summer_jackel: (Coba ^_^)
I was certified for scuba diving with four wonderful friends in Monterey this weekend, and it was wonderful. I have coveted the ability to dive since that I learned what it was (I remember the moment; I was pretty young, and my mother very firmly emphasized how dangerous it was). As an adult, the equipment and perceived difficulty and expense in gaining the skill intimidated me, and despite my obsession with marine life and looking for it in the wild (in tidepools, up until now), I don't know that I'd have done it if friends hadn't had the idea and poked me. How fortunate I am.

It turns out that the equipment is relatively straightforward once one understands its use, its danger is not great if one takes proper care, and that obtaining certification was quite manageable. It's hard to explain how just delighted I am to have had this experience.

On our second dive, while hanging around under about 20 feet of water, holding onto a rope anchored in the sandy bottom of Monterey Bay and taking turns doing exercises, I saw a wild octopus. It was tiny, and the color of sand. It held very still, tentacles pulled in close and curled slightly upwards. I wouldn't have seen it if one of my companions had not pointed it out, and it quickly took its chance to disappear down one of the many tiny burrows that lines the seafloor. It was enchanting and beautiful. I hardly expected to achieve one of my life ambitions in wildlife-watching on my first weekend of diving.

So yeah, I want to do that lots more.

I managed to see a lot for relatively short dives in which our time was mostly spent doing the necessary certification exercises. (I hope that my mask never again has reason to be all the way off under water; it was a very sensible thing for us to learn how to deal with, but man, I hated that). Wild otters came very close on both days, hoping that our float contained abalone. Other sealife I spotted included a beautiful fish that I am reasonably certain (after a lot of time spent with my fish book and google) a black perch, a sculpin of some kind, a couple of truly enormous giant stars and sea cucumbers. There were oodles of bat stars everywhere, and I saw one gorgeous sunflower star. I have a very healthy respect for those; I have met them in tidepools, and they are very fast and inquisitive if you offer to touch one. I will not be offering to touch one the size of my face any time soon.

There was a glorious garden of tube-dwelling anemones, some with beautiful black tentacles, and cute little strawberry anemones.

A bunch of adorable juvenile sanddabs scuttled around on the sandy bottom, and a diving cormorant, who wasn't in the least bit concerned about us and practically brushed against us as it dove past. (That photo may not be the same species of cormorant, but you get the idea).

It was amazing and I loved it.
summer_jackel: (Default)
Life continues. Today is my day off; I am pedaling my bike trainer, which is what I am usually up to when I post. I just had to have the trainer serviced because use had worn the steel tube that attaches my bike's rear wheel to the trainer mechanism so that it was no longer flush and didn't hold the bike. The mechanic filed it down and added a washer, and then asked how much I rode it. I guess he isn't called upon much to repair trainers. I told him that I rode 20-30 hours a month, which is true, if less accurate and less personal than my first answer: enough to keep me centered, happy and sufficiently sane.

Comfort the Pictus cat died last night, and I am sad about it; there was perhaps a time when I felt a bit embarrassed about grieving a fish, but that's long past. I'd had him for seven years and got him as an adult; the outer observed age of the species seems to be about eight, so I think the little guy did ok with me. I got him on the way home from a really disastrous court appearance in my first year as an attorney; I'd made a bad newbie lawyer mistake and felt awful, thus "Comfort the catfish." He was a good little fish, and his active presence added a note of cheer and beauty to my home.

I'm in a place in life where a number of the animals that I obtained in my 20s are reaching their expected lifespans and passing, others who I have thought of as the babies are in their prime, and a younger generation is beginning to establish. It's a very bittersweet feeling, like thinking of who I was when I got that fish, how confused and trapped and not who I am now I was. How much happier I am now and how much more sorrowful. How much more myself I feel, how my life with these animals now feels smooth and harmonious, as the animals I used to have and don't anymore felt utterly right and perfect and different than these when I had them.

I walked my three sheepdogs this morning and then bathed Coba; I took Nikolai for a short walk and bathed him, too. Now I'm pedaling on the deck, hour 2.30, watching Tiger stalk around while Magic, 16, lounges on a cushion in what passes for midday sun around here. For Sysiphean boulders, you have to admit that they are awfully loveable and cuddly. I couldn't be happier.


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cats, dogs, bugs, slugs )
summer_jackel: (Default)
Some pictures from the last couple of days.

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cats, dogs, beach dogs, wildlife )
summer_jackel: (Default)
Spring is beautiful.


spring photos; slug and spider warning )
summer_jackel: (Default)
A photopost! We'll start with the collective pack of Kyn and myself, politely sitting until released to play. All four dogs looking in the same direction omg.

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By the way, I know that my use of "sessile" wasn't exactly correct in the last post, but it was close enough and I wanted to use it so I did. Sufficiently accurate for poetry?

dogs who love to visit surf and the things who live there. )
summer_jackel: (coy face beautiful/serious/sad)
Sunflower star

Some time ago, on a rocky shore of the Pacific, I met
a sunflower star. It was lovely, soft and many-armed;
I extended my hand to it, and quickly
it swarmed up my fingers, its tiny tube-feet questing,
its body alive with fascination. Was I food?

I hoped not. I was not expecting
so much interest from an echinoderm,
much less this eager tasting.
I removed it gently as I could, a bit pained
that it left a few stray tube feet held fast
to the skin of my hand,
More nervous and eager to part company than I might have wished.
Denied, it secreted itself
beneath safe rock, and after that withdrew from touch.

Yesterday, I met another two,
resting against each other in the cool rock-shaded water,
trying to outwait the tide. One had an arm extended,
shockingly orange against its purple outer self.
I touched it; it quested lightly and pulled itself away.
So self-aware, these fleet-moving and sensitive
predatory things. So much less sessile than expected.
I was more cautious myself, this time; I'd learned
the feel of little tube feet moving with intention
and just for a moment, an irrational fear of being eaten.

It's not a bad thing to be reminded
not to assume; to remember that
we are always on the menu
and that the splendid vastness hungers.

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summer_jackel: (Default)
Ok, so maybe hard work does have its benefits. Today, I tackled a mess that I've been avoiding all winter, moving a pile of muddy, rotten wood and debris left over from last fall's retaining wall repair to someplace it can decompose peacefully. You can guess how much I've been looking forward to doing that, but it was really getting nasty. At the very bottom of the pile, between a plastic board and the cement, I found this exquisite little beast.

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I think that this is a black salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus. It looks like they are evenly distributed across Northern CA but are scarce where I live. Although (as you may surmise) I turn over a fair number of rocks in search of things like this on a regular basis, I have never seen one. It's a "lifer."

After the first few seconds of incoherent glee, I set her up to take photos, moistened her skin with purified water and let her go in a safe spot very close to where I'd found her. She wriggled into the loose earth and rock quickly and with purpose, more like a lizard might than any of the other three species of skin-breathing salamanders I've met around here. (Ensatina, CA Slender and Pacific Giant). The grip of her little salamander fingers on my skin was distinct and firm, where the other three make no effort to hang on.

I cannot express the awe or joy I feel about meeting a neighbor so hidden and lovely.

Many photos of pretty dogs and some more of the endlessly fascinating things you can find in rotting wood. Bugsquick warning. )

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