I’m a little behind on my National Geographic Magazines, and I finally read through the February 2017 issue this weekend. The gorgeous photos in the cover story, Saving Our Seas, impressed me not just for their underwater brilliance, nor because they offered some marine relief from the dusty Denver summer. They also put me into a reflective zone, the kind of reflection that makes the world seem both large and small at the same time.

My thoughts went something like this:

“While I’m sitting here under the baby crabapple tree in my backyard, this exact California sheephead, or one of its descendants, is twisting its orange scaled body around a strand of kelp in the Cortes Bay 110 miles west of San Diego. Right now.”

and

“What else is going on right now? Who else is swimming, crawling, flying, or walking in the center of their own environment, while I am here in mine?”

Contemplating all the simultaneous activities in the world can induce a headache – it’s so huge, like trying to hold all your memories in mind at the same time. But contemplating one particular creature going about its business thousands of miles away, with no regard for me, is kind of soothing. It’s a reminder that the world is vast and diverse and carries on despite its problems. It’s also a connector, a mental bridge to someone far away and different with whom I can still somehow empathize.

What else is going on while you’re brushing your teeth? What fish are swimming around kelp or coral as you make your coffee or walk to the bus? As you sit down to lunch, who else is having a meal, or voraciously seeking one? Somewhere, is a leatherback turtle crawling back toward the sea after laying 100 eggs in a sandy hole?