn:)

Stefanie said...

What a cool way to celebrate earth day. And what a fun time you guys always seem to have... but it'll be even better once Flynn joins the party!!
Loved the pigeon toed pics. My Tori is the tiniest bit pigeon toed, also. I remember the docs telling me it would straighten out on it's own. Since she's 18 now, I don't think it's ever going to ;)
Thanks for letting us share in your beautiful letters to your daughter :)

Carrie&Aaron said...

I must say JT my little artist loves your pic's-He is so into animal andloves to draw them!

lisa said...

What a great day! Yesterday was so beautiful, I was wishing I had my camera to capture some of the blooming trees as I biked to work. Looks like you got some of the ones I passed? I go down Clay/Tejon to daycare, then Shoshone to dt... ~lmc
(I'm getting comment errors-sorry if this is a dup)

Mamacita said...

I just love the aquarium. The otters and the flood canyon are my favorite! We took Sugarlips to the canyon and she completely freaked out ever though we were holding her! The second time we warned her, she was wary but OK. The third time she said 'Let's do that again!"

Beautiful pictures as always. I hope you'll be able to have time to show us all of these places, revisited, with Flynn.

Yoli said...

I want to live in Colorado and be taken to the aquarium! You have made it so much fun Maia. Flynn is going to have a great life.

Lisa M. said...

Looked like a positively glorious day. Our Birch Aquarium has nothing on yours. I LOVE aquariums. My favorite is The Monterey Bay Aquarium. I can spend HOURS in there. I can't wait for the photos of the three of you there. Soon, my friend......

Vivian M said...

Breathtaking and beautiful, thanks for sharing!

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

You gotta make this into a book or something... I get so engrossed into it... as for that fish you can't think of the name of... my thought that it is a 'stonefish'... you have NO idea as to how much I love reading your 'stories'... such a way with words... as for the story about the 'wombat'... you can't beat a good Aussie marsupial...

Heather said...

I love your little narrations! I was especially charmed by the duck with super powers.

Tish said...

Wow, you guys had a great day! I love that jelly fish shot...they are my favorite! You guys are going to have to get extra gear for your bikes when Flyn comes home...a baby seat on one...and a huge basket for diapers, bottles, snacks, etc on the other!

kerri said...

Love your love letters to Flynn!!
The three of you taking these wonderful adventures is going to be so special, there is something about looking at the world through a child's eyes, pure magic!!
I can't wait for Flynn to come home. ;)