I Wish You Whales!
I’m peddling along the bike trail that leads from Cannery Row to
Asilomar Beach and warning walkers off the asphalt that is
clearly marked “Bike Lane Only.”
goes my little black bell. “Outa’ my way!” I yell.
See, told ya’ I’m
Anyway, the arctic
weather we’re having has inveigled tourists and locals to bring
out their woolen hats, mittens and mufflers. You’d think we’re
all smoking: exhaling steam with each breath of frigid air. (If
you live in cold climes you’ll be laughing about now. But to
those of us who have chosen to live in temperate zones,
“somewhere in the ‘40s” is not acceptable for midday.)
All at once, I am
overcome by the scent of sea and fishes. A clean, intoxicating
odor unlike anything I’ve ever smelled before.
It’s not a fish market or decaying kelp smell. Oh, no. It’s a
cosmic blend of everything in the ocean all stewed into this
fathomless, inky blue sea we call Monterey Bay.
The air is so dry
everything I touch shocks me. The clarity of light is
overwhelming. The horizon that separates the pale blue sky and
dense sapphire sea is so sharp that it dawns on me: this is the
PERFECT day for whale watching. But, as yet, I’ve heard nothing
mentioned in the news or elsewhere about the gray whale’s
I know they are
nearing peak migration in January and February, so I stop my
bike, rest one foot on a rock, and stare at a place where some
boats have gathered midway out to sea.
As if I am capable of
willing it, at that instant, I see the great exhalation of vapor
shoot into the air like a ruptured fire hydrant.
“Thar’ she blows!” I shout to anyone within hearing distance.
But no one else is
patient enough to watch the horizon. They’re all on their cell
Then four or five more
whales spout sequentially, and I catch that familiar gleam as
one flips its graceful tail and sounds (dives deeply for a
minute or two).
I head for home,
satisfied that the parade has begun . . .
The very next day, on my walk along Ocean View Boulevard in
Pacific Grove, I pass a woman sitting on a bench looking out to
“Have you seen any
whales yet?” I ask.
“Oh, no,” she says. “I
mean I’ve seen them on TV and everything, but never in the ocean
“Well, keep your eyes
peeled. I just saw a whole pod yesterday,” I answer.
“Oh, thank you so
much,” she says, peering over her enormous sunglasses. “I will.”
A few minutes later,
as I pass back on my exercise circle, I ask again and she has
“Are you going to be
visiting for awhile?” I ask.
“Oh, yes. Si! I will
keep looking for them,” she says, smiling.
“Well, just remember,
you have to be very patient,” I say.
As she walks back to
her car she waves and I wave back.
I start to walk, turn
back around, and yell, “I wish you whales!” . . .
Whopping Whale Factoids:
The Pacific Gray Whale
(Eschrichtius robustus) makes one of the longest migrations of
any mammal (about 10,000-12,000 miles).
The Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest mammal to
have EVER lived on earth, and I saw a pod of them last year
while lunching at Ventana Inn. They looked like blue barges
skimming along just beneath the water’s surface.
A Poem: Carmel Meadows Sunset
is my salvation,
through heartaches and griefs
and a loneliness
that cuts me in two,
like the harvest sun
setting over Point Lobos,
sliced into halves
by stratus clouds.
Burning my corneas
as you morph
into gilded pieces,
I hear a haunting bagpipe
and scarcely can focus
on the lust-filled couple
marrying on the bluffs.
Oh, how I fought for you
to get here
- a Valley girl
with crude edges.
And how I struggle still
to afford you.
When I die here,
I want people to say,
“What an accomplishment
- that she survived
in that impossible Eden
. . . and stayed.” -SCC