Recommended Reads: A sweet book about the intriguing octopus

Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery

Here’s a sweet read written by a mesmerizing storyteller who spins a true novel all about a sea creature that I discovered I knew very little about. This book entertains with so much interesting information that surprises. The octopus lives an intriguing presence in the oceans, and in our Puget Sound.

The author studies octopus in the wild as well as in captivity, primarily at the New England Aquarium in Boston, and also at our Seattle Aquarium, and the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia. Most surprising to me is the personal connection she made with particular octopuses named Octavia, Kali, Athena and young Karma. How each of these beautiful beings demonstrated real intelligence and unique personalities was described vividly and with strong feeling by the author.

We’re treated to glimpses into the great work the aquariums are doing, and especially what was featured at our Seattle Aquarium. It was so fun to read about Seattle’s Octopus Symposium and the Octopus Blind Date events they’d had, as well as exciting descriptions of their work studying the wild octopus in the Puget Sound.

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, documentary scriptwriter and author of 20 acclaimed nonfiction books. She’s been presented with Lifetime achievement awards from the Humane Society and the New England Booksellers association. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and the many animals they care for. “I think,” she said, “that animals teach compassion.”

Here’s a taste of the author’s passionate writing. She’s relating her thoughts of the meeting of the wet and dry worlds while her hands and Octavia’s arms intertwine emotionally at the aquarium. Octopuses enjoy time exploring through touch this way.

“In the sea, perhaps, time itself is slowed by the water’s weight and viscosity. Even with just my hands in Kali or Octavia’s tank, time proceeds at a different pace. Perhaps, I muse, this is the pace at which the Creator thinks, in this weighty, graceful, liquid manner — like blood flows, not like synapses fire. Above the surface, we move and think like wiggly children, or like teens who twitch away at their computer-phones, multitasking but never focusing. But the ocean forces you to move more slowly, more purposefully, and yet more pliantly. By entering it, you are bathed in a grace and power you don’t experience in air. . . . To dive beneath the surface feels like entering the Earth’s vast, dreaming subconscious, submitting to its depth, its currents, its pressure, is both humbling and freezing.”

Thereby hangs a tale . . . .


– By Wendy Kendall

Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.

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