When my dive group arrived at Ventura Harbor, ambling down the ramp to the docked boat, we noticed this slumbering, adorable, blubberous sea lion stretched out on the edge of the dock, his eyes glittering in the dark.
We headed out in the morning, the ocean impossibly blue, but so rough I spent most of the ride out in the bunk down below deck, escaping the rollicking Pacific by reading an old copy of the Atlantic Monthly which luckily for me had both an article on Sylvia Plath and one on The Beatles. I tried earnestly not to throw up and succeeded. When I did return to the deck, I learned I’d missed a pod of dolphins frolicking near the boat, but sea birds were flying close, reminding me of a trip to Channel Islands many years before, with my friend Dan and his father Richard. An expert birder, Richard had switched his obsession to butterflies and had come to the Islands to try and spot one. As Tim O’Brien once said, “odd fragments stick to memory” and I recall that Richard told me there was technically no such thing as a seagull.
Dan and I lost our fathers months apart last year. Before I’d come to the dive boat, I’d had a difficult afternoon. As a writer, your material is your own life and every word I wrote, summoned my father and confirm his absence. But I tried to exert some control on the flood of memories as I stepped on the dive boat. I didn’t want to be distracted by some melancholy image of a birch tree or a pasture and end up dead, tangled in a kelp forest. Continue reading