I recently learned that a group of jellyfish may be called a bloom or swarm. I believe the difference has to do with the ability to actively stay together. Swarms actively stay together while blooms appear because of the seasons. A bloom may be caused by weather or life cycles of the particular species of jellyfish. I am not a biologist, but a lover of Wikipedia so do take that description lightly.
It does seem to me, as a lover of language, that the difference between bloom or swarm is not a small one. Whenever I see jellyfish at an aquariumm, particularly if they have flourescent lights on them, I am likely to agree with the term bloom. There is some mystifying, peaceful, and exquisite about a jellyfish in motion under the lights. If, however, my discovery should be on the shores of a beach lined with the bodies of jellyfish while I try to roll a stroller down the sands, then I am ready to declare a scary swarm has occurred.
Which is what happened to me the day after Easter.
It was a beautiful day in Crescent Beach, Florida. The sun had risen and cast a soft light across the expanse of beach. Our 8 month old twins were fed, dressed, and strapped into umbrella strollers. We began our walk down the beach.
Bam! A jellyfish right in front of me.
"Yikes" I muttered as I hopped over it and then shared with Ann Marie to be careful.
It was then that I looked up and saw that it wasn't a stray jellyfish lying on the beach but nearly a hundred scattered down a several mile path.
I thought about the story of the child who finds starfish scattered across the sands one morning and begins throwing them back into the ocean. An adult approaches to inform the child that they won't be able to save them all. "There are miles and miles of starfish and you can't make a difference," the adult says. The child replies as he throws one back in, "it just made a difference to that one."
I chuckled at first imagining trying to save the jellyfish, this swarm dying on the beach. Who would save a jellyfish?
That night I could not sleep. Why save a starfish but never a jellyfish? Is life's value only in relationship to me?
The next day, a new swarm had appeared on the beaches. So, I pulled a plastic shovel and pail from the stroller and eased one of the jellyfish back into the sea. Don't think it made it, but maybe it did. The sun had risen a few hours earlier and the jellyfish had been stranded for at least that long. I couldn't possibly save all the jellyfish, and it was likely I couldn't save a single one.
But it still made a difference.
A bloom or a swarm? A riot or a revolution?
It makes a difference.
May we speak wisely and with the abundance of truth beyond our own.