I’m wading in rubber boots among the seaweed-laced, intertidal waters of the Pacific. California sea lions bark from distant Simpson Reef. Clouds reflect on still waters.
Like some 19th century naturalist, I’m wearing a long skirt, except it’s tie dye. Not the best planning, but hitching it higher and holding a bunch in my left hand while I wade in deeper gives me a sense of kinship with those who stepped on these shores long before me.
With every step, I journey into the tangled, flowing, weaving, bobbing, slippery world of seaweed. I’m converging with every shade of green and gold. Careful. Stay on the sandy bottoms to avoid stepping on the life that proclaims itself just about everywhere–from anemones in sand to barnacles clasping high rocks to the crabs, sculpins, limpets, turban snails, and anemones of the tide pools.
This is a place of fecundity. The nutrient-rich upwelling seawaters brew with the stuff of life, as the thousands of sea lions hauled out on the reef remind me with their constant chorus.
Yet, with so much living comes so much dying. On the beach, I find the washed up remains of a seal that’s mostly sinew, skin and bone. I pick up a scapula bone and the stench seeps into my fingers. On the cliff above, three vultures spread their wings in the sun. They live on the dead and all of this is as it should be.
I hold a broken turban shell, touch the carapace of a crab, and listen to the raucous cries of Northwestern crows on a tree perch. The wrack lines of washed up seaweeds are alive with jumping, leaping tiny insects all living on death, processing death, and restoring the living, swelling seas of phytoplankton, fish, of seals, sea lions, and whales, and of birds…oh the seabirds that live here!
Brown pelicans with bucket bills for fish scooping. Peregrine falcons zooming at the highest speeds in the animal world upon the unsuspecting flying pigeon guillemot. Flocks of wheeling sandpipers as disciplined as a school of fish. The gulls, cormorants, puffins, murres and more… I pick up a feather from the beach and place it closer to the dead seal, a small homage to that life now returning to this great sea.
In this intertidal day of wading with one hand holding my skirt above the waters, I live in this moment and not in this moment. Grateful, yet expectant too. So much to live for. So much hope. So much I hope to give before it’s my turn. The sun breaks through on the reef, lights my return journey up the hill, noting the passage of a slug sliding upon this earth, touching every part of its body to this wondrous planet.