Paddling out to stalk the elusive Tomales Bay river otters that morning had been an exciting, beautiful, exhausting trial. We missed the ideal time to paddle through the boating channel with the wind and tide helping push us along, and had both against us on the way out to the scout site. We thought to keep in the lee of the point as long as possible, then paddle our heads off across the channel, only working especially hard for the last quarter mile.
Scouting for otters has a lot to recommend it. First, there isn’t a 100% chance of seeing them. I’d say quite a bit less than that unless you know exactly where they are and have been watching them for a while. I proffer that unlikelihood as a gift, because in the search, you find so much else that you might get sidetracked for hours or days. Case in point, the bat rays. Back to the otter scout; I saw a small creek, a trickle, really, running down from a little arroyo. I landed, clambered out and investigated. Lovely, with a wildlife trail leading uphill and perfect for tracks, except that there were many, including scuffs, and none distinguishable for certain as otter tracks.
No matter what, it’s a learning curve. We photograph, take notes, watch and learn.
The tide’s coming in, sweeping us southward down the Bay toward Marshall. The wind has quieted down, and when it does blow, it works with the tide. The water level is nice and high, so we don’t have to take long detours around mud flats. That’s when the whole of nature conspires to convince me that I am the luckiest person on earth. No need to paddle much, no rush at all, I lie back in my kayak and let the waves nudge and shove me along. I close my eyes and bask in warm sunlight. I stick my feet out on top of the kayak. I piddle around, not really doing anything. There are five osprey hunting above, a raft of pellies fishing and floating around the oyster racks and landing on one of the wooden rafts. A whole flock of cormorants bobs and dives in concert, chasing a school of fish.
There, suspended between earth and sky, between work and play, between doing and not-doing, there in the ocean where volition has less meaning, I find my place. So much of what we do as humans with our busy minds and busier hands, is relentlessly purposeful. Must we always be so relentless? I leave you with that question.