Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Whale of a Trip

Being on an ocean beach has to be one of the best sensory experiences available on earth. The briney smell, the sticky feel of salt on skin, the sound of crashing waves and cawing sea gulls, the taste of clams and seaweed, the sight of the teal sea, camel colored sand, and the sky's hue, which varies from charcoal gray to electric blue. Then there's that mystifying sixth sense--so many secrets hidden in the vast body of water. No wonder I feel such an incredible sense of wonder when I stand in the midst of this natural retreat.

That is exactly why Keith and I decided to take a 5-hour drive to Cape Cod, Massachusetts during my spring break to spend a few days. April is one of my favorite times to visit because the tourists haven’t arrived yet and the chances of having a solitary connection with the sea are strong. The beaches on the lower cape are designated as National Seashore so you can walk for miles without running into high rise hotels and swanky restaurants. When you look one way you see the ocean, another sand dunes, another a distant lighthouse.        

And then, there are the whales. In the spring, if you take a two mile walk out to Race Point, at the tip of  Cape Cod's arm, you just might spot whales migrating north after their breeding season in the south. Cape Cod Bay is one of the first major feeding areas they stop at for a bite to eat. We decided to try our luck, and just look at the beautiful day we had for whale stalking:

I couldn’t take my eyes off the water as we strolled. I’ve been on official vessel driven whale watches before, but it was different trying to spot one of these creatures without a guide, without a guarantee--a wild adventure. Okay, maybe not wild, like kayaking down a crocodile infested river in the Congo, but it's as close to an environmental risk as I choose to go.

We walked and walked. We saw flocks of seagulls, jumping dolphins, boats. All wonderful, but not whales. I stopped, put one hand on my forehead as if I were saluting, squinted and scanned the sea. Nothing. I sauntered forward.

“Look!” Keith suddenly shouted.

I turned and saw a spray of water shoot straight into the air--a whale breathing through its blowhole. To my surprise, the activity was only about 20 yards away. Then, it emerged, a mound of gray that could have passed as a battleship rising above the water’s crest. I screamed in excitement. It was absolutely amazing to be that close to the largest mammal on earth. Its tail surfaced then slapped the ocean causing a tremendous splash and circling gulls to scatter. A minute passed. Another whale arrived, then more. Awe consumed me. Talk about a kick back moment. Keith tried to take a picture, but whales aren’t very good at posing and the glare of the sun made viewing through a camera lens difficult. One of those events that has to be stitched into the mind photo album.

I don’t know what it is about discovering a rare natural phenomena that leaves you feeling invigorated, excited and completely alive. A glimpse of a rainbow after a summer shower, standing on a mountain top and seeing an eagle soar, gazing at a shooting star on crystal clear night are all like being immersed with fulfillment, magic.

It reminds us, as we hustle through the routine of our days, that something astonishing and extraordinary can pop up at any moment. It reminds us that there really is joy and beauty in what can sometimes be a laborious journey on this planet we call earth. It reminds us to be patient, trusting and hopeful.

Please share a surprise, either from nature, a person, a pet, a place that left you feeling warm and fascinated.

In honor of the ocean and one of it's greatest explorers, Jacques Cousteau, High Calypso by John Denver. The longer we search and the deeper we dive, the more extraordinary the treasures.

The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant--If you like stories with an ocean setting, this one is for you. I'm almost finished listening to it on CD and the language alone is enough to keep me mesmerized. It takes place in a small town on the southern coast of Ireland and has mystic energy weaved into each word. A powerful read.

Hereis the beginning of the description from Amazon:
"The Night Swimmer," Matt Bondurant's utterly riveting modern gothic novel of marriage and belonging, confirms his gift for storytelling that transports and enthralls."

A Cape Cod Sunset:


  1. What a wonderful blog post - and the beautiful song which perfectly fits. It's wonderful. My utmost admiration!

  2. Hmm, my moment would have to be a river that I discovered with my kids several years ago. It was a river that was part of a newly established park that ran through a neighborhood with expensive houses. If you went off the paved trail, through the woods, you went down to the river itself. There, at your own risk, you could swim across or wade in the shallow waters. My favorite place was this large rock that lay half on the shore, and half into the rushing water. I would kick off my shoes, climb the rock, and face the running water. If you didn't look behind to the shore and stared straight ahead, you saw nothing but the flow of running water over a rocky water bed. The water was so clean and clear. If you paid attention, you would see small fish wading near the rock, or turtles swimming by. If I had been writing then, it would have been the perfect place to dive deep into a scene. It was definitively the perfect place to get lost in deep thought and appreciate life. Great post!

    1. This sounds like my kind of spot. I bet you and your children have many wonderful memories here.

  3. Peggy, this was a delightful read. Like you, I'm amazed by the wonders of this beautiful earth we live on and the universe itself. I love whales--how lucky you were. I also love the sky because it is always changing and even when in my pool in a crowded borough of NY, I can gaze up and feel peace watching the sky put on it's lovely video of beauty.

    Hugs, Micki

    I have to post as anyonymous again sigh

  4. Ahhhh ... a perfect mind vacation to the beach on this cold, cloudy April day in Cleveland. (Snow is forecast for tomorrow.) Thank you! I needed this.

  5. What a wonderful post and I was so there with you! There's nothing like the ocean and all its sundry inhabitants and I can't even imagine being that close to a whale--what a memorable experience. Thank you for sharing your vacation with us complete with all the sensory condiments. Great blog!

  6. This post left me feeling that way. My Friday Fairy Tale was about whales, of sorts, and this was just so serendipitous... your description, your journey, your wanting to see something so magical. This puts such a beautiful angle on what I was trying to get at on Friday:

    1. Your blog sounds great--love the fairy tale Friday idea. I'm going to check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi Peggy,
    Great post. I really enjoyed it. Couldn't get the John Denver song this time because of the GEMA here in Germany, but I have some of John's records and I am quite sure I will find it on one of them or on iTunes and will download and enjoy it.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Pat. It's always good to hear from you!!!

  8. WOW-I needed that!
    Love the beach pics...even sang along with the song...not the yodeling part though. LOL!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I agree. We'll leave the yodeling to John Denver.

  9. @ Peggy - You most excitingly captured your whale watching trip. The water spitting out of the blue-whale was captured so vividly I could imagine it myself.

    Thank you.