Sunrise Seal: 30 Days Old

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Sunrise Seal: 30 Days Old

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Apr 27, 2009

My neighbor drives one of those motorcycles that you can hear coming and going a mile away.  Really.  It is street legal, but it didn’t start out that way.  He only licensed it after he started riding it on the road last year when gas prices reached the stratosphere.

Usually, when he turns off the highway and cruises by our house, I see my neighbor look up.  He scans our yard, our driveway, our lanai.  He is looking for Eric or me.  If he sees one of us, he creeps down the gravel road that leads to his house.  I appreciate his attempt at peace, and I chuckle at the image of a roaring lion trying to tiptoe around as quiet as a mouse.

If our neighbor doesn’t see my husband or me–and especially if our garage door is closed–he pops the accelerator and charges past our house, spewing gravel and sound in his wake.  The howl of his motorcycle rattles my hair follicles and makes my teeth stand on end.  I can hear his motorcycle racing down the highway when I am walking the dog in the yard, returning from collecting the newspaper or sipping tea on the lanai.  I can also hear it when I am in my house–with the garage closed, the windows locked and the doors shut tight.  Thing is, my neighbor only governs the accelerator when he can’t see me.  “Does he think we can’t hear him just because he can’t see us?” I have asked my husband time and again.

But who can blame my neighbor?  We live in a world gone haywire with the concept of time.  There are kids to usher to school.  Kids to chauffeur to soccer practice–or surf lessons.  Grocery shopping to do.  Stops at the gym, yoga and Pilates studio.  Trips to the recycling center.  Accounts to settle at the bank.  Errands to run.  And, of course, a job to report to daily.  We pace ourselves with Starbucks, and we push the pedal to the metal to get everywhere on time.

One day, when I arrived at the beach, I couldn’t see the Hawaiian monk seal mom and pup that I check on daily.  They were not snuggled under the naupaka bushes where they like to sleep.  They were not swimming in the lagoon inside the reef, and yet the spot where mom and pup had bedded down for the night still radiated warmth.

While I searched the length of the beach and back, my dutiful, fellow volunteer Lloyd scrambled around a rocky point to a distant cove, and I felt my time-clock ticking.  I checked my watch again and again.  Soon, I would depart without:  a) sighting our seals and knowing they were safe; and b) snapping a picture to post on this blog.  Suddenly, I realized that by promising to post a photograph on a daily basis, I had created a pressure-filled situation for myself.  I had invited stress into my life.  I had set myself up for a moral dilemma.

As I left the beach that morning, I received a message from Lloyd.  Mom and pup were frolicking down the coast, safe and sound.  Phew.  And, still no picture.

The next day I arrived at the beach, it was overcast.  Mom and pup snuggled under some bushes.  Mom stretched out with her back to me.  Pup slept perpendicular to mom’s belly, so I couldn’t see her.  I couldn’t get a decent picture of her.  This was my short morning.  I had an 8:00 conference call.  As I sat on the beach, I pondered slipping inside the roped-off enclosure.  If I tiptoed through the sand, avoiding the crunch of the fallen leaves from the false kamani trees, I could probably position myself to snap a shot of the pup as she nursed.  Lloyd stood watch far off at the top of the trailhead.  Not a soul walked the beach.  No one would see me.  Disturbing an endangered Hawaiian monk seal is a federal violation punishable by law.  But I had a commitment to my blog readers, and, besides, what would it hurt?  I knew when I was disturbing a seal, and I would turn back before I did that.

And, then, I remembered my neighbor and roaring motorcycles and my conversation with Eric–what do you do when no one is looking–and I decided my peace of mind was more important than another silly photograph of a seal.  So, I sat still, outside the protected area, and when it was time for me to leave, I hiked out and back to my car.  Driving home, I spied this lily–this very common, very un-endangered flower–in and amongst some weeds.  So, I stopped my car, approached quietly and closely and captured this picture.

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