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Sample from Apology to a Whale

by Cecile Pineda


, 16.95 pages

Here is Section 42 from Cecile Pineda's Apology to a Whale

42. Apologizing to a Whale

No scientist has ever observed whales coupling.
—Katy Payne

When friends ask me from time to time what I'm writing now, I tell them I feel impelled to apologize to a whale, but I feel bound to admit that what I took at first for the image of a living whale, endowed with mouth and seeing eye, turned out to be that of an even more gigantic piece of ice tossed up by the arctic melt. No matter. I tell them I am still considering the question: how to apologize to a whale for the planetary destruction caused by human agency, apologize, not in the sense of asking forgiveness, or even in the sense of trying to explain, or offering excuses, but as an act of acknowledgement to a being whose intelligence far exceeds my own, and as a small act of reverence to it and perhaps by extension to all living things great and small whose habitats are now in peril on this Earth.

When I share my project with a friend, I catch the gleam in his eye. "You want to hear a real whale story?"

Some years ago, long before whale watching became a consumer sport, friends of his built a concrete boat. They named her the Stone Witch. To launch her, they sailed her through the Golden Gate, heading south for Monterey, hoping to spot whales along the way. But barely past the Gate, fierce tides and wind — and seasickness — overtook them and forced them back to port.

Next voyage they reversed course, hugging the coast, sailing north from Monterey. This time, imagining that if there were to be any sightings along the way they would have to be in the far distance, my friend equipped himself with an arm-long telephoto lens. Still no whales were sighted until nearly in view of the Golden Gate, quite suddenly two whales surfaced, swimming as one, clasped in sexual embrace, all the while spiraling through the water to allow each 50-foot long partner to draw breath.

In their excitement the crew hung overboard. Some climbed the rigging. My friend straddled the main mast, thirty feet above the swell, straining for a longer shot, but the whales stuck to portside, swimming not ten feet from the Witch's flank.

Later, in the stillness of the dark room, he waited for the images to swim up at him through the hypos. Damn whales! He discovered all he'd captured was their eyes.

To this day he's still not certain what he sees in them. Is it ecstasy?

Do they mean to tell him something?

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