Monday, August 17, 2009

The Living and The Dead

WARNING: THIS POST HAS PHOTOS OF DEAD MARINE MAMMALS
One morning last week before the fires, smoke and haze the sun rose in an orange-red sky. We hadn't seen a sunrise like this for most of the summer. Not because we weren't awake, but because the marine layer of fog has been unbelievably persistent. It hangs around the coast until noon or later every day, burns off for a few hours, and then blows back in around 8:00 pm, cooling things off for a perfect sleeping chill. The tomatoes aren't happy about it, even the San Francisco Fog variety grows a tough skin in this weather. But, that's summer on the central coast.
Roger and I didn't want to have to tell you, but RoRo died August 6th. The stranding coordinator responded to my inquiry and wrote, "The cause of death was a trauma wound that caused him to be septic." We really had hoped he would survive. His death made me wonder, though, if our human interventions into their wild lives is a good thing. Who are we to intervene? Put them in weird buildings, probe and prod them? When they die, they do so in places utterly foreign to them. Wouldn't the beach have been a better place to wash up? Really.
I can't stop myself from thinking about this stuff: The role humans have on the planet from the very smallest to the biggest wrecks. We sure seem to make a mess of it. The road to hell and all of that... I know it is easy to argue that had RoRo survived, it would have been worth it. That may be true, but I'm not sure I know how to think for a sea lion. Suddenly we are on his death panel, considering his end of life directives. Is this dominion with a benevolent face? I simply don't know.
There's something about being on the coast, though, that really puts life and death right out there for you to take a good long look. One day we see these animals in pursuit of their prey, rampaging through the water, and gulping other sea life like there's no tomorrow. And the next day there's a large dead sea lion floating just off shore, or a young porpoise dead on the sand. I don't know any other place where large lifeless mammals show up, and demand your attention.
And yes, we would like to protect every last one of these animals from the wreck human contact, but I suddenly wonder if that means protecting them from even the very best of our intentions.

We know this is a touchy subject. For the record, we would stop on the highway and try to pick up an injured bobcat or coyote that had been hit by a car. We would want to disentangle a whale from fishing nets. We utterly admire the work Julie Zickefoose does with injured hummingbirds, and Dave Dorsey and The Bird Learning Center does with eagles and other raptors. I'm trying to grasp the subtle difference between taking sick marine mammals off the beach and to the hospital, and rescuing creatures who would have otherwise been well if not for our inadvertent traps, boat propellers, crushing automobiles, reflective windows, high tension wires, and poisoned earth. There's something ... there's something I can't quite put my finger on yet that leaves me with discomfort about a sick marine mammal dying in a building after being driven up a 100 miles up a highway in the back of a pick up truck. It makes me wonder what we are we doing, and why.

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