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.
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.
Ours is a world of water but not so much as theirs, particularly on days of water above and below. You should have seen the smile on my face when the rain really started chucking it down as I watched the harbor seals frolic in the surf. Water defines so much of what I love about the Pacific Northwest, the lush greens of the forests, the snow on the mountains, the waterfalls, the seasonal ponds, the wetlands, the mountain streams, the rivers, the oceans, the tide pools. All the animals therein. I’m trying to soak it in while I can in case I end up in a world still defined by water, but by its absence rather than its abundance. But I’ll love photographing those places too, I learned long ago to focus on what you love about where you are rather than what you miss about where you were.
Harbor seals use multiple techniques to slip past these waves, wave after wave, as they play and feed just offshore in the Pacific. I spent hours watching them and could have spent days, it’s mesmerizing how naturally they move about this environment.