It was overcast and drizzling when I arrived at sunrise. The Hawaiian monk seal mom and pup had hauled out before Lloyd and I showed up. We removed the signs and ropes and walked the long walk to the north end of the beach, where the seals once snuggled alongside a fence we had erected for their protection. They had long since ditched those digs, favoring spots further south along the beach. But we didn’t find them at the north end, either.
Lloyd looked at me. “Do you want to go around the point?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I answered.
Lloyd is a spry, retired school teacher who continues to teach aikido, a form of Japanese martial arts. I’ve seen the word “aikido” translated as “the way of unifying with life energy,” and, indeed, I have witnessed Lloyd redirect the anger of someone on the beach who, unheard of to me, didn’t love the seals.
The point Lloyd was referring to is a rocky headland that separates the main beach from a quiet cove on the other side. Many mornings, we arrived to find the seals missing. On those morning, Lloyd would scramble around the rocks to find mom and pup lolling in the shallow, calm water of the cove.
For some reason, this morning, Lloyd invited me along, and I accepted. As we picked our way up and over the slippery rocks along the water’s edge, I noticed coral growing in the shallows. I saw a few small crabs dart for cover. And I kept scanning the ocean’s surface for our seals. After 10 minutes of trying not to slip off the rocks, I spotted a smooth, silver belly in the water. It was pup. I scanned the water for mom. I gazed over the sliver of beach. I pulled out my binoculars and checked along the rocky, water’s edge.
No mom. She had left.
This was the day we knew would come. Mom’s need for food beat out her need to nurture her pup. And, yet, there is something about seeing a young seal alone. Especially after watching her snuggle with her mom for so long. I felt mixed emotions. I was glad for mom; she needed to eat. But I wasn’t sad for pup; I knew she’d be fine. I was sad, because mom’s departure signaled the end of the experience. I consider it a supreme honor to have witnessed the events of the last 38 days.