Tag Archives: whales

Poetry, Travel Memories; The first time ever I…. Whale Watching

This poem and memory is in response to a post from  dverse poetry prompts . It is about remembering a journey or place visited and trying to recreate the experience.  This is about the first time I visited America and where I saw a whale for the first time. It’s also about the mix of media messages, memories, feeling the fear, seeing the contrasts and learning about the biodiversity of living things.

The First Time Ever

 Gray Whale in San Francisco Bay    May 1999

The first time ever I travelled to those United States

Where star spangled banners show off diverse places.

Where the cavalry comes and sort things out

With guns n’ horses and Rin Tin Tin.

Why was this a place I feared to go

For an eightieth birthday of

California dreamin’

In San Francisco Bay.

Lew’s life work listening with compassion

Sharing and trusting we are loved.

So why the fears and why not go?

 

A friend and colleague frowned and said.

You won’t be going to any schools. Instead,

You are going to San Francisco

Where you can wear flowers in your hair

If you dare.

 

I leave a library full of well-placed books.

And think of a library with half written pages

Of young ones’ dreams and parents’ screams.

Columbine and eglantine in Shakespeare’s dingly dell

Of murder most foul where books lay strewn

budlike withering, wandering worlds, unworn.

 

We arrive and meet with love, forgiveness, fun.

A birthday to unite all States.

Where are you from? Your accent is so quaint.

London? What state’s that in? New England?

Oh across the pond, that England.

Islands within a continent of

Many smiles, many good days.

 

On a cold and blustery day in May

We boarded a boat in the drizzly dawn

To go far out to watch for whales.

We float about and see our first great Gray,

Between the rocks of Alcatraz and the Golden Bridge.

Directions called and Whale ahoy he stays or she

To show how whales can spout their shout.

Spots of barnacles for years within the sea

Ancient being with a peerless eye, explores

Within the bay, between the rocks of Alcatraz

And the Golden bridge. Why did we not stay?

But went out further seeking more

To see upon the sea.

 

It was a whaleless, grey and dismal day.

Cold crept in with oceanic spray.

No more giants but squawking gulls

And deep within, the stomach pitches.

Smells of vomit, fear of lurching overboard.

If there could be calm could I walk back

Like Jesus to the shore?

The waves they pounded.

 

The gulls cried out and followed on this hopeless tour.

All had been seen within the bay, no more.

We learn that seagulls do not exist.

Only gulls of many different kinds.

Oh Jonathan Livingston Seagull if only I had known,

Your flight beyond the realms of gulls so sure.

But now I do not know which gull you were.

And all I want is to return to shore.

Between the Golden Bridge and Rocks of Alcatraz

Was a Gray whale, the first I’d ever saw.

No need for more.

 

I am not sure whether my experience might encourage others to go whale watching. I had also never visited the USA but felt wary of the statistics and media messages on violence.  April 1999 was the time of the tragic shooting at Columbine School. As a teacher and in charge of our school library  we all felt very shocked and concerned about the loss of such young lives.

I am very glad I spent a week in San Francisco for Lew Epstein’s eightieth birthday. We were well loved by our American friends and we visited many places, near and far from San Francisco.  The Redwoods, Yosemite, Monterey Bay and of course the city itself. The whale watching was to be a highlight!

Post Script. We have planned another trip to the Azores, to Faiai where we hope to go out on a boat as there are many different kinds of whales off the deep sea bed surrounding the Azores. We will hope for a good day.

Dedicated to the too many young lives lost to violence and abuse. And to leave an ocean full of life for youngsters not only to read about but see and wonder. Travel in Peace. Gray Whales do.

OPHELIA   ( Hamlet)   Her garland of flowers and her deep sadness.

There’s fennel for you, and columbines.—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.
 GRAY WHALES

Gray whales can live up to 70 years. Barnacles attach easily to them as they swim slowly in nutrient rich oceans. The barnacles leave rings and thse give  individual markings to each whale. They migrate and can be seen along the Mexican and Californian coast at certain times.

Gulls and birds of the sea and shore

{ Larus} Heermann’s Gull, Ring billed gull, California gull, Western Gull, Laucous winged Gull,   and many varieties of tern, elegant, royal and least,  and from my poem on the biodiversity of birds, american  versions of plovers, sandpipers, curlews, whimbrel, dunlins, sanderlings, are but a few of sea bird variety on the Californian shores of the Pacific.

Link to beach guide for California

Thanks for reading and I do appreciate comments.