A Letter from Katherine

by Ann Tracy Marr

A sea lion at Fisherman's Wharf
 

My Dear Sirs and Madames,

I was warned; you will be pleased to know I now take heed. Modern life is very different than in my easy, comfortable Regency era. Consider transportation. It takes one week for me to bump and sway by coach from London to Edinburgh, whereas you visit far India and return directly in padded seats. The speed is dizzying, nevertheless, your frenzied methods of travel are enticing. So enthralling, my esteemed spouse, Alexander, Earl of Shelton, convinced me to participate in an airplane excursion with the intention of touring the colonies – what you call America. Shelton was especially keen to study the sites of the Gold Rush, so we passed over New England and other worthy regions in favor of viewing the charms of the far West.

The bridges at San Francisco are more impressive than those of London, if perhaps a bit less historic. Cable cars are a wonder Bath should consider implementing, but England could certainly never achieve anything like exotic Chinatown. The silks available there are vastly different than those I purchase on Bond Street. The colors and the fineness of the embroidery -- extraordinary! Wait until I wear one of my new silk shawls to Almack’s. Martha Shipley will be pea green with envy.

Sacramento was extremely warm but colorful; I enjoyed shopping while Shelton took a spin out to Sutter’s Mill. The modern stigma of stereotypes does not unsettle me; of course I prefer spending money to promenading at an old fort. Unlike Shelton, I will have something to show for the time spent -- a lovely Russian nesting doll and a pound or two of chocolates will remind me of a pleasant day. I carefully noted the lecture on the evils of drink I heard at Old Sac. The next time Shelton goes to his club, I will hand him a tract on Miss Carrie Nation’s mission. See if he dares to drink more than a single bottle of port with her temperance axe waving in his face.

 

At Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, sea lions frolic. Enjoyment of God’s wild creatures within easy reach is an irresistible lure; it reminds one of strolling the boardwalk at Brighton and watching the dandies strut. Shielded from the bright sun by a sturdy parasol, I laughed as one sea lion crawled onto the transom of a sailboat and basked. He looked as smug as Mr. Brummel in a new waistcoat. Another chased sea gulls like a fortune hunter unable to decide between heiresses, and a third bounded over rocks, yelling as exuberantly as any Corinthian at a horse race. Then I met a charming young lady employed at the aquarium. She feeds the penguins, temperamental creatures that they are, and lectures on jellyfish, of which there is an astounding variety on view. Shelton asked a question about the sea lions.

Dear heavens. Last year, adult sea lions abandoned their young at Monterey and went to find food, for there was not enough at their regular feeding grounds. Their pups starved. Many had cancerous lesions in their brains. Microscopic bits of plastic floating in the ocean insinuated toxins into their systems. Treating them -- healing them -- saving them -- was beyond the aquarium’s means.

Who am I to preach? I am but a lady of the Regency, as selfish in pursuit of pleasure as the next, but I feel we can do better by those poor sea lions. At the least, recycle plastic instead of leaving it to sully the environment. I think we must do better, else we shall regret the Industrial Revolution.

My compliments to America for the grandeur of northern California and my love to the sea lions,

With great fondness, I remain your friend,
Katherine, Lady Shelton