June 5, 2022
The opihi – do you know about opihi? They’re a shellfish, a little bit like scallops or clams. Scallops and clams, of course, have two shells and a hinge. They’ve got protection from creatures that like to eat them on top and on the bottom. And when things are safer, they can open up and let the water bring the little bits of seaweed and tiny creatures to them.
An opihi, however, only has one shell. I suppose it’s a little bit like a hat, only it’s a hat that covers the entire creature. An opihi – they’re called limpets in English – finds a spot on the rocks and holds tight as its shell grows over its top. And then it continues to hold tight. It might move a little bit to get to another spot on the rock with more algae, but you and I might not even notice them on the move.
And they don’t talk much. There’s not a lot to talk about, when you’re an opihi.
Here’s the thing: they like to live in the shallows along the shorelines of our islands. In those places, the tides come in, and the tides go out. Sometimes when the tide goes out, an opihi is in a pool of water. But sometimes, it finds itself above the water after it drains away. Sometimes it just sits there in the open air.
A honu pulled itself up on a rock to nap in the sun one day and found an opihi already there. I’m a little surprised it noticed. A honu is a lot bigger than an opihi. But they both have shells, so the honu felt a little bit of sympathy for this opihi, stranded on the rock outside the water.
“Do you need help?” the honu asked. “I see you’re out of the water here.”
The opihi wasn’t used to conversation – there’s not a lot to talk about when you’re an opihi (I may have mentioned that). But finally it found a reply:
“No. I’m fine.”
“Isn’t being out of the water a problem?”
“Well, not so much. If it went on a long time, that would be a problem,” said the opihi.
“How do you know it won’t be a long time?”
The opihi thought about this. “Honestly, I don’t know that it won’t be a long time. I suppose it could be. This isn’t the first time I’ve been left high and dry. Some of those times really did seem pretty long.”
The honu waited. Finally the opihi finished:
“The tide has always come back. I trust the tide more than I trust myself to swim if you swept me off the rock into the water.
“The tide has always been good to me. I’ll hold on here until it returns again.”
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
The story is told from memory of this prepared text – and thus will never be quite the same.
Photo of opihi in Honokanaia, Kahoolawe, Hawaii, by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 us, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71815389.