She’s a complete stranger, but I saw in her a kindred spirit–wholly absorbed in the moment, bathing in seawater and sunshine.
She’s a complete stranger, but I saw in her a kindred spirit–wholly absorbed in the moment, bathing in seawater and sunshine.
I went down to the beach again yesterday–after the tides receded, when the harbor seals typically sun themselves on the rocky shores of Goff Island Cove. It was a hallmark day: the 7th and next-to-last chemo treatment for my friend on the East Coast. Same as always, she was counting me to send pictures and videos, to help get her through the final weeks of that grueling regimen.
In the same way that I look to the skies for hummingbirds, she scans the ocean for seals. They are her spirit animals, harbingers of comfort and hope. No way would I ever want to disappoint her! That’s why, over the course of her many treatments, I’ve observed very closely “our” seal family’s habits and habitat. I know, from watching them and observing the tides, when they’re most likely to appear. They’ve become very comfortable with my presence; I call some of them by name. They’ve always revealed themselves to me, even when they hide from others. But yesterday…even before I descended the wooden stairs that lead into to the cove, I sensed that they weren’t there.
I blinked hard in the strong sunlight…didn’t see them on the rocks. I scanned the open water…no bobbing heads.Nature has her own, mysterious ways. She doesn’t operate on our timelines. I know and respect all of that. And still, I struggled against a rising panic. How could I explain to my friend that the seals hadn’t shown themselves–on a chemo day, of all days?
Tourists came and went, snapping selfies as they climbed all over the jagged rocks where the seals usually chill, calling out to each other in loud, jolting voices that would surely send the most habituated sea life into hiding. I watched an elderly couple explore the cove, clinging tight to one another as they bent over the tide pools, whispering excitedly about sea anemone, hermit crabs and shells. They were Eastern European, I think, from the sounds of their broken English. When they approached the rocks where I stood, I introduced myself. We used gestures and simple sentences to communicate, as new friends do. Quietly, because we shared a reverence for that space. When I said something about the “seals,” their eyes lit up. With huge smiles stretched across their sunburned faces, they pointed in unison to a distant rock formation, surrounded by water.
Here it is, a place they call Treasure Island.
And there they were: Freckles and Friends, sprawled on the rocks in the afternoon sun. Beyond the reach of any human beings, and almost beyond the reach of my little bridge camera. Snoozing, as seals do, after they’ve eaten a large meal and nap time stretches in front of them, unimpeded by predators and ocean surges.
A young seal was nestled into a patch of surf grass, at the base of the rocks.
The baby seal was wandering off by himself, as is his wont.
The oldest male, Freckles, was flanked on all sides by friends, all of whom were camouflaged by the mounded rocks that shielded them from the glaring sun.
Such a relief, to see them there, safe and sound…and, well, present. Such a pleasure, to send photos to my friend! Videos, too, like this one.
I’m reminded once again, of the good that shows itself when we hold out hope in the face of doubt. This is what it means to “get by with a little help from our friends.” This is what it means to keep the faith.
Can we talk about drones for a minute?
Not FAA regulations and local laws, because those are debated elsewhere–more knowledgeably and objectively than I might. Let’s talk, instead, about the ways in which these sky cameras, built for fun, might negatively affect wildlife habitats and the places we’ve come to know as our private sanctuaries. Not a high-level discussion, but an up-close-and-personal, eyewitness view.
Imagine that you’re enjoying a morning walk on the beach, toes digging into sand, as gentle waves splash ashore.
Now that the tourists have gone home, the beaches are nearly empty. But look! There’s a trio of seals to keep you company–further out to sea, sunning themselves on Goff Cove Island.
They’ve come to know and trust you, because you approach them with a quiet reverence…
…zooming in with your camera but never encroaching on their comfort zone.
They snooze while you’re scrambling over the rocks, investigating the tide pools and snapping photos–ever watchful, but never fearful. You’re buddies now, and they even talk to you.
“What do you see out there?” a newcomer asks.
You point, and then marvel together at their sleek beauty.
A bull seal reveals itself, watches you watching him. The potential for danger is always near, for both of you. But instinct is a powerful thing. You know you are safe, and so does he.
You pan your camera across the ocean, sun-kissed waves to sandy shore. There is no curating to be done here. It’s their habitat, and you are the guest.
The seals doze, perk up now and again, no doubt attuned to sounds your human ears aren’t sensitive enough to hear.
And then, near the very end of your videotaping session, you hear a menacing whine.
The seals are on heightened alert, now.
A strange beast crests the rocks…bobbing, whirring, careening back and forth in unpredictable patterns. Then it drops, dozens of feet, at high velocity.
The herd panics. The bull seal gives a signal, and they dive into the water, all four of them, and vanish.
Maybe it’s a stretch to think that drones will eventually stake their claim on everything, within and beyond a human’s reach. Maybe it’s wrong to extrapolate, from my own experience, that we’re edging toward a world in which curiosity outstrips compassion, privacy goes by the wayside, and convenience trumps all. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we should set some ground rules while we can.
UPDATE: This encounter inspired me to take action–one voice of many, writing letters & making calls. In response to community concerns, Laguna Beach passed into law an ordinance banning drones over city parks, near beaches, and over government buildings! As of 13 July, 2017, “Drone-flying is still allowed over private property and over the ocean, but harassment of marine wildlife will not be tolerated,” Laguna Beach Police Chief Farinella said.
The last vestiges of summer….how in the world did that happen?
Change sneaks up on us, doesn’t it, unless we’re paying attention.
Seasons turn, the days blur past, the sun sinks into the sea and rises again the next morning.
Tides roll in, the waves recede; seals clamber onto the rocks and then slip back into the water.
I’m standing again at the threshold–that liminal space between then and now–remembering anew:
Change is inevitable, but mindfulness is optional.
Once upon a time, a consortium of artisans (poets, musicians, artists, and the like) tried to translate this complex emotion into words. But as someone wise once said, the language of love has many dialects.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, our Art Challenge theme o’ the week is (cue the harp music) LOVE. And lucky me, I get to host it.
Here, an opportunity to translate your own thoughts into images, using your favorite art form(s) and media. I enjoy photography, so I’ll be working with my camera. But Art Challenges are for all-comers. Painting, sewing, drawing, cooking…express your creativity any way you like, so long as you share your finished work in pictures.
Let your imagination run free! Picture yourself and your beloved, for instance, doing something that sparks your inner passions. (Hint: It doesn’t have to be romantic.)
LOVE isn’t all chocolate and roses, although it could be. It can be sweet as these hummingbird hatchlings, in a cottony-soft nest…
Or as absurd as this peacock, oblivious to its surroundings.
LOVE can be dangerous at times, and prickly.
Clingy or trusting? Reveal to us your vantage point, in literal or figurative ways.
There are countless approaches you might take, when it comes to this theme o’ the week. No rules; limitless boundaries. But may I offer you one suggestion? Leave no stone unturned in your quest for LOVE!
One last thing: Be sure to link your project to the blog entry I post this Friday.
Note: This Art Challenge is not a contest, and you most certainly don’t need to be a pro to participate. This is art for its own sake, no judgment or restrictions. So c’mon, share the love.
“Abundance is not something we acquire,” Wayne Dyer once said, “It is something we tune into.” I wholeheartedly agree. It’s not about having, or doing, or aspirational thinking. The Secret (if there is one) is to be fully present in each moment, wholly appreciative of the gifts available to us in the here and now.
It’s the ability to see a hummingbird’s nest for the iridescent promises it holds…
And to greet unannounced guests as if they belonged, as if this were the plan all along.
Abundance reveals itself when you wade, unafraid, into frothy waters.
Sometimes it appears as if by magic–shimmery bouquets from a bubble wand, for instance.
It presents itself in expansive moments of peaceful awareness,
Expresses itself as joyful noise or a whispered “amen.”
Abundance is a splashy little thing,
With a graceful elegance.
It’s a timeless beauty, capable of endless transformations.
Abundance can be of our own making, of course–bread dough, for instance, set to rise in a warm kitchen.
Perfect in its imperfections, it fills us with a delicious sense of well-being.
Abundance is the secret gardens we tend…
Within each seed of awareness, an abundant harvest.
I snapped these photos over the course of this past year. They speak to grand adventures and simple delights, quiet beauty and occasions that shout, Behold! It’s a curated collection, brief glimpses of the whole story, but when I remember these wide-eyed, breathless moments, I’m filled anew with gratitude for the abundance they represent.
How apropos, that Thanksgiving week prompted the challenge word abundance. Want to see more? Visit Veronica Roth’s page and follow the links. My responses to previous challenge words are available here.
Time and again, my camera leads me to the threshold of discovery, that shimmery place where boundaries dissolve and new worlds reveal themselves to the willing traveler. Today’s photo challenge, liminal, is new to my vocabulary. I explored its depths and breadth by reading, took notes, and then translated my findings into words and pictures that make sense to me.
Liminal comes to us from the Latin word limen. In the literal and figurative sense, it refers to some kind of boundary or threshold. And as you know, we encounter lots of jumping-off, stepping-over, and slipping-through, liminal moments in our lifetimes.
Sometimes we find ourselves drifting in a place that’s neither Here nor There, perhaps waiting on some unseen hand to lift the misty veil of uncertainty. So it is with many things, the creative process among them. It’s a shallow place, with dangerous undercurrents. Our inner critic calls out from the rocks, sings to us the siren songs of despair and disillusion. If we’re the impatient optimistic sort, this quickly leads us to the liminal point where we haul in the anchor and set sail for the Uncharted Place where anything is possible.
Forest openings and locked gates, prison towers and poisoned apples…the hero’s journey is fraught with choices. Real and imagined dangers lurk around every corner. Read another way, it’s these liminal moments that shake us awake at dawn and–assuming there’s a fairy tale ending–lead us from Once Upon a Time to Happily-ever-after.
Liminal points can also be literal. Stucco archways that frame the ocean, mosaic tiles that arrest your eye, and the staircase that meanders down a flowery path before finding its sandy terminus at the water’s edge…all liminal.
A liminal space invite you to step over the threshold, to knock on the door between Here and There. Maybe it’s inside, maybe it’s outside. It all depends on where you’re standing when the door swings open.
Liminal things: India ink, spilling from the nib of a storyteller’s pen; plumeria buds, unfurling into snowy white pinwheels with yellow centers; and water that bubbles and bursts, escape and return to their oyster shell existence.
Liminal events are the portals of transformation, the handmaidens of sacred rituals.
Always and Never, Everywhere and Nowhere…liminal points open up for interpretation the concepts of time and space. Perspectives shift. Feelings are transient. We listen for the space between the notes, and the things we once took for granted are now recognized as ephemeral.
Camouflaged as it is by dappled shade, this leaf suggests the liminal qualities of life itself…the interplay of shadow and light, and the interstices between being and not-being. Whoa, that’s deep.
Liminal. I rather like this word, don’t you? It’s mental yoga for people like me, who do some of their best thinking behind the camera lens. I’ve only just brushed the surface, so please, weigh in with your own definitions and examples!
For previous photography challenge entries, click here.
On a more personal note: During my brother’s illness, I didn’t give much thought to my promise to do a write-up about Father Serra’s canonization ceremony. It got reprioritized again, in that liminal time after Roger’s passing. But while it’s more succinct than I originally envisioned, it’s ready now. I’ll post it after the weekend.