The marine biologist said that the mortality rate for Orca calves is 50%. I looked for you, Orca mother. All around me on the boat, the others, those who simply don’t know, looked at your pod mates. Your brothers, your sisters, your aunts and your grandmothers breached and danced, hopping and blowing. They waived their tails, black and white seeming to dance in the sea.
You I knew, were below and far from dancing. When they lowered the hydrophone into the green water, I listened for you. I knew you must be there. I listened for your low tones. The sound of crying, if that would be a thing that a mother Orca could do.
We name your children at birth. We give them a numeric designation the first time we see them, and then we hold a lottery, a year after birth, to give your children common names. See – we give words to this thing, this idea, this tenuous truth: not everything that is born stays here. And I thought of your baby. I thought of this child that you carried for 17 months, that you birthed at 400 pounds. I thought of that silent moment. The silence forever more. So, I listened for you. I listened to you.
Tell me Orca. I am of the race that must see further and know more – we are perhaps both of this race, now. I am on my way back. I hear, I know that I have returned to the original place. The landscape looks familiar but I am changed. I think of your travels, the water you know and the waters you dream of. Tell me, these places you have known all of your life, are they different now?
I sit next to this man. He squeezes my hand when the captain announces that we were passing Gabriel Island. We thought, however fleeting of a child of our bodies and our hearts, but not of our lives. There was a single solitary moment. A quantum. Just as long as his life, when we remembered.
I wondered who did that for you. Who shares your quantum? You live in a pod structure, a matrilineal, matriarchical society. Your mate for those brief moments, did he share with you and you with him? Who is with you to mourn and comfort? You returned to your mother and your pod, and he to his, and will there be a moment when you tell him what was and is and could never be? Does your mother know of here and not? Do the Orca's around you?
And you humans. Are you, like all of us, in the most fundamental sense alone in your sorrow? Is there anything other than the ever present time that allows you to find your way back? And without that person next to you, squeezing your hand, tell me, what is your life like?