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I stared deep into the dark green eyes of the seal that was lying on my surf board. She looked as if she were trying to tell me something. Her glossy grey coat glowed in the moonlight, and her whiskers twitched in the sea breeze. I could only wonder what she was thinking. Was she confused or just curious? Was this a threat or just a hello? Shocked and confused myself, I couldn’t decide whether to pet or push her. But before I could do either, she gave one big snort and scooted off my board into the sea. I looked around wanting to tell someone of this phenomenon, but I was all alone on this moonlit night.
Sifting my hands through the cold water and the slimy kelp, I paddled out towards the waves that were imploding off Santa Cruz’s Pleasure Point. Every full moon I go night surfing, sometimes with a friend, sometimes by myself. This time I was alone. As I paddled out, I calmly observed my surroundings. Off in the distance, the fog horn resonated in the harbor. To my left, waves smacked up against the rocky cliffs that were covered in muscles. I looked out into the Pacific, watching the reflection of the moonlight bob up and down with the incoming swell. I felt very purified and appreciative. This was my designated time away from home, time for me and the environment I love. Splash! There she was again, the seal surfaced just feet away. I began jokingly talking to her. “What do you want, buddy?” But before she could respond, she gently submerged into the water. The seal made me feel comfortable; I was the only surfer out, but at least I wasn’t alone. I caught a few waves and paddled out to the point to be welcomed by the seal again. This time she had her pup with her. Knowing how territorial seals can be with their young, I kept my distance, observing them from far. The mother dove down while the pup just floated looking very chubby and fluffy. I felt honored to be witnessing such a display of nature. They seemed so innocent and gentle. I wanted to talk to them, know more about them and their world. What were their lives like? How did they survive? What were their concerns?
I’ve been around the ocean my whole life. I’ve studied biology and marine life for years. I’ve watched seals play and sea lions fight. But as I observed these seals that night I became enlightened. I realized that I may know a lot about this mammal, where it’s from, how it sleeps, what it eats. But all this information is useless without an appreciation for existence. I constantly find myself swirling around in a madness of academics, sports, and commitments, rarely taking the time to appreciate what God has given me – family, friends, school, health.
As a surfer and as a student, it’s very humbling to know that I could spend a lifetime studying animals and reading textbooks, but I will never be able to capture complete knowledge or complete understanding without complete appreciation. Observation may lead to knowledge, but knowledge is wasted without gratitude.
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