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My love of the ocean runs deep. Since the first time I remember running and screaming into the waves, I have felt a sense of home in the salty waters of this world. I can still see myself standing on the lapping shores of southern California, and praying with all of my 10 year old might for a dolphin to come in close enough so that we could hug. When I went to Sea World as a kid, I recall the mixed sensations of being completely awestruck by the beauty of the Orcas, and feeling within each cell of my body that I simply must be in the water with them, while also wanting to free each creature from their prison. I have had so many dreams of dolphins and whales asking me to free them, I cannot even count. And when I went on my first successful whale watch as a 6th grader, I cried when 2 humpbacks breached, and slapped their tails on the water's surface.

Even as I write this, my eyes fill with tears as I think about all of the powerful connections I've made with the creatures of the sea this lifetime. When I was living in Hawai'i, I would frequently swim in the deep and wide tide pools down the road from our house (both of which now lie under 30+ feet of cooled lava). Once while floating serenely on my back, I was giving thanks for the water and the sun and the beauty of my life --- my heart was overflowing with gratitude. Through the distorted, subtle sounds of the water, I distinctly heard my husband's voice calling my name. I looked over to him, one ear above the surface so I could hear what he was saying.

"Look underneath you," he said, smiling.

I dunked my head, and there below was a school of Butterfly fish swimming in a tight circle directly underneath me. Holy chills ran from the top of my head down through my whole body, and my heart was on the verge of bursting.

But nothing compares to the two times I felt as though I was speaking directly with Humpback whales...

Two weeks after I moved to the Big Island of Hawai'i, I had a day of firsts; my first hitchhiking experience, my first camping in the wilderness EVER, and my first Rainbow Gathering...My twin soul, Zack, and I had been working for this woman for our first 2 weeks on the island, not really sure what we were going to do, but just going with the flow. After those 2 weeks of cleaning vacation rentals from floor to ceiling, we quickly discovered that this was not going to sustain our curiosity or sense of adventure. After picking up a hitchhiker named Lucas, who had been traveling with his dog, who's name I fail to recall, we learned from him about a Rainbow Gathering happening near South Point, starting in just a few days. We gave our notice to the woman we had been working for, and headed in the direction of the gathering.

We wound up parking our beat up old station wagon on a grassy knoll near South Point, and saw a group of hippies gathered nearby. We asked them if they were going to the gathering, and they said yes. We hitched a ride in the back of a big black truck, which took us waaaay off the beaten path, through very poorly maintained dirt roads, passing beautiful coastal farms, a random wandering cow here and there, and lots of muddy puddles. When the truck came to a halt, the driver asked me and Zack to hop out, explaining that he had a couple of friends to pick up down the road and wouldn't have enough room. He promised that he would be back shortly.

Zack and I hopped out of the truck, which was stopped on a small gravel road alongside an rocky beach and outcropping along the ocean. We grabbed our belongings, and sat down near the water. Strewn all over the beach were various pieces of plastic, mostly blue, along with other bits of garbage. It was a depressing sight honestly, and hit me deep in the chest. What the fuck is wrong with us humans? I thought. We are literally given paradise and seem to be set on finding ways to ruin it.

So Zack and I did what we usually did, especially at the beach; we made art out of what we found lying around. There was an old broken faucet, and we created the look of flowing water coming out of it and forming a small pool from the blue plastic. After a while, we started to wonder if the man with the truck was ever returning. Hours had gone by, and we sat there, smoke after smoke, plastic art piece after plastic art piece, holding onto faith in the stranger who had promised to return for us. Eventually, I began to really worry. This was, after all, the first time I had ever even come close to the possibility of sleeping outside (in a tent, sure, but still...) without any sign of human amenities to be found. Zack was calmer than me, and more worldly, and assured me that we would be alright.

We walked over to where the rocks met the water, and stared out over the vastness of the ocean. The sun was beginning its slow descent in the sky. I closed my eyes, and began to pray --- asking for the man to return, and for us to arrive safely at the Rainbow Gathering. A moment later, Zack drew an expansive breath, his eyes focused joyfully on the water. I looked out to the same point, just 50 yards or so away, to see a small group of Humpback whales breaching, swimming, and slapping their tails. My eyes welled with tears; I had never seen a group of whales this close in the wild. We watched for a while, and eventually their activity died down.

I walked over to an outcropping of rocks that formed a natural jetty in the water. I stood at the edge with my hands in prayer position over my heart. I was reaching with my energy out into the water, searching for a connection with the whales.

"Please let me know that you hear me," I whispered. My eyes were closed. I opened them as an eruptive splash of water emerged about 20 feet before me, with a beautiful Humpback whale in the center. She rose higher into the air, her body fully above the surface. She came crashing down just as tear after tear went streaming down my face. She had heard me.

"Everything is alright, and you are exactly where you are meant to be," I heard her say in my mind. I bowed in the deepest gratitude.

10 minutes later, our ride arrived, and carried us off to one of the wildest and most transformative times of my life (a story for another time.)...

The next time I was this close and connected to a Humpback was on my honeymoon. My husband, Mike, and I were on a cruise in Mexico. I had been so stressed planning the wedding, that my body finally said, "Enough!" and I got sick...and got my period. We were reeeaaallly testing all of our vows right off the bat. It wasn't all bad. We were able to have some fun, but for the first few miserable days, I spent a lot of time sleeping, while my angelic hubby waited on me, held me, and stood on the balcony, watching the endless expanse of ocean.

On the 2nd or 3rd day of this, I awoke to his hand on my cheek. He was smiling widely, took my hand and said, "You really need to see this."

He walked me out to the balcony and pointed to a spot out in the distance, the sunlight sparkling on the water like diamonds. I waited for a few moments, and saw nothing but the beautiful lights...then, bursting forth from the surface, shattering it like jewels flying in every direction, a few Humpback whales were breaching and playing. My heart leapt, as Mike held me. It was a perfect moment. The whales seemed to reflect the bliss of our love.

Another minute passed, and we were getting ready to go back inside. I don't know why, but for some reason, Mike and I both looked down from the edge of the balcony at the same time. At that exact moment, a large eye was breaking the surface of the water, directly below us; an eye that belonged to a massive Humpback. I honestly hope my shrieking didn't frighten him. I was standing there, completely awestruck, with God knows what sounds were coming out of my mouth, as this beautiful, intelligent creature looked directly into our souls. It was one of the most profound moments of my life, and words could never do the feelings justice...In that moment, it felt as though archives of knowledge, grace, and wisdom were handed to us by the gaze of the whale. The whale had found us, and witnessed our love, and nothing could take this experience from the web of our memories...

Every sentient being on this beautiful Earth has a story to tell --- has wisdom to share --- has surprises to bestow --- if only we open ourselves to receive them. Are you open? Are you listening? And do you have eyes to see?

Photograph By: Tim Zimmerman

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