I frequently find myself saying, "You wake up in the morning and never know what you're going to find in a day." You might think, because it's the last day of a writer's conference in Homer, Alaska, that you know what the day will bring. You have the agenda and you know what your plans are for later. But the fact is you may have no idea.
So, we left the conference and were on our way home to a nearby inn. Driving down the road that curves towards the inn, happily nestled into a pleasant conversation about our plans for tomorrow, I looked out at the road, then over to our left. There I glimpsed the rear end of a large horse-cow-elk-like mammal with long bristly hair. I motioned to Lisa, saying, "Look, look, look!" No other words would come until I finally sputtered, "A muh-muh-moose, Hon, a moose!" To think, the day before she laughed when I warned her about keeping her antenna up and making noise while jogging in the area so she wouldn't surprise a moose or bear foraging in the woods.
It was big and lanky, the tall back end of it was, as it disappeared into the shrubs. Lisa had read and told me about an article just as we were leaving California, that cautioned: this is calving season--females with calves are particularly hostile to anyone cornering or otherwise disturbing them. We pulled into the spa driveway to see if we could watch the moose from the safety of the porch. But there was no sighting other than the bushes and small trees rustled and brushed about in the moose's wake, like big fans and pom-poms. So we rolled back out of the driveway to spot the beast near the garage in a neighboring garden, tugging and munching on the salads growing there. The animal's legs were long as a horse's on stilts. It was, well, gawky in the beguiling unkempt way some youths and elders have about them. It didn't seem to care about the car or our stopping to watch from the road for a while.
We lingered just long enough for Lisa to roll down her window while I took a few photos. Then Lisa edged us back up to the inn. We zipped out of the car, careful not to slam the doors any harder then we had to, and skittered up onto the porch like a couple of trick-or-treaters eager to ring the doorbell. By the time we made it there, all signs of the giant, including the rustling of the bushes and trees, were gone. We entered the inn and made our way to our room, quiet as a couple of nuns on retreat, yet excited and giddy as two school kids accepted to the college of our choice. In the room we congratulated ourselves on the sighting, all but high-fiving, as if we had anything to do with it.
We were soon interrupted by the calls of a young eagle whose elegant flight-swoops and turns conjure images of the most gifted young athletes, their lean, strong, gracefulness nothing less than perfect. The eagle has built a nest in the tree outside and high above our room. We started toward the window to gaze up at it again when something bobbing in the ocean pulled our sight downwards instead. In the high tidewater below, a sleek otter lolled about, munching on sea morsels, appearing fat, dumb and happy while floating on its back in the breeze. The otter's whiskery face was fluff-scruffy comical in the sunlight flickering off low-lapping waves.
Taking a cue from the otter we had a snack. Then Lisa paused to upload the images of the moose onto one of the laptops. Sated and thrilled about what we caught with the camera, we settled down to work. That is to say, I tried three or four times to sit and write about the moose and otter sightings. But I kept popping up from my seat, to go to the window, complaining about the huge distraction of the sea. Lisa laughed at me as she has for days while I haven't been able to write more than scribbles. The ocean pesters. Finally, as I gave up on longhand, turning on the laptop and waiting for it to boot, I glanced over my shoulder one...more...time towards the water.
"Something big, something dark, moving out there!" I called to Lisa, who was by then steadily typing at her workspace across the room. Reaching for the binoes like I was grabbing a fire extinguisher, I added, "I saw fins. Dolphins? Porpoises?" Lisa rushed to meet me at the window. "It was big," I said, trying to focus, "but I don't know what it was. At least a couple of them." I didn't utter what I was hoping, trying to catch them in my sites. "There!" But they were just skimming the surface. I still couldn't tell what they were.
"I see them," Lisa said. I tried to hand the binoes to her. "Not porpoises," she added, refusing the eye-gear. While I had been fussing, trying to get the creatures in view, she got a good look at the dorsal fins. "They look like orcas."
"What? No way!" I've been peering from our window and terrace for whales since we arrived four days ago. We have a whale study-trip planned out of Seward in a couple of days, and the take off and landing on the water here in Homer for a bear-sighting trip tomorrow. Even with all that, it seems important to me to experience whales from our room. Then I spotted the dorsal fin of one, rising high out of the water. "They might be orcas!" I almost shouted. And then the white patch at the eye, one, two, three times. The slick black whales rose, one of them a third of the way out of the water, reflecting the sun like an obsidian-black Lexus in the rain. Hoo-RAY!
At last, the small pod of whales, probably a cow with two calves, a female calf from last year and a new one, slipped back down into the water where we wouldn't see them again.Yes, you get up in the morning and have an idea--but you really don't know what you're going to find in a day. This is Diane Solis, signing off from Homer Alaska, feeling that's enough inspiration for one day. However, it's only after ten p.m. here and the sun won't go down for a few more hours.