The great whale logs on the surface like a ghost ship in doldrums, leisurely, sure of his power, in control of his kingdom. I am a distraction, an interloper, here by his indulgence. He has not surfaced by chance as he is too wise for this to be a random happening. He has chosen the time and place to show himself and is now making a statement. I am not here by accident. My boat sits between him and his pod; a position he would never allow an enemy to reach. He knew of my presence long before the hunt began and not only tolerated me, but allowed me to bear witness. Perhaps he tolerated my presence so I could go and tell our story, as I am now.
I might have been demoted to a curiosity, but I choose to think of it as communication. His black eye, no larger than the nail of my thumb, is fixed on me as I try to fathom the process behind it. I am as always in the face of nature, the inadequate one. I know the animal has things to tell me or he would have left long ago. It is like finding a precious jewel and not being able to touch it. He surfaced where he did for a reason and was now studying me. “Who is this insignificant interloper that keeps following me?” I dip my paddle slowly, not wishing to spook or provoke him in any way. I do not want to tempt fate, and I begin to push away. As I do, the bull moves forward, inching ahead in low gear.
I paddle a little harder and he is with me, so I dig in and begin to scoop the water behind me as my bow rises. The bull starts to pull ahead, then senses my frailty and checks his speed, matching mine, even and steady. His head rises and falls, eye just under the waterline, watching me, urging me on. In my head, I hear him say, “Stay with me” He is allowing me to paddle with him and I accept the challenge. My heart is racing, and emotional tears start to cloud my vision.
Even at his lowest speed it is hard for me to keep pace, but I am now part of his pod, and he is my leader, and this merging of divergent species will never happen again. I pull my paddle now, abandoning technique in an all-out effort to maintain speed. My arms scream with pain, but time has stopped. I have entered a different reality and all that matters now is that I stay with this great beast.