Where the Ocean Meets the Sky
Stellwagen Bank (or Middle Bank as it’s also known), is an underwater plateau just outside Boston Harbor. It’s home to migrating humpback and right whales, and it was home for me- for an afternoon.
After flying from Fairbanks, Alaska to Boston over a weekend and working all week in the JFK Federal Building, I was more than ready to board a ship (any ship) and get out where the wild things are. I took a last minute sailing aboard a catamaran heading out to the open ocean for a whale watching adventure.
For an hour and a half, we sailed under cloudy skies and calm seas. The shoreline faded out, Cape Cod melted into the horizon, and there was nothing but the wind and salt spray in my face on the top deck of the ship.
I had left my sunglasses and jacket behind; it was 85 degrees, cloudy and muggy back on dry land. As tears streamed from my eyes, I closed them, bowed my head and just let the wind blow. I had the upper deck to myself, mostly- me and my Dramamine and mental exhaustion.
These past six months have taken their toll, and I am tired. Soul-weary. I nestled against the cold metal of the deck rail and let the salt smell of the ocean permeate. I didn’t come out here for answers, I just came to sit and let my tears mingle with the wind and sky and to let the ocean cradle my broken places- like only an ocean can.
The whales came out to play, then- surrounding the catamaran on all sides. Announcing their arrival at the surface with exquisite ‘bubble nets’, they drove scores of fish from below and devoured them as they breached. They danced then, those giant whales. Rolled and dove and resurfaced and came so close to the boat it felt like I could reach out and touch them. A slap of a fluke to the flat water, and the spray would catch the wind and for a moment, I was one of them.
The only camera I had with me was my iPhone, and it didn’t even matter.
Zero problems were solved that afternoon, no mysteries were unraveled and nothing really changed… but I left a little heartache, there- out in the marine sanctuary- and I carried a little of the ‘salt cure’ with me as I flew home. I was reminded again of this beautiful and fierce poem by Kim Cornwall:
What Whales and Infants Know
A beluga rising
from the ocean’s muddy depths
reshapes its head to make a sound
or take a breath.
I want to come
at air and light like this,
to make my heart
a white arc above the muck of certain days,
and from silence and strange air
send a song
to breach the surface
where what we most need
* * *