The Moon and Sand… and Seals!

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As regular readers of this blog are well aware, I love spending time on Cape Cod.

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And I am not alone in this sentiment.

In recent years the population of seals on Cape Cod has risen significantly.

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According to the web site of the Center For Coastal Studies in Provincetown, two kinds of seals — harbor and gray — live on the Cape year-round.

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Three other species — harp, hooded, and ring seals — can also be spotted on Cape Cod, although they give birth in Canada and Greenland.

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I am pretty sure it is gray seals who share the beach in North Truro with us human beings.

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Head Of The Meadow beach, near where I camp with family members each summer, is home to hundreds of seals.

You can click here to read a recent story — with great photos — about this particular community of seals.

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It confirms what we have noticed — that within the past ten years, the number of seals sharing this beach has increased substantially!

At low tide they gather in large communities on the sandbars and soak up the sun.

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Then at high tide everyone is back in the water, swimming up and down the shoreline in search of food.

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When I am learning new songs, I usually record them as accurately as possible with pianist Doug Hammer at his studio in Lynn, MA.

Then I load piano-vocal and just-piano versions onto my iPod — and walk and sing for hours, memorizing lyrics while musing about the story being told in the song…

And beaches are great places to walk and sing.

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Seals often will swim along the shore while I am walking — their heads popping up through the surface of the water at regular intervals.

Sometimes a bunch of them will gather and watch/listen if I stop and sing in one place for a while.

They are curious beings.

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On clear nights, I sometimes leave the campground and head back to the beach in order to walk and sing and revel in a truly starry sky.

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Where I live — just outside of Boston — there’s a lot of light pollution.

But on the outer Cape — away from buildings and streetlights and cars — the skies remain awe-inspiring.

And song-inspiring!

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I wrote the song (in the player at the beginning of this blog post) a couple of summer ago… and recorded it with Doug a few weeks ago at his studio north of Boston.

It was an alternative pick for a Valentine’s-themed blog post.

But since February is not quite over, I have decided to share it in this seal-themed blog post instead.

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Since I burn easily, I almost never go to the beach during peak sun hours.

My routine is to stay at the campground during the day — when almost all of the humans have gone to the beach — and write songs.

I sit in a very large tent with my ukulele and a rhyming dictionary and a little digital recorder and a laptop computer and bags of song ideas which I have jotted down over the years.

I listen to the birds and the chipmunks and the crickets and the cicadas.

And write.

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Then in the late afternoon I walk down a long path through a wonderful pine forest to the beach.

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In addition to swimming in very shallow water along the shore — because the booming seal population has also encouraged a healthy population of great white sharks to visit the outer Cape — I sometimes stretch and do a little yoga.

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As do the seals…

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While we human beings dither about climate change — and carry viruses around the world due to our obsession with international travel — and vote for political candidates who may or may not care one iota for their constituents — I am strangely reassured to think about the seals.

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And the moon.

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And the stars.

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And the sea.

Thank you to all of the photographers who share their great photos at Pixabay.

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And to the seals and other wildlife who share the Cape with us human beings.

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And to the North Of Highland Campground for staying in business year after year.

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And to my family who choose to camp together for two weeks each summer.

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And to you for reading and listening to this blog post!

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58 thoughts on “The Moon and Sand… and Seals!

  1. I remember when seeing a sea lion on a California beach was a big deal~now they are quite numerous. Like you, I take comfort in such things.

    • Yes. It is very easy for me to get caught up in the drama we human beings create… Somehow remembering that many non-human beings here on planet earth are living their lives — as they have done for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years — helps me regain some perspective and gives me some comfort + hope. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

      • I agree. It feels like we’ve truly lost our equilibrium as politicians whip us from pole to pole ideologically.

    • THANK YOU for making time to read and listen to my blog post. According to the WBUR story about the rising Cape Cod seal populations I mentioned (and linked to) in my post: “Humans began hunting (Cape Cod-based) seals in earnest in the late 19th century. Massachusetts offered a bounty for them between 1888 and 1962 — up to $5 per seal nose — and Maine had a similar bounty from 1891 to 1905 and 1937 to 1945. It’s unclear exactly how many seals were killed for bounty during that period — one study puts the figure between 72,000 and 135,000 — but by the mid-20th century, they were almost extinct in U.S. waters. After the bounty system ended, the seal population began to recover. (The 1972 federal Marine Mammal Protection Act codified and strengthened this protection.) The recovery was slow at first, but in the last decade or so, the seal population has taken off…” I find hope in the fact that their populations have rebounded once we stopped paying our fellow human beings to kill them.

  2. Thanks for sharing your song and thoughts Will. I’m glad the seal population is growing and nature is still thriving in some areas. The best part is hearing how the seals seem curious about you and your music. I guess it’s unanimous; we enjoy your music. 🙂

    • Hear, hear! I can’t recommend North Of Highland camping area in North Truro more highly if you enjoy sleeping in a tent — while also having easy access to hot showers, a camp store, a wonderful beach, and lots of sky!!!

  3. What a wonderful post, Will. I love your song, which went so wonderfully with the post and all the photos. Seals are lovely animals and it is great to know that their population at Cape Cod is increasing, despite everything. Very hopeful. The way you spend your day sounds ideal. I hope you have many more happy holidays there.

    • Thank you very much for your enthusiastic feedback! I do find perhaps an inappropriate amount of hope in learning about a RISING population of animals which we human beings had decimated in past decades… And confirmation emails from the campground about our two week (last week of July and first week of August) reservation for this summer arrived shortly after I finished this blog post!

  4. Beautiful photos! Who doesn’t love seals? They are adorable. There’s nothing better than being part of and close to the beautiful world, especially where the sea meets the shore and the sky gives a light show with stars, sunrises and sunsets. Add to all of that music…and it is just perfect. 🙂

  5. What a fabulous two weeks your summer camping vacation sounds. I have never been to Cape Cod, though I’ve thought about it numerous times. Now that I know there are seals, it may get me there sooner. The song is lovely, too. It made me think of William Carlos Williams’s The Ivy Crown. New love is great, but old love is even better, complex as it is.

    • The seals are one of many reasons why one might venture to Cape Cod… I love the scrubby pine trees and the birds and insect sounds and the flowers (especially in gardens along the main street in Provincetown) and swimming in the ocean and living away from radio/TV/internet for a precious fortnight. And sharing meals/clean up with family. And wide open vistas. And summer heat. I just looked up the poem you mention. I think I see what you mean, especially near the end: “But we are older/I to love/and you to be loved/we have/no matter how/by our wills survived/to keep/the jeweled prize/always/at our finger tips. We will it so/and so it is/past all accident.” Thank you for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts AND for leaving a comment, too!

  6. This is lovely as always, Will. The seals are so expressive—those wonderful eyes! I enjoy writing about the human-animal bond, and I am moved by their adaptation to the area.

    But.. I worry that they’ve migrated there in search of food because climate change has deprived them of their customary nourishment in their usual locales. This is happening worldwide—to people and animals. I’ve just donated to John Kerry’s new organization, World War Zero, to encourage conversation leading to meaningful action worldwide. The seals, I believe, are emissaries in this urgent conversation.

  7. I’ve never been to Cape Cod but I would love to see the seals. We have a different variety here on the west coast, I think. That was an awesome handstand! I like how you gently phrase your thoughts on our political climate. I know a lot of supposedly intelligent people who just don’t grasp what’s happening to our climate much less the rest of the world. While I do think international travel expands peoples perceptions about the world, I wish they could come up with an alternative fuel for our planes. It matters.

    • Thank you for reading and listening to my blog post! I think the enormity and complexity of what we have done — and continue to do — to the amazingly interlocked ecological cycles and systems and communities here on planet earth as a result of our ever-increasing consumption of fossil fuels is very difficult to grasp. Especially if one has any children/grandchildren/greatgrandchildren whose lives are going to be impacted in unimaginably challenging ways — then the guilt and denial really tend to kick in! As just one example of how seemingly unrelated events will continue to impact each other in unexpected ways, we can look at how the deadly weather in Tennessee last night (which has not only killed many people but also made many homeless and left even more without power…) is affecting an important primary voting process today. Apparently many voting locations have been demolished by the storm! Deep sigh. Let’s all travel LESS, consume fewer fossil fuels… and also vote!

  8. Very nice photos, especially the one with the stars. Thanks for sharing the photos with us. The one beach walk I remember the most was by Lake Malawi years ago when I decided to forgive someone and move on with my life. The early morning peace and quiet was indescribable and helped me think clearly.

    • Yes. Spending time in the natural world can definitely help us regain a sense of wisdom/priorities/direction. Thank you for reading and listening to my blog post — and for taking the time to leave a comment, too!

  9. 🌊Truly an exquisite visual banquet, and lovely story. You are richly blessed. We live on the West Coast, near Santa Cruz, Ca., there are numerous Sea Lions which entertain to no end. Would love to visit Cape Cod some day. I did not know how captivatingly beautiful it is. Thank you for sharing🌊

  10. We visited the Cape a couple of summers ago and I fell in love with it. Wellfleet, Brewster, Chatham–and a jaunt to Nantucket to see a friend. It’s truly a magical place and I do love the seals. As well as the Wellfleet coffee company:).

    • Thank you, Luisa! I have been savoring some of your posts. One, for example, helped me to understand and appreciate the song “The Sounds Of Silence” in a new way…

  11. I love seals and appreciate you including them in this post. I have lived in San Diego and Monterey where we have both seals and sea lions. Sea lions are more gregarious and thigmotactic. Now that I live in Central Virginia, I need to get my seal fix some other way. Today you provided it . Seals can hold a nice cobra position but are not really built for downards facing seal.

    • I like the idea of “downward facing seal” as a yoga pose. I also like learning a new word (“Thigmotaxis is an organism’s response to the stimulus of contact or touch. This response can be either positive or negative. An organism that is positively thigmotactic will seek contact with other objects, while one that is negatively thigmotactic will avoid contact.”) Thank you for reading and listening and commenting!

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