The Complicated Feelings Caused By Aquariums

Today, my husband and I took our youngest to a nearby aquarium. Unlike our older daughter who prefers people-watching to animal-admiring, our youngest is enthralled by creatures large and small. Watching her little face light up, and seeing her clap (and force me to clap) brings me so much joy—even as I struggle to sort out my own feelings about aquariums and zoos.

The Complicated Feelings Caused By Aquariums

We spent the day at the aquarium
Where the seals and dolphins
Penguins and sharks
And even a walrus and polar bear
Live in such small quarters

And I love aquariums and zoos
Even while I hate them
Even while my eyes tear up
From guilt and sadness
I love to see the animals

Walking, crawling, swimming
Doing their thing
In such small quarters
Though I wish they were not there
But rather out in the ocean or on the savannah

Sitting to watch the dolphin show
I thought of old photographs
Of people goggling at tiny cages
And chained-up creatures
And I wondered—

Will I look so horrid in 100 years
Sitting here to watch the dolphin show
Even though I know I shouldn’t
Shouldn’t sit here and clap
At a dolphin entrapped

But then the show started
And I oohed and aahed
And nearly cried
From the awe and the sadness
That are entwined together

Whenever I visit the aquarium

Published by helenkamakura

Helen is a Canadian writer and innkeeper based in Kamakura, Japan, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. If money became obsolete, she would happily accept peaches, fresh peas, and sun-warmed cherry tomatoes in exchange for her labour.

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