A month ago, my son turned 10, and in the time since, I have been reflecting on just how much I have received in the lessons learned in these ten years; for him life and for me, a decade of Momming. Parenting. Learning. Stumbling. Loving. Questioning. Doubting. Knowing. Crying. Savoring.
I can remember looking at myself in the mirror, when pregnant, staring at that face looking back at me, and telling the woman in the mirror: You are going to be a mom. You will have this little person who is going to need you. There will be feet running through this house soon. You are going to be a mother. YOU. YOU? You can barely keep a house plant alive, just how do you plan to do this?
Looking back, I recall all of the cliches that have been shared with me over the years. And, they are all true: It’s a wonderful experience. It’s the toughest job you will ever have. You will never love anyone as much as your child. It all goes by so fast, appreciate each moment. You think you are tired now?
I have had all of that. And more.
…I, for the first time, see myself in another.
…I stop dead in my tracks on some days when I remember that I am not raising a child, I am raising a PERSON.
…I am humbled by this person, and a few years ago I stood back and looked at him and could see him as not just my son, but as someone I would want to know if I were not his mom.
…This person has a sense of humor that rivals many adults I know; the spark in his eye and the cackle in his laugh emerged at the ripe old age of 3 weeks.
…This person has a wise old soul that understands – and articulates thoughts – that make me wonder where he’s been all these years.
…This person has a threshold of emotion that manifests itself outwardly in ways that matches mine, on the inside. I am proud of him for feeling safe and secure to not hold back, hard as it is on some days.
…This person has a brain that works in all directions; its only a matter of time before it’s going in circles around mine.
…This person pushes my buttons, tests my patience, wears me out and turns me inside out.
…This person knows me; warts and all. And loves me.
…This person has taught me more than I knew there was to learn.
I know without question that I am a better, stronger, wiser, woman for having this now still little, but shifting – if only barely perceptibly – right before my very eyes, into this amazing person to call my son.
I have had to learn to dig deep to find the patience in my core, because I want this person to feel safe in who he is.
I have learned to learn to stop and listen and ask, so that he knows that no matter what, he can trust me. About anything. Anytime.
I have learned to say yes as much as possible; and to mean it when I say no.
It is clear to me that no matter how much I dig hanging out, rocking-out or laughing until our bellies ache with my son, I am here to be his parent, not his friend. He has his. I have mine.
I have come to recognize myself in new ways because this person mirrors my best and worst.
I have learned that I love us both more for that.
To the next ten…
Ambiguity & Idiosyncrasies
For those who love the philosophy of ambiguity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of English…
…Enjoy a little wordy nerdy witty wordplay!
- ONE TEQUILA, TWO TEQUILA, THREE TEQUILA…… FLOOR.
- ATHEISM IS A NON-PROPHET ORGANIZATION.
- IF MAN EVOLVED FROM MONKEYS AND APES, WHY DO WE STILL HAVE MONKEYS AND APES?
- I WENT TO A BOOKSTORE AND ASKED THE SALESWOMAN, “WHERE’S THE SELF- HELP SECTION?” SHE SAID IF SHE TOLD ME, IT WOULD DEFEAT THE PURPOSE.
- WHAT IF THERE WERE NO HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS?
- IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM?
- WHERE DO FOREST RANGERS GO TO “GET AWAY FROM IT ALL?”
- WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE AN ENDANGERED ANIMAL EATING AN ENDANGERED PLANT?
- IF A PARSLEY FARMER IS SUED, CAN THEY GARNISH HIS WAGES?
- WOULD A FLY WITHOUT WINGS BE CALLED A WALK?
- WHY DO THEY LOCK GAS STATION TOILETS? ARE THEY AFRAID SOMEONE WILL BREAK-IN AND CLEAN THEM?
- IF A TURTLE DOESN’T HAVE A SHELL, IS HE HOMELESS OR NAKED?
- CAN VEGETARIANS EAT ANIMAL CRACKERS?
- IF THE POLICE ARREST A MUTE, DO THEY TELL HIM HE HAS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT?
- WHY DO THEY PUT BRAILLE ON THE DRIVE-THROUGH BANK MACHINES?
- HOW DO THEY GET DEER TO CROSS THE ROAD ONLY AT THOSE YELLOW ROAD SIGNS?
- WHAT WAS THE BEST THING BEFORE SLICED BREAD?
- ONE NICE THING ABOUT EGOTISTS: THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE.
- DOES THE LITTLE MERMAID WEAR AN ALGEBRA? (This one took me a minute)
- HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A CIVIL WAR?
- IF ONE SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMER DROWNS, DO THE REST DROWN TOO?
- IF YOU ATE BOTH PASTA AND ANTIPASTO, WOULD YOU STILL BE HUNGRY?
- IF YOU TRY TO FAIL, AND SUCCEED, WHICH HAVE YOU DONE?
- WHOSE CRUEL IDEA WAS IT FOR THE WORD ‘LISP’ TO HAVE ‘S’ IN IT?
- WHY ARE HEMORRHOIDS CALLED “HEMORRHOIDS” INSTEAD OF “ASSTEROIDS”?
- WHY IS IT CALLED TOURIST SEASON IF WE CAN’T SHOOT AT THEM?
- WHY IS THERE AN EXPIRATION DATE ON SOUR CREAM?
- IF YOU SPIN AN ORIENTAL MAN IN A CIRCLE THREE TIMES, DOES HE BECOME DISORIENTED?
- CAN AN ATHEIST GET INSURANCE AGAINST ACTS OF GOD?
- WHY DO SHOPS HAVE SIGNS, ‘GUIDE DOGS ONLY’, THE DOGS CAN’T READ AND THEIR OWNERS ARE BLIND?
Which one is your favorite? :)
“The open mind and the receptive heart – which are at last with fortune’s smile the informed mind and the experienced heart - are to be gained anywhere, any time, without necessarily moving an inch from any present address.”
- Eudora Welty
A few mind bending and heart opening finds from around the world found from the front row seat at my own computer screen.
Is your mind open and your heart receptive?
14-year-old Zev from Natick, Massachusetts, has taken the photography world by storm with his surreal photo manipulations. Better known by the nickname of ‘fiddle oak’, Zev presents a highly imaginative portfolio of surreal self-portraits, which he created together with his sister Nellie (aged 17). His work seems to mirror the transition from the fairy-tale childhood worlds into those that are way more complicated and still unknown. Websites: fiddleoak.wordpress.com, flickr, and http://www.demilked.com/surreal-self-portraits-14-year-old-fiddle-oak/
SUSAN SONTAG ON LOVE
The recently released volume of Susan Sontag’s diaries, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980, is a treasure trove of insight — on writing, on censorship, on aphorisms — from the deepest corners of one of the greatest minds in modern history. But besides her extraordinary intellect, what made Sontag a force of nature was also her complex and ever-evolving emotional perception, brimming with extreme self-awareness and keen reflection on her relationships with others.
“Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.”
source: Brain Pickings
VANISHED: THE SIXTY-YEAR SEARCH FOR THE MISSING MEN OF WORLD WAR II
The B-24, a WWII bomber, is nearly 70 feet long with a wingspan of more than 100 feet. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to find something that big, but in September 1944 a B-24 went down with its crew of 11 in the Pacific and remained hidden there for nearly seven decades. Hylton’s gripping book begins with a modern-day mystery. Did Tommy Doyle’s father, who was a member of the B-24’s crew, actually survive the crash and live a new life with a new family? Tommy’s wife, searching for an answer, located a man named Pat Scannon, explorer, wreck-hunter, seeker of lost WWII gold, who had been looking for the very same plane for the past six years. Combining the modern-day search for the missing plane and the stories of its crew as they prepared for what would be their last flight, the book is both the tale of an exciting scientific expedition and a little-known WWII story.
“I told my agent I wanted to do a book because I just wanted to find out what the hell did happen with Tommy’s dad,” he says. If this West Texas football coach who had broken down crying was representative of any significant portion of the families of 47,000 men lost in the Pacific, then “there was something big, some big epidemic of this particular kind of grief that I’d never heard about.” - Wil S. Hylton
Excellent Article on the story, it’s author and the book
It’s already downloaded to my Kindle.
Happy weekend. Happy exploring.
Be open. Be receptive.
I have worked with college age adults since, I was, well, just barely no longer a college age adult myself. And while not chronologically that many years ahead of them; I’d had life experiences that set me apart in ways that felt like light years. Some days, I would hear little pangs within myself; little pangs of envy at what seemed so simple, so fresh, so ready for possibility. I was putting things back together for me, so to speak, and at the same time helping them find their way. I realized years later how we truly helped each other.
Along with programs and events, my work entailed just spending time, talking, listening. Hearing their worries. It ranged from homesickness, to college majors, which fork in the spiritual path to follow; quiet conversations about where families went wrong and the years of wondering how to cope. Some made progress; for some the struggle continued. With each student, I would listen; we’d laugh. I knew a lot of stories.
The most consistent lament that stood at the threshold of my office was that of love; it hadn’t arrived, it had gone wrong already, it had shown up and then went away. It was unrequited; I knew one young man who so painstakingly tried to pursue each of three beautiful young women, sisters, who one by one all came to attend this same university. As each one arrived in her freshman year, I saw his heart expand with a little bit more hope each time, only to be dashed. I also often witnessed the exquisite joy when two sets of eyes met and never looked away and the great weddings in subsequent years.
I remember a few young women in particular who were just heartsick that the completion of their ‘Mrs. Degree’ was not going according to their much anticipated plans. Having been bounced around a bit, in the love department; I wanted them to realize that there is no rush. That they had so much good in their lives and to not come at this with fears of never and what-ifs. I ended up coming up with a phrase I ultimately used over and over; if you gotta hurry, you gotta worry. What’s the rush I would ask them. Why the need to fast track this?
I think all of us want to know what’s coming next.
The other day, a friend of mine updated her Facebook status to say: ”Why is waiting so hard?” I don’t have any idea if she was waiting for medical results, a pizza delivery or the departure day for a special trip. But her question caught my attention.
I think we all push the envelope in terms of wanting some kind of security in our lives; and for many of us, the security is in the knowing.
We are rewarded these days, by being in a hurry all of the time, and rushing on to the next big thing, rarely allowing ourselves to even fully realize, much less enjoy or savor that which we finished. TV and media of all kinds reinforce this quick pace and so when things move slowly, or perhaps seemingly not at all; I think it’s safe to say that we all struggle somewhat with not knowing what’s around the next corner; or what things mean, exactly.
We often want it all spelled out for us.
Another way of saying, perhaps, how difficult it is sometimes to just wait. No matter the reason for waiting – news, good or bad, a special day, a blossoming romance to blossom, wondering if we got the job – I love both the knowing and the wisdom found in the words that John Steinbeck wrote to his son more than 50 years ago, with sage advice in the form of an eloquent and intimate letter between father and son, about the importance of not being in a hurry…
New York November 10, 1958
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.
First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
What do you do, when you meet someone and walk away from the conversation and a little voice inside says, ‘we need to help her’?
You listen, is what you do.
And you talk about it with someone who is willing to listen to you.
Listen to you share your feeling of being moved by another human being and their misfortune, difficulty, hardship, heartbreak.
You risk feeling vulnerable about caring so much.
You push past the feelings of uncertainty.
And, you listen to those who encourage you to not lose the moment, to not let it pass.
And then, you do something about it. Get busy. Make something happen.
That’s what happened to me two weeks ago, and it’s one of those things that will leave an imprint on me forever. One of those moments.
Two weeks ago, I was in my neighborhood grocery store and true to form, (I talk to just about anyone) I struck up a conversation with the gal at the check-out. I was in a great mood, it was a Friday night and I had company coming for the weekend. I was there to buy fun food for snacking. Engaging with the woman at the cash register, we slipped easily into conversation about feeling tired, end of the day, end of the week, end of her shift. Recognizing her exhaustion, I asked if she had little ones at home to attend to when the work day came to a close at ten pm later that night. She responded that no, she does not but that she has one on the way, as she gently patted her rounded belly that I had not noticed before. We moved easily into the language between two women who share the wondrous experience of motherhood – no matter that she’s at the wee stages and I am on the cusp of having a decade of motherhood behind me. We are the same, bonded, in that moment. I recognize her fatigue.
I ask questions, and the story spills out of her, bit by bit. She’s on her own in this maze of motherhood she has only just entered. I gingerly ask about support from the baby’s father; not so much. I ask about family support; not so much. I ask about friends, girl friends, someone? She confides that yes, there are a couple of friends on hand, there for her. And that she’s going to have to move. And that she can’t continue with this job, it’s just too physical. Underneath the utterly delightful smile and despite it all, such happy eyes, I can see her exhaustion. She’s on her feet nine hours a day for her job. I can sense in her the looming questions of ‘how is all of this supposed to work’?. Something inside me pinged and panged. I wanted, I needed, to know, that she’s going to be ok. It was just way too easy to insert myself into that place of alone-ness. And only later did I realize that It scared the hell out of me.
I left the store, looking back at her and smiling and said, straight to her, “I will be thinking about you.”
I just had no idea how much.
I walked home in the warm fall evening and that little voice said to me, ‘We need to help her” and I had the idea of just putting it out there on Facebook. See what happens. Then something in me started to second guess myself. And then, I was swept up in the busy-ness of the weekend, but though the voice inside was nearly drowned out with other activities and conversations, it kept whispering to me. I shared this experience with my guest and in a quiet, simple comment the message to not let this pass was conveyed. I heard him.
And I didn’t. Let it pass. I wish I didn’t have to say that for some reason I still hesitated, but I do. I hesitated. Why? Perhaps that is for another day, because this story is much larger than that. I pushed beyond and posted a note on my Facebook wall sharing this encounter, with a gentle invitation to my friends if they also felt compelled.
What happened next still gets me. Within hours, more than a dozen of friends from around the country responded. PayPal started hopping, requests for my mailing address started and i was again moved, as I watched this take shape before my very eyes. I hesitated? How could I have second guessed this goodness?
By week’s end, nearly twenty of my trusted friends – who in turn trusted me, trusted my instincts – came forward so readily, with amounts ranging from $10 to $100 each. In the end, our pennies all put together really added up. I was moved at each turn in this process. Amazed by the momentum. Standing back in awe that others saw what I saw. Graced by the opportunity be part of something far larger than me. And that my kiddo could witness this greatness unfold over the course of just a couple of days.
I took Kiddo with me and we went to see her. As she walked out from the back of the store, we were met by those same happy eyes and a beautiful smile. She recognized me but had no idea what was coming. I simply asked her if she remembered that I had said that I would be thinking of her. She nodded, a bit perplexed. I handed her two envelopes; one a card with a message from me and the list of first names (and their city) of everyone who jumped on board with me; and a Target gift card for $500. Yes, $500. That will buy a lot of diapers. Or binkies. Or toys. Or whatever she needs. Wow.
The hugs. The smile. The gratitude. The tears.
Words like miracle. Angels. Gift. Grace.
I was adamant that this was not about me but she insisted on getting my phone number; saying she wants to keep in touch with me and the next day I received the most beautiful, moving, transparent and articulate voice message. It is still on my phone. I am certain that this woman, and her baby [oh, it's a boy!] will somehow be part of our lives for a long time.
How could I have hesitated?
What do you do when a little voice inside says, ‘we should help her?”
You listen, is what you do.
It’s a common comment among those of us who have been fortunate to have found a sense of, albeit unexpected, community by way of blogging. Finding kindred spirits in the spaces between the keys on our keyboards, by simply joining the conversation, one often started in the quiet of our minds, one that sometimes feels that it is just between our keyboards and fingers. We come across the words of another and find a resonance, something that feels familiar, puts words to something we have felt or experienced but haven’t yet found a way to articulate, or knew that we even could.
It is not news to say, that friendships have been formed, and bonds created, because we dare greatly, in this space. At least, I know that I do. I risk sharing from a place that often finds no other outlet.
To me, blogging is one dimensional at this point. We write. We read.
If we are lucky our words jump off the screen and into the mind and thoughts of another. Even luckier, when as writers, we find out that our words, strung together like a strand of popcorn on a holiday tree, have an impact on at the very least, one other soul.
Connections are formed, and bonds begin to weave a web throughout blogland. Across miles, states, cities, time zones and even the international date line. We start to recognize each other in ways that both surprisingly and not surprisingly at all, feel so familiar.
Then, with some, we start to go beyond the boundaries of blogland, when we go off blog, ironically. When we realize that our posts, comments and the extra layers of conversation compel us to somehow require more conversation. More than can be contained or conveyed in a comment.
In jumping over state lines from comments to emails and messages, our blogs become two dimensional.
Last year I created my virtual bloggin’ road trip because I knew I needed to know some of these incredible people, I really wanted to take blogging into the third dimension and found the closest way to achieve this, if only virtually. If I could, I would in a New York minute load up my little Triumph and hit the open road, and ring some doorbells.To allow the opportunity for real time talk. In person.
I have just returned home from a trip down the east coast, working my way from NYC through Pennsylvania, and Delaware to end up in Northern Virginia, aka, Mimi’s neighborhood by way of planes, trains and automobiles. I emerged from Union Station in DC, with no need of a taxi or metro because instead, Waiting for me was Mimi and the awesome Karma Truck! Guys, it’s as awesome as it seems!
What a cool moment, seeing her petite but magnanimous self waving at me from behind the wheel as I made my way to her with my 6’4″ nephew in tow, carrying my suitcase like a true young gentleman. He’s studying at one of my old stomping grounds and I got to buy a poor starving college student a couple of beers at a fancy bar in a fantastic city.
Quick introductions between Michael and Mimi – imagine introducing someone that you are only just meeting?! Fun! And then quick goodbyes between Michael and I.
How does one describe what happens next? Let’s just say it was awesome. How’s that? Kind of surreal too, let’s be honest, to be inches away, and hear the voice behind the sentences on the screen. The eyes twinkling. The smile on Mimi can light up a room! The mannerisms, the inflection. The conversation that was already real, just got that much more real. And true to form, Mimi wasted no time. In moments, we launched into a conversation that had been started and interrupted on email…Mimi just says, “ok, there is a lot to catch up on. Tell me about…” and off we went. Words flying back and forth. Nodding. Hmm-mmm-ing. Laughing. Agreement. Clarification. More. Stories. Then, I got to meet Bogey and the Sirs. And Andy. And get a real sense of the amazing person driving that amazing Karma Truck. It was worth waiting for.
In the comfort of Mimi’s kitchen, it was blogging in in 3-D! Face to face. In the same room. Sustained conversation that flowed naturally and freely. I found myself realizing that the posts we have each written and read, are already part of our shared history. As if we had told those stories at that very kitchen table. When the frame of reference predates the time of meeting.
At the end of our visit, while taking Bogey out to do his business, I asked Mimi if she had been nervous at all, about my visit. She was not. I was. But not for the reasons you might suspect. Friends of mine who do not blog, expressed mild surprise with my plan to visit- and stay – with someone I had never met in person. I tried to explain this community we have, but it’s just not easy. You may have found yourself trying to do the same at some point, and if you have found a way to convey all of this, let me know. Please? I was nervous that in real life, in the third dimension, that I would not be the person she had come to know in the first and second dimensions. That I would possibly disappoint. Mimi has answered that, eloquently and exquisitely, as no one but her can.
I will gladly hop aboard the Karma Truck anytime, or wave it down with open arms if I see her come rolling down my street! Thank you Mimi, and yes, Friend:Good. Very good.
It seems that over the last week, I have heard such heart breaking stories from every angle: a terminally ill young child, an astoundingly dedicated and innovative teacher who gives his heart to his students in incredibly creative ways, and then returns home each day to care for his achingly affected son; a young man raising money for his aunt who has been diagnosed with cancer; a regular person putting a crackled heart back together, a mom who struggles with her own kiddo, a friend who finds out the job he loves is not his anymore.
It goes on all around us; all of us, we each have a story.
And it’s true, being in touch with what is happening around us, really does help us keep things in perspective. How often do we hear about the circumstances of others, and then comment, “well, that sure put things in perspective!” realizing that the (fill in the blank here) we were fretting about really isn’t that bad. It’s reminded me that it’s not just a matter of remembering that somehow someone has it worse off than we do; it’s the importance of keeping it at the front side of our brain how good we do have it. Seeing things through a lens of abundance. Remembering that our pity-party hats are the most flattering when worn by the hat-rack. And, it seems that it’s just a good reminder to just simply remember to keep our ears tuned in to each other, our hearts soft for the person next to us; staying with the pulse of all that goes on around us.
Because it’s so very true; we all have holes…and yet, we all carry on.
Holes, by Passenger on their album, All the Little Lights
A quiet Sunday stretches out before me; a day full of nothing, but well, nothing. Plans have not been made. The to-do lists of what needs to be done have agreed to be patient with me on this day. Always busy, and on the go, mostly by choice, I heartily welcome this day as does one who is just about to enjoy a perfectly created favorite meal set before them; anxious to dig in and yet desiring to savor every last bit, not wanting it to end.
In these moments, quiet as can be, I hear so much. No television, no music. But yet, so much.
I can hear the season finally starting to change from summer to fall; the gentle shift in the air makes an exquisite sound.
The leaves high in the trees tell me there is an easy breeze to this day.
The shadows, dancing across the grass, are the back up singers to this song; I can almost hear the way the getting-more-golden-by-the-day light of this early autumn day bounces.
My own thoughts in my head, make a variety of sounds; bumping, groaning and popping. Normally much noisier in there than it is today.
Memories sliding, shifting, and in some cases, readjusting. Settling. Resting.
The thundering of a jet high above, transporting people to places far and wide; I conjure the noise of an airport terminal in my mind and appreciate even more the stillness of this moment.
Birds squawking and chirping; carrying on fascinating and important conversations with one another.
Voices of neighbors in nearby homes, all living their own interesting lives, so different and yet so near, to my own.
The hum of cars passing by my urban dwelling, each carrying someone thinking their own thoughts on their way to somewhere. Do they ever have these kinds of quiet days, I wonder?
The clink of of collars and tags jingling as our four-legged friends are taken for a walk down my street.
Yes, it is a quiet Sunday, stretching out before me. And somehow, time seems suspended, and instead of fearing the nothingness, I sit in awe of the everythingness.
On the last leg of the road trip, I took the long way home, the one with the prettiest of views…
We decided to drive up the coast of California and it was a stunningly beautiful coastal day; a mix of just the right amount of fog to punctuate the otherwise hardly detectable difference between the ocean blue and blue skies. For awhile, we cruised behind a zippy red sports car and we tried to keep up, imagining that we were them! But, before too long, we lost them, as we made the first of many stops along the way to take in the view. What we found at this stop was the perfect beginning to the ending of a wonderful vacation.
It truly ‘sealed’ the deal for us.
Along California’s central coast is a population of Elephant Seals. Turns out, we passed by during the quiet time of the year; hundreds of the seals were lounging about on the beach, but come January through May? The ‘rookery’ as it is called, will be home to thousands of these guys and gals.
Elephant Seals spend eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, diving 1000 to 5000 feet deep for periods of fifteen minutes to two hours, surfacing for maybe 3-5 minutes before plunging to the depths again. They migrate thousands of miles, twice a year, to their land based rookery for birthing, breeding, molting and rest. The rookery we saw is along Highway 1, seven miles north of San Simeon and is home to about 17,000 animals.
When you think of hanging out on the beach, wouldn’t you think of snacks, roasting hot dogs, enjoying a beer? Right? Well, not the 5,000 lb elephant seals. They go on a diet while on land, and when on the beach, they do not eat.
The adult animals come on to the beach in the winter for the birthing and breeding season with adult males arriving in late November or early December when they contest for a dominant position on the beach. Winners in that contest are referred to as alpha males or beach masters. Funny, some things are so similar across different species…
Another interesting similarity? The peak of mating is around Valentine’s Day. And then, the females leave.
The Elephant seals form harems, in which the dominant, or alpha, male is surrounded by a group of females. Mother Nature’s Bachelor show? On the periphery of the harem, the beta bulls wait in hopes of an opportunity to mate. They assist the alpha bull in keeping away the less dominant males. Fights between males can be bloody affairs in which the combatants rear up and slam their bodies against each other, slashing with their large canine teeth. However, not all confrontations end in battle. Rearing up on their hindquarters, throwing back their heads, showing off the size of their noses and bellowing threats is enough to intimidate most challengers.
The rookery is a very noisy place during the breeding season as males bellow threat vocalizations, pups squawk to be fed, and females squabble with each other over prime location and pups. Kind of just like families, right? Gargles, grunts, snorts, belches, bleats, whimpers, squeaks, squeals, and the male trumpeting combine to create the elephant seal symphony of sound.
What is an elephant seal? A deep-sea diver, a long distance traveler, an animal that fasts for long periods of time, elephant seals are extraordinary. They come together on land to give birth, mate, and molt but at sea they are solitary. Tremendous demands are placed on their bodies.
Yep, sealed the deal for us!