A seal swam into the swimming bay last night, much closer than usual. At first I thought it was an old grey dog, and wondered who it belonged to, but a voice at the back of my head was saying, “I don’t think so.” A great big grey seal, swimming right where I was hoping to be in a few minutes. Usually they stay a bit farther out and watch. They don’t like to be watched back. If I turn my head away and peek out of the corner of my eye I can gain a bit of time, but if I look right towards them they’ll stare back for a minute and then slowly sink back down into the water and disappear, tipping their head up as they slide down so that their nose is the last part to go under. Certainly not easy to photograph, which is why the pictures above and those below were taken as I passed by them in a boat. They blinked and lifted their heads from their sun dozing. They’re a different animal when they’re on land chilling, and much lighter when their coats are sunbaked. Much easier to photograph though.
Other times when they’re farther out and doing more their own thing they float on top for a bit and then roll forward in a fluid luxurious movement, their back moving up and out of the water and then rolling back in. I love the smoothness and roundness of it, and the feeling somehow that I’ve been dismissed. Found to be not as interesting as getting back to seal stuff. Just how it should be, I’m thinking.
I have a memory of when my youngest was probably about six, and with a life jacket on was big enough to get out in the water by herself and far enough from shore and me to enjoy some of that mermaid freedom she was born into. She would kick out on her boogie board, following her brothers out to deeper water or, being the independent thing she is, just hanging out on her own. Soaking it in.
I loved watching from shore, or swimming out and around her, leaning up onto her board so that our heads were close and we could have a giggly sea talk, but being two separate swimmers.
Once when this was still pretty new I was watching her float astride the boogie board, her legs hanging down on either side into the water, facing out to sea, when a seal popped up just a little in front of her. I watched the seal watch my girl, and watched her from behind watch it back. I was outside of that moment. It was between those two, and it felt calm and peaceful and natural. Eventually the seal sank down underwater and the moment passed.
Another time I watched as the mermaid was the one out farther and I was looking at the back of a seal’s head, and the face of my little one taking it in. That one gave me a little more pause, the seal between the two of us, but still it felt like I was watching a curious, respectful silent conversation between two fellow sea creatures.
The odd time it’s been me in the water when a curious seal has come in close. There’s less watching, the seal disappears faster, and I’m left staring down into the water around me, wondering if a seal is doing a wide curve around my legs, just out of sight, and I’m never sure if that would be more nervous-making or wonderful.
A final type of seal. Much splashier.