eubalaena australis – hope is in fellowship

in shades of green and grey
the ocean spoke the coming storm
while breakers tossed ice-whisps
against the tide.

double socked and
braced to the wind
we face that cloud stacked horizon
and give thanks for the rain
the rain
the rain that comes
and those who return
with the snap cold turn
of seasons.

by 1750 the north atlantic right whale
was as good as extinct for commercial purposes –
because they were the right whale to kill.
slow and placid, rich in oil
likely to float after death.
they were the right whales to kill
until they were gone and
whalers looked to the rich southern waters
where generations of mothers
had returned and returned to quiet bays.

the southern right whales, it seems
were equally fit for purpose.
38 000 harpooned in the southern atlantic
39 000 in the south pacific
an incomplete record gathered
from far flung whaling stations
and the silence of the sea.

too late too late for the north
harpooning of right whales
was banned in 1937
though illegal whaling continued
for few decades more.

i never saw a whale as a child
never felt their breath in
and out like the ocean beneath me
until i was older
adult and sitting half way down
the rock strewn cliff
among the erica and watsonia
watching mother and child
roll and roll in the swell
of the deep water bay – close
close enough to see eyes
and spray catching light
with that vast exhale sigh
that rumbles rock and bone
and all the watery spaces
of my being – slow
slower than any breath i could dream
or hope or imagine

i never saw a whale as a child
because there were so few.
because they were the right whale.
because healing takes time.
because we did not know
how to hope
for their return.
what action hope needed
for their return

about 13000 southern right whales now
and counting. population growth steady
(we hope) at about 6% per year.

this is the slow crawl back from the brink –
the precarious tiptoeing at the edge of existence.
this is the quiet hope of winter
this is the prayer at the shore.

that despite it all
the changes and the changing
that the mothers return
as their mothers before,
full pregnant and nourished
by bright antarctic waters.
that they calve here
safe near the shore –
that our daughters
and daughters know
the wide waters
the rocky bays
the salt ocean breath.

photo by tamarisk-ray glogauer

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: RADICAL HOPE


7 thoughts on “eubalaena australis – hope is in fellowship

  1. I used to live by a bay where the southern right whales came to have their young too. There is a viewing platform where people can stand on the cliff top and watch them. Further around that bit of coast some whales choose to birth their young away from the tourists. I have spent many hours on the shore being in their presence. In times past they were hunted to near extinction in the area.
    They are wonderful creatures and I am always in awe of how forgiving they are

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are wonderful! How beautiful that you too have lived close. There.are tourist bays and towns further down the coast here too – and then quieter coves and bays all along the coast too. I agree they have so much to teach us about forgiveness. Beautiful weekend to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so happy someone took up Deborah Giggs’ mention of hope in the fellowship. You have her book deeply in heart with this shifting tale of whales between mothers — sea, whale and poet. That is the fellowship I take heart in, even though it’s a perilous place and so vulnerable. Thanks so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Brendan – I will have to look out for her book.
      More and more it becomes clear to me that everything is in relationship and the relationship is everything. I spent an interesting morning yesterday in a wildlife corridor mapping workshop- a joint venture between national parks and community to ensure viable ecosystems in the face of human population growth and development. An incredibly hope filled activity – but in the process of defining what a corridor is and what the worth is of maintaining these spaces for wildlife in a human dominated planet I felt my language utterly failing me(us). The science is there and obvious – a healthy ecosystem is one that lives, system collapse takes us all with it – but trying to pin the impetus to human action in scientific terms is not enough to motivate people. It is the relationship between – the incompleteness of us without the forest an all the rest of our being and a wholeness that we dont even know how to hope for – it is beauty and hope and something more impossible to pin. And our language is so.refined and nuanced around economy and culture and science but not much more that guttural grunts when we approach the world open hearted with empty hands.


      1. And despite it all the morning remained hopeful – and action will be taken – and we inch closer and closer to understanding.


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