Yesterday I watched a couple of whales about a mile off shore at the end of 41st Street. They swam in circles, chasing each other’s tails like a couple of playful puppy dogs, only out in the middle of the bay. The humpbacks come to town to feed on anchovies, while in December the grays come down from Alaska, hugging the California coast as they migrate to Scammon’s Lagoon in Baja for the winter, to give birth to their young.

One of the humpbacks yesterday would jump almost completely out of the water, creating a large splash on reentry. For the last month, the whale watching boats that go out from the Moss Landing and Santa Cruz harbors have seen pods of thirty or forty whales at a time. From the cliffs I could see several large charter boats chasing them around.

You can be shopping at the mall on 41st Street one minute, and the next be standing on the edge of the continent, looking out across the Monterey Bay. Without a determination to see the whales, they can be difficult to spot. The surface area of the bay is immense and is always dotted with splashes from rolling white caps or diving pelicans. I would not have thought to look out yesterday and study them as I did, except that the guy on the bench nearby me had brought his binoculars and was watching them with great intent and delight. When I see someone stopped and gazing afar, I know I should do the same.

How easily I miss seeing things of great beauty close by me. I shutter myself off inside and go through the day with a mechanical ease that cannot easily be disturbed. I try to be aware of what is around me, to see what is worth celebrating, but often wonder what is within range of my vision that I am just not seeing? Probably a lot.

Aging tends to make me more comfortable living within my own thoughts. My vision of what is going on around me goes into auto-pilot, and I dwell in a place where it is easy for me to remain. A friend who has been retired for 10 or more years advised me to get outdoors as much as possible, and now I think I understand his meaning. My indoor routines are etched deeply. I can move from book to TV, music to computer, fireplace to sleeping couch, and pass a whole day without interaction with the world, while just down the road some of the biggest creatures on the planet have come thousands of miles to visit and engage me.

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