Walking along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach at minus tide I was able to see Ochre Sea Stars clinging to the mussel, anemone, and kelp-covered bases of “Seal Rocks.” These rock islands jut out of the water like two-story pointed turban shells. In the folds of the top edges you can spot nesting birds.
Seal Rocks are so-named because California Sea Lions and Seals once enjoyed frolicking around them and sunbathing on their natural patio decks. Though these fascinating pinnipeds have moved to other locations (Pier 39, for one), these rocks remain full of life. Creatures, plants and insects find homes in their holes and cracks. Standing in awe of the beauty found in each diverse detail I was reminded of Alice Walker’s poem, “We Have a Beautiful Mother.” It includes these words, “We have a beautiful mother. Her oceans are wombs, Her wombs oceans.”
All life is thought to have begun in the sea. Yemaya is the African (Yorùbá) Goddess of the living Ocean and considered the mother of all. She is motherly and strongly protective, and cares deeply for all her children, comforting them and purifying them of sorrow. She is said to wear a dress with seven skirts that represent the seven seas.
I love to watch the shore birds in the sea foam at edge of the ocean. The foam is like the fringe of Yemaya’s jeweled blue gown.
The various sandpipers seem to be dancing with each ebb and flow. It is easy to understand why so many religious symbols and deities rise up from the oceans. Hopefully, these engaging and powerful metaphors will inspire us to more fully appreciate and care for our oceans; they are immense and support more life than most of us can even imagine.
Our National Ocean Policy states that Federal agencies must “ensure the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserve our maritime heritage, support sustainable uses and access, provide for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change and ocean acidification, and coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests.”
Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne was a favorite book in my youth. More than a century ago Jules Verne was already telling us that we were taking too much from the ocean, and he predicted ecological impacts that have since come to pass. The main character, Captain Nemo, was the first marine conservationist! We need to thank God/dess that many continue to take up his passion.