elephant seals are impressive

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I wake up in different places. Today greeted me through the windows of an RV, another AirBnB adventure. The Coastal Commission meets this week in Santa Barbara, but for what I’d pay for two nights in a hotel in that moneyed town, I can stay five nights in a Ventura-based recreational vehicle.

It’s much better than it sounds.

The RV sits on the edge of an organic flower farm. The owner greeted me with an enthusiastic, “Welcome home,” as I stepped out of my car last night. Fresh chicken and duck eggs waited in the fridge, as did a variety of fruits and veggies, coffee and teas. At 35 feet, the RV outsizes the first apartment Bobby and I rented. A deck, cornhole game and pile of rocks painted as smiling faces sit just outside the door. The surf break is 10 minutes away. The bike path I’m hoping to explore is even closer.

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I’m charmed.

Yesterday I woke up in San Francisco. The ceiling in my room there is low, seven feet or so, and the only window faces west. But what could feel cave-like instead is cozy, thanks to cushy bedding to snuggle in, a wall-sized mirror enhancing the light from outside, my gratitude to have a space of my own.

From there, I launched onto the road. I’m less efficient at packing than I used to be; bored with making decisions about what to take, I took everything. Dresses, jeans, surfboard, bike.

I listened to podcasts: The California Report, Think Again, Radiolab, Note to Self. I tired of podcasts and listened to music. Sitting in traffic wearied me. Emerging along the ocean buoyed.

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I arrived somewhere I haven’t stopped before: San Simeon. David and Donovan, two volunteers from, respectively, the Piedras Blancas Light Station and Friends of the Elephant Seal greeted me. We toured the lighthouse grounds, viewed the elephant seal rookery, a work trip to inform efforts to expand the California Coastal National Monument. When elephant seals dive, all that blubber that ripples as they shimmy along the sand turns rock hard, making the males missile-like as they plunge thousands of feet to feed below the ocean surface. (No one yet understands how they withstand the pressure.)

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The day stretched wide with acres of yarrow brilliant yellow against a sky too blue to be true. And yet it was.

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“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott
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