Friday, January 04, 2013

Let's fall in love

Here is a passage from Julia Whitty's book Fragile Edge, an account of her diving adventures in the South Pacific. She is at the Rangiroa atoll in French Polynesia.
Stimulated by the onset of a waning moon…the surgeonfish cluster, rise, bump, then drop back to the reef, disperse, circle, regroup, and rise again. A dozen times they practice, each round taking them higher into the water column, further from the safety of the coral. The foreplay culminates in what scientists call spawning and what the French divers I'm with charmingly refer to as lovemaking –- a pair of surgeonfish detaching from the crowd and exploding upward in an impossibly fast arc, then ejecting their sperm and eggs into the open water in a burst of milky smoke. Never breaking stride, the pair shoots back to the reef at speeds nearly unrecordable by the human eye. Other pairs follow. And others. At the apex of each upward burst, the ejaculated white puff-balls hang still, yet riotously mobilized as the chemistry of conception begins, sperm seeking eggs with only a moment for the microjourney to succeed before the gametes are caught in the outflow of water from the pass, torn apart, and carried out to deep water.
Ah, sex.

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. In shallow shoals English soles do it, goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it.

Surgeonfish in atolls do it.

I observe the snails that cling to the rocks along our shore, each one nestled into its own private cavity, and I wonder how they do it.

But mostly I wonder about the chitons, a mollusk that clings so tenaciously to the wave-washed rocks that they are almost indistinguishable from the rock itself. They have separate sexes, and they do it. Somehow.

Out there on the reef the massively shell-armored conchs do it. Like two Sherman tanks copulating.

There are more ways of doing it than you and I could imagine, God's own Kama Sutra. Let's do it. Let's fall in love.


(A tip-o-the-hat to Cole Porter.)