The Quiet Safari
We Aquarium guides are talkers. We always have something to say, ever ready with the accurate scientific fact, the helpful conservation tip, quick directions to the bathroom.
But we were left speechless, 15 of us from our Thursday shift, along with spouses and friends, when we took a two-hour trip on Monday with the great tour company “Elkhorn Slough Safari.” Their skilled captain and naturalist recommended a trip during a very low tide on the mudflats and tidal waterways and the rarely revealed eelgrass of this vast precious Monterey Bay wetlands.
We’ve been well trained by the Aquarium – we think we know all there is to know about these animals and their habitats. But when we saw those many hundreds of birds, otters, seals, sea lions in their natural habitats, we just watched. Couples whispered – look, a merganser. Old friends shared binoculars and quietly IDed birds. Click click of fancy cameras. But hardly a noise.
I think of safaris as jolly noisy affairs, happy companions oohing and aahing. But our guides reminded us that the Marine Mammal Protection Act forbids animal disturbance. And that we were more likely to see birds close up if we stayed quiet. Of course we oohed and aahed. But so gently, no bragging about seeing it first or how long our bird list was.
The slough kept us kind and affectionate. It was thrilling to see amazing birds and mammals in their own homes. But as special for me was the mood in the boat.
Sloughs do that, oceans and coastlines do that. They calm us down and focus us up.
Every Thursday morning you can find us gabbing away. But this trip reminded us, from Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to speak, and time to refrain from speaking.
Robert Sardello, in his book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, writes: ‘Silence knows how to hide. It gives a little and sees what we do with it….In Silence everything displays its depth, and we find that we are a part of the depth of everything around us.’”
We still have a few open dates for summer 2018 Monterey Bay Blue Theology adult pilgrimages and youth group service trips – bluetheology.com. We encourage our groups to add an extra Elkhorn Slough trip to their visit, a soft, silent spiritual safari.
I post these Blue Theology Tide-ings every Wednesday here and at www.bluetheologytideings.blogspot.com.
Please hold me in prayer this Monday as I speak at the big, creative North Hollywood Christian Church on “The Ocean and Climate Change” as part of their Earth Care series.
Elkhorn Slough photos: Becky Stamski, Steven Lonhardt/ NOAA MBNMS