It was midday just off the coast of Vancouver Island. The kayak I was in glided forward in the calm ocean, brushing against a large kelp bed. It was as good a place as any to put my paddle down and break for lunch. I looked around. I was a quarter of a mile from shore, and the shore extended for miles on the starboard side of my one-man delicatessen. It was a pleasure to sit back and enjoy peanut butter and jelly on French bread, with several sips of mineral water. The apple slices and cheese were out of this world.
A passage from Lucretius' ``On the Nature of Things'' came to mind. ``A thing cannot have a limit unless there is something outside to limit it, so that the eye can follow it up to a certain point but not beyond.''
I was certainly placing a time limit on my lunch break. I was down to a few crumbs of French bread scattered on the hull of the kayak. Once I brushed them overboard, it would be time for me to get on with the business at hand. There were miles of paddling ahead before I camped on a specific camp-site that had running water close by.
I brushed a few crumbs off the kayak. They landed on the kelp bed. Before I could finish the job, a nose poked through the bed, followed by a large pair of eyes. Pretty soon other noses appeared, and other pairs of eyes as well. A herd of harbor seals looked at me and I looked at them.
Several minutes passed. I brushed a few more crumbs onto the kelp bed, which took on the appearance of the universe: planets, galaxies, and the like, which ``stretches far and wide into immeasurable depths.''
It was all so simple, but I couldn't figure it out the minute I thought about having to be somewhere. A reflex action took over. I brushed the rest of the crumbs onto the kelp bed.
The herd of harbor seals was in no hurry. They just wanted to be friends with a creature who had a nose and two big eyes. They started talking to each other. Harbor seal talk! I tried to imitate some of their sounds. It didn't make sense, but neither did it drive them away. They certainly understood me better than I understood the universe or myself.
Every time I got into a ``don't leave me in the dark'' approach, one particular harbor seal almost seemed to be saying, ``One thing will be illumined by another.''
I looked around at the other harbor seals, one at a time. Each had its own language, because it was used to being itself wherever it was. The harbor seals were floating on their backs and cleaning their whiskers after they ate the French bread crumbs.
The sun was warm for all of us.
I was moving around in the boat, causing the bow of the kayak to slap the water. This sound scared the harbor seals. They were beneath the kelp bed in nothing flat, and off to wherever harbor seals go after they dive beneath the surface of things.
I looked for the longest time and could not go beyond that. And then I moved on up the coast. The rest of my days on this trip were built around gliding forward in the calm ocean at midday, a limitless participation in the universe, looking for my harbor seal friends, of course.