Whale Time

I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’m not sure why not, other than it must be a mix of having simultaneously not much and too much to write about. I suspect this is a common state of mind for people returning to what passes for normal while still processing an enormous loss that takes away the feeling that things will ever feel normal again. 

For the “back to normal” part, most days pass now without debilitating emotional surges.  I suspect people I meet for the first time would have no idea that there is a fairly freshly grieving Laurel underneath the cheerful, friendly one.  They can’t know the deflation of energy I feel, the pep talks I sometimes have to give myself to rise to being the person it used to feel so natural to be.  Sometimes I realize that a day or more has passed without a huge rush of overwhelming sadness, but then, there it is again.  Something triggers the enormity of the truth that I will have to go through life without either of my children. No one to call, no one to send a photo to, no one to joke with, no one to do any of the things that require both people still to be in this world.  

But everything else is pretty much as it was. I am currently on a cruise assignment that is going very well. I give and get a lot of affection from the crew. I find guests who are fun, intelligent and entertaining to do things with. I get to talk to audiences about subjects I find interesting—one of the things that is central to my identity and that I know I am good at. 

There have been plenty of triggers, plenty of opportunities to try to find meaning in the experiences I have been having on this remarkable itinerary that has taken me from the west coast of France, through the British Isles and now extended time in Iceland. I have wiped away tears on buses, walks, and boat rides.  I have stared out at dramatic land and seascapes sometimes with my head buzzing and other times empty. I have passed hours, and sometimes days without any sorrow at all, just wonder and gratitude.  It’s not like there hasn’t been plenty to write about.  

I guess what I am trying to say is that it seems important to me now not to try to force anything to have meaning. Archibald MacLeish said a poem should not mean but be, and I guess that’s true of a grieving person finding her way as well. So the simple answer to why I haven’t posted is I haven’t wanted to work as hard as writing demands.

Today I went whale watching.  It was a huge success.  One woman said she counted sixteen surfacings.  I’m not sure how many were different whales but I would guess at least a dozen.  Humpbacks in particular love it here in the north of Iceland.  We would see one surface and the boat would try to get as close as it safely could, but usually by then the back had arched and the fluke had risen and the whale was gone.  Then we would stare out at water that seemed empty but is full of life, waiting the five, eight minutes the whale would stay under before it surfaced again. Occasionally it would break very close to the boat, but often much further away. Or there would be another we would go off to see.  

I struggled with the waiting. I’ve always been like that.  Maybe that’s why I hadn’t gone whale watching before. These days I am trying to talk with myself about patience, since something is telling me it is key to my well being. So I thought about whale time. For the whale, the day was going just as it should.  It came to the surface, breathed a little, then dove again to do the business of its life. It changed direction when that seemed like a good idea. It stayed down for as long as felt right. I was the one out of sync, out of my element floating on the water, feeling stuck in a moment I wished would pass. I need more of my life to be like whale time.  And there it is—a flicker of meaning worth writing about.  A long time coming, but it feels good. It feels like me.

2 thoughts on “Whale Time”

  1. Jean Kuziw says:

    I look forward to spending some wonderful whale time with you!

  2. Janice says:

    Oh Laurel, I wish I couldn’t relate but it all rings so true. The tiny smiles while watering plants in the warm embrace of the sun only to find myself suddenly struck almost ill, sitting on my brick steps sobbing hoping the neighbors aren’t watching- wondering if I’ve lost my mind. And then, I pick myself up and go about it as normal as I can. A dear friend said “act normal” even if it feels foreign. I’m glad you are writing, it’s so beautiful and not an “act” but an act of inspiration and generosity.

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