Bull kelp knocks hollowly against my kayak. Will I see an otter today? Or catch sight of the weasel we’ve seen foraging along the tide line?
I’m floating on water, this element that I rely on for daily survival. And yet water is alien to me as a habitat. I take land for granted… until I’m not on terra firma anymore. Imagine: astronauts give up earth’s air and gravity! Trusting water to hold me up is peanuts in comparison. I also trust it to be cold and wet if I happen to fall in.
I think of mammals sharing this watery world with me, moving sinuously through its depths and coming up for air; like the seal that turned my head yesterday with the sound of its breath. We looked at each other from our separate worlds of forested land and salty sea; so foreign to each other and yet closely related as mammals.
Today I’m looking directly into the seal’s world. Having deep water below me prompted intense fear in younger days, clutching at my stomach and making it hard to breathe. I feel safe today paddling close to shore, fascinated by multicoloured sea plants and rocky underwater crags. Curious who goes there.
Circles appear on the water ahead of me. A school of fish? I paddle towards them, only to have them disappear. There they are, further ahead. Again, I paddle and no fish to be seen. Over there! More paddling and I’m rewarded with a bunch of fish scurrying away from me. Whyyyy? Could it be because I’m a threat to them with my menacing red boat steaming towards them and my yellow paddle thrashing about in their habitat? Duh!
I’ve been reading bits of the book: Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature. Of course, the same strategy would apply in water as on land. Approach slowly without making waves and wildlife is more likely to be seen and heard.
I try coasting along in a current. Yes! There they are. A silver school meandering below me. I’m less of a threat now that I’m gliding slowly.
A line of gulls sits pretty on a long floating log. Another gull flies in for a squawky landing, displacing two perched gulls. They move over to make space while squawking at the disturbance, then one of them flaps off in a huff. I smile as I realize I’m seeing in action the bird pecking order that I read about just last night.
For a long while I float along like driftwood. I feel a gentle bobbing motion: the ocean is rocking me. Musical notes spiral upwards from Swainson’s thrush in the nearby forest.
Lace-edged jellyfish gently undulate by my side. I am at home in joy.
Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon is making therapeutic gardens a top priority for reducing staff stress and fatigue and for encouraging staff to take regular breaks in the garden near their unit. Legacy Health's interdisciplinary garden design process and their randomized controlled trials are leading the way for other hospitals.