Thursday, May 12, 2011

Swimming with the whales

Killer whales provided a rare treat for Vancouverites yesterday, playing near the seawall at Stanley Park. They flipped their tails. Pushed their heavy black and white markings above the surface to flop down with a splash. Blowholes puffed spray twenty feet into the air.

We grew accustomed to people swimming alongside the wall, walking the park shores years ago. Apparently no one was swimming in Burrard Inlet yesterday but the big guys. Killer whales eat sea lions, dolphins, and other mid-size mammals. I don't know if that means they'd eat a person or not. Certainly the chase would be less fun for the whales, since we're so slow in the water. 

These orcas are mostly loners, according to researchers. Born into a species that travels in lifelong packs, these drifters range up and down the West Coast, moving in and out of pods. Their social life is unusual, but when they need help or company, they form small temporary groups.

I got to thinking how Western societies have changed. Rather than settling into small communities where we know everyone and are known, most of us prefer the "freedom" of anonymity in big cities, of not knowing others. We don't have to deal with our family histories, present failures, or future ambitions under the watchfulness of informed neighbors.

When I walked the dog this morning, the high schoolers strolled past. Their eyes were down, their ears plugged with Earbuds. Seven junior highers, waiting at their bus stop a half hour later, stood apart. No conversation. One carried a violin case, another a duffel bag, and bulky knapsacks weighed heavily on all their backs. When the bus pulled up, they slouched one after another up the steps without talking or looking at each other.

None of the kids made eye contact with invisible, unrelated me. They've been taught to ignore strangers. To focus life around themselves, not people older or younger, unless it is for personal advantage. Obviously, sadly, those lessons have been well-assimilated.

On the other hand, an Asian woman, ten years my junior, stopped to chat. We introduced ourselves and our dogs. "Nice sunshine this morning," she smiled. "When do you walk?"

"Six to nine, depends on the morning."

"Yes, me too. Depending on weather," she agreed. "Hoping to see you again." 

"Let's walk together when we do!" 

We left in opposite directions, but I hope we do meet. I now know her name. She knows mine. Our dogs didn't bite each other, though Missy, our poorly socialized poodle rescue, snarled a lunging greeting before settling down for a civilized sniff.

While I don't want to swim with whales if I'm a dolphin, I want other dolphins like me around! They'll jabber (sometimes annoying when I'm trying to relax), play, warn off danger, and help me fly to safety through deep and shallow waters. 

How about you? Do you rely on others who know you intimately? Or are you happiest to remain a stranger? 

Read more:
*My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 108:1-5 NIV

*"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!" (Jesus) Matthew 10:8 NLT

*Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled awayfor it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Mark 16:1-7 NKJV

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