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Still the Earth remains

About a year ago, I wrote the following  for a local chapbook that didn’t end up getting published and have decided to share it here instead.


In my dream, you were the same whale that I saw: that message was clear.

A whale in a night vision, some sources say, helps the dreamer overcome fear, especially of death. You, dad, came to me in silence, from the sea, that realm of dark depths that Jung called a vast swell of emotion. I understood. You had transformed.

In the week after you died, I dreamed of the grey whale, saw the large dorsal fin, a white triangle of barnacles, bobbing too close to the beach in Davis Bay. In daytime life, I had grumbled at the cars stopped bumper to bumper one August morning, clogging the bay, not knowing who was blocking traffic. Then I saw everyone staring, out to sea, in the same direction. Whale: the one I had never seen for months, while others gloated or exclaimed over their sightings. The whale was at Roberts Creek beach all day Sunday. You missed it. A friend in Halfmoon Bay on the phone: I can hear him. Oh, there he is right now.

At last, when I had my glimpse of the sea creature rocking slowly, its languid movements swishing the ocean surface into an oval of flat water, I stopped, parked, and crossed the road in Davis Bay to gawk. I didn’t even take out my camera. I wanted to witness it directly, without a barrier, to honour such animal presence without the capture-the-moment eye that distances and objectifies, to share an open gaze of respect for this rare beast for here.

In my dream, I wasn’t sure how to respond to your whale visit. With the slow thrust of a fin you were there, then gone. Was this image meant to reassure me? Beyond the sea, where did you come from?

I worried about the real whale. It stayed between the beach and the floating raft, only about five metres offshore, in such shallow water that I feared it would beach itself. Scientists say that when whales stay close to land, they are sick or dying.

While you lay dying, you spoke from fantasy worlds fuelled by pain medication. I tried to enter these realms by talking into them with you. You thought that you were a prisoner of war, about to get released. Three weeks before your death, you were ready to go, but I did not know then, even though I’d read a book on the symbolic language of the dying.

From the beach, I could share others’ excitement at seeing such a huge marine mammal, but still worried. Last year, more whales and dolphins visited our coast than in many decades past. The ocean waters are warming. Did climate change bring us this cytacean celebrity? In multiple cultures, a whale is a swimming library, keeper of the records and history of Mother Earth, the next sign of Earth changes.

I did not see the grey whale again. I looked for it and longed to view it, but like you, it had gone.

Now I mourn for the whale’s magnificence and you. You both came to me, free in a timeless, fluid mass. You have transformed. Where will the whale end up? Still the Earth remains.

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January 7, 2012 at 11:46 am
  • January 7, 2012 at 7:51 pmtheresa

    Doesn’t it seem extraordinary that it was there, for so many days, and that we were allowed to see it so close?

  • January 7, 2012 at 6:24 pmJane


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