Actually, all I could do is stare; mouth wide open getting angrier by the moment. At a distance, the lonely seal just looked out of place, separated from the community almost as if it was ostracized. A withdrawn seal among a community of seals – and I mean a community! They were laying all over each other, busy and active, barking and jawing each other. But not this one. This one was different. This one was detached. This one was declining.
I recently got home from spending a week at Moss Landing over the Thanksgiving holiday. Moss Landing is a small beach community about 10 miles north of Monterey on the central coast of California. It’s a striking place with rocky waterfronts, coarse, sandy shores and thousands of barking sea lions.
It was Thanksgiving day. My sister was busily preparing a wonderful feast complete with roasted turkey, wild rice and mashed potatoes. While she was crashing pots and pans in the kitchen, I wanted to witness crashing waves. I knew there was a dock full of sea lions about a mile away, near Elkhorn Slough, so Selena and I headed there lugging our cameras. We gingerly strolled up the pavement barely able to hear each other talk because of the noise and breeze produced by dozens of passing vehicles annoyingly hugging the shoulder. About the time you get to the bridge spanning the Slough is the about the time you start hearing barking seals. Halfway across the overpass you begin seeing literally hundreds of seals bathing in the sun. We quickly made our way to the jagged shoreline taking dozens of pictures of these extremely social mammals.
It was fun to watch them interact with each other. They were spry, energetic and playful. I wondered for a moment what an existence would be like with not much to care about other than when the next meal would be brought in by the tide. The next moment was spent observing the scars left from close encounters with propellers resident on many of their backs and sides. It was while I was agonizing over their disfigurement that I noticed one disunited, motionless seal fixed on the very edge of the dock. I had to get a closer look.
Aided by my new vantage point, I could see the problem; a wrapped fishing line had caused a one and a half inch laceration around the seals neck. It was dying; all because of the carelessness of a fisherman too preoccupied to care about the peril his monofilament, with a tensile strength greater than steel, would cause. My stomach turned as my spirit burned. Honestly, I cannot find the words to describe how angry I was at that moment.
As I was fantasizing about the slow, painful death of the careless fisherman with my steal-like hands wrapped around his neck, I was struck with a two by four of reality. I’m no better, except my carelessness doesn’t include fishing line. My imprint on the environment doesn’t look like a scar on the back of some seal in central California. My signature is left on nature every time I don’t turn the water off while I’m brushing my teeth or drinking coffee from a paper cup all because it’s more convenient than a washable mug. Every time I lazily leave lights on I’m wasting the resources of my world.
Today, I’m more “green” than I’ve ever been. I’m changing my life. I’m respecting the world that God created more today than I did before this painful experience. I’m shutting the water off when I brush my teeth. I’m turning lights off. I’m using a washable, ceramic mug to drink my coffee around my office. My footprint will be smaller now because of the careless death of a California Sea Lion. Will you join me?