Jan 29 '01, "Everything moves."

We made our reservation for the guided tour of Año Nuevo about 3 weeks ago at Lindy Peterson's suggestion. Tom was so jocular ("cool, we may get to watch seal pups get eaten by great white sharks") that I expected to go alone — he dropped the joke and made our reservation, took a long weekend off from work. Monday we left here just after noon, in what clear sun the peninsula manages.

In the visitor's center, we had time to look through the exhibits, and watch most of the video. Good overview of the natural history, the human history, and the wildlife at the Reserve.

The beach scene at Año Nuevo

Walking between hulking blubber piles of bachelor males who would awaken from depressed states only to menace one another, to a sand dune lookout over a beach covered with harems, the ruling alpha males awakening to lurch after a female or to threaten a young bachelor.

Sand dunes at Año Nuevo

Sand blowing off the point, under our feet, really, sand heaped up by thrashing waves of the (non-)Pacific. Wind that hustles sand also stinging humans, tramping over shell middens of Ohlone Indians who were here before us, crafting/making money by digging out chert, boiling spiral shells to make them more white and marketable. I thought, this place makes the impermanence of all things immediate. Here, as gulls circle a female giving birth, waiting eagerly for the placenta, as a yearling who lost his mother too soon bleats on a sand dune, calling for a lost mother, his skin scarred from bites by females when he tried to steal milk — we are thrilled and scared by our own role.

The beach scene at Año Nuevo, closer

We fix life by language, routine, ritual, relationships, even as wind relentlessly blows, rain washes earth away, down, down, away.

Jeanette Ross
February 4, 2001
Photos by Tom von Alten; hyperlinked to larger versions.