August 13, 2008
Below, above for the first time.
These pix just can’t reflect the moving experience of seeing two pods of Orca whales pass right by my feet as they gracefully headed north up the west side of San Juan Island on Sunday. I lost count, but there may have been about thirty of them gliding across-and-in-and-out-and-briefly-above-and-back-in the water. Better photos of this too-rare event, along with better commentary, can be found on a co-islander’s blog right here.
Another magic ingredient that my camera can never capture is the otherworldly sound of the whales’ breath. Riveting, soothing, reassuring… amplified over water, the whooshy, slightly hollow, calmly paced blowing can be heard even before the Orcas themselves catch your attention. And with adult dorsal fins reaching six feet high, they DO catch it.
It was especially emotional for me viewing this slow motion parade of the ocean’s gifts, as the week before I had finished the final tweaks of a very involved mix of a brand new piece titled Below, for contrabass flute and electronics, which very prominently features a haunting humpback whale song. Commissioned by Melbourne, Australia-based flutist Peter Sheridan, it premieres there next week for anyone in the vicinity who might wish to immerse themselves for almost eleven minutes in this sonic underworld.
I will have much more to say about this music in future posts, but for now, what I wanted to share was the sense of hope and peace that an encounter with these creatures brings to anyone lucky enough to be near them.