When I was in grade school, must have been third grade or so, I remember that at the paved school yard with the hopscotch and squareball lines delineated in yellow we used to play with passion at recess. My personal favorite was when the girls were horses and the boys were wolves. We would fight against each other. I became so engrossed in our make believe that I would come back in to the classroom, sweating and had a hard time shaking off the storyline, and how wonderful it was to be a horse. The imaginary seemed at the time as real as the stuffy tame classroom.
I had a similar sensation of breaching some kind of normal experience of the human/animal kind when the grey whale in Laguna Ojo De Liebre rolled over on her side, looked me in the eye with her fist sized eye and pushed her calf up to me and let me touch them both on the nose, on the knobby head and the barnacled face. It just didn’t seem like a very animal thing to do. And it didn’t seem like a very human thing to do to be able to acknowledge her invitation and reach through an inch of water to feel their rubbery skins. Who was the animal? Who was the human? Who was smarter? I wept in spite of myself. I would have sobbed loudly if I had not been in human company.
The guide, a freckled enthusiastic marine biologist and researcher told the eight touristas in the twenty foot motorboat that until the calves reached 6 months, the mothers stayed between their young and the boat. After that, they seem to begin teaching them about humans, and bring them to the boats. Now understand, this isn’t like the Manta Rays coming up to be fed in Hawaii so the tourists can get a close look. There is no baiting going on at all.
I was happy to find a scientist , our happy little guide, anthropomorphizing in spite of herself. She was curious how they selected a person to make contact with. She cautioned that they would not come near a boat if they sensed fearfulness. She thought they helped a person to “complete some kind of circle or something.”
I told her that right before the mother and calf came up I was about to ask her if we were related to whales. Then I had laughed at myself, knowing full well that we are all related to every living thing. She added that even the Baleen the whales siphon their food through is exactly the same stuff that our fingernails are made of.
It took a few days to shake off the magical experience, but one night I was drifting off to sleep, kind of grumpy with R about something irrelevant and in my minds eye, nearly dreaming, but not quite,the magnificent gray, the “Ballena Gris”, rolled over again and looked me in the eye like the original earth mother, telling me not to be small minded, acting like a mountain of maternal conscience, not to be forgotten, reminding me to mind my thoughts and behave.