Saturday, August 06, 2005


Written Yesterday.

Two pelicans glide over the gleam of the water. Pelicans mean business, when they fly. No erratic swooping for them. They fly in column, laboring at their flight like oarsmen in a galley, straight from source to destination. I've never seen one fishing. Presumably they break order, dawdle, and dart, as they fish, but I've never seen them at it in all my years here. I only see them voyaging, silent, solemn lines of five or ten, toiling from Devil's Punchbowl to Gull Rock, or from the Dutchman to Cape Foulweather. Usually at dusk, against the setting sun. I only see their sillouettes.

It's high tide, and the area of the seals' haulout has narrowed, so that they cluster together, like a careless heap of gray, brown and mottled white sacks of grain. They barely stir, when they're lying on the rocks. You'd think they were ill, or exhausted. One will occasionally drag itself a few inches, with a huge effort, and then collapse. Another will raise its head and bark hoarsely. Otherwise they lie inert.

Then one will struggle to the water, and launch itself off the rocks, and suddenly it's a lithe, fluent sea-creature, flashing sinuously through waves and between rocks, brief flashes of head and tail, otter-quick. The transformation always catches me by surprise.

The rampart of Gull Rock appears, hovers a while, and fades again into the fog. No whales this year. We've come too early. Even the year-rounders don't seem to be here.

And up until today, the day before we're going home, the sea has been meaningless to me. I've felt no awe and no pleasure. Sun, sand, wind, water -- they've been no different to me from streetlights, pavement, buildings, and traffic. I'm old enough not to be alarmed by this. It will come back, I thought. And I was right. Today the fitful gleams through the fog are intimations, and the endless wavering snare-drum-roll of the waves is a whisper of words to me. Unknown words, but words. I've never expected, after all, to know what they mean.

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