Sunday, August 7, 2016

Notes On Whale Watching

I was literally awestruck on Saturday when I went out on a boat for a seven-hour whale watching tour with some friends off the coast of Ventura. I don't think any amount of writing could do justice to what I saw, so I'll post some notes I took off and on, in-between sunning and rocking and gazing out into the blue. I took over 700 photos, so I'll post a few of my favorites. We saw at least 18 humpback whales, one blue whale, one Minke, multiple sea lions, more than 6,000 dolphins,  countless birds, including several rare species and a bait boil where birds flew around feeding amongst a pod of dolphins and multiple humpbacks. It was wild.

The tell-tale (tail?) stench of whale breath: invisible, fishy, something rotten
The story of Jonah who was swallowed and coughed back up.
Had he displeased God?

On the ocean, my capacity for wonder is as large as the blue whale -- the largest creature on earth.

Memories of sitting with Sophie as a baby under the blue whale in the main lobby of New York's Natural History Museum. Back in the days of constant crisis, the shadowed space below the hanging whale was one of the few where I felt at peace, where Sophie quieted down. We both looked upward in blue light. 

Twenty-one years out, and I'm in the ocean with one.
Four breaths and then the tail and then the dive back down. Ten minutes later, four breaths and then the tail and then the dive back down. 
Over and over

Cloud hovers low over the arches and monoliths of Anacapa Island
How does condensation take so many forms and so much emotional weight?

Van Morrison's "Purple Heather" an echo 
A lonely wooden tower, there you go, lassie go

This morning. Gray blue light of dawn bleeding into room. 
Hesitation. The rhythm of what will come is set by passivity. 
I am drawn to patience. Like held breath
like water

The color blue
sky into sea
blue bleeds into blue
Does blue bleed? 

So I don't forget
I can contain my desire despite it seeming uncontainable
The rocking of the boat is constant, and I am never sick.
It's like love
the making of it.

The female body as container.
The space inside that is filled.
The whale tail and the female uterus

Slick as a dolphin
No amount of cliche could contain it
A container for desire

The audacity of the sea lion

The body as water
The body as vessel, as container, as passageway
The grounding of rock and ancient arches 
My tilted sense of wonder


  1. Transcendent, Elizabeth. I'm so glad you got to go do this. Magnificent photos.

  2. The world we live in is such a small part of the world we live in, isn't it?

  3. Such wildness! Such an abundance of riches. Thank you for the sharing.

  4. Absolutely beautiful and inspiring.

  5. Wondrous. Beautiful. I wish I was there. But you made me feel I almost was... Thank you.

  6. I've been whale watching only in Iceland, and there we only saw Minke whales. So thanks for bringing us along on this adventure. A blue whale! Holy cow! I love your poetic notes.

  7. While reading this I felt the tense space between my eyebrows relax.

    I bet there we mermaids. You just didn't get to see one. This time.

  8. This is so beautiful <3 You sure know how to write and get me drawn in. I love your photos.

  9. Lovely, the day and the images. Were they taken with a friend's camera?

    I remember being within 30 or 40 feet of a pod of gray whales near Half Moon Bay. You could sense the consciousness of those great big brains. Everyone on the beach felt it.

  10. I love that you had this experience. Reminds me of a couple years ago - how glad I am to have jumped, last minute, onto a friend's boat and joined a group of new friends for an informal whalewatch. Wow.

  11. What a wonderful post. I always feel special whenever I see wild creatures, or they reveal themselves to me.

  12. ah, the fertile fields of the subconscious mind! The sea will do that to you. I didn't realize that whale breath could be smelled -- but of course it can. Wow. What a great day. A feast for all your senses.

  13. I love the notes and the pictures. What a lovely experience. Thank you so much for sharing it! You've inspired me to revisit a story I started years ago about salt-water (tears, sweat, ocean) with the line about condensation and emotional weight. I am comforted by the imagination of rocking gently on the water in the presence of so much calm strength - yours and the whales'. Love.



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