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BREATHING ROOM

Eden on the sea

September 25, 2003|Veronique de Turenne

You can see it on the charts, just off Point Dume, a place where the ocean bed rises to form a small, rocky reef. There, the giant kelp is thriving. It's everywhere, broad, brown leaves fanning out, floating atop the water, hissing against the hull of your kayak as you paddle through. Park there, and even though the current flows south and the ocean swells head west, the kelp bed holds you, it keeps you still.

Look over the side and you can see the bottom. The water is crystal clear, just 12 feet deep. There are the bright gold of garibaldi and the ghostly glide of rays. The kelp is always moving, shifting and swaying and growing absurdly fast -- up to 18 inches a day. Sit still. You'll hear it breathe, cartoonish bloops and pops, bubbles of oxygen breaking free and bobbling to the surface. It's salty and briny and fresh, like how the ocean smelled when you were a kid.

Sea lions like it there, like to swim up beside you, raise their heads from the water and stare. Time it right and you'll see dolphins, hear the whoosh of their inhale and smell the breath of their exhale. When a set of waves comes through, the kelp bed rises and falls, so slow it feels as if the ocean is breathing. Sit there long enough, and it's like one of those flying dreams.

-- Veronique de Turenne

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