There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath. – Herman Melville
A while back I found a large bone on the beach. After studying it for a few hours I determined it was from a whale, specifically it was a “chevron” bone that hangs beneath the tail vertebrae. There were several large gouges from shark attack showing the peril faced by even such a large animal beneath the waves. Holding part of the remains of such a mighty animal was humbling. This single bone was as wide as both my outstretched hands. I know that it is not legal to possess parts of whales, so I returned it to the ocean. Admiring the exquisite details of the noble leviathan’s anatomy, I recalled the first time I saw a whale. Two friends and I had driven non-stop to Los Angeles – a thirty-six hour drive. We three guys from the tallgrass prairie state went whale watching off the coast. For ten seconds, while everyone else was on the other side of the boat, a whale surfaced six feet away. The whale looked directly at me, and held my gaze. A profound sense of communion filled my heart – a wordless conversation between souls. And then the glorious spirit submerged.
The reverential way I handled what at first was just a curiosity, slowly made me feel as if I were somehow venerating a primordial distant kin. Perhaps this whale was connected to the whale with whom I had a brief, sacred contact. All life began in the sea. Long ago, ancestral whales returned to frolic and prosper in the salty depths of the world-ocean. In fact all the oceans are one single body of water. And this water is over four billion years old. All living things have been nurtured by the same water in seemingly endless cycles of life and death. From the microscopic to the colossal, saltwater courses through all earthbound life. There must be something strangely sacred in salt. It is in our tears and in the sea. – Khalil Gibran
The next day, I returned to the beach with this hallowed relic wrapped in a clean white cloth. I said a prayer for the departed spirit long returned to the cosmic ocean. Placing the bone down upon the sand I meditated on the kinship of life terrestrial and aquatic. All life shares branches of lineage back to Creation. As the saltwater swept over the bone, I remembered a line from Moby Dick: As everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever. – Herman Melville. Standing by as the whale’s remain returned to the ocean, I was reminded of human funerary rites and rituals. Standing there I wondered do whales, intelligent as they are, have rituals. With such large complex brains certainly they must have behaviors beyond instinct alone. As the water began to reclaim the bone, I smiled remembering I had once communed with a whale long ago on the same global-ocean.
After the bone was submerged beneath the waves, I said farewell and wandered down the beach. I mulled over the notion of fabulous conversations of whale songs booming out across the sea floor just over, and under, the horizon. Grand operatic choruses beyond human comprehension must have been sung in antediluvian harmonies dating back eons before human ancestors first peered across the grasslands at the wide wonders – just over the horizon. In a way it is comforting that all things return to the sea eventually. The ocean has rolled and tumbled and reclaimed lives since time immemorial. As H.P. Lovecraft wrote, The ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time. In the end I found solace in the thought that we, in time, all return to the beginning. Peace.