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The Ocean’s Generosity; A Personal Experience

I recently camped on Hermit Island, a magnificent point of land at the southern tip of Phippsburg, Maine. On the second day of the trip, I felt a strong urge to paddle my kayak around the island. My connection to nature and animals propels my activities in this life, my soul calling for immersion regularly in this realm. Every day I speak directly to the creatures I encounter in my life, giving them respect and honoring their existence.  I pick up litter along trails and beaches to show my respect and gratitude. It is something I can do to help.

I started out mid afternoon on Head Beach pointing northwest paddling along the bluffs, drinking in the sights, smells and sounds of Casco Bay. It was slightly cloudy and overcast, creating a mysterious effect amplifying the sounds.  With my binoculars, I observed a group of 4 adolescent loons, poking their heads under the water, looking for fish, osprey and seagulls gliding above me, and a few distant seals popping their curious heads out of the water to view me. Occasional swells broke and foamed on the exposed rocks.  My whole being felt energized. This is my heaven!

As I passed Osprey Point, I could see people hiking along the bluffs. I recognized my brother and his friend waving to me.  Foot long silver fish jumped from the water splashing upon landing.  As I peered closer to the water surface, scores of 2 inch translucent triangles, tightly parallel to each other, became visible everywhere I looked, expanding out in all directions. I was in the middle of a huge school of fish, thousands of fish fins on the surface, sporadically leaping around my vessel. I was startled when a wave swooshed directly in front of my kayak.  I could see shiny silver streaks below the water. More leaping. I felt vulnerable and nervous. The energy in the air and water was palpable. Another big whooshing wave came, followed by another and another. The sea was alive with waves of rushing fish, and I was in the center of it, paddling through it. 

A large spotted seal emerged 20 feet from my boat, his head and shoulders protruding as though he was standing up on the seafloor!  It was a gray seal, a much larger species than its cousin, the harbor seal.  We locked eyes, such big beautiful soulful eyes, and then he submerged. The gushing, swirling waves continued, my adrenaline rushing each time. More seals popped up, some with wriggling fish in their mouths, some surprised by the sight of me, quickly plunging down below. I now knew that the hunting seals were creating the frenzied fish turbulence. A new fear surfaced in my heart.  Is there a chance that a powerful gray seal, in fast pursuit of its dinner, could bump my 11-foot kayak, spilling me into the pool of fleeing fish and frothing water? I continued paddling, as the wildlife show went on around my boat, wanting to remove myself from the middle and observe “the show” from a  safer distance. I saw as many as 20 seals emerging and diving, over and over. My heart pounded in my chest, as I glided through the turbulence, trying to avoid the fish waves, entranced by what I was a part of. 

Since my husband died 5 years ago, the seal has shown itself to me in magical ways that seem unbelievable at times. In shamanic journeys, a seal spirit works with me, and I have swum and rolled with her in the mighty falls of the Presumpscott River in Maine, with absolute joy and delight. Even though in this moment, I was feeling fear and vulnerability, surrounded by powerful forces beyond my control, a voice in my head told me that I was safe. My spirit animal was part of this, and I was being offered a gift of witnessing and being within the natural world, in all its majesty and power, its perfect order. I was wrapped in nature’s abundance and vitality, the synchronicity of the dance of prey and predator, the acceptance and allowing, the ancient sea cradling the miracle of life and death in the wild. 

The whole experience was very dreamlike. When the seals surfaced near and further out, they took me in with curiosity and acceptance, and some fear when rising up too close to my moving orange vessel. We were connecting on the deepest level, eye to eye, while I took in, through my cells, and the depth of my soul, this primal part of their existence.  I felt as though I was outside space and time, although I knew it was very real, and happening in real time.  

After I had paddled through the maelstrom to calmer waters, some of the people who had been watching the seals hunting from the cliffs, called out to me. I was dazed and speechless. One woman yelled out that they wished they could have been with me, validating that I didn’t dream this surreal event.

I can only say that I feel immense gratitude that the sea creatures, nature spirits, and my spirit seal saw fit to include me in their magical moment celebrating abundance and life force.  My connection to the ocean and its creatures is stronger than ever, my respect widened, my heart more open, my compassion greater. I am humbled. Elton John performs a song titled "Grey Seal" on the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The song attributes wisdom to the seal: "And tell me, grey seal, how does it feel / To be so wise / To see through eyes / That only see what's real? 


Thank you for reading, and as always, if what I have written here touches you, please reach out. 

Love and Blessings,

JoAnn Dowe

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