Awed and Amazed

It’s been a cup runneth over kind of summer on the Central Coast.

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I met by the beach to talk about writing and ended up bird watching. A swarm—yes, a swarm, as in way beyond a flock—of sooty shearwaters had turned a large patch of ocean brown. They couldn’t have been more than 100 yards off shore.
thousands of sooty shearwaters on the water
At some point, we figured we’d had our evening’s worth of magnificence and turned away, only to be lured back by the number of birds, their closeness, the constant splashes of pelicans fishing. I felt both the desire to and the impossibility of taking it all in.

At the same time, a few whales took up residence in Avila Bay and were kind enough to let the human world know about it by sticking their heads out of the water to feed, breaching, and jumping. I didn’t see the whales, but I did see some phenomenal pictures. A friend who did see them spoke of trying to leave several times and being pulled back to watch some more, much as we had been with the birds.

There’s a lot in life that’s just too big or too wonderful to absorb. Part of my brain wanted to hold onto and process all of those birds, to sort them or comprehend them. But what kept us watching wasn’t the possibility of comprehension.

Knowing exactly how many birds there were or understanding why the fish they were after had come so close to shore wouldn’t have improved the experience. If you measured every detail and understood every interaction at every moment, all that knowledge would not add up to the sense of sheer magnitude and wonder those birds inspired.

I’m blown away by nature on a fairly regular basis, but occasionally she pulls out the stops and reminds me that, when it comes to awe, she has an almost infinite repertoire.

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