In just my last few paddle sessions with Kate, we have seen a humpback whale spout in the distance, flirted with a family of bottlenose dolphins a few feet from our feet, scrounged up starfish off the sand in shallow waters, and marveled at pelicans hunting in graceful arcs over our head. We have hunted for sand dollars, kelp forests, and ventured into open water looking for migrating gray whales when the water is calm.
Kate sits on a plastic chair strapped to the front of my board with a bungee cord. The questions she asks as we paddle and observe our watery world make me smile, and make my heart swell in my chest: Why do pelicans fly so low to the water? Why do dolphins blow the air out like that? How fast does kelp grow? How did that rock become an arch? Where do whales go at night? Do starfishes have mouths? How do cormorants swim like fish? Why are garibaldis orange?
And as she points to the horizon, “Daddy, what is out there?”
Sometimes I think the best part of our paddles is the way it quiets and calms her into this introspection. She is a naturally rambunctious kid, physical, and prone to boredom at home. While most parents we know are trying hard to pry their kids from screens, we can hardly get her to watch a movie. For the love of God, please go watch your Ipad. I can’t play babies anymore.
When we paddle though, she leans back into her chair, and relaxes into the rhythm of paddle strokes and undulating swells. She sometimes says nothing for five minutes, which is shocking every time it happens. When this happens, I maintain the silence and paddle in a steady rhythm. And often, the silence breaks with one of those heart-achingly sweet questions.
She has been thinking about what she is seeing and wants to know more. She wants to understand our beautiful world. It is my fervent hope that she will be doing just this her entire life.