Mysteries and Monsters

Well past midnight, the moon was high and bright over Lake Superior. I was sixteen and camping out with a friend less than fifty feet from the ceaseless, crashing waves. While my buddy slept, I crawled out to take in the beauty of the scene. What struck me in that magical moment -- and stayed with me all these intervening years -- was the mystery of a vast body of water at night. What lay under those dark swells? Down, down into the murky depths, what large creatures might be silently gliding?

It still gives me chills. I like that feeling of mystery, of things beyond knowledge, somehow eluding discovery. And as my friend, Scott Weidensaul, writes in his book The Ghost with Trembling Wings, “for big, truly eye-popping revelations, the world’s oceans undoubtedly have the most to offer – and to conceal.” Only a quarter century ago, the grotesque and fascinating megamouth shark was discovered. What other fantastic creature might still be lurking?

It’s good for us to celebrate that there is still a place of mystery in this ever-shrinking planet. The sea fascinates children, not only for the colorful and astonishing array of its known animals, but for the potential of its unknown creatures, as well. Dragons may no longer be on the wing, but they may be on the fin. Somewhere under those waves.

So, this week, I’ve got a two-step activity for your family.

1. Feast your eyes on sea life. Get a few books or videos out on ocean creatures. Marvel at the imaginative variety of forms and colors.

2. Create your own sea monster. I’ve posted a page to show you how. Let your own combined ideas make a fantastic creature of your own!

As for me, I hope there is some great, unknown beast of the deep, undulating in some dark crevasse, snatching hapless passing fish in its terrible jaws.

And I hope we never find it. Some mysteries should remain.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2006 Bruce Van Patter