I arrived at the beach at mid-tide, because that’s when the harbor seals typically hoist themselves on the rocks. Sometimes, I bring my friends. Sometimes I point them out to tourists. But today, at the mid-point of my friend’s chemotherapy treatments, I went alone.
I wanted to talk with the seals privately, as we’ve done in the past. I felt sure they’d pose for my camera, same as before. I’d send videos to my friend, because the sounds of the ocean are soothing. I’d send snapshots of the seals, as well, because they’re a healing balm for her.
But as luck would have it, “my” typically quiet cove was crawling with tourists. Locals, too, who probably skipped out on work to enjoy the sunny, hot weather. They scrambled over the rocks where the seals usually lounge. They splashed in the tide pools, took business calls at the water’s edge, and snapped endless selfies with squirming, screeching kids.
I didn’t begrudge them the opportunity to visit this lovely hideaway. Of course not. I don’t expect everyone to approach this outdoor sanctuary with the same reverence that I do. But I confess to a bit of selfishness in wishing I were alone on the beach, for at least a little while. Seemed to me, this was the only way the harbor seals would make their presence known.
“They don’t always hang out here,” said the tide pool docent, whom I’d never seen before, but with whom I’d shared a brief conversation about starfish and, well, seals. “They have the whole ocean at their disposal,” she said, “not just this one beach.”
“Yeah, I get that,” I said, “But I really think they’ll show up. They always seem to know….”
I watched the incoming waves for the next two hours, but they didn’t pop their heads up, much less come ashore.
The tide began to surge again, and my parking meter was set to expire. I gathered my belongings, reluctantly so, and left my rocky perch. I was still clinging to the notion that the seals were out there in the surf, but that I’d somehow overlooked them.
I scrambled across the hot sand, toting my belongings toward the staircase. Stopped. Pivoted. Listened to my intuition, and lifted my camera out of its bag.
I scanned the horizon one more time, index finger on the shutter button. Sure enough: In a peaceful cove, not visible to people scrambling over the rocks…in the water, far removed from the madding crowd…I spied a harbor seal floating past, just as happy as could be.
He showed up for my friend and for me, I truly believe that. Another gift from the sea, carrying a special kind of magic.