Seal Stare

OPDowntown Juneau is as quiet as a forest pond this Sunday morning. The tourist shops closed when the last cruise ship headed south last month. Aki and I walk along the edge of the Starr Hill neighborhood where three mainstream churches stand. We pass the Catholic Cathedral first, the smallest in America. The faint sounds of chanted responses leaks through its 100 year old walls. Down the street, the Episcopal priest preaches on today’s Gospel, reminds his congregation that what they do for the least of God’s people, they do for Him. While I stop to look at the priest in his heavy medieval robes, Aki squats at if to pee. I drag her away before she can spot the sidewalk with her message.

Down on Front Street a congregation of European football fans (“Soccer” in American) watches a match on the Viking Bar’s giant screen TV. Their cheers mingle with the screams of gulls fighting for scraps floating on the surface of Gastineau Channel. Startled by the cheers, Aki growls a warning.

sealAll this eavesdropping makes me think of the seal we saw yesterday near the Outer Point Beach. He was face down on the surface when we broke out of the woods. We must have startled him because he slipped quickly underwater and then raised his head up to stare at the dog in a fleece coat and her human companion. As I do every time the dog and I are the target of a seal stare, I wonder what the animal makes of us. The seal is sadness, itself. You find the same look on children watching a game from which they are excluded—the look of an exile. I don’t find a similar look on Aki. She, who would not be welcome in church or bar this morning, just ignores the congregations.

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