In my next life I may need to be a pelican. I've always loved to watch them dive like arrows into the sea or skim the edge of waves as if their wingtips could brush the surface without consequence.
On my vacation this week I discovered the Dana Point Headlands, which brought the pelicans up very close and personal.
The headlands is an enormous coastal cliff that towers above Dana Point Harbor to the south and Strand Beach to the north. I've often walked at its foot and have posted pictures of the rocky beach, but I never knew there was a trail on top.
From the top, which is an ecological preserve bursting with native plants, you can see 180 degrees of blue-slate ocean and horizon. It is one of few places where you see the slight curvature of the earth due to the unbroken expanse and the height of the promontory.
This time of year, gray whales are migrating back north after spending the winter in their nursery in Mexico.
I saw a mother and baby! Mostly, I saw a bit of their backs as they surfaced. In the three visits I made to the headlands, I saw whales each time, including a nice tail flip.
Whale watching boats linger below the cliff (you can see one in this picture) and then travel up the coast from the harbor. One of the boats was surrounded by dozens of porpoises, popping out of the water like flying fish.
This year, I remembered to bring my binoculars, which are necessary if you want to see much.
Not at all silent was a mockingbird who sang every song known to bird--chit-chit-chit, neider-neider, tweet, chirrup, chirrup, chip, twee-twee, wrrrrrr, cherree, pip, pip, pip. Or some such language. I was there for hours, and he rarely stopped.
The bush sunflowers were all in bloom, and the air was filled with the sharp tangy scent coming from a bluish bush and the sweet butterscotch aroma given off by California everlasting.
Between the fresh sea breeze and the heady aroma from the plants, I couldn't get enough deep breaths. It was intoxicating.
There was the continuous rush and rumble of waves against cliffs, a far-off fog horn and the querulous bark of sea lions who sunned on a buoy. I felt transported to a simpler time and place.
Later, I was back in San Clemente for sunset.
The wind was cold and howling across the sea, causing a string of little girls holding hands to skitter down the wood-plank pier shrieking.
I walked to the end where the water spreads out for unfathomable distance, and all the world is reduced to sea and sky. (And, of course, other people taking pictures who I included, because everyone knows that shots are better with people in them.)