Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cuttlefish, Autumn and Change

The colorful cuttlefish - courtesy of Google Images
So you think being human makes you pretty amazing, intelligent, and accomplished? With those opposable thumbs that offer a high degree of manual dexterity and the gift of language and communication, you probably believe humans are superior over other life forms. I have one word for you – cuttlefish.  Yes, cuttlefish. These creatures are “other worldly.” 

Imagine being able to change your appearance in a split second – to alter colors, textures, and even shape – and to morph in under a second. How would you like to change from a plump blond with golden skin and into a red-haired, brown-freckled skinny person? How about being able to change the color and texture of your skin so masterfully that you blend into your surroundings becoming almost invisible?

Find the cuttlefish - courtesy Google Images
Think about how clever it would be to shoot out a screen of dark inky smoke and then magically disappear behind this cloud away from a scene in which you feel threatened.  Poof and you’re gone.  Or imagine waving your arms like the Hindu goddess Kali, mesmerizing the opposite sex into an immovable trance.  Cuttlefish can do this and more. They have the largest brain to body size ratio of any invertebrate, huge W-shaped eyes, and three hearts that pump blue blood. One glance at them and you will feel you are in the presence of something alien. Not only can they change the color and shape of their skin in seconds they can also put on visual display of flashing oscillating colors like a Las Vegas neon sign. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Ash tree in Observatory Park
A professor in college once said to the class, “If you think humans are sexy and interesting wait until you study plants.”  

In autumn, trees and bushes put on their amazing displays of morphing colors for our visual pleasure.  It takes a few weeks, but the results are glorious and the mesmerizing power of color in nature can inspire. Bumble calls it “eye candy.” The aspens in the mountains turn from green to gold, the local street and park trees turn numerous shades of yellow and red - depending on the species. Maples never disappoint with their rowdy reds, or ashes and cottonwoods with their gaudy golds. With all the beautiful parks in Denver (and a quick commute into the mountains), I cannot think of better adventure than to get outside (walk, bike, or stroll) at one of Denver’s 200 parks and 80 miles of trails and take in the changing colors of the autumn. Furthermore, it is delightful to breathe in the crisper cooler air and maybe wear that sweater Grandma knit for you last year. 

All these changes that occur in nature bring up thoughts about the transformations that occur continually in our lives. Like the Heraclitus quote: Nothing endures but change. Humans and circumstances can and will change. Every day we get 24 hours older or further along in a pregnancy. My mom used to say, “Time marches on.” 

Luckily, humans have the ability to make choices about changing themselves. We can superficially change our exterior selves - the length or color of our hair, the color and style of our clothing, and even the color of our skin temporarily with sun exposure. We can change the size and shape of our bodies with a commitment to diet, various forms of exercise, weight lifting or even surgery. On a deeper, more interior level, we can change our minds with education or acquiring a new skill, and our souls with meditation or our own spiritual practice. We can change jobs, apartments, towns, states, friends and lovers. Change can instill fear and panic or it can be wonderful and good. But since it is constant - we may as well look at it squarely, hang on and go for the ride.


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