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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.”

“Brrr-ing! Brrr-ing!” goes my little black bell. “Outa’ my way!” I yell.

See, told ya’ I’m mean.

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 return.

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 phones.

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 . . .

Inspirational P.S. 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 sea.

“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 for real.”

“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 seen nada.

“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

Monterey Bay,
your beauty
is my salvation,
through heartaches and griefs
- unspeakable
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



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