Unexpected whale of a time

I like a morning walk. Most days I get up with the sunrise or just before and start the day with a brisk walk. My regular walking track is along parts of the Cooks River. It’s not the cleanest of systems but there’s something to be gained from walking along its paths, listening to the wind blow through the trees, nodding hello to fellow walkers and generally doing something mentally and physically out in the real world, before the digital demands of the day start. It never involves whales.

Recently I ran a blog workshop that happened to be near the coast. Rather than battle peak hour traffic that would take me across various road work and contentious public transport constructions I dashed out early to take my morning walk along the Maroubra headland.

It was bracing at first, surprisingly cold given the recent heat wave, but the freshness of the air and the cool temperature was a welcome relief my body gladly accepted.

As I walked along the headland, down the hill and onto the promenade I began to notice a few groups of people engaged in intense exercise. Strangely their harsh body movements jarred with their intense stares out to sea. Rather than focusing on their exercise, they were entranced in a collective mass distraction.

Naturally, their stares out to sea piqued my interest and I turned to the ocean to see a whale fin breakwater.

A sense of wonder and joy took over me, and I too was now a gawking spectator, disregarding my original purpose, for the sake of spotting a giant sea mammal.

What is it about spotting whales or other sea creatures that so fascinates us? Is it no more than their majestic beauty? They are so fundamentally different to us, yet we share biological systems and life patterns inherent to all mammals. Regardless of how much I might try, that whale will never understand my perspective.

There is both frustration and freedom in that idea. If I were to try and read my blog to him or her, I wouldn’t get too far in communicating my perspective. Conversely, the whale is in no way concerned about what fills my head, what makes my world tick. While enjoying the spectacle and filtering my thoughts through my own narrow view, I realise it places no demands on me.

I breathe in the fresh sea air and feel grateful for this unexpected whale of a time. Simply by swimming by and flipping a tail through the air, this beautiful creature, knowing or unknowingly, has reminded me that there is much in the world that is beyond our understanding and control. Sometimes the best thing to do is just watch and appreciate how lucky we are to be in the right place at the right time.

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road to Nowhere

2 Comments on “Unexpected whale of a time

  1. Love the whale story.

    I’m also struck by my irrelevance to most other species. I say most because I’m thinking about the swamp hen that’s started to join in the feeding ritual we have set up with the guinea fowl. All these birds seem to think that this feeding is their absolute right. I don’t think gratitude crosses their minds. I should add that I often think guinea fowl are stupid, although I’m sure they’re very smart in their own ways, which are very noisy generally. Still, they seem to keep the tick and leech populations down.

    But whales are in another league. And you are lucky to have a morning ritual that is so vitalising and interesting. I do miss the coast a bit, I have to confess. We drive into our nearest little town for a coffee and read of the Herald (while it lasts).

    Reading about your morning ritual made me think whether I should try to pack a bit more into the early hours. . . . but there are always some little niggles I guess.

    1. It’s interesting that we as a species often attempt to apply our thoughts and feelings to other species. We rarely stop to attempt the reverse.

      Enjoy reading the Herald. A whale can’t. But then maybe a walk by the sea can be just as illuminating as the daily news. To me, nature sometimes feels more relevant, though I too am firmly patched into the 24/7 news cycle.

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