Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Giant Cephalopod Awareness Day

Today is the day when we turn aside from worldly affairs and contemplate our relationship with the strange things that live in the sea.* A friend of mine reminded me that since we live in Seattle, bordered by sea, the squid are watching.  We think it should be the basis for a tourism campaign, and that Capital Hill should be renamed Calamari Hill.  I think it has a nice ring to it.

In my early youth I spent a lot of time watching PBS nature shows.  My attention at some point was captured by the tragic plight of the octopus and cuttle fish.  The males spawned and died, and then the females starved to death while guarding their eggs.  This worried me deeply.  The poor baby cuttlefish and octopuses who never knew their parents!  The poor parents who gave their lives for children they never met!  This had all the cathartic grandeur of a Greek tragedy for my eight year old imagination.

As I got older, I never got over being fascinated by members of clan cephalopoda.  They're intelligent.  They change color to communicate (well, some of them do).  Some of them demonstrate tool use, others social behavior.  Many of them taste wonderful deep fried with garlic aioli (but not the giant squid which uses ammonia to maintain its buoyancy). Sometimes I dream about them. 

And I am not the only one fascinated by these amazing, if squishy, creatures.

Artistic intimations of squidity

Oliver Wendell Holms uses the nautilus as a poetic figure for the growth of the soul. 

Tennyson meanwhile has strange ideas about the apocalyptic significance of the giant squid.

And here are some things to read and watch if overwrought nineteenth century poetry is not your thing. 

A rather long article from the Smithsonian about the giant squid which culminates in adorable baby squid pictures.  The adorable baby squid, regrettably, are not Architeuthis dux

The Flamboyant Cuttlefish is not truly giant, except in AWESOME which it has in abundance.  

This Giant Octopus, on the otherhand, is huge, and curious.

Have a safe Giant Cephalopod Awareness Day.  Remember, the squid are watching.

(If you really want to celebrate that other holiday with a poem about love for today, here are two favorites.)
*I've heard about another holiday that falls on February 14 that involves covering mediocre candy in red and pink foil and giving them to people you care about.  Obviously it's a holiday that celebrates the importance of forgiveness in human affairs.  Cephalopods are more interesting.


  1. thank you for furthering Giant Cephalopod Awareness. It i an important holiday, even for us inlanders.

  2. ...asked my wife if she would be my giant cephalopod. evidently not.

  3. Peter -- your comment made me laugh so hard that my classmates requested the reason for my dissolving in mirth. I fear my explanation, "Peter's wife will not be his giant cephalopod," entirely opaque. Further attempts to convey the risibility of the statement failed entirely. But still you made me laugh out loud to the point of social awkwardness.

  4. Sarah, I love your writing, I obviously was doing other things while Brenna (and you ) were learning about cephalopods, I had no idea. We are looking at Magnolia, but must clean out the closets, Help!