July 16, 2011
What’s beneath, and above.
Company while I work? Okay.
Company that’s color-coordinated to match my piano? Priceless.
This time of year, orca (“killer”) whales rule up here, and I have the dumb luck of living on the shoulder of their highway as they commute from one feeding area to the next. While my former neighbors throughout Los Angeles prepare for a weekend ominously dubbed Carmageddon and steel themselves for the mother of all gridlocks due to a main freeway closure this weekend, I exhale and observe a different kind of high volume traffic.
I listen to it, as much as watch it.
You see, the most beautiful thing about these creatures is that you often hear them before you see them. A mysterious, other-wordly “whooooshhhh” suddenly comes from around the rocks. I raise my head. I see nothing. Another “whuusszzzh” flies across the sound-conducting water from half a mile away. I look up. I can make out the top of a black 6-foot tall dorsal fin in the distance, just before it ducks back into the sea.
Another “woooossscccchhhh.” This time, I’m greeted with three whales lumbering toward me on the other side of the bull kelp that hugs the rocky shoreline here. That’s often just about 40 yards away. But yesterday was very special: the pod came right up to the rocks, gliding through the kelp beds, with one of the fellas showing, as you may notice among these photos, some rather amorous behavior. And he didn’t even take me out to dinner first.
On this particular day, the animals were maybe 7 yards from my toes. I was speechless. I could almost reach out and pet them. Objects in photos are much, much larger than they appear, folks. My limited camera skills don’t represent the incredible moment, but they at least offer an idea.
Yesterday’s view from my desk chair.
Getting a better look at the neighborhood…
What’s under the chassis.
The sound of their breathing is utterly magical. During the day, it’s also often accompanied by the incessant hum of idling boat engines, as whale watch tours and day sailors follow the pods like an amusing-looking slow-motion escort service. Friday Harbor’s charming annual Fourth of July parade– something out of a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical– always represents for the orcas, since they never seem to get up early enough in the morning to make it:
Yes, doggies with dorsal fins. What more can I say.
Just like me, the whales are after salmon. In particular, Chinook salmon, like this:
Which swim around these parts, along with other sea creatures. Someone should tell the orcas that if they’re looking for lunch, they need to come into town.
It’s fun to watch them dive for a meal…
And “spy hop” as they surface…
But the best, best, best thing of all, is when early evening arrives. The boats have all gone back to the harbor. And it’s just me, the whales, and the whoooooshes.