Two little boys sat playing in the sand on La Jolla beach. They had buckets, which they packed unceremoniously with wet sand before flipping over. The older one, probably a third grader, dictated where each one went. The little one, blonder, would dutifully drag the heavy bucket to the designated spot. Next to them lie a sea lion, passed out and completely unconcerned with the bucket-shaped wall being built slowly around him.
Having grown up with a father that worked at Sea World, I was really lucky to be face to face with all sorts of marine life from penguins, to dolphins, to Shamu himself. Now, even as an adult, encounters with wildlife excite me more than anything else. It's not only a special, happy coincidence (most of the time), but I also view it as a privilege. So when Julia, Kristie, and I made our way down the steps to La Jolla Cove, San Diego and onto a beach populated with sun-tanning sea lions, I almost lost my mind.
They were graceful and they were funny--but mostly they were blasé about the strange humans surrounding them. I, for one, stayed further away than I would have had there been someone down there watching us. If I got attacked it would be no one's fault but my own. Again, I was aware of this privilege and didn't want to take advantage of the sea lions' trust.
The beach was free of litter as tourists respectfully took their photographs, explored the nearby coves, and went on their way. In my wildest dreams I never thought sea lions could be so normalized to humans that two little boys would have more fun with sand. The little girl inside me could have spent all day taking photos, lying next to them, suntanning and dreaming of fish. The two adults with me, Julia and Kristie, told me it was time to go home.