Yesterday I felt most alone when I was in the crowd of whale watchers out on Bodega Head, scanning the impossibly immense gray and silver sparkling blanket of the Pacific for the elusive black dorsal fins like tiny broken obsidian teeth jutting up from the surface, nearly invisible. Without binoculars or a scope, you’d have no way of knowing if you’d seen them or not. The whale occupies a nearly mythic place in the imagination, beautiful and pure, huge and yet so tiny in the greater perspective of the entire ocean.
I came out searching for the immense, graceful beasts, and was rewarded with a rare glimpse of a pod of ten or so orcas, their heads bobbing and fins splashing a few miles offshore. It made me feel so tiny. If the cold wind and the distancing vision of the binoculars weren’t enough to make me feel dissociated from my body, the glimpse of the whales did it. I stumbled and felt like I was floating. These humongous animals were so tiny in my perspective, no bigger than my fingertip in the great expanse of water, and that at twenty times magnification.
After that, I cheerfully returned to watching the slick and shiny seals with their grinning faces, playing in the current near shore. I studied the frozen ice plants clinging to the cliffs, yellow and purple flowers vibrant against the fog as the breakers deposited a spray of foam that turned into a white bed atop a boulder just off the beach. My language provides me a context and understanding of these phenomena. But the whales swimming at a depth and distance I cannot fathom, at the edge of the horizon where waves and wind mix with clouds, strains at my mind, leaving me dizzy.
It’s lonely out there, but I keep searching for them, the whales at the horizon, the experiences beneath the surface. So much exists beyond my ordinary perception, and I want to swim and play at the edges of the possible.