Once when I was carrying my wooden walking stick on the beach in Todos Santos I remembered a past life. It was winter, or maybe early spring, and the sea was full of whales heading north. Because the land drops off there, swift and sharp into deep water, the whales swim close to the shore. You can’t help but see spume, or a flash of a tail, an undulating dark mound, a rolling oval, with every glance out to open water. I was walking north, too, my stick across my shoulders, my arms flung over it, wrists loose, hands dangling. Some movement must have caught me, and I stopped to watch them. I remember taking a firm grip on the wood where the stick extended past my shoulders, remember raising it straight up, saluting the whales as they passed. And then it came to me, a memory of standing on a bluff beside the ocean, a stout stick in both hands. I raised it up and down and side to side. My arms and legs spoke, too, an orchestrated dance. I knew I had been part of an organized effort. I was signaling important information to the whales. When I try to bring it back to me now, to write it down, to tell you about it, I remember there was a song, too, a chanting that went with the movements. I have a hazy memory of moving through the gestures again and again, chanting for hours, part of a long line of other men, talking to the whales.
[Photo © Sandra Cannon at https://www.sfbaywhalewatching.com/]