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  • Alaric Lewis

On Unexpected Seals

A few days ago I encountered some neighbours who live just on the other side of the river from me. We met on the bridge that connects us and - proper distances observed - greeted each other as neighbours will do. I was prepared for a few words about the weather, the virus, loo roll - you know, the usual things we seem to be discussing these days - when they asked me, "Have you seen the seals?"

"Seals?" I have to admit I did not see that coming.

Yes, seals. There were quite recently some seals that somehow made it all the way from where seals live to our river in the centre of the city. Amazing. I'd seen swans and and ducks and jumping fish, of course, and had always been quite excited when I did so. But seals? I felt cheated that I'd missed them. How often could I dine out on the story, "Once, I was on my patio doing some gardening when I heard the most extraordinary honking coming from the river. Do you know, there were actually SEALS swimming below!"

Now, of course, I'm on the lookout; I want to see those seals. My Gramps always said anything could happen on the river, and so I'm looking out out for a God who is so playful that he created explorer seals to come in and shake up my everyday life. It's a recurring theme for me during this crisis, this paying attention to the grace that God sends me. I need to listen to the stories he's trying to tell me. I need to look for the seals. We all do, I think.

I close with an excerpt from my all-time favourite book "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. In it, the Mole - a land-bound creature if ever there was one - encounters a river for the first time: "He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before - this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver - glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea."

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