-page 79-82- Adan was a little boy who lived with his family in Dallas, Texas. He had been born with a severe heart defect, and thus had never been able to synchronize his child's enthusiasm within the old man's tired body. However, recent surgery had been deemed a success. For the next full year Adan was happily active like any growing boy. Then, one momentous winter afternoon shortly after his sixth birthday, Adan the little boy suddenly died as he played about under his family's dining room table. His body was cremated. The ashes were packaged inside a classic-style Greek Urn, to be buried or dispersed as the family saw fit.
Adan had loved whales. He had often spoken about sailing out onto the deep blue sea to jump into the water and play with all the whales who dropped by. It was something that he knew he had to do.
His mother, Denise, decided that it would be a meaningful tribute to her little boy's memory to carry Adan's ashes to some ocean, any ocean, and then scatter them about. Maybe whales would appear, who could tell. Denise telephoned her good friend China who lived in a big house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Northern California. Together, they discussed the death, the cremation, the urn, the fantasies. Denise asked if a boat might be found to take them all out to sea some day. The ashes would be cast to the four winds. They would conduct a 'Rite of Passage' for Adan. Somehow, they would invent a service which would assure that Adan's soul would travel securely to heaven. Or to Nirvana, or to reincarnation, or to wherever souls choose to go. Neither woman wanted anything pretentious; in a way, they both sought a 'going away party' with more heart and soul than a dreary funeral.
China agreed to locate the boat. She then mentioned to Denise that there was a man who had lately been receiving a lot of publicity for his ability to attract whales by playing music to them. Denise agreed with China that it would be very worthwhile to find this man. Here was an opportunity to combine her son's funeral service with real live spouting whales. Adan would have been tickled pink. And that was good enough for Denise.
-page 83- ...Saturday the twentieth of March was gusty. By mid-morning there was a small crafts advisory warning. So very early on a Sunday morning in March, the first day of spring, our group sailed beneath the span of the Golden Gate Bridge and out into the Pacific Ocean. The group consisted of Denise, China with two of her children, boat skipper Tom, film maker Will who had been invited to document the strange event, and myself with the whalesinger in tow. -page 83-
Five miles beyond the Golden Gate China sighted the first whale of the day. 'Hello, hello', we all shouted in unison. But this gray whale was easily a half mile off the bow, plying due north in the morning sun. We all stared in anticipation, the excitement mounting. By the time we reached the general vicinity, however, the whale had vanished.
Eleven a.m. Fourteen miles off the mountainous California coast. The boat rocked back and forth, going nowhere. The Farallones Islands, home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, loomed ominously above the fog six miles to the northeast. Skipper Tom sat at the helm spinning a sea yarn about the time he encountered forty foot seas off the south coast of Tasmania. China's son Ben, Adan's former playmate, stared up at Tom in rapt attention. Will, camera in had, moved about the deck, running off roll after roll of film. China lounged on the foredeck soaking up the rays of the hot sun. Madeline, China's daughter, sat forlorn in the forecastle, exhibiting signs of impending seasickness. Denise sat alone at the stern. Finally she got up from her nest and climbed below deck to store the urn. At best, she had half-listened to Tom's story. She remained the mother in mourning. One needed merely to look in her direction to replenish one's sense of mission.
I was seasick. I had already vomited four times; I was feeling drained, out of control, a bit embarrassed. I felt like a shaman turned wimp. Just a few days before the trip I had discussed my sense of readiness to meet the whales during this Rite of Passage. A friend recommended, 'Hope to hell that you vomit. That's the best cleanser of all.' So there I sat in the cabin, ready to be sick once more, watching the cups roll on their hooks. Denise came below. I did my best to appear composed. She looked past me, and beat a hasty path to the toilet. Her face was as green as a seedless grape. Suddenly there was no longer any need for embarrassment.
Another hour passed. I felt much better by now venturing out into the open air. Up on the bow, Will gestured excitedly off to starboard. Yes, we all saw it -- a spout less than a half mile away, seeming to head our way. Soon, it became obvious that this whale would pass just to the west of us. Tom quickly set sail and began to follow in the path of the whale. Slowly I pulled on my wetsuit. Next, I assembled the whalesinger, and hauled it up to the gunwales in anticipation of easing it down to the water. There, on the side of the drum to face me while I float, a tiny school photo of Adan stared out with a little boy smile. Yesterday, when I had asked Denise for the photo, she had hesitated, and then questioned me about my intentions.
I patiently explained to her all of my various methods for achieving a certain level of one-pointedness: the mantra, the breathing, weightlessness. I told her the story of the eye walking around inside my head. I did not ask her to agree with my own perception of what had happened. I only asked that she acknowledge the possibility of telepathy. We might view telepathy as simply a kind of 'bio-radio.' Sometimes, when the radio is on, and reception is strong, we are able to listen to beautiful music. Other times, no matter how hard we try, all we can hear is static. Some of us are able to transmit as well as receive. However, unless we are familiar with the code, it all sounds like nothing more than a lot of dots and dashes.
There is no earthly reason for us to assume that such abilities begin and end with human beings. In fact, it might be true that a whale, with its large brain, could conceivable possess more wattage than a human's bio-radio. If we acknowledge even the possibility of interspecies telepathy, then it made good sense that I be focusing on Adan's likeness as I played music in the water.
Denise handed me the photo. That night I glued it onto the front face of the drum.
I stood poised on the afterdeck, drum balanced on the gunwale. The entire group looked at my face for direction. I opened my potion of herbs which lay on a pile of ropes, and began to spoon it into my mouth. I explained all of the ingredients of the brew, and asked that we share a taste as an Earth Eucharist. The sentiment of sacrament, albeit improvized, brings disparate emotions together. Tom Will, and China each took a sip. Denise demurred. She stammered, and then tried to explain that it made no sense to her. No one insisted. I explained that it was a simple attempt on my part to share a bit of herbal poetry. She like it, when it was explained that way. Finally a twinkle crossed her face, and she took a bite.
I quickly descended over the side of the boat. Tom had tied a goodly length of line to my ankle, and it pulled me off balance as I hit the water. After a few seconds of adjustment, I finally managed to wrap myself around the drum's outriggers. Immediately, I started to tap our a clear moaning rhythm. There was nothing else left to do but go to work; pound out the waaaaaaaaaaaawoooooooooooooooopity-thud-thud in a catchy syncopated beat and so get my blood circulating. The water was very cold.
But as always, the doubts slowly began to loom into prominence. What am I really trying to do in this thousand foot deep water? Play music with a whale? Most people would have a hard time understanding this waaaaaaaaaaaawoooooooooooooooopity-thud-thud as music at all. But I like it. It is loud, good, strong drumming. I have been listening to a lot of Bob Marley music lately. That strange reggae off-beat inflection has not been lost on me. Do whales like reggae? Or for that matter, can this particular whale hear it at all? Yes, it is certainly loud enough. A pity-thud-thud,waaaaaaaaaaaawoooooooooooooooopity-thud-thud. Do it boy! Go for it! All at once I begin to warm up. My stomach clicks into its contented gear. I slowly begin to alter the rhythm, spacing the individual riffs at twenty second intervals. I stare at the photo of Adan, and very quietly chant Omatakwiase in a deep voice. Fifteen minutes pass.
Suddenly some very startling sound issues from right out of the water. At first I cannot quite believe that I have heard it. Is it a bird? No, there are no birds in sight. Is it a plane? I do not see any. It sounds like a bass canary recorded at 78 rpm and then played back at 33 1/3. I hadn't made the sound; the drum is simply not that deeply resonant. At the crest of the next wave I notice that the boat is at least two hundred yards away, so it wasn't that either. Then, as if in answer to my questions, the sound erupted again identical in phrasing to the first sound. It is not a rasp, a click, or even the bong of a Chinese gong. No, this is more like the evocative song of the humpback whale. The major difference is that perhaps this song is more terse than a humpback's.
I recall a conversation with a tour captain from Scammon's Lagoon, on of the Baja birthing grounds of the gray. This man had heard sounds that reminded him of whale songs; more melodic than anything the scientists gave grays credit for. Whatever the truth may be, at this moment I am hearing some being singing a song in my vicinity. It deserves a reply. Strangely enough, I begin to howl like a wolf.
I play and chant and howl for about ten more minutes. Ten minutes of lying very still in the cold water. But my concentration has been broken. I have been nonplussed by an unidentifiable bass canary. My body begins to shake and shiver. I lift up an arm to signal the boat. A minute later I am dragged aboard, the drum left dangling over the side of the gunwale.
I beat a hasty retreat to the forecabin and huddle in front of the tiny space heater. I look up, China is standing in the doorway, staring at me with a huge smile on her face. Had she heard the sound? No, only the drum. Then she takes hold of my arm and very insistently pulls me back up on deck. And there, just two hundred yards beyond the starboard bow, not one but two whales are cavorting in the swells. Two huge heads bob fifteen feet above the surface, roll back under, and then bob up again. They are spyhopping, lifting their heads high enough to get a visual cue on what is happening. They also seem to be playing with each other, repeating some kind of synchronized movement which involves a thorough scrutiny of the boat itself. China claps her hands together and declares that these whales are dancing. No, Will counters, they are not dancing; instead, they are making love.
Tom feels that the whales may very well stay alongside the boat for at least a while longer. He lowers the sails and then rejoins the group sitting on the foredeck. Will drapes himself over the bow to film this event in progress; first the whales bobbing and weaving, then the laughing ladies. Denise has removed her sunglasses. The general mood aboard ship has taken a quantum leap for the better. I begin to howl again in hopes that the whales might hear. All of us humans howl in unison. My, but it is good to be alive. There is good healthy excitement here. Whales sure know how to make us humans happy. And then , as if in witness to our collective exhilaration, an enormous whale body picks itself out of the water. Thirty-five feet of blubbery muscle suspends itself in the charged air, glistens, and in the bat of an eye rejoins the water with an explosion of spray. It is a signal for us to join together in service.
Seven humans join hands around the perimeter of the foredeck. The urn, like some ancient megalith, rivets our attention into the centre... -page 84-90-
Typed by Cheryl Vega 3-20-95