Sacred Walks, Whale Songs, and Wedding Magic

Beached whale carcass on Torrey Pines Beach April 14, 2009

I thought it would be gone by now. A few days ago, the San Diego Tribune had reported a dead 30 foot juvenile male gray whale had washed up on Torrey Pines Beach. They said that it probably been been hit by a boat propeller and most likely wasn’t the young whale “Diego” who has been exploring San Diego Bay the past month. And, they said, because it was so stinky, life guards had towed it 8 miles out to sea for disposal.

Seems nature had other plans and sent this creature from the deep dark sea back to shore. Perhaps to expand my consciousness?

I wasn’t prepared for what I felt when I saw this whale literally, in the flesh, on my walk this morning. Awe, definitely, for the sheer size of the animal. But the ensuing sadness I felt and welling up of tears as I stood looking at it took me by surprise. I felt like I was on sacred ground, like I was at a wake honoring and remembering a family friend and their impact on my life, and in a way, I was. And being present to the sadness led me back to joy. What a concept!

Feel your feelings of loss and fear in the moment, rather than push them away,
and they’ll lead you to joyful moments you can celebrate.

It helps that I was walking with my Wise Guide and friend Ken, who has lived this first-hand after the death of his daughter thirteen years ago.

I flashed on the humpback whales I’d seen and heard just last month in Maui. On the first day of my trip, while snorkeling, I was able to hear whales singing underwater. If you’ve never experienced this in real time, it’s definitely a “Bucket List To Do” – it is MESMERIZING!

And then, a few days later, while attending a spectacular whale-watching wedding cruise off the coast of La Haina, I watched mother whales with their calves, male escorts, breeding females and eager lovers breaching, spy-hopping, and pec-slapping for two of my dearest friends as they said, “I do” as the sun set over the horizon. LOVE RULES!

I thought of the lovely gift the newlyweds gave me while there: adoption papers from the Pacific Whale Foundation (what a great gift!) for “Leilani”, a humpback whale first sighted off the coast of Maui in 1985 with her calf. Since humpbacks can live up to 50 years, if she was a first time mother at that sighting (they can give birth starting at 4-7 years old), she could still be alive and around 30 years old. Amazing how connected you can become to an animal, or for that matter, a person, place, or thing, when you allow it to become personally meaningful.

I remembered my dad’s rumbling voice as he told us the story of Moby Dick, and then up popped the bible story and song we used to sing in rounds in Girl Scouts:

“Jonah, Jonah, Jonah, Jonah,
Jonah in the belly, belly, belly, belly,
Jonah, Jonah, Jonah, Jonah,
Jonah in the belly of the whale.”

The harmony of our voices calmed the imaginary fear of being eaten by a whale. Singing together is good.

Shamu at Sea World San Diego

I reflected on movies I’d loved about whales — “Free Willy” and “Whale Rider” and the story I’d read about that dying female whale that nuzzled divers who saved her after they cut her free from a crab net off the coast of San Francisco a few years ago. And who could ever forget being splashed by Shamu at Sea World?!

In an instant memories spilled out and willed me to name the whale and bless it, so I did: Torrey. Torrey the Whale, may your spirit be free and your siren song heard at Torrey Pines Beach forever more. Thank you for blessing my life and helping me reconnect to my joy.

Whales never registered on my personal radar until I heard them sing underwater on this most recent visit to Maui. And to think I almost missed the magic because I was afraid of being cold and wet and meeting up with “Jaws.” It took my enlightened friend CJ, a cancer survivor who jumped in first and said, “It’s chilly but this might be now or never,” to shake me out of my fear stupor and allow the magic of whale songs to explode my old paradigms.

And now, well, as with anything I’ve taken the time to experience up close and personal, to be curious about and appreciate, my world view has expanded, grace has appeared, and I can live more fully in the moment.

I’m so grateful for whales. For life. For you.

What about you?