Project Ocean San Francisco – Views and Almost Views

New Side to an Old Friend

I’ve never seen a waterfall at the beach. 

That is, until I was cruising across the murky (and I’m told rather sharky) waters of Drake’s Bay off the coast of middle/Northern California. 

Rod (director of photography) and I joined the Greater Farallones Association team and its partners, everyone from researchers to divers to communication managers, to film their day-long expedition to outplant iconic bull kelp and check progress of existing outplant sites. 

I’m certainly no stranger to the coast. I grew up in New Bern, North Carolina, just about 45 minutes inland of the famous Outer Banks. If by some miracle you haven’t heard of OBX, just go watch any Nicholas Sparks movie. Most of my life has been spent on the water or chasing it. Every time I see the ocean, NC singer/songwriter James Taylor puts the feeling best: “Ain’t it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind.” 

But the beach friend I know looks very different from what I found in front of me on that overcast, Pacific June Wednesday. Back home, there are no waterfalls. It’s flat, it’s sometimes swampy, it’s usually teeming with people. In some NC coastal counties, the highest point is a sand dune. 

This is why I could hardly pry my eyes off that rocky California horizon to do my work of filming the kelp preparation activities happening on board. Rugged, formidable, cliffs piercing the air. I hadn’t seen a human on land for miles and hours. And the waterfall running into the waves? Get out of town. 

Seeing it was the joy, the almost sinister gratification, of finding out something once a secret. It was the few and far between elation of learning something new about a lifelong friend or long-term partner that you thought you knew everything about already. There’s another side to you, and it makes me love you even more. 

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

That day was full of new views, and almost views. 

The Greater Farallones Association communications liaison for us, Alayne, pointed out to me three different times when she saw a whale breaching. Every time, before my eyes could train on where she was pointing, it was gone. It got to the point that I told her she surely was making it all up. 

The fleeting nature of those almost magnificent whale moments was not lost on me, in more ways than one. 

I love filmmaking and storytelling, but sometimes it feels like grasping at a warm breeze you haven’t gotten your fill of yet. Spending all day on a ship with people, interviewing them, calming their nerves, listening to their passions, capturing their expertise on display, receiving their vulnerability – this is real, visceral connection. 

Then it ends, and I leave. 

I’ve been interviewing people for 12 years now, and I have never gotten used to the letdown of this reality. Sometimes life brings you back around, but nine times out of 10, that 30-minute interview is all you get with that person. You won’t move to their city and become best friends, you won’t get to learn more about them or share more about yourself. 

You get today with them. 

Nothing Looks the Same Twice

I’ll say it again: nothing looks the same twice. 

Our view is never exactly the same today as it was yesterday. Whether the landscape or person or circumstances in front of us have changed, or whether we ourselves have changed, we never see the same thing in the same way more than once. The difference may be too subtle to detect right away, but it’s there. 

So much of life is that breaching whale that by the time we recognize what’s in front of us, it’s already on its way down. It’s that brief peek at the West Coast waterfalls, before we’re right back at the East Coast dunes. 

As I watched the GFA team release the kelp outplants into their slice of ocean to nurture the kelp forests back to health, I found my takeaway. 

While we largely do not have control over our current view or how permanent that view is, we do have the choice to nurture what we find in front of us right now. The kelp, the waterfalls, the people. 

And the fake whales. Looking at you, Alayne 😉 .

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