Floating on their backs and saying, Urr.


I was catching on to sea lions. Walk into the water. Instantly sea lions surround you, even if none has been in sight. To say that they come to play with you is not especially anthropomorphic. Animals play. The bull sea lions are off patrolling their territorial shores; these are the cows and young, which range freely. A five-foot sea lion peers intently into your face, then urges her muzzle gently against your underwater mask and searches your eyes without blinking. Next she rolls upside down and slides along the length of your floating body, rolls again, and casts a long glance back at your eyes. You are, I believe, supposed to follow, and think up something clever in return. You can play games with sea lions in the water using shells or bits of leaf, if you are willing. You can spin on your vertical axis and a sea lion will swim circles around you, keeping her face always six inches from yours, as though she were tethered. You can make a game of touching their back flippers, say, and the sea lions will understand at once; somersaulting conveniently before your clumsy hands, they will give you an excellent field of back flippers. And when you leave the water, they follow. They don’t want you to go. They porpoise to the shore, popping their heads up when they lose you and casting about, then speeding to your side and emitting a choked series of vocal notes. If you won’t relent, they disappear, barking; but if you sit on the beach with so much as a foot in the water, two or three will station with you, floating on their backs and saying, Urr.

~ Annie Dillard, “Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos.” Teaching a Stone to Talk.



  1. Those eyes…..and the innocence of their play sounds just like children. So trusting…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Read it, pal, and loved it. The Galápagos Islands are on my “bucket list.” Especially loved this passage…” You pass among them as though you were wind, spindrift, sunlight, leaves. The songbirds are tame.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • WLS…and adding – I’m seduced by their capacity to play, and I mean that literally. There is little that I find more attractive than the invitation to giggle and say ‘hi’ to the kid in me and create a vortex in the water. What a magic moment this describes!! And the picture – she brings it again on this frigid morning…”AWWWWWWWWWW baby”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. they sound lovely and charming and so full of play. my post is all about the poetry of play today –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And it makes me worry for them, trusting human beings so.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Love this…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alex Jones says:

    Play is the universal language of mammals that crosses species barriers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The closest I’ve ever gotten to sea lions (must get to the Galapagos!) is at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. They loll around, sun bathe, play with and irritate each other; I could have stood there for hours watching them. And those eyes are so compelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great piece to bring a smile!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Those eyes, so cute. We need to continue to do something to protect our environment so that we may continue to enjoy pics like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the sense of play!! This line….this

    “You are, I believe, supposed to follow, and think up something clever in return.”

    Not only do they play, but it’s like they come and ask, ‘can David come out to play today?’

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Such a cute face … who can’t love it!?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. robbear13 says:

    Such a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wondrous creatures. It sounds like heaven, being able to engage in play with them. I wish …

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That sounds phenomenal!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Magical! I forgot how much I love Annie Dillard. I need to read this book David. Thanks for sharing it!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: