As a diver. We get so accustomed to the wonders of the Ocean that would leave most land dwellers in complete awe.
We all remember the first dive that hooked us. It may not have been your first dive. But somewhere along the way you had that one momentous dive experience that made you say... "I want to do this all the time." And you never forget it.
For me that dive occurred in 2014, when I was getting my Advanced Open Water Certification. Since then I have completed over 200 dives as a Dive Master, and I still have some dives that stand out above the rest and hook me in again.
The morning of September 8th, 2018, I had one of those dives.
7am two tank dive. La Jolla Cove in La Jolla Ca. Weather was overcast, the sea was calm. The day seemed to start quietly and had not presented itself as a particularly special day.
Being after Labor Day the first thing I noticed was that there were significantly less humans around. Parking was easy to find. I didn't see the other dive outfits. I didn't see groups of speedo-wearing swimmers. I didn't see masses of tourist buses, snorkelers or beach goers on the beach.
This was a sign of fall, and with that came the cooler ocean waters. I had heard this brought better visibility and allowed the Kelp Forest to return and thrive. I was, as I always am, excited for what today's dive had in store for me.
It was just one guest and I, always a nice number of guests to have. Taking even a few divers out can be a lot to keep after in the field, so I was happy to have my dive buddy; Doug.
Within the first three minutes of our surface swim we came in contact with the most sought-after residents of the Cove, the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus).
These creatures always amaze and inspire me. Their grace and playfulness in the water are unparalleled, and we were in for a show.
Four females came soaring around us in a ballet of bubbles. Arcing and flipping, zipping and twisting, their dance was hypnotizing.
We were thankful for every second with these animals. And even though the experience lasted only a few minutes, those few moments were enough to etch a memory in my heart. Enough to change my life forever.
I have dove with sea lions before. The experience is always incredible. They remind me of human's closest companions; the dog. This time in particular I was fortunate to have my GoPro handy, and I finally got to record the entire interaction.
Was it because we were the first humans the Sea Lions saw that morning? Was it because I was egging on their acrobatics with trumpeting and clicking sounds? Was it for any reason other than we happened to be there when they were doing what they always do? Whatever reason, we felt chosen to have them play with us in their home.
These girls put on a great show for us. They would give us sections of high action and would leave a calm as quickly as they came. And just as soon as we thought they had moved on they would fly back with shocking speed. We were joyed to have their return each time.
Eventually they made their way in a dance that only sea lions do. Seemingly living in an ease of life full of plenty of time for loved ones and playing in the world around them. Disappearing into the blue. On to other adventures and Sea Lion duties. I truly admire them.
The dive continued to lend itself to us. We had good visibility which quite literally opens up the world down there. We got to fly through the Sea kelp forest. We witnessed a beautiful horn shark, nudibranchs, countless spiny lobster and Garibaldi fish.
However it wasn't anything other than the Sea Lions that kept my wonder. Hours after the dive and still days later my heart is truly swollen with what I can only describe as Sea Lion Love. It is a glow that I feel illuminating me from the inside. Perhaps it is the spirit of discovery or my obsession with animals I assume every child is born with. Perhaps a close encounter with a highly intelligent creature triggered some philosophical curiosity as to what makes us "us."
What "it" is or what we call it I do not care. But I know I am in love with this feeling. And I want to do it again. Over and over. I am undoubtedly addicted to the Ocean World and it's inhabitants.
When I think back to the experience or watch it on video I am suddenly reminded of how special of a world we live in. How amazing it is that we are a species of animal that has made machines possible to allow us to go underwater and scuba dive. To live on a planet full of other self aware beings that found a way to exist harmonious with nature.
I start thinking about how related we are to the Sea Lions. How we are descendants of one common ancestor and how far we have all come in our discovery to "becoming".
I am sure that our waking and self awareness is not limited to this species. As far as we and them are concerned to Nature, we are here for the same and equal purpose.
What a thrill to be alive.
The Ocean and the sport of scuba diving has taught me more about myself and human nature than anything I see in humanity. for me their is less and less peace to be found in the cities that could ever compare to the peace I feel one inch under the surface. Their is no yoga studio, no bar or anything man made that could fulfill my soul the way I know the Ocean and Mother Nature does.
As humans, we lose sight sometimes that things in Nature do not belong to us. At all. They are their own. Here to live for themselves in their story. We are not owed by them any experience or glimpse into their World. What we get to see we are shown. We are allowed. And we should feel humbled to be allowed to be in Nature to witness it's wonders and gain some of it's wisdom.
And so I was reminded on that day by my familial sisters of the sea who I am. Where I am going. Who we are. Where we are all going. How incredibly exciting it is to be alive. And just how fortunate we are to have these experiences together that shape us.
Whatever it is that you find in your life that brings you closer to your harmony, do more of it. Please. Enjoy living your life. This was what the Sea Lions told me. This was the lesson of the Sea Lion.
Here is to you, friendly dogs of the sea. Thank you. May your spirit continue to captivate and inspire the minds of humans, to be more "us" than human.