My car's headlight was out - or so I thought - so I took it over to the mechanic's garage and dropped it off for repairs, bracing myself for the bill by walking down to the ocean, two blocks away.
Places around town are referenced by saying you go up to the store or down to the ocean; everything's on a slope. You can walk around, goat-like on the horizontal from one place to another, but a lot of the terrain around here is up or down. Well, that's an aside I guess. But, if you're on a bicycle you're very aware of the up-ness and down-ness of your route - your legs are telling you things about the terrain you never pay attention to in a car.
So, I was down at the ocean and noticed the titanium blue of the water, the healthy swell coming in and then heard a little squalling voice. Just like I'd heard before last month at the Monastery Beach shoreline, it was a little sea otter pup yelling for its mother. Mom was close by and scooted right over to the anxious pup, and they put their heads together and jostled in the waves until Junior was calmed again.
The little sea otter was about 18-24 inches long and the mother was fully mature (a gray muzzle clues you in to maturity in sea otters), probably 36-40 inches long. In order to get a good photo of a sea otter, you need a pretty long lens and a tripod to keep shake to a minimum. They're active animals, constantly diving to the bottom to look for shellfish. They bring up rocks, too, and bash the shellfish open on a rock held on their chest. It's an effective technique for opening up thick shells. Then they dig in and devour the soft interior meat. On quiet days you can hear the clacking sound of shell hitting rock and then their loud crunching as they chomp the seafood.
Cormorants, swimming low in the water, were diving for fish using their wings to propel them down to the bottom in the uprising swell of big waves. Our ocean is not always clear, but lately it has been and when the swell is less vigorous you can see areas on the bottom that are sandy interspersed with rocks and kelp as well as other intertidal plant life. Sometimes a big swell stands up and seems to pause before it crests and then collapses against the shoreline rocks. As it stands there, you can see seals or the diving birds swimming in the blue-green water as if they're in an aquarium.
The Recreation Trail is one of the few horizontal and relatively flat routes for joggers, walkers and cyclists to use easily. Generally my progress is slow because the shoreline that parallels the trail is so incredibly distracting. Today, I found myself idly squinting out at a stout fishing boat powering toward the Monterey harbor or one of the sea otters or harbor seals working the shore, but then my mind wandered to all sorts of other things, and I lost track of time and everything else as the rumbling surf lulled the morning's ambition right out of me.
My mechanic called me and said the headlight was fine, none of the lights needed to be replaced. Well, okay then. Hmmm, I guess I was dreaming. The shore walk was refreshing; I would have missed it if the headlight had not fooled me. Or did I dream the whole thing? I wish I had dreams like this all the time.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way