Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seal encounter

When I took the dog out to the beach this morning, there appeared to be a dead baby seal beside one of the logs that had washed up in the night.  Since the dog is virtually blind, it was easy to steer him in another direction, but once he was safely back in the house I went back to take a picture, worrying all the while about what might have killed the seal and where I should report it. 

But when I stepped off the boardwalk to take a closer look (thinking I would photograph it) I realized it was breathing.  My initial reaction was delight, but then it opened its huge dark eyes (it's odd how terrifying eyes can seem when there are no pupils) and we both realized we were too close to each other.

I pulled out my camera anyway, trying to get a shot before she skittered off, but by the time I had adjusted the light she was almost in the water.  She did look back at me briefly, but I suspect either my camera or my glasses frightened her; she dove in and swam away.

Later, nursing my coffee at the dining room table, I found myself wondering if I could have handled that confrontation differently -- crept up more slowly, noticed the rise and fall of the chest sooner, taken off my glasses, set aside the camera -- if there were something I could have done to reassure her that I meant her no harm.  And I realized my autopilot had taken over yet again ("get a picture, get a picture"). 

It's amazing how strong those autonomic response/defenses are, despite all our efforts to the contrary.  They seem to kick in whenever we are frightened or surprised -- I mean, think about it: How many times have you reacted in situations without thinking, and then later wished you'd said or done something completely different? 

I keep hoping my meditation practice will defuse those response systems, enabling me to be more present in the moment, even under stress.  And some part of me believes the whole earth would benefit if more of us could achieve that.  But clearly I still have work to do...


Maureen said...

The image you did get is remarkably moving (at least to me). I'm so glad the seal was alive. There are so many circumstances that might have made its moment on the beach tragic.

Your post calls to mind the importance of being aware of how we are always in relationship, sometimes chosen, sometimes not, frequently freighted, too often taken for granted.

Louise Gallagher said...

I like what Maureen wrote -- we are always in relationship with our environment, surroundings, eachother.

I don't know if how you handled this was wrong/unbalanced. I feel it was exactly the way it was meant to be, and the gift of your meditative practice is -- you could reflect upon the event and wonder, 'was there another way' -- though in actuality, there was only one way, the path you took.

Love the photo.

Perhaps the seal is saying with those beautiful eyes -- see me. And you did.

Lol -- just think of the wonderful story he has to take back to his seamates. "I saw this chick on the beach. I gave her a real Kodak moment and man was it worth it! Make just one human happy today and you have created a better world." :)