Aurora stands on a hiking trail overlooking the ocean.

The ocean and its creatures amaze me with their diversity and abundance. I love exploring shorelines and adventuring on the water. Photo credit: Katharine Sell

Strange Beauty

By Aurora Sarchet

In times of limited travel, imagine standing on the fringe of the Pacific, with the blue-green water lapping your boots, and you’re on the borderlands of another world. In the water at your feet, billions of tiny plankton swirl; at night, some will light the water with their bioluminescence, leaving streaks of blue fire behind darting fish or trailing fingers. Clams are buried under the substrate; some the size of your smallest fingernail, others big enough to house fat, pale mantle pea crabs within their shells. Anemones cling to rough rock, gelatinous blobs above water but unfolding into delicate, lovely flowers beneath it. Their arms close around your finger if you gently brush them. Further out, but not too far to see from shore, you might spot the smooth round head of a harbor seal or the quick curve of a harbor porpoise’s back. Cormorants perch on rocks nearby, black wings held out carefully to dry in the sun. So many things to see, so many beauties to wonder at. Do you take time to see them? To wonder at them?

Purple crab shell in shallow water. Amazing things are found where the sea meets the shore.

Sketch of a marine worm patterned with tightly-fitting scales and bristling chaetae.
The strange beauty of the eighteen-scaled worm (Halosydna brevisetosa) mesmerizes me.

As I stood in the Pacific in May, and the water lapped dangerously high around the sides of my too-short boots. In my hand I held a polychaete, a marine worm. In the same phylum as the earth worms I’d turned up in the garden, this creature was wholly amazing and strange to me. Its back was covered with the rows of tiny scales that give it its name – the eighteen-scaled worm. Little bristles, the worm’s chaetae, stuck out along its sides. I held it in my hand, and was amazed by its beauty. It was a moment of extreme clarity – like the whole world suddenly snapped into focus around the little creature in my hand.

I thought about that experience later, I wondered. So often I look at things without really seeing them. Or I see them, but in a very human-centered way; I find it difficult to appreciate the alien and sometimes frightening shape of a creature very different from me (I’m talking about you, wasps). I don’t think that’s how God sees his creation.

He sees the beauty in the creatures that give us the shivers; he made the eighteen-scaled worm with its bristling chetae and dragon-armor back and thought it was lovely.

a sketch of a green anemone with pink tips on its tentacles, labeled to show its anatomy.

The elegant pink-tipped anemone, Anthopleura elegantissima, is even more lovely than its name.

hasty sketch of a rock crab with barnacles on its back.

Would a nice crab like this pinch you? Yes. But crabs are still very cool.

There’s something incredible about experiencing first-hand the beauty of one of God’s creations – whether a tree, a whale, or a polychaete small enough to sit in your hand. How do you find opportunities to be amazed by God’s world? Is it gardening, hiking, or reading in the sun? Dog-walking or birdwatching? If you struggle to find time and space for enjoying God’s creation, I invite you to chase this amazing and eye-opening experience by partnering with A Rocha as a volunteer. Serving with others who care for the earth, you’ll have opportunities for practical action, and to meet the strange and wonderful life that surrounds you.

As spring wakes up the creepy crawlies this year, take time and trouble to see the world as God sees it. Look at something that seems completely different and strange to you, and take joy in the fact that God made you both. This is a good world, a diverse and bursting-with-life world; and that life is beautiful, it is loved.

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Aurora Sarchet is a volunteer writer with a passion for books, outdoor adventures, and finding friends in unlikely places.