The gift of the whale
My dad died a few years back. I woke up the next morning after an awful day and thought to myself, I don't have a dad. This is the first day of not having a dad.
I hold to the idea that nature will reach out to you when you've lost somebody. It was a really awful day. It was July 26th and it had been stormy. The surf was huge, it was still pretty dark.
I went down to the beach and I thought, I'm going to do it, I don't think i should not.
Part of me thought that i should mark this day by not going, but I went anyway.
It was very fizzy white water. Very icy light.
On this particular day I swam with my old friend Kent. Swimming with him was calming, like two old sea creatures going out into the surf together.
The surf was really rough, but it didn't matter because I had Kent there. We headed off and we kind of knew there was a whale somewhere. It was close.
We took off across the bay. It was wild, rough and whippy.
We got to the other side and noticed that back where we'd come from, a bunch of swimmers were backed up against the rocks, not moving. What are they looking at? What's going on over there?
So we swam back - at Olympic speed mind you. When we got to the swimmers they were all still and bobbing around near the rocks.
It was at that point I looked down and realised I was directly over the top of a whale. It was looking up at me.
I could not believe it. My first thought was, what if it comes up for a breath and I'm stuck to its blow hole?
But to cut a long story short, this whale interacted with the group of us for about an hour.
Every time it backed off, it came up to have a closer look at me.
It was a Southern right whale. They do this funny motion where have their head down and their tail up, and it's a way for them to look at things closely. It kept doing this. At one point it actually backed up to me, so that its tail flukes were right in front of me.
I thought, this thing could kill me, it's massive. Massive. Then its tail flukes were spread out in front of me.
So I just put my hands on the whale's tail. Both of my hands.
It was so solid. It was a force. Like rock come to life. I just held my palms there.
Then it really gently went forward so its tail was under the water.
Possibly one of the most amazing moments of my life.
I realised it was my dad. My dad give me that gift. My dad taught me to swim. He taught me to go under the waves and never be frightened. I've never been frightened in the sea. Well, maybe once or twice.
But that's my gift from my dad, who left me. And he sent me that whale to tell me goodbye.
I haven't seen that whale again. the next year when they were migrating south, it was very clear weather. Plain sailing. So it didn't have to shelter in my bay.
I always look out for it in the middle of July, in case it comes back. But it never has.
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