- This topic has 4 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 9 years, 10 months ago by fishteer.
April 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm #2043fishteerMember
We all have mentors and inspirers in our lives. Sometimes a chance encounter with a kindred spirit can open our eyes to wonders we’d never previously seen. Sometimes we wake up to a world of new possibility because of a gentle nudge from someone so small that the power of their single gesture sweeps us upward in a tidal wave of awe and delight.
That is who Galene, my champion Ocean Rider dancer, was to me.
When I got my first seahorses, I was well prepared. With great care, I had thoroughly researched their species, their needs, and their documented behaviors. My goldfish made music, so I figured with really precise training, seahorses might be able to, as well. But because I was so busy with other projects, it was nearly a year after their arrival before I found the time to invite my ponies to music school.
I decided to begin their education by simply playing music for them. There had been a lot of goldfish music wafting around our house, but I wasn’t sure how well the seahorses could hear the stereo based at the opposite end of our living room. So I bought an ipod speaker system just for my seahorses, and I placed it right by their tank. One morning, ready to begin their musical conditioning, I picked out a gentle but rhythmic tune, turned on their ipod, and walked away to do other things. A few moments later, I turned my attention back to the ponies. And what I saw literally made me gasp with surprise and joy.
Galene, my lovely, creamy white Mustang, was dancing in time to the music. And as I watched, I realized she was not only dancing. She was choreographing! When the pitch of the music fell, she curled her tail and sank lower in the water. When it rose, she stretched out and shot upward. When a smooth passage rolled out, she glided gracefully to the side. When the beat got snappy, she flicked her limber, prehensile tail to the beat.
Nature gave seahorses a dancer’s anatomy and preinstalled a repertoire of dancelike movements in their behavioral portfolio. They dance with specific, ritualized motion during courtship and greeting displays. But before Galene, no one knew that seahorses could or would dance to music. No one knew seahorses were not merely movers, but motion artists. That revelation changed me. In that moment when I first saw Galene dance for musical joy, my understanding of the beautiful intricacies of animal life on this planet, and the hidden bonds we humans share with all creatures, deepened. Really deep. Like the sea.
During Galene’s very first dance concert, I had the presence of mind to grab my video camera, start the music again, and film her impromptu performance. I’m so glad I did. Thanks to the Internet, thousands of other people around the world have witnessed her artistry.
Over time, Galene’s language of dance (as well as that of her tankmates) became commonplace in my life. But I never took it for granted. Every time Galene danced when I played the ipod; or sang for her just beyond the walls of her glass home; or danced myself, like a giddy human fool, in front of her tank — I received her offering as a precious gift.
I lost my darling Galene last night. She died after a very sudden parasitic illness. I am stunned and shredded and aching in the face of the realization that this unlikely ballerina — this google-eyed, monkey-tailed, galloping, elegant sea sprite with the pink pinstripes — will never physically dance for me again.
But she dances inside me. And I dance with the waters. In her memory, her love, and her name. My eyes are stinging with salt, but they’re open.
Shortly before this tragic event, I began a performing arts venture as a professional mermaid. Professional mers pick a name that embodies the message they hope to convey with their performances.
I am now Mermaid Galene.
Thank you, Seahorse Galene. May Mermaid Galene make someone’s heart dance. My heart will always dance with the unfathomable joy of you.April 15, 2014 at 8:57 pm #5668darrellGuest
I’m sorry to hear about your loss of Galene. She was a beautiful and unique seahorse. Thank you for sharing the video of her dancing.April 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm #5671Pete GiwojnaGuest
Yeah, Galene was certainly loaded with personality and I completely understand the sentiments you expressed in your tribute to her memory, Diane.
One thing I have learned after being around seahorses for more than 25 years is that they definitely do have distinct personalities, Diane, and Galene’s amazing affinity for music and for dancing out of pure joy made her unique. Females do generally tend to be more active and outgoing than the males. Females will often swim around more and explore the aquarium to a greater extent than the males, which tend to pick out a favorite perch or home base and hang around in the same general area most of the time.
Just like people, some seahorses are shy and retiring (introverted, I guess you could say) while others are real busybodies, that insist on being right in the thick of things and helping you out whenever you are working in the tank or performing aquarium maintenance. These extroverts will often perch on your hand or whatever aquarium utensil you may be using and watch intently as you finish your chores, apparently enjoying the ride and the company. Others will gladly interact with you at feeding time, but prefer to keep their distance otherwise. Galene seems to have been a very talented extrovert who was always very attuned to your presence and to your music, Diane.
And, of course, the individual personalities of seahorses naturally extend to their feeding habits, Diane. Some are aggressive feeders that will boldly snatch food from your fingers, while some are shy and secretive at mealtime, feeding only when they think they’re not being observed. Some like to slurp up Mysis while it’s swirling through the water column, and some will only take Mysis off the bottom of the tank. Some are voracious pigs that greedily scarf up everything in sight, and some are slow, deliberate feeders that painstakingly examine every morsel of Mysis and stare it down forever before they accept or reject it. Some eat like horses and some eat like birds.
I have known a lot of seahorses that would interact with their keepers at mealtime, dancing in the front of the aquarium to make it clear that they were hungry and ready for their next meal, and betraying their excitement by brightening in coloration when their keeper – the giver of gourmet delights – approached the tank, but I have never experienced a pony that was as strongly attuned to auditory stimuli as Galene…
No doubt your training and conditioning have a lot to do with that, Diane, but there’s no denying that Galene had a gift for dance and powerful attraction for certain kinds of music.
Seahorses are one fish that can become a true pet, and I’m convinced this is because they are more intelligent than most fishes, Diane, and Galene seem to be very much in sync with you as her keeper right from the start.
The highly domesticated Ocean Rider Mustangs and Sunbursts are real personality fish and many of them actually enjoy being handled. Unlike most other fish that back off when you approach the aquarium and flee in terror if you place your hand in the tank, seahorses soon learn to recognize their keeper and will come out to meet you. They quickly learn to take food from your fingers, and as you will discover, having your pet ponies literally eating out your hand is a very rewarding experience. When one of these shy, enchanting creatures — whose very survival in the wild depends on concealing itself from predators at all times — comes trustingly up to the surface to eat right out of your palm, it’s a thrill you won’t soon forget. The training sessions and daily feedings required for this tend to forge a close, personal relationship between the aquarist and his charges, and hand-fed seahorses often become special pets. Many times they will even include you in their daily greeting, flashing their recognition colors and parading back and forth and at the front of the tank, performing their dancelike displays for your benefit.
So when you lose a seahorse to an illness or injury, it has more of an impact and is harder to accept than the passing of most wet pets. It’s not at all like that dimestore goldfish that you can unceremoniously flush without a second thought when it goes belly up…
And, of course, the more exceptional a particular seahorse happened to be, the more it affects you when they pass on, so I can understand why losing Galene is such a crushing blow. But I promise you the same things that make the loss of a pet seahorse so devastating are the very things that make them so rewarding to keep in the first place, Diane, and I am hoping that some of her mature offspring have inherited her gift for music and dancing and will be able to carry on the tradition of their mother.
Best of luck with all of your projects, Diane!
Pete Giwojna, Ocean Rider Tech SupportApril 21, 2014 at 8:46 pm #5673TamyCGuest
I am so sad to hear about your loss. I believe once they leave us, they become this kindered sprit that lives in your heart always…
TamyCApril 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm #5674fishteerGuest
Thanks, Tamy. I’ve lost a lot of fish over the years, but Galene was very special, and we had a deep bond. I will always miss her. I do have her mate and her children still, which is a comfort. And in her honor, I have taken her name for my persona as a professional mermaid: Mermaid Galene. I will feel like I’m dancing with her every time I swim in my mermaid tail.
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