Gray Whale Love

April 3, 2008 at 2:08 am Leave a comment

            The spout of a gray whale is shaped like a perfect heart. It’s almost startling how shapely and valentine looking it is. In Monterey, we never see it. It’s always too windy, and the swell of the ocean is too high. The spouts just blow off to one side or another. This morning, I was walking Cholla out on the beach, and there it was. A baby gray whale was in close to shore, bursting soft vapory hearts from its blowhole to me. Each one was so perfectly formed, so happy and gentle, quiet and free out there in the calm bay. I smiled with each heart until she waved at me with her fluke and left to go deep, deep.

            Through the years, I’ve read about the spouts in books, and generally felt that the description and drawings of them were a kind of exaggeration. And then Russ and I did a side trip in Baja out to San Ignacio Lagoon. We were there a bit early for the whale kissing that guide books and travel brochures advertise. The area is protected, so we couldn’t just take out our kayaks and go off on our own. We had to go out in one of the tenders with a small group of people. It was off-season, so there were just a few of us.

            The bay is so calm and still, like the biggest warm bathtub going. It’s no wonder that mama gray whales want to have their babies there. What could be a safer spot? Right away, we saw the hearts hanging in the air around us, and I was thrilled just for that; I didn’t need to get my picture taken of me hugging a gray whale. I got to see the hearts! The folktale was real!

            People got to chatting in the boat, and I did what I usually do; sort of hang my head over to the side, letting myself go far away from others, looking so deeply into the water as I used to do when I was a kid out fishing with my dad. I’d look and look, and I’d like to say that I’d invent stories or resolve the mysteries of life, or talk to the fish, but all I can say is that I’d just look. And that’s what I was doing; observing the changing terrain of the shallows, observing the passing of the little pebbles, the mottled colors of the bottom. I was reveling in the textures and beauty of being there, joined with the stillness of water, the flow of the bottoms. Then my mind crept in so slowly to make sense of it all; what I was looking at was the passing of a whale close and directly under us. The pebbles weren’t pebbles; they were the crustaceans living on the animal. I could see the long smile of her, the eye right under my hand dangling in the water. In a moment, the others spotted it, too…ballena!

 That moment, or vision has stayed with me with perfect clarity through these years. I loved that moment of not knowing what I saw, but feeling its familiarity; being transfixed and lured in willingly with all my senses. With all senses wide open, the gifts of nature and love are exactly in the air and beneath our very hands, moving with color and magic. 

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Entry filed under: Stories.

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