A couple of lifetimes ago, almost 16 years to the day, the sun begins to rise above the Atlantic in South Carolina. If memory serves this was the last time I saw the sun rise over the ocean, a short while later I realized how easily alligators were seen in the freshwater marsh so while I returned to the park a few other times before sunrise, naturally I never made it past the marsh. I visited the ocean in the Pacific Northwest during our many years there but something would have gone very wrong for me to see the sun rise above it.
We may be landlocked here in Arizona but we did get some water the past week, starting with a thunderstorm one night after work. I sat on the back porch listening to the rain pounding down in the dark, breathing in the unique smell of the desert in the rain. Another day a short shower barely wet the ground but yesterday the skies darkened during an afternoon swim so I got out in plenty of time before a thunderstorm blew through, thankfully courtesy of the weekend this one I was home during the day to watch. Trixie was not amused but I stayed out until it grew dark, the odds are against me being able to see the rain so I try to soak it in when I can.
While I don’t have a phobia about insects and in fact enjoy photographing them, I don’t like the feel of them walking on my skin. I’ve tried to work on it over the years, especially when it’s an insect that won’t harm me, such as this visit to the Oregon coast when flies swarmed around but didn’t bite. I felt for this harbor seal who was getting hounded much worse, they even walked across its eyeballs. It raised a flipper to shoo them off but they didn’t stay away long.
A black oystercatcher splashes the waters of the Pacific through its feathers as waves lap at the beach at Seal Rock. Taken in the spring of 2005.
The past couple of years I’ve been watching some old movies I haven’t seen before, using Turner Classic Movies to catch up on some old gems. Last night I TiVo’ed Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”, which has been on my watch list for some time. I haven’t watched it yet and since I try to not find out anything about a movie before I watch it, even the basics of the plot, I don’t know if the movie is about harbor seals, elephant seals, or leopard seals. With seven seals, maybe all of them! Can’t wait to find out!
The rising tide brings waves that overwhelm the sleeping locations of the harbor seals, eventually sending them into the water. The bigger seals often held the ground that let them sleep the longest while the younger seals took the first brunt of the wave action. As each wave swept past, they’d raise their legs in unison, allowing the water to sweep over their bodies instead of knocking them into the sea, though in the end the water always wins.
I could spend hours watching the seals, relaxing on land or swimming in the sea, someday I’d love to spend more time in the area. A couple of years ago when it was time to choose between two job offers, the job in California would have put me relatively close to the coast with not just harbor seals but other mammals I haven’t seen before. If the cost of living had been swapped between the two locations perhaps we’d have gone on a different adventure, but thankfully the Sonoran Desert had its own wonders in store.
A male harlequin duck swims in the crashing surf at Yaquina Head on the Oregon coast, he was not caught unaware in this chaotic environment as this is where he likes to live. It was a delight to watch the ducks thrive in the surging seas alongside the harbor seals, two species so completely different and yet living side-by-side peacefully.
After May was cooler than usual, the heat has come on full in June so for the past couple of weeks I’ve gone swimming for the first time in the new house (I won’t count the time the pup fell in). The pool is a bit on the small side but I thought would be just long enough to get exercise and thankfully that has been the case. I’m a pale imitation of the true swimmers though like this harbor seal at Yaquina Head, ungainly on land but a marvel in the water, flaring its nostrils wide as it took a quick breath before heading back under the water.
The rain began to fall on an October morning, creating ripples in the waves, but this harbor seal didn’t seem to mind getting wet.
I discovered right away during my interview trip 21 years ago that Oregon was where I belonged. One of the managers found out I liked to hike and took me hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, then the other students and I had the weekend to go out the coast and explore whatever we wanted.
That wonderful Gorge is a half hour drive to the east. My beloved Ridgefield National Wildlife is half an hour to the north (across the river in Washington). Snow-capped Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens are visible from Portland and an easy drive too. Well known for its waterfalls and wetlands and lush forests and rugged coast, all of which I dearly love, there are also high deserts and sand dunes and even redwoods all the way south.
Scenes like this, a curious harbor seal poking up out of the surf at Yaquina Head on a rainy day at the coast, gave me as much pause about moving to Arizona as the summer heat. Oregon has so much to offer, so much that delights me, so much I will miss. Goodbye, I love you.