Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Whale

This story comes from my second trip to Alaska last summer, when I finally got to go with a youth group. The second trip was as much worth the wait as the first, for the joy and mischief of the young is more precious that even the most poetic solitude. We rode a boat from Seward out Resurrection Bay as far as the Gulf of Alaska. Even on a clear day you could feel its weather brooding beneath the waves. The channel called Resurrection Bay is literally the place where the North American and the Pacific Plates rub shoulders and the sense of earth’s opening was palpable. Just as we were circling round to come out of the Gulf, we saw a single humpback whale, lazily surfacing and diving in the blue green waters. And although we had seen rafts of otters and eagles and jellyfish and puffins and auklets and murres and harbor seals and Stellar sea lions and orcas, only the whale, in native lore, the guardian of deep memory, spoke to me. And her words were simply this. “I forgive you. We all forgive you. Take heart when your own time comes. You, too, will survive.” She raised a great fin into the air and held it there for some time, as if she were waving.

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