I woke up Tuesday morning to a message from my little bro. "There's a whale beached east of the pier in White Rock."
I am an animal lover, and my husband has an intense passion for photography, so not really thinking about it, we threw on our best sweats and tuques and headed for the beach to see if we could help. When we got there, we could see from the opposite end of the promenade that there was a large circle of people surrounding the whale. It gave me a little tweak of wrongness in my belly, but we decided to head toward the commotion to witness it for ourselves.
When we got closer, I could see it was a full-on circus. Helicopters circled overhead, media crews interviewed local authorities, the police were stationed outside the circle, and screaming children were running everywhere. We made our way into the circle, past pushing people and cameraphone pointing onlookers. Some of the kids were poking it, petting it, posing for their parent's cameras. For the most part, there was a respectable space around the young body. The air smelled slightly of rotting.
Lying in the middle of the circus was a humpback whale. Its skin looked like dried rubber, and there was a small accumulation of barnacles around its fins and on its knobbly head. Its eyes were closed.
I am a sensitive girl.
Seeing this dead creature with cracked, open wounds bleeding on the sand and seeing the fishing wire that was pulled off its dorsal fin and tail made my throat choke.
I bowed my head and closed my eyes. I felt my chest swell, and I intentionally opened my heart to this beautiful creature as the tears fell down my face.
I felt self-conscious. The only other person I saw crying was a little girl in pink flowered gumboots, and here I was with my bunched up crying face on, full lip quiver, in the middle of the suburban beach carnival.
But then I started to think.
Why should I be embarrassed of my tears? Why did we come in the first place? I didn't know it when I got the message, but what became appropriate to do in that moment was to pay my respects to this animal. If that involved tears, then tears I will cry.
I tuned into the sounds around me.
I heard a marine biologist being interviewed by a TV station, saying that the whale was likely "strung up" for weeks, if not months, dying. I heard people on their phones: "Dude, you should see this..."
I heard a mom saying to her child, "Come on hun, let's get out of here, it stinks."
When we turned to walk away, I wiped the tears from my face and sloshed through little tidal pools that soaked my boots.
I fell quiet as my husband and I walked hand in hand back toward our day. I thought big thoughts of animal activism, of whale documentaries, of humanity, desired connectedness and the intense separation that is our reality.
In my spiritual practice, I try to accept reality as it is and demonstrate equanimity, but in this case I felt a macro sadness at this micro reflection of a world that is still very unconscious of the bigger picture. It's getting better, but it still makes me so sad.
I'm sorry, little whale, that you will no longer sing your song. The song that is so beautiful, even though we humans don't yet know its purpose.
My apologies, little whale, that 90 per cent of your species was killed before governing agencies got their stuff together and introduced a whaling moratorium.
I'm so sorry, little whale, that the ocean is in such a sad state and that noise pollution, collision with fishing boats, and entanglement in fishing nets kills thousands of your dwindling species every year.
So sorry, little whale.
May the increased attention given to the oceans over the past decades make a difference in minimizing the number of dried up whale bodies tangled in fishing wire left dead on a beach to be surrounded by pokers and picture-takers who later come back to the beach to eat their fish and chips - fish that was, for the most part, caught in the very nets that tangled your rubbery body and disabled your ability to swim with your pod.
Everything is connected. Our actions all have consequences. I love you little whale, may you rest in peace.
Jennifer Boyle is a writer, yoga teacher and entrepreneur. You can find her blog at peaceandhotness.com and you can follow her on twitter @peaceandhotness.