Today was good. Today was fun. Damon and I kayaked around Dr. Seuss’ old neighborhood – La Jolla – the Jewel in San Diego’s crown. From Theodor Geisel’s former front yard – the Pacific Ocean – we traversed the length of the La Jolla Underwater Park, a protected marine sanctuary that stretches from the Scripps Pier down to the Children’s Cove. In between lies a protected kelp forest; seven wild, frothing sea caves; a upcrop of jagged, eroding sandstone cliffs; and rows of lean, lorax-looking palm trees.
La Jolla has always been a stunningly beautiful place. The wealth poured into the area over the past century has made it a world-renowned destination. But for all of the man-made upgrades – manicured lawns; million-dollar beach-front mansions; the esteemed Scripps Institute peering down like a wise, benevolent guardian from the hilltop above – Damon and I were still out of our element. Suddenly, we were on the sea, ‘ the unfathomable sea’, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, and I was apprehensive.
A kayak tour implies skill. Some athleticism. An adventuring spirit. None of which I’ve ever possessed. Endless veins of worry coursed through me as I tried to pull on my wetsuit. I would fall out of the kayak. Split open my innards on the craggy rocks. My sister’s inane fear of whales was a prophesy, and one of the mighty beasts would swallow me up like Jonah after all. It didn’t help that my blubber was as uncooperative as an unrolled sleeping bag, determined not to be crammed into the black, insulated suit. As soon as Damon succeeded in zipping me up the zipper split open spastically, as if capable of bursting into laughter all on its own. A bigger size was sheepishly requested, and retrieved from a room in the back.
Down at the water’s edge it was cold. Rainy, even. Jordan, our 22-year old tour guide, pushed us out beneath the gray skies and over the frothy waves with a laugh. ‘Relax, now. Have fun. Everything’s good out here. You’ll see.”
Damon jumped into joy immediately. “Woo-hoo!” he bellowed as our kayak arced sky-ward, over the breaking waves. I shot sea water out my mouth and spluttered, “There’s no whales, right?” Jordan paddled easily. “Not in this area. The kelp forest keeps out large predators, like whales and sharks, which is why there are so many sea lions here.”
Out beyond the break, I began to relax. The wet suit was holding me in, and keeping me warm. A cormorant caught a fish and ate it right in front of us. Sea lions barked and tussled with one another in the water not more than ten yards away. And that really was Dr. Seuss’ front yard right in front of us, the long, lean, lorax tree swaying every-so-gently in the rain.
We entered a sea cave and I was enchanted. “It’s just like the movies!” I thought. Then I reprogrammed myself – “No, Blue Lagoon is just like this!” Jordan took our photo with a waterproof camera and I actually felt a bit athletic and adventurous. And happy. We cruised over to the kelp forest and paused in the now calm waters.
Suddenly, with no warning, a sea-lion jumped out of the water, up between our two kayaks. It’s face was even with Jordan’s, and I saw him arch back in surprise. As the sea-lion splashed down underneath the water Jordan shrieked, “Holy Shit!” Damon and I gasped, too. Then we laughed. I couldn’t believe it. The sea-lion had emerged exactly as I had imagined the whale would, only I hadn’t been afraid. Rather, curious. “Is that really a sea-lion, right there in front of my face, checking us out?”
Sea lions swim silently at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, and for this reason they are used by the US Navy to attach clamps to underwater saboteurs so that the suspicious devices can be hauled in for inspection. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6653439/US-use-sea-lions-in-terrorism-fight.html What with their excellent underwater eyesight, as well, it is certain this sea-lion knew our kayaks were there. He was curious and keen to look us over – hence the silent, stealthy, “who are you?” attack.
This reminded me that we were in his yard, not ours. He had every right to check us out, didn’t he? The debate raging in La Jolla now is whether sea lions ought to be able to take over the Children’s Cove exclusively, or whether it should be preserved as a place for humans to swim and lounge. As Jordan told us with a laugh, “I don’t doubt who will win in the long run. The most protected animals in this sanctuary are the Homo sapiens.”
Adrift on the sea, I began to wonder: just who was out seeing whom? They say that possession is 9/10’s of the law, and obviously everyone would like to possess a bit of beachfront these days. But you can’t truly own a beach even if your house is parked there. Erosion and sea lions will still come a-knockin’. At some point a partnership of sorts must be arranged. If Damon and I want to pop down to La Jolla and cruise out into the water to check out the sea lions, we better be prepared to have them scope us out as well. If we want to stay married for nineteen years and kayak through the waves together, we better figure out how to row in synch. If we want to enjoy this planet, we better find a way to tread gently upon the Earth and share it with the rest of its inhabitants.
Today was good, today was fun,
A sea-lion met us in the sun
We rowed on by the lorax tree
Of Dr. Seuss, and you, and me
Yet now we’re tired, the day is done
Tomorrow is another one.
Another chance for you and me
To hold the hand of all we see
Today was good, Today was fun
Tomorrow is another one.
To share your yard, to share your tree
Good night, Dr. Seuss –
from little me.