Sea otters and mountain lions

by Radio Somewhere

I’m not a big fan of being in or on water — so it does seem odd that if I could choose an animal to be, the sea otter is high up on my list (I like all the weasel family actually.) But, there are two main reasons I don’t enjoy water:

1. I don’t like the feeling of cold that goes along with it.
2. I have lousy buoyancy and really struggle not to sink in water. This really puzzles me as I am not noticeably thin, although I am rather muscular for someone who doesn’t work out at all. I might also have exceptionally dense bones.

Anyway, the idea of being able to float effortlessly on my back while gorging one-fourth of my body weight in food each day really appeals to me; as well as the up to one million hairs per square inch fur that would keep me warm. I don’t like shellfish as a human, but I suspect as a sea otter I would find it all delicious.

Sea otters do have to fear some natural predators: sharks, bears, eagles (they take pups) and orcas. But humans are the biggest hazard with their fishing nets, motorized water vehicles, and oil spills (which cause the fur to matt and lose its insulating quality.) But before I would panic too much about that, I would remind myself of how many times a day I have to be on the alert for inattentive drivers as I cross the street.

If you think about it, sea otters aren’t required to multitask are they? The dive for clams; bring up as many as they can in one trip; lie on their backs with clams and rock tool on belly; repeating the exercise once the clams have all been eaten. It’s a way of living and working that I truly aspire to.

I think I am in sea-otter mode much of the time. My natural habitat is the coffee shop and I get from one to another by walking or taking the bus. Even my work environment is accommodating, as I spend much of my time at my computer with a cup of coffee, happily lost in data.

But there is another animal within me that is troubling, even though it makes its presence known only occasionally. Have you ever been hiking in the mountains along a forested trail — and come around a corner to find a mountain lion? Not blocking the trail at all, but perhaps up on a ledge very close by — a distance that could be covered with one easy leap at you? And you can tell by the calculating look on its face that you have been on its radar screen for quite some time. And you stop right in your tracks.

I’ve never actually experienced this, but I can imagine it: that expression on the cat’s face. I think I wear it myself sometimes — and people react as the hiker surprised on the trail. For some reason, I make people nervous. Sometimes I can figure out why — but usually not.

OK. Enough of those sinister thoughts. Time to brew another cup of clams and get back to sea-otter business!