I have been oddly comforted by whales lately.
It all started with my latent desire to be a marine biologist way back in high school. I have always loved the ocean, sea life, and the allure of dolphins, whales, and sea mammals. Instead, I chose to focus on the power and beauty of the written word and the power and beauty of education and children. Lucky for me, my daughter, Haley ’14, an emerging marine biologist in graduate school, is studying whales and the impact of climate change on their very existence.
It’s one thing to study these creatures in a lab; it’s another to be in the field. Haley—after a year of waiting—spent the month of September surrounded by dozens and dozens of whales in the Canadian St. Lawrence Estuary. Day after day she shared videos of baby beluga whales, shy minke whales, and awe-inspiring fin whales swimming, breeching, diving, and showing off their fancy flukes. With each video and photo, I yearned to see and understand these elusive creatures just a tiny bit more.
Why am I comforted by these creatures this Thanksgiving season? It’s their immensity; their presence; their quiet impact. It’s their beauty; their other-worldliness; their power; their sheer existence. Whales don’t know about pandemics, politics, loss, climate change. These beautiful creatures continue to, well, exist, in spite of it all.
In his new poetry collection Whale Day, Billy Collins, says it best: “Meanwhile thousands of whales are cruising along at various speeds under the seas, criss crossing one another, slaloming in and out of the Gulf Stream, some with their calves traveling alongside—such big blunt heads they have!”
So, as we enter into this Thanksgiving season, I hope you discover what the world has to offer that will sustain you and your family in the months ahead. Look around. I hope you will find inspiration—and even gratitude—somewhere you least expect. Welcome it into your life. It may bring you the comfort you most need right now.
Head of School
Today I was awakened by strong coffee
and the awareness that the earth is busy with whales
even through we can’t see any
unless we have embarked on a whale watch,
which would be disappointing if we still couldn't see any.
I can see the steam raising from my yellow cup,
the usual furniture scattered about,
and even some early light filtering through the palms.
Meanwhile thousands of whales are cruising
along at various speeds under the seas,
crisscrossing one another, slaloming in and out
of the Gulf Stream, some with their calves
traveling alongside—such big blunt heads they have!
So is too much to ask that one day a year
be set aside for keeping in mind
while we stop onto the bus, consume a ham sandwich,
or stoop to pick up a coin from the sidewalk
the multitude of these mammoth creature
coasting between continents,
some for the fun of it, others purposeful in their journeys,
all concealed under the sea, unless somewhere
one breaks the surface
with an astonishing upheaval of water
and all the people in yellow slickers
rush to one side of the boat to point and shout
and wonder how to tell their friends about the day they saw a whale.
– Billy Collins