Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Whale of A Tale

If you’re looking for an easy and entertaining read this summer, grayson by Lynne Cox, is a great choice. This is the true story of a solitary event experienced by the author – swimming in the California coast with a lost baby whale looking for his mother. Lynne was only seventeen at the time, but certainly no ordinary teenager; she had already swum the English Channel, twice, and the Catalina channel, and her comfort and ability in the water comes through in her writing. Her connection with Grayson (the baby whale) is extraordinary, but Lynne’s vivid and reverent description of the sights, sound, and feel of the ocean will equally hold your attention. In the following example, Lynne senses an intensifying energy in the water and takes a look below the surface:

“Thousands of baby anchovy were darting through the water like lit sparklers.

Blinded by panic, they were frantically tearing away from their schools and leaping out of the ocean like popcorn cooking on high heat. They were trying to evade something larger.

Light was exploding around me like hundreds of tiny blue flashbulbs constantly firing.”

Lynne’s knowledge and ease of the ocean is enviable and wondrous and for the first three chapters, you will marvel at her ability to stay calm knowing something large and unidentifiable is swimming beneath her. Nonetheless, you want to be in the water with her or simply be her. On her back beneath the waves, she watches a school of stingray glide above her, observes sunfish basking in the sun near an oil rig, and is enthralled by a graceful, acrobatic show from a pod of dolphins. If you ever had a fantasy about being a mermaid, Lynne comes as close as humanly possible to living the dream…it is truly magical.

Therefore from the perspective of an animal lover, I was sorry to read the following passage about Lynne’s relationship with fisherman friend Carl:

“…Carl usually caught an extra halibut or two, and he always gave me some to bring home for dinner. It was always a little strange kicking ashore while holding a five – to ten – pound dead halibut above my head with fish juices sliding down my arms.

No fish ever tasted as fresh or as sweet as the ones Carl gave me. I liked the fish even more because they were from Carl and I could tell he was as excited about giving me the fish as I was receiving them from him.”

To be so intimately involved with the world of the sea and have an obvious love for its mystery and its inhabitants, and then to eat and thoroughly enjoy fish, to me, is a bizarre disconnect. I realize there are people who revere nature and still justify hunting or fishing and eating meat / seafood, but I can never really understand it. I suppose they feel it is all about the circle of life; whether an animal dies by man or another animal is irrelevant, it’s what happens.

To appreciate this connection is preferable to the alarming apathy and struggle to manipulate nature that is now the norm, but with particular reference to the ocean, considering man is tipping the scales and causing a possibly irrevocable imbalance with pollution, trash, and over fishing, perhaps Lynne could do her part to balance the scales and truly engage in her love of the ocean by abstaining from eating its inhabitants. Maybe she could talk to Carl too!

Despite this disappointing vice of the main character, this is a charming and heartwarming story. It’s a perfect read for your next visit to the beach. Get comfortable on the sand under a big umbrella, read this book, gaze intermittently at the gentle sea, and contemplate the intricate, marvelous world that lies beneath.