Submitted 10 months ago
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Part One: Water


“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is a 1977 film, written and directed by Steven Spielberg.  The title is derived from classification of close encounters in which the third kind denotes human observations of “animate beings.”  Wikipedia



It was the tail end of summer—early September—and the beach was almost empty.  I could just see one or two people in the distance, up and down the Maine shoreline.  A few children were playing in the sand and a woman, far away, was walking her dog.  The sky was a gun grey but the breeze off the water was mild and I tasted the temperature of the sea with my toes:  just fine—fine for me; I like cold water.                                                                                                                       .                      No one was in the ocean, something which always gives me pause.  I have a fine respect for the moods and dangers of the sea.  But I’m always overwhelmingly drawn to the water and after a moment of hesitation, I plunged in and after the first gasp, was soon joyfully diving into the waves.  I swam back and forth; I flipped; I laughed:  it was exhilarating; for me, it always is.  After a while, as I swam back and forth, I noticed a long piece of driftwood about two waves from me.  It was large enough to concern me:  if it hit me, I would certainly get hurt.  I continued to play, but now stayed watchful and alert.  The driftwood kept its distance, but only just.

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It’s always hard for me to leave the sea.  Finally though, tired enough, cold enough and happy enough, I rode a wave in towards the shore and slowly stood up.  I began to wade out and then felt, uncannily, that I was being followed.  I glanced behind me and saw, with absolute amazement, a small brown seal, sleek and slippery, steadily following me out of the water.  Our eyes locked.  Seals like people and they are playful.  And this seal had obviously found a playmate:  me!

The seal flapped its way onto the shore, trailing me until I stopped stock still.  We gazed at each other for a long time—with mutual admiration, I like to think.  And as I slowly backed away, the seal relaxed into the sand and then, after a moment or two, sedately made its way back into the sea.

This happened to me years ago but my sense of astonishment and wonder has stayed with me.  The kelpie, the mermaid, the seal and us—no more than one degree of separation….and sometimes less.


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