Low guttural sounds, mid-tone chants and high pitched yipping greeted my ears, and there were roaring sounds in the background. No, I was not at the Super Bowl. Nor was I re-living my experience at the Women’s March in SF last month at which similar sounds raised heartfelt laments and pleas to the cosmos resulting from actions of our new national leadership. These particular cries were offered by the annual gathering of hundreds of elephant seals.
The males that are still on the beaches produce deep sounds as they raise their heads before moving toward an approaching male or chasing a female in the hope of mating with her (even if she has just birthed a pup). From mid-December to mid-February hundreds of elephant seal pups are born on this beach. After a birth the mother imprints her mid-toned chanting voice on the newborn so it may find her among the hundreds of other mothers and pups around them. The little snail-shaped furry pup immediately begins yipping back.
The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery spreads over 6 miles of beach on the central coast of California. The viewing areas are located 90 miles south of Monterey, 5 miles north of Hearst Castle State Historical Monument in San Simeon. Because the long narrow beaches are separated from highway 1 by sharp-rock inclines neither the seals nor the humans cross into each other’s territories. The viewing areas are open every day of the year, are wheelchair accessible, free of charge, and get you close to these magnificent creatures. No reservations are required, and there are docents every day of the year.
Our lives are intertwined with every aspect of the earth; and our human species is dependent on the life-supporting gifts of the natural world. I believe that sometimes we forget that all human beings are still the same species, even though we can be very different in our approach to policy making, nation building and attitudes about human rights. Unfortunately we are the only species that all too often violently turns on each other in great numbers and builds walls of metal and ideals to separate us rather than gather us into nurturing communities.
We live in a time of great abundance, but, since the earth is so vast, we can be lulled into thinking there will always be more – more fossil fuels, more water, more forests, more polar bears and ivory tusks. Yet every act we humans take, no matter how seemingly small, has consequences that reverberate and stress the resiliency of the things we depend upon for our survival: enough clean air, enough clean water, enough healthy soils and forests that provide food and shelter. We depend upon a moderate and predictable climate.
We are connected to every part of the planet. Although on that Piedras Blancas beach a few of the elephant seals charged one another and trampled over another’s pup, for the most part they honor and depend on each other and the ocean and the air and the rest of the web-of-life. Too often we humans see others in our own species as enemies, dangerous, unwelcome, scapegoats, and evil rather than as partners. Most of our systems are products of practices and policies of power over, control and domination enforced by the use of violence, rape, and abuse.
We need to raise our own guttural sounds, mid-tone chants and high pitched yipping as we call one another to return to our sense of connection to one another and the earth, our mother. Our lives are indeed intertwined with the earth and one another.
A Native American chant summons us to our responsibilities: The Earth is our Mother; we must take care of her… Her Sacred Ground we walk upon with every step we take… The Sky is our Father; we will take care of him… The Sea is our Sister; we will take care of her…
How we take care of the earth is exactly how we take care of one another!