On this snowy New Year’s Day, though I do love the snow, I think about the warmth of Hawaii, and the humpback whales, who are there now. It is their time to mate and to calf, having made their 6,000 mile trek from Alaska, where they eat all summer.
This story takes place a few years ago off the big island of Hawaii.
I am on a boat with my good friends, Carlos and Margaret Eyles. Carlos has come to take some whale pictures. Margaret and I, to experience the beautiful cobalt blue of the water and to see whatever wildlife shows up. We see a whale breach about 200 yards starboard. Margaret and I are hot, so we jump in to cool off. She swims off in one direction, and I go in another.
Often, I have stayed under water for as long as I can, to hear the whales singing far away. But I have always dreamed of hearing them sing close to me, to feel the vibration of it. Only males sing, and they all sing the same song. All over the world, the same song. They change it over time. The song at the beginning of the winter is quite different than the one at the end of winter. They don’t sing all summer, while they eat, and when the song starts up again the following winter, it sounds the same as the year before, and then it changes, a phrase at a time, A song from this year would be unrecognizable 5 years from now.
I have also dreamed of having eye contact with a whale, an inter-species connection with something so large and so ancient. They are known to be larger than anything on earth ever. They are bigger than the largest known dinosaur…the size of 30 large elephants.
I look down, and see something as big as an 18 wheeler going by about 200 feet below me. It keeps passing and passing….and passing. How can it be so big? …and passing. Still passing! It is followed closely by a Volkswagen van. A mom and calf. I am ecstatic to see these shadows below me. I listen to them talking to each other. The frequencies are as high and as low as I can hear. Then an even bigger shape appears below me. It begins to float upward. I am full of anticipation as it nears.
I am struck by the enormity of it, and my excitement becomes slightly tainted by fear. Its size is almost beyond comprehension. If he keeps coming up, and doesn’t want me here, I am toast. If he doesn’t see me, and hits me accidentally, I am toast. It keeps coming up, and my awareness goes to my breath, which suddenly sounds quite loud through my snorkel. Then louder, Louder and LOUDER! I am hyperventilating. I try to calm myself and surrender to the experience, letting go of fear and settling into love. I am afraid. Ok, self, what is the worst that could happen? I could die. Are you willing to die for this experience? Um…Yes! Yes, I am. I then go directly into my heart and let go of all fear, because….what a way to go! I know, stupid, right? Maybe. It is such a strange feeling – being on the edge of love and fear – and going back and forth between the two. I succeed in remaining in my heart, and am just beaming love to this whale.
The whale is fully in sight now and still coming toward me. Just when it seems I am about to end up on this whale’s back as it rises beneath me, he does this very slow, very deliberate balletic Tai Chi move, missing my face with his fin by inches. He circles me five times, enveloping and infusing me with direct, focused eye to eye contact, as I keep turning to meet his gaze. I am transfixed. My Soul awakens, and all walls come down. I find myself melting into this whale. It is all there is in the world in this moment – the connection between us. He comes closer still with exquisite grace, and slowly turns over, so we are belly to belly. I am not that much bigger than his eye. I am close enough to touch, but I do not. I feel such love for this whale, that I begin to cry, which doesn’t really work with a snorkel, so I contain the love in my body and continue to beam it to the whale.
I am needed on the boat, so I begin to swim away. The whale follows me, still belly to belly. Just as I reach the boat, he vanishes. I guess he was seeing me home. I got back on the boat, and burst into tears.
Margaret had also cried, having swum with the mom and calf.
Later in the day, there is a second group of whales, the same distance away as the first.
Carlos and I jump in. They approach us. They dance with each other. It is a gentle, sensuous dance with movements I do not know. The only thing I have to compare this to, again, is ballet and Tai Chi. It is so slow and graceful. How can these giant creatures be so graceful?! There is no jerkiness or wasted gesture. The pace is smooth and intentioned. It is peaceful and loving. I am struck by their beauty, and feel honored to witness their romance. Another whale joins the dance, which adds a competitive element between two males. The energy changes. I begin to feel tense, as the female puts me between herself and one of the males, as if to protect herself from the rivalry. Soon though, both males turn upside down and start singing to her. She settles down and places herself horizontally under their vertical bodies. The sound is strangely haunting, but very loud. I feel as if there are huge wind chimes inside my heart and lungs. I am stunned and unable to move as I am filled with vibrations of bliss. I am needed on the boat again, so I leave the song, but it stays with me to this day. On the way back, the wind on our wet bodies is cold. Margaret looks at my blue lips, goose bumped skin and uncontrollable shivering, and says, “You look freezing.”
“I so don’t care,” I reply smiling. We laugh until it hurts.
I believe a healing took place in my lungs that day, and two lifelong dreams fulfilled.