One of the things that makes Winter bearable, a time to look forward to even, is that it’s the time of year when the whales come by so yesterday found me at the top of a cliff in my usual whale watching position. It’s a few weeks early but I had a bit of a ‘whale’ feeling and sure you never know what you might see.
There’s nothing else that gives me such a feeling of space as spending time watching from a cliff top does. The vast moving carpet of sea, criss-crossed by the birds and distorted through the binoculars by the air and heat makes me feel sometimes that I have transcended time, that I am inhabiting a fourth dimension.
After two hours I hadn’t seen anything besides the gulls and the cormorants and the hooded crows and the pigeons, which is not nothing, so despite not having seen a fin or a blow I was feeling at one with the world when I saw a familiar round head pop up, large eyes surveying the blue rippling sea.
I have seen many seals, mostly just their heads and those eyes staring at me from the waves before they disappear again. One little one had even popped up beside me when I was bodyboarding one rough day in Tramore mistaking me in my wetsuit for a big Mammy so I wasn’t too excited when I saw this one.
It was only when I stood up to stretch that I saw at the foot of the cliff, over the sand and rocks in the shallow turquoise water, two seals lolling around on the surface. They lay, heads stretched back as if in ecstasy, their whiskers glinting and dripping in the October sun.
From time to time one or other rolled slowly and gently around or dived languorously to swim about, their blurry white flesh rippling and dappled in the blue and green sea, fading when they swam deeper before coming back to the surface, their gloriously roundy shiny bellies glinting as they arched up towards the sun.
Occasionally I saw other white darting figures who swiftly swam off again, youngsters maybe impatient at their hippy, laid back elders.
They seemed to me to be terribly vulnerable in their relaxed and carefree state and I could see how easy it would be for some fisherman to take a shot at them even if I cannot understand quite why anyone would do such a thing. I suppose it is our nature to attribute our ills~loss of livelihood in this case-to one recognisable entity. It makes things easy to deal with even if it is not right.
As the tide receded they moved slowly out from the shallows sometimes tipping upright in the water heads thrown back and eyes closed in bliss just loving it all and I realised that I had never really seen seals before.
While I watched them so at home in the water and the sun it made me yearn for a swim and I was vaguely aware of being envious of their obvious pleasure in their bodies. It made me think how I am often torn by feelings about my own body with its various bumps and lumps that have appeared over a life-time, my childlike fascination with my own roundy belly usually being overwhelmed by abhorrence rather than approval of it.
I thought how nice it would be to revel like this unhindered by biting clinging clothes and a biting clinging mind and I wondered if I could apply some seal wisdom to my life…
So if you see me down in SuperValu in a large turquoise Mu Mu slowly browsing the biscuits my eyes half closed in pleasure as I run my fingers over the Bourbon Creams and the Jammy Dodgers or stretched across a park bench lolling in the sun or lying in a sunbeam on a table in a local cafe you know where I am getting my inspiration….