For Valentine’s Day I offer this photo of two day octopuses. It comes with a little story.
One day, while I was snorkeling, I noticed a stocky hawkfish about to plop onto a bit of coral. Before it could settle, a blue goatfish butted it away, getting my attention. I wondered if its presence might mean there was an eel or octopus around since they sometimes hunt together. Almost immediately, just beyond the goatfish, I noticed a day octopus glued to the side of a rock.
I took a couple of photos but knew they wouldn’t be very good; the octopus just looked like another lump of rock. So I began the usual dance I do with an octopus. I edge away, as though I’m leaving, keeping an eye on the octopus out of the corner of my eye. I know the octopus is watching me. Often, when I’ve gone a ways, the octopus will rise up onto whatever rock it’s hiding behind. If I’m quick, I can turn and get a photo before the octopus slides back down again. It’s like we’re connected by a line: I go away, the octopus rises. I return, the octopus sinks.
I swam behind a large chunk of rock, then peeked around the side. Still there, still hidden. A bit farther, another peek. Still there, still hidden. And again. And then I looked away momentarily and when I looked back, the octopus was gone. I think they, like many other creatures, watch a person’s eyes and if the person looks away, off they shoot.
It was a matter of a moment so I knew it couldn’t have gone far. I looked around, examining the rocks. Nothing. They can squeeze into tiny spaces so it was always possible I wouldn’t see it even if it was close by. Then, as I turned around, I caught a glimpse of movement and saw the octopus zip behind a bit of rock. Except then I immediately saw a second octopus follow the first.
I swam around the rock and saw the two of them, each in its own separate crack, a few feet apart. Again I took a couple of photos and then moved away. This time I went farther and waited, watching from a fair distance. Eventually, the octopus on the right of the photo emerged and moved toward the other one. I edged closer and began taking photos. It was then that that octopus slowly eased a tentacle toward the other one, sliding over the rock until it reached up and over the front of the other octopus. It was such a sweet and tender gesture, as though the octopus sought reassurance in making physical contact with its companion.
I took the photo and swam off, leaving them in peace.