Archive for the 'Mind in Nature' Category

Creeping up on a Seal

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

The boat on which I live is moored close – about fifty feet – from some old breakwaters upon which seals like to come and rest. Over the years, I’ve got to know them pretty well, watched them clamboring out of the water onto the floating logs, listened to them snorting and burping till the middle of the night, enjoyed their splashing during courtship, and been occasionally surprised by a dog-like face peering at me out of the water.
This week my boat has been moved while the harbor is being dredged. At first I missed my seal companions. Then, this evening, I wandered down to where my boat used to be moored. The floating docks had been towed away and tied up against the old breakwater. Walking out along the newly moored dock, I was able to approach the seal’s haunts by foot. One lay there on a log, while another in the water eyed me cautiously before moving on. The one on the log sensed my presence and looked around. I froze. It lay back down.
I got down on hands and knees and slowly crept forward, freezing every time it looked around. About fifteen feet away, I dropped to my belly. I inched forward to within ten feet, and lay there, still as could be, as close as I was ever likely to be to this fellow mammal. Its flippers with their vestigial fingers and claws; the whiskers on its nose; its gentle breathing. Occasionally it raised its head, looked, listened, then dropped back to snooze on for a while.
It raised its head once more, looked around, and saw me – another face, just feet away, staring into its eyes. Surprised, it too froze. Then turned and dived into the safety of the sea.