This past weekend I went to Ano Nuevo State Park to see the elephant seals. We were disappointed to discover that the adult male and female seals had already finished their mating season and taken to the sea. All that were left on the dunes were the “weaners,” the newly weaned babies, and some juvenile seals ranging from one-to-four years old.
The seals come on land in January when the females give birth to their babies. Not long after this, they mate. At the end of February the adult seals take to the sea, swimming 4,000 miles out into the ocean in the direction of Alaska, where they dive a half mile to a mile deep to eat, going under for up to 90 minutes at a time.
The adults leave the weaners behind to fend for themselves and to learn to swim in the eddies along the dunes and in the shallow water at the edge of the ocean. When they are ready–in early April, they, too, take to the water swimming approximately the same route as their parents. The juveniles arrive on land in late February or March, possibly to molt.
One of the amazing things about this whole process is that the seals swim all that way, spend about two months eating and then turn around and come back to the same place they started. However, as if they had a map and knew what highway to travel, they take the exact same route on their return trip and arrive back on the exact same beach. This is true even for the weaners. They simply find their way back home instinctively following their exact trail.
As I heard the Ano Nuevo docent tell us this, I began to wonder…Could I find my way back home without a map, a GPS on my phone, directions printed out from Google Maps, or some other assistance? Probably not.
And what about true home…or True North. That place within myself from whence I began? My soul.
We often lose a sense of who we are as we travel through life trying so hard to please others and to earn a living and to survive. We travel out into the big, wide ocean in one direction, but we don’t necessarily continue in a straight line. Sometimes we take a turn or two, make a detour or simply go off in the wrong direction. We may know how to turn around and find our way back…but typically not the way we in which we came. We likely do not end up on the same beach where we started, that’s for sure.
We change. But inside, a part of us remains the same. It’s to that place we want to return, I want to return.
Yet, these elephant seals know where they are going, and they know their way back home.
They have an internal GPS. They never lose sight of their destination or their origination point.
Lately I feel I’ve been looking for my way back home. I’ve been trying to find that internal GPS, which actually I think we do, indeed, have…one that leads me back to the core of who I am. I’m just not sure we always find our way back in the same way we ended up lost. Or maybe we do…Maybe it’s as direct a path as the one the ones the elephant seals take when they return to their birth place from that spot so far out in the ocean. Maybe by simply wanting to return home, I’ll be drawn back to myself, to my soul. The directions, the path will be clear.
What do you think? Can you find your way home? If so, how?