Serendipity: Going Out on a Limb

Sunday - Pelican Trawler 2It was my last night for a long walk along the shoreline before I was scheduled to leave my retreat in Santa Barbara. It had been such a restful and inspiring week; I was deeply conscious of already feeling longing for a place I hadn’t even left yet.

I’d been walking 6+ miles pretty much every day, including twice up and down the steps down the cliff to the sea just to get my blood pumping. This last day I lingered a bit on the beach, shooting a seaweed monster created by the tide, watching kids play, finding particularly smooth rocks to go alongside the other particularly smooth rocks I don’t seem to be able to resist.

Sunday - Sea Wall LOW RESBack at the marina, I noticed for the first time that you can actually walk out along the sea wall that protects the boats. I joined the dozens of tourists heading out along that wall, winding around and through them as I tried to keep up my walking pace.

At the end of that sea wall, over a wall made of boulders, is a sandbar. And on the other side of that sandbar is a trawler I’d been hoping to shoot – a place where pelicans gather as densely as the tourists along the sea wall.

Sunday - Sandbar LOW RESWhat could I do but climb those rocks and head out!?

While the walkway had been thick with tourists, virtually no one was out on the sandbar. A lone guy with his dog. A few kids. Two women so engrossed in their conversation they didn’t notice the egrets flocking to eat at sunset, the boat-full-of-pelicans, the lone guy fishing. If there were 10 of us on that sandbar, it was a lot.

Sunday - egret (cropped tight) LOW RESIt was hard to resist stopping every few feet to shoot the egrets supping in the tide, but I kept going, heading towards that trawler full of birds as the sun made its way to the horizon. I was almost there, just passing the only fisherman along all those rocks, when he called out to me.

“Miss! Miss, look! If you climb up here, just on the other side of the rocks between you and me, there is a baby seal sleeping.”

Birds and boats and setting sun immediately lost their priority. The promise of a sleeping baby seal is not something one disregards! I clamored over that first row of boulders, and oh my oh my oh my, this is what I saw.

Sunday - Baby seal LOW RES

I couldn’t contain the “awwwww” we humans emit when faced with ultimate cuteness. Seeing my reaction, the fisherman’s face lit up. “I saw you with the camera, and I knew you would want to see this.” I realize what he really wanted was someone to share that moment with. Who could blame him!?!

It was impossible to get a good angle without fearing I’d go butt first into the ocean. And I so wanted to touch him (or her?) – so soft, sleeping there.

Sunday - Pelican Trawler 1But I refrained. I stood there for a few moments ooing and ahhing, thanked my new friend for sharing that with me, and climbed back over the rocks to go shoot the boat with the pelicans.

On my way back, my fishing friend motioned to me again. “Come look – he’s heading down to the water!”  We two humans watched like new parents as the little one made his/her way down those rocks.

And then, in the final moment before splashing into the sea, baby stopped and looked up at his fellow fisherman. This time the “awww” and “oh my God!” was coming not from me, but from a man who was connecting with nature in a way few of us get to experience. And as quickly as that, baby slid into the sea.

Sunday - baby seal with fisherman LOW RES

The whole walk home, all I kept thinking was that old expression about going out on a limb because that’s where the fruit is. I realized in that moment that serendipity is not simply happenstance. We have to venture out if we want to encounter not just a pleasant surprise, but really, anything at all.

And so it was that on the last night of retreat before heading into the intensity of this sabbatical’s writing schedule, a man and a baby seal gave me the encouragement to go for it. To head out onto the sandbar where virtually no one is exploring. To pay attention, to be open to invitation.

Because that’s where the fruit is.

Please invite others along on this journey of discovery and exploration of the creative process. Just click on the “share” links below. Thanks!

3 Responses to Serendipity: Going Out on a Limb

  1. Beautiful. I can feel the sea breeze, smell the salty air and savor each step you took out on the rocks. Thank you Hildy. This tracks with what I’ve been playing with in the universe. Why not go have that conversation? Why not see what’s around the corner? Why not move beyond ‘hello’? Every time I dip my toe in the pool I go deeper because what I’m finding is incredible and filled with a two-way gratitude-rich connection, as well as knowledge that we’re on to something together.

  2. thanks for sharing, and loved that the fisherman could share that moment with you, that’s special stuff