"Shuuuureeeee!" Starting low down in the tenor range, then climbing to a hoarse squeal, odd screeching cries of seagulls echoed from fog-soaked rooftops, cement pilings and desultory reaches of the shore. Dew and spattering runoff sprayed from rusted downspouts to the dampened streets and sidewalks alike. The ocean looked as flat as a big smooth pond, tranquil and very quiet.
I was out early for a walk at the shore. The tide at 7:30 this morning was -1.1 and the swell was only 1-2 feet. Waves were less than one foot high. That translates to a sea that's slick as glass. Seaweed, sea anemones and starfish were naked and exposed to air far above the water level, rarely seen shoreline that's only visible two or three times a year.
When the ocean is that quiet, small sounds made out on the water are easy to hear. I saw kayakers offshore paddling slowly through kelp beds and sitting still, fishing from their craft. When I stood still, I could hear the click and bump of their oars. Small wavelets shushed and lapped on the beach sand.
At that hour, the rocky shore and bits of beach here and there were abandoned, still and quiet. For once, there weren't any otters in sight. Gangs of sea lions whose bellowing barks echoed off the hillsides, lay about in heaps and piles at the base of the Coast Guard Pier, hundreds and hundreds of them. A buoy anchored half a mile offshore bobbed ever so slightly in the swell. Its bell sounded mournful and listless, a muffled clang. The gloom of the chilling fog penetrated every sense, flattened the light, subdued ambition. No one was about.
Chilled and a little spooked by the unusual quiet, I kept moving, exploring the shore, beachcombing. Remembering warm days at other shorelines, it was clear that with a splash of sunlight everything would have been transformed, dazzling. As it was, it felt like huddled expectation, as if a performance were being prepared.
I was slipping between sheets and layers of time this morning, with the world holding its breath, ready to exhale and then get back to the more common dimensions of time and energy. Any initiative for change would have to come from offshore, miles away. The soft gonging clamor of the buoy offshore continued to ring, and sealife was murmuring to itself, becalmed as the sea itself. Stillness prevailed and required me to accept that quietude was enough, in and of itself. No further events were to occur. It was just a simply peaceful and very quiet time, the very essence of living silence.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way