This info comes with a couple of cuties
Animals have half the answer.
They don’t worry, plan, or stress about abstract possibilities; they live in the present moment only, heeding past lessons but not dwelling on them. That’s humanity’s gift, and its curse. Our humanity, or at least our brains, is toxic to itself.
So take the animal’s half answer, and give up the worry, fear, and anxiety of these giant brains, but take humanity’s gamble and replace them with the positive potential of those big squishy lumps. Maybe that’s wisdom, maybe it’s compassion, peace, or oneness. Whatever else it is, I bet it’s Love.
And now that I’ve purged that train of thought that occupied me during my shower this morning, we can about animals.
West Cliff Drive’s swooping strip of strolling sweetness is anchored at one end by the Santa Cruz Wharf, which stretches just far enough into the chilly water to make swimming around it an impressive accomplishment. Under the far end are platforms whose original purpose may have been as docks, but which are now property of the sea lions (and elephant seals?), who snooze down there in giant puddles of themselves. You can hear their barks for miles, especially on a still night.
I imagine a substantial portion of the lesson is spent warning them not to paddle too far out, because then they’d reach Steamer Lane. A world class surf spot, if the waves at Steamer don’t kill an inexperienced person out there, the other surfers will.
Surfers are generally a high-spirited lot, but man oh man, do not get in their way when they’re doing their thing. Apparently when they stand up the tranquility runs off them faster than the saltwater.
(Jack O’Neill invented the modern wetsuit and leash at Steamer…and lost an eye out there.
No, I’m not kidding, and no I don’t know how.)
Drifting among the surfers (and probably amused by them) are my personal favorites, the sea otters. I find few things as relaxing as watching an otter lazily paddle around with the ease that speaks of utter comfort with one’s surroundings.
And because I know you are thirsty for factoids, sea otters are the largest species in their Family, which includes weasels and badgers. Yes, it’s a swimming badger, so don’t piss it off.
You may already know they use rocks to break prey like abalone or urchins off their perches and break open the shells, making them one of the few animals to use tools. But did you know they have a little pouch of skin under each of their forelegs where they hold food and their chosen rock while they’re swimming around? Me neither. And according to Wikipedia, they prefer to use the one on the left. Because if you’re an animal that amazing, you’re allowed to have eccentricities.
They are also rare among sea mammals in that they don’t rely on blubber to stay warm, instead they have the thickest hair in the entire animal kingdom, with nearly one million hairs per square inch. Yes you read that right. Even with hair that thick, the water out there’s a cold place to live, so sea otters eat 25-38% if their own body weight daily. Food can be digested and passed in three hours. And no, I’m not going to make a joke about Indian food now.
And just in case you didn’t realize they’re adorable, they will sometimes hold hands while they sleep. Not enough? After hours of being groomed, a baby otter’s fur is sometimes so fuzzy, fluffy, and full of air that they “float like a cork and cannot dive.”
Every so often you can see a whale spout in the bay, though it’s hard to tell them from wind-whipped white-caps sometimes. Gray whales swim closest to shore, and March is the peak month for their northward migration. There are also humpbacks and blues out there, the latter being the largest animal to ever live on Earth.
Of all the living things in the oceans, which would you say are the most popular? Who sells the most posters, stuffed animals, and tickets to Sea World? (No, not Great Whites, though yes, we have them too, though you’ll never see one.) What marine species gives humans the strongest, immediate, and instinctive sense of reverence and joy?
You can always tell there’s a pod of dolphins when the people on the path stop, stare, then smile.
A lot of the time they’re actually seeing porpoises, which despite an inexplicably lower popularity are still amazing animals. As a matter of fact, I suddenly feel a tad defensive on behalf of these remarkable cetaceans. Just because they didn’t get their own TV show when you were a kid doesn’t mean they’re boring, you know.
Dall’s Porpoises are out in the Bay here, and they are one of the fastest, most maneuverable cetaceans in the world. I bet they could alert the authorities, catch a crook, and save a drowning boy every bit as fast as that Hollywood show-off…
But who am I kidding, there is something about dolphins. The awesomeness that comes to mind is the “common” dolphin. Common? There’s a sunset every day too, but I still stop and watch.
This blogging thing is particularly enjoyable tonight, since I just learned that there are Northern Rightwhale Dolphins swimming around out there, which are a species with no dorsal fin. I wonder if they are sometimes mistaken for seals…on PCP.
And more! Have you ever heard of Rissos Dolphins? You have now. And why will you remember them? Because they can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and be 13.5 feet long. Now that’s a dolphin.
After that I almost don’t feel I need to mention the killer whales…
And to think, I started this post intending to talk mostly about birds.