The weather here has turned nasty: cold and wet and dismally uninviting. All the flora, just waking up from winter, is covered in rime. My last hike was Thursday, so since then I’ve been reverting to my natural sloth-like torpor. Luckily, I recently stocked up at the library, so there are a number of books lying around as well as several DVD’s worth of the outstanding BBC series on the oceans The Blue Planet. Mostly, I’ve been watching the latter. In sloth mode, video becomes particularly attractive, as you don’t have to summon up the energy and will it takes to turn pages. The cat appreciates it, too. She knows that once I’ve plopped down onto the futon couch in the library to watch a video, she will have an immobile source of heat to drape herself across for at least an hour, sometimes two.
Although I prefer to live in Colorado, I grew up near oceans. The one thing that we transplants from the coasts do get nostalgic about on a regular basis is seafood. Supposedly, Colorado is the state with the third-highest number of scuba divers. I’m not one of them, but watching these Blue Planet videos, I find myself fantasizing about being on the film crew and snatching up some of the tastier actors for dinner.
That begins to explain why, although the biomass of the oceans far exceeds that of land animals, the marine world is so far behind us when it comes to literature. Literature only comes about when there is leisure to ponder, think something through, decide how best to express it. Any cod or herring with literary ambitions would quickly be eaten. Sharks are certainly too narrowly focused to have an appreciation for the arts, whereas the pinnipeds, sea lions and seals, mostly spend their free time for goofing off.
The cetaceans seem in some ways the most likely group to develop a viable literary tradition. They talk a lot, anyway. The whales, though, somehow seem more cut out for philosophy, whereas the dolphins and porpoises, some of the smartest animals around, use their cleverness, as the pinnipeds do, mostly for making up new games to play.
When serious fiction emerges from the oceans, the sea turtles will be responsible. Take my word for it.
Have you seen Finding Nemo? A charming film, but they got the sea turtles all wrong. The surfer dude mentality is not to be found among the Chelonioidea. They are thinkers and travelers, ranging from across the surface of the deep to the coral seas, gathering oceans of material that surely will someday bloom into a narrative that will knock even Finnegans Wake into a cocked hat.
Unless the plankton beat them to it. You wouldn’t suspect your average plankter of literary ambitions, but if every one of them were to sit himself down at a typewriter, we land animals might as well throw in the towel.