I left the shore, kneeling on my red and white paddleboard as soon as I had coaxed my dog into position up front.
The water was dark, flat and warm. I could see nothing underneath and the surface flowed like mercury in our shallow wake. The honey jar sun had just left the sea and played peekaboo around the dark side of Nopolo Points’ rocky shoulder.
I had wakened early, leaving my husband breathing deep and slow under the white sheets. I had wakened early, and indeed had left the house quite early only because of a painful need to realign muscle, bone and tendon. There were complaints, you see, from “the parts department.”
Yesterday, I had spent two meditative hours paddling and swimming.
I wasn’t really intending another session right away.
But what choice did I have this morning? I spotted a big log floating 200 feet off the point. Just as I was thinking “but we don’t even HAVE big logs here,” the big log rose in the water and exhaled a noisy twenty foot fountain, which hung in the air like ectoplasm, the sun behind it revealing it’s ice cream cone form.
And so we left the grey sandy shore, warming up my arms and back with short strokes. By the time I got to where I first saw it, it was furthur out and I picked up my pace to join a young couple who were now sitting on their paddleboards, watching the subdued movements of the fearless giant from about twenty feet away. I hated to intrude on their magical moments of communion with this giant, but I really had no choice now, did I? We spoke briefly. “I wonder if he’s okay?” I said, as I drew near, worried that he was so close to shore, and so sedate.
His eight foot notched and barnacled tail rose and hovered over the water, and I could see no netting. I couldn’t see his pectoral fins, however, so I fumbled on my mask and snorkel, hoping for a look. My sunglasses fell unnoticed to the sea floor, admired I imagine by the fish for the frames were red and everything seen through them had a technicolor hue.
I eased off the board, instructing trembling Moxy to stay, just to give her confidence, and floated a few feet nearer, peering into the water. Too dark. Too likely to run right into a giant fin before I could even see it! I imagined how we sometimes flail about when suddenly disturbed from slumber or deep thought and got back on the paddleboard.
The young couple had gotten good footage (obsolete term, no?), and moved away with their “Go-Pro.” They occasionally reached out to each other to hold hands.
The whale was slowly moving farther out, still in no hurry, blowing every 3-5 minutes, never going far from the surface.
Another older couple appeared on paddleboards. Introductions were made due to the auspicousness of the occasion. More guesses at whale type.
They had commitments and soon had to return to shore. The whale and the dog and I did not. We drifted farther out together.
Ron appeared in his yellow kayak with his straw hat. Hooray! My cameraman!
He began clicking away as I finally got up close enough to observe a pectoral fin. It was so big that at first I thought I was seeing his head! Certainly as big as my paddleboard and frosted with scrapes and barnacles.
We were gradually getting closer to few more whales spouting nearer to Isle Carmen.
“Do you want to go back now?” Ron said after a bit.
“Why would we do THAT?” I speculated.
It is so flat and calm, I want to check out those others and compare their behavior.
I began serious paddling for it is a pretty good distance and you never know when the show might be over or a wind come up to complicate the return. Our round trip would be about three miles.
I take a wider stance, grip with my yoga toes and dig deep, trying to mostly use my abdominals to spare my overused shoulders and arms. Ron paddles behind, peddling his kayak with his feet; a wonderful invention.
We do get close enough to see that the other whales are also quite sedentary and Ron surmises they must have had a good feeding last night by the bright half moon and are simply resting. A woman tells me later that they sleep one half brain at a time. Neat trick! Guess it explains why they don’t drown.
We approach an odd set of fanned fins the size of Rons flippers. Just brown fins forming a fan sprouting from the sea. Finally a doglike nose is visible now and then. Moxy and I come within two feet and Wah! It startles awake and splashed loudly and MOXY is startled in turn and jumps up with front and back legs splayed wide! Somehow I haven’t fallen in, but I do take this as a cue to be seated and the inquisitive “lobo del mar” bobs around us looking at Moxy, and Moxy cocking her head and sniffing loudly, returns the examination”Full of magic, mishief and mystery, we begin to stroke back to shore.
Just when it could not have gotten any sweeter, a Spanish voice begins a song, clear and strong and from a breaking heart. I am listening to an aquatic opera. I know the voice belongs to one of those Mexican fellows building that giant casa by the shore. It’s the wall of cement blocks and rebar, now revealing windows and doors that we walk by daily on our trail to the water. This is about a mile and a half away from us, but I could make out each word and my interpretation was purely fancy.
It was a song about a sleeping whale waiting to be wakened and it was a song about a sleepy man and a woman and a dog who watched over a dreaming whale.
Was the whale dreaming them or did they dream the whale?
We paddle slowly in to hear the answer.