The elephant seal had the right attitude to February.
It hauled its bulky self onto Owen Beach on Thursday and prepared to spend the rest of the month, and maybe a few days in early March, in a foul mood.
The seal, apparently, is molting.
If that’s the case, it’s doing it early.
Your typical M. angustirostris molts when it is warmer. The males prefer early summer. The females and the young’uns go more for April and May.
Females are sensible that way. If something’s going to be unpleasant – and losing big patches of skin and fur is, I would imagine, unpleasant – females prefer to get it over with as soon as possible. Why waste a sunny beach day on waiting for your blood vessels to grow new pathways through your layer of protective blubber?
Not to anthropomorphize too much, but I’ll credit this big-nose seal with the wisdom to realize that it’s better still to combine one disagreeable necessity with another.
Molting and February.
There’s nothing much you can do to improve the worst of months.
This year, we’ve even given it an extra day. As if we want an extra day of wet shoes.
We call it Leap Day, which suggests frisky lambs and leprechauns but condemns any baby born on it to a life of rehashed kidding about a lifespan measured in fourths.
We put a holiday involving chocolate right in middle, which only makes us fear both the mirror and the scale. We follow it with a three-day weekend that’s supposed to honor brave presidents, but instead encourages us to self-medicate with retail therapy. Again, we pay, literally, for the after-effects.
Fortunately for the elephant seal, the sushi-sustained life of a marine mammal honors blubber and is ignorant of credit cards.
If only it were also ignorant of ignorance.
No sooner was the elephant seal spotted on Point Defiance, than Metro Parks staff mobilized to protect it.
By February, we’ve run out of bright. The days might be getting three more minutes of light a pop, but what’s light without sun? A sullen drizzle that does not inspire us to kindness or intelligence.
Communications manager Nancy Johnson made a fast study of the northern elephant seal and compared and contrasted the seal’s facts to our late-winter instincts.
We’re pretty bored in February. If we take walks in the rain, it’s likely because we have a dog, a mission or no sense of when to stay inside with a nice cup of tea and a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.”
None of that works well for a hurting seal just trying to get past the blisters.
“We know a lot of people violate the leash law,” Johnson said. “Having a dog off-leash could be dangerous for the dog and the wildlife.”
How would the presumably hungry seal know that a schipperke lacks the nuanced flavors and boneless convenience of a Tacoma Narrows octopus?
“Sometimes people think that when they see a marine mammal on a beach, they have to save it,” Johnson said. “Some people will splash water on them, thinking the seal needs water.”
No, she said. The seal doesn’t want, or need, a bucket of water in the face.
February splashes plenty of cold water on joy and warmth and dreams of peonies and jellyfish.
It squashes grass flat and floods septic systems. It makes the robins grumpy, and it matches the crows. It throws parties for the pot hole trolls and tells them to bring their pals. There’s plenty of asphalt for everyone.
Sand, that’s another material altogether.
Elephant seals prefer lying on sand to lying on small stones. It has the abrasive quality of stage three of a spa facial. A good roll in it can revitalize the blubber, get the blood coursing to create a healthy new glow.
The seal fetched up on a pebbly stretch and, apparently, gave some thought to making a lousy time lousier. She – I like to think of her as a sister – was gone Friday morning.
“It doesn’t look like it’s coming back,” Johnson said.
If only we could say the same for February.
Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/street