Voices for Biodiversity

Look, Whales!

Whales! 

The whales had been calling me for years. I could hear their song all the way from the desert. When I finally made it to a high point off the Pacific Coast, I felt relieved to have heeded their call. I needed to be here. 

It was a windy and breezy day, and I was all bundled up and comfortable in my warm clothing when I stepped to the edge of the cliff. My gaze fell upon some rocks close to where the water and land met. They seemed to be moving, and I thought that maybe it was the movement of the water, that the waves curling around the rock had caused my eyes to focus on them. But then I saw water coming out of a blowhole and I knew deep down in my bones that these were the whales that had been calling me and that they had come to meet me. They seemed to be saying, “Where have you been for so long? We have been waiting for you!” My heart skipped a few beats as they submerged into the salty embrace of the gently swaying waves. 

I looked around to see if any of the other humans at the point had witnessed what I had just seen, but all was calm, their gazes fixed on the lighthouse or farther out offshore. We were a conglomeration of humanity, gathered at the cliff edge to look for whales and to enjoy the breeze and clean sea air. We came from all walks of life, the wind carried many different languages and the general tenor was of those in holiday or vacation mode. It felt festive, excitement was in the air and there was a palpable sense of freedom from daily routine and hope for a connection with nature. We could have chosen a different, warmer destination perhaps, but here we all were, united by the whales. 

“There! Whales!” I exclaimed as “my” whales came up for air again a few minutes later. The mothers, who had given birth in the warm waters off the coast of Mexico, were now heading back north with their offspring. They were grey whales— that much I could discern. The family next to me who had just told me in Spanish that they came from Barcelona looked out to sea. “Ballenas!” The woman exclaimed with a huge smile on her face. “Miren, ballenas!” She could hardly disguise her love for these animals and kept on smiling and pointing them out to her children. Just a second ago, her face had darkened at the thought of the independence movement in her homeland, of Catalonia having failed, of people ending up in prison over their passion for independence from Spain. Now she glowed and sparkled. They eventually said goodbye, and I was soon chatting with a young woman from Ukraine. Once again, the topic of disharmony in her country came to the surface. Just as she was trying to explain how divided her homeland was, the whales resurfaced in all their splendor right below us. All explanations halted as she allowed herself to fully surrender to something ancient and intact. It was as if her whole being relaxed and gave in to the awe that filled the air — along with excited shouts — at the sight of the massive, ancient creatures. 

I must have heard the word “whale” spoken in at least 10 languages. I could tell what my fellow human beings were saying by the look in their eyes. Complete strangers showed each other where the whales had last surfaced, loaned each other their binoculars, made room so that everyone could catch a glimpse when the triumphant cry of “Whales!” resounded. A father from France stood next to me, talking to his young son about how wonderful it would be to see whales. “Les baleines!!!” I exclaimed and showed them where to look. Needless to say the little boy had a smile on his face the size of France when he saw the animals in the water. “Baleines!” 

The people from Sweden had already seen the whales from farther down the path and were now moving on so they could see them again around the bend. They pointed behind them and smiled. “Valar!” The large family from the Middle East who had pushed a wheelchair all the way to the point so that their relative could see the whales paused to take a group picture. Their words sounded like bird song to me, and they happily conceded when I asked if I could take their picture for them. They too had come to see the whales. The Germans were easy to discern. After all, their language is also my native tongue. The Germanic word for whales, “Wale,” hung in the air before being carried to the animals at sea, who calmly and peacefully resumed their annual northerly migration. 

This was serious, ancient business playing out right before our eyes. The whales had been doing this migration for eons—they knew exactly where they were coming from and where they were going. Right now, for just a fleeting moment, they shared that knowledge, wisdom and strength with us. It reverberated up to us human animals who had come to reconnect with something larger than ourselves. We all felt recharged, rejuvenated and whole afterward, young and old, fast and slow, man and woman, child and adult, dark and light alike. “I like to think of all the animals that are endangered still existing somewhere on this earth, waiting for us to wake up,” a man from San Francisco told me. “Maybe they will always exist in our hearts, no matter what!” 

There was no hierarchy, no division among us humans. The whales had brought us all together to share this moment of connection — to the whales, to each other and to all living things. People came and went, languages were spoken and then faded into the ocean breeze, making way for different ones. No workshop, no training, no law could have done a better job of bringing to light what was already present, waiting to be expressed and celebrated: awe, gratitude, unity, connection and the excitement of childhood days. 

We naturally gravitated toward unity and connection. We acted as ONE, as different players of the same game, as colorful and diverse expressions of the one life force that runs through all of us, even though we could not have been any more “different” from one another. We could not help but feel and act united, and we shared this experience called life on earth with each other without reservations. “Whales!” Our brothers and sisters from the Whale Nation had shown us the way back home.

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