[previously published at The Wild Beat in March 2013]

My homage to a harbor seal on a misty morning ~

“She” could be a he, this harbor seal, since the visible distinctions are few.* Between the two of us, only she knows. I can’t say “it” for a him or a her. It’s a word too soulless for sentience.

She stirs from the depths and shallows of the bay, gliding reflected alongside me. She rounds the rock bend, fusiform, tapered and sleek, riding the tide on her hind flippers.

Harbor Seal on Elliott Bay Seattle

Harbor Seal – ©ingridtaylar

I hesitate to point my lens, thinking she might submerge her new-moon eyes and disappear into the deep. But she stays, looking back at me as I look at her, granting me a few moments as she pierces the divide between brine and breath.

She is sensory magic, with whiskers so sensitive they send signals of fish to her seal brain. She’ll plunge hundreds feet, quelling her heart to a slow drum. Her sight and sound, muted on land, are super-seal, superhuman, in her fin-footed world beyond the breakwater.

Harbor Seal Swimming on Puget Sound Seattle

Harbor Seal – ©ingridtaylar

With a final spin, the waters pour over her pelage, a coat which is sometimes pale, pewter, silver, coal, or spotted. It’s unique as a fingerprint. She twists her head to me just one more time before sinking, languid, engulfed by the bay, at one with the salt and the sea. Her sea.

Harbor Seal on Elliott Bay in Seattle

Harbor Seal – ©ingridtaylar

* There’s little sexual dimorphism in harbor seals. Males tend to be slightly larger but it’s not a reliable measure since sizes can vary regionally, as well.