I have heard that breaching is not typical behavior but I have yet to be on a whale watch when it doesn't happen, and I have been on many. I'm going to call it just good luck. Today was no exception, the captain slowed the boat for a very active young humpback who entertained the crowd for quite a while breaching, tail lobbing, and at one point rolling onto his back and holding both flippers in the air. I watched for quite some time too, I wanted to see all of him, partly to make the carvings more accurate, but mainly out of total fascination, the same way I feel when I see any wild creature. The Captain had turned the boat for a better view, causing all of the other passengers to rush to the other side of the boat to continue watching the youngster play. I stayed put, because I saw a different spout off in the distance. I don't know what was different about it, maybe it was taller, narrower. I'm definitely no whale scientist so the most I can say is different. And then it surfaced, a skinny pencil of a whale, and arched its back showing off a chiseled, large fin. I knew it wasn't a Humpback, its head was smooth and dark. The Captain saw it too and told the crowd there was a Fin Whale on the port side of the boat. None of the others came to see it. Maybe because it was not "doing tricks" as one tourist called the show of breeches we had gotten earlier. No spectacle from this Fin Whale, just fluid grace and slow beauty. And I was blown away. when I got home I did the obvious, googled them and looked, read and learned.
So why did I name this board as I did? A few weeks ago someone posted something on Facebook, and I read it. It left me with a tangible need to hear more of this voice. What I read was a poem "We all want to see a Mammal" by Elizabeth Bradfield.
Let me first explain my relationship with poetry: Like many, I was introduced to poetry in high school. I'm sure I endured some American literature class or other, but my days in high school were spent daydreaming, skipping classes, and when that was not possible, desperately trying to be still and pay attention. I thought poets spoke in code, and had no ability to decipher the message. The situation did not improve in college. Mind you, I have a Bachelors in Nursing. I am not sure why, exactly, the faculty of a nursing school decided that I needed to take poetry (or art and religion) except to give me time to catch up on sleep after working brutal shifts in the ER. Nurses don't need poetry. We need pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, Pathology. But poetry? What would we do with it? To make matters worse, this exceptional teacher expected us to write the stuff, not just read other's work. Really. He instructed us to write a villanelle (really, spellcheck, you don't know that word? A 19 line poem of 5 tercets, 2 repeating rhymes and 2 repeating refrains, similar to a song) and write one I did ("I cannot write a Villanelle, I'd rather spend my time in hell..." pretty sure it slid downhill into sarcasm and vulgarity from there.) Anyway. Poetry. Yeah, not for me. Until. Until I read that poem. Her poem. It left me... different. And wanting more. I googled her (and made the connection. They are always so slow to come, those connections) and found her excellent little blog called "the Haul Out" on her website.I devour that blog whenever I can, at work, in the shop. I now have her book Once Removed, a collection of poetry I have been reading and re reading all month. I had no idea poetry could speak to a person like this. LIke art speaks, or music. Poems are a gamble for their creators. Readers are given passage into the poet's most inner space. Bradfield's poems are honest, genuine. They bring you into her fold. And that is as big a gift as getting to see a fin whale's grace in the ocean.
Find yourself a quiet place and give this woman a read. She'll restore you. I promise.