Physical Pain

I am given pain over and over. Inescapable pain. I suppose most people are. I don’t know. My father is. Are you? Is it normal?

I rarely go three weeks without something springing up from the long grass to sink it’s teeth into my back and ride me around for another three weeks. Gastritis. Cystitis. Anxiety and depressive attacks that hurt just as blackly and may end up being more dangerous. Poison ivy, or some mystery cousin thereof. The urgent care antidote to the by-now systemic poison ivy, to whose preservative I had an allergic reaction and suffered chest pains, more terrifying than threatening. Constant coughs as a child, where I did not sleep, but camped in a one man tent of sheet draped over bedposts, leaning over the fat orange humidifier and wiping small fingers sticky with Vic’s VapoRub on my already sticky sheets. Ear infections every time I put my head under non-chlorinated water, long and epic ear infections that left me sobbing with the pain. Most recently a sprained ankle that would not heal, a queer week-long panic attack where I woke up every morning with my heart racing and could eat no food but was not nauseous in the traditional way. The strangest vomiting I’ve ever done. I could feel it crawling up my esophagus. And throat infections. Tonsil infections. That is what I have now. They usually test negative for strep. I’ve had these really serious ones five times in my adult life, about once a year since I was twenty, and they too make me cry. I do not like to cry, but each new thing, each new kind of pain brings me low. I beg for relief, I am granted it, a new pain comes and sweeps me up and off we dance.

Is this normal? Do you have this? I cannot help feeling that I am to blame somehow. My husband says, “Don’t take it personally. You’re just sick.” I sit against my stack of pillows and repeat in my heart, you are not a bad girl, you’re just sick, you are not a bad girl, you’re just sick.

I just want to know if this is a typical human experience or if I have something systemic I need to address. I know that body, mind, spirit are intimately bound up and I am afraid that I will be forced to examine that middle one in order to address this. At times, I feel the innate kindliness of my body. I have felt the welling mercy of my spirit, free there in my chest anytime I should ask for it. Mind. Mind does not want to play. Today, a scene popped into my head. My body as a child with arms stretched up to me. I look down at it. “You want me to love you? Well I won’t.” WHY? Come on, Mind! Get it together! You hate this too! If Body weren’t all messed up we could go back to eating kebabs and yelling at politicians and slothing around like a cat with thumbs! Do we put ourself here on purpose? Here where there is no escape from ourself, no escape from crying, no escape from mercy? We are very proud, after all, but when we are broken people take care of us. Hmm. That was telling.

Husband has made me some absolutely fiery concoctions that burn like a really good simile. I drink it when I can stand it. I fail to sleep. I sit cross legged in bed and listen to Aramaic singing on youtube. Oh. My father is in the shot. What a kindly surprise. I rewind, watch him make his way around the circle. I breathe. No escape.

Update: Went to spookily upscale urgent care centre next to the abandoned daiquiri shop. They gave me a barf bag to spit in, very kindly. (I can’t swallow my spit right now.) The doctors looked suitably horrified at the seamed and leaning cliffs of my tonsils. Which is very satisfying. And they pumped me full a drugs! I ate two whole spoons of yoghurt not ten minutes ago and am about to blitz my system with berserker life killers, a.k.a antibiotics.

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Physical Pain

Schizoid

Guuuuuuuuhggh.

 

I don’t want to write things

Why not?

Why don’t I want to write things?

Yeah.

Uh. I don’t know. It might require that I sit here and be present and aware and think with my brain. You know. Hard things.

Instead of videos of baby hippos?

YES.

Can we write something and watch videos of baby hippos?

I guess. I don’t see why not.

Well, what’s all the fuss about then?

I don’t know. It still makes me grumpy and nervous. What if I can’t write anything good?

Who cares as long as you entertain yourself?

OH.

See?

But I could entertain myself watching videos of baby hippos.

You know that palls after a while. And then you feel stale and wound up and still unsatisfied. No amount of baby animal videos will ultimately be as satisfying as the act of creation.

Shit.

Do you want to feel good or to have value? What if the two sync up somewhere? What gives you value?

Well, according to some schools, my pink cheeks and healthy teeth. According to others, it is the cool and crystal brilliance of my soul. According to me, I guess it’s doing things that scare me, that then are transmuted into strength and joy.

Like hang gliding?

No.

Like bungee jumping?

Shut up.

Give me an example, then.

Like talking to a stranger. Like diligence in any one path in what, from this vantage point, looks like a long and twisty life. Like going into a new place where maybe everyone hates you cause maybe, that happens sometimes you know, and then they don’t hate you and maybe they even like you and not just because you have big boobs but because you also have some sparkling repartee and try to actually listen to their hurt while you’re talking to them.

So you want to save people with minimum effort. You want to be a magical fairy girl who whisks in through the saloon doors in a shower of pink sparkles, imbues some brief meaning, and vanishes into the night before you have to deal with fallout of people’s transformational epiphanies.

Yeah!

Okay. Let’s do that.

 

 

Schizoid

Guilt Or Other Things

Guilt. It’s basically just something to occupy our time so we don’t get bored or have to look at the world ever or do our homework. How much simpler it is to feel guilty over the things we are failing to do than to do them. Oh, but I have discovered an even better thing! Don’t do the thing and don’t feel guilty about it! It’s a very confusing mental state, almost like being on drugs. You can’t slip up and start feeling guilty about not feeling guilty either, that’s cheating. You will find that the things that you do, in place of the things you think you ought to do, and/or feel guilty about not doing/not wanting to do (oh my god, I’m so tired and I’m only halfway through this sentence and now I’ve just added to it with this parentheses and there’s no escape) will be different. Different things. Different sorts of flavours of thoughts. Especially if, like me, you are used to a constant, low grade, arbitrary hum of guilt running on autopilot in the basement of your brain. Like a chest freezer full of food no one will ever want to eat. If you unplug said chest freezer (metaphorically, you see) and its hum is silenced, all the weird little animals who live in the walls of the house of your mind will come creeping out. There is stillness and quiet, so that butterfly thoughts don’t get blown out or overwhelmed. There’s more room for variety, because your default isn’t pulling everything so strongly into itself and making other thoughts guilt-coloured. Please, if it is your preference, replace every instance of the word “guilt” in this with “worry” or “anxiety” or “frothing scummy hatred.” I’ve never had a positive emotion long enough for it to become a default state, so I don’t know if your inner landscape gets sticky in the same way if you feel pleasant all the time. If you have had this happen, you should tell me about that, because I am curious.

We get in thought habits, which are also feeling habits. Feelings can be harder to pinpoint than thoughts because there isn’t necessarily a verbal rope to climb down into the morass. Par example, if you hear yourself think, “I’m a right cunt, I am,” you might say, “Gosh! That wasn’t very nice, Insert Name Here. I wonder if perhaps I am stuck in a loop of profitless abusive thought? I shall ask a friend!” But if there are no words and you just feel like liquid shit stuffed into a skin bag with a name tag stapled to its leaky forehead, that can be harder to be aware of and thus prevent. It’s like colour. If everything is blue, nothing is blue. You can’t tell what your default state is because it’s default. This is where friends and relations come in handy, especially if they are the good bespoke kind, because they will yell at you and give you cake and make you feel bad for feeling bad about yourself, but in a good way. An eye watery, stuffed animal, listening to a boys’ choir kind of way. They will tell you you are lovely and list your good qualities for you. This is helpful up to a point, but can also become boring.

Once you are past the other-people-affirming-you part, you can gently investigate the ways in which you are not Jesus, the Buddha, or some other special, now deceased person. This is pulling the gross old frozen things out of your metaphor chest freezer. The corpse-white frozen peas of old trauma. The crystallised mystery meat chunks of that time you hit your brother too hard and made him bleed. The ancient gummy ice cream of failure. You don’t have to identify with these things. That’s the guilt part and we’re still not doing that, although you can go back to it at the end of the lesson if you really want to. Don’t identify with it, just admire it.

One way I am not like the Buddha is that I am very very lazy. My body naturally inclines to recline. I tend to laziness, both physically and mentally. I generally follow the laziness with guilt, but it corrupts the laziness and makes it not fun. Guilt clouds sensation. If you can really be there in your laziness, you need much less. Like a stronger strain of your preferred drug. Guilt is like water that dilutes the pleasant syrup of your foibles AND stops you looking at them properly. Dispense with it.

(Right now, for instance, I feel guilty about using the word “cunt” earlier in this broadcast. But you see, feeling guilty has caused me to use the word again, possibly upsetting the people I think it might upset even more. You see how profitless and indeed self defeating the whole business is.)

Remove guilt and you will feel fear slither down the drain with it, like the semi-animate clump of hair that goes out with the bathwater. And once fear and guilt have left a pleasant emptiness in the apartment of your soul, you will be able to tell what it is you really want to do. It will probably be a thing that looks boring but you won’t mind. Have fun.

Guilt Or Other Things

Yep

Welp. Huh. Here is my account of the evening of the twenty eighth of October in this, the year of our Lord 2016.

Things get crazy here around Halloween and Day of the Dead. People start partying hard about two weekends in advance and for the proceeding three or four days, they barely sleep, surviving on Red Bull, corner store fried chicken, Irish coffee and cocaine. With the occasional soothing brunch hosted by some sane person to fill us all with protein and juice. I cannot entirely remember how many shows I went to in the last week. It was lots. We went to see a band composed of Aaron’s good friends and my vague acquaintances at a punkish bar and I moshed again (fool! fool! when will we learn?) although much more restrainedly this time resulting in minimal neck pain. The band is called Cauchemar, French for nightmare, and they play swoony, Balkanish, string-heavy screamo. We had a lovely time.

This is pertinent because on said Oct. 28, Aaron and I and our friend Jen tried to go see an underground (figuratively, not literally) haunted house, reputed to be excellent. Before we left, we took some not-too-serious party kid drugs and leaped on our bikes and chortled along to the warehouse only to discover a huge bedsheet sign across the door saying “closed til further notice.” Turned out the fire marshal had showed up and fire marshaled out of business. So there we were. Standing in the street, drugs just starting to come on and not a beastie or a ghoulie to be had. We leapt back on the bikes, not being mopey sort of folk (generally), and headed to Poor Boys, a bar to which Aaron and I had never been, where our housemates and some mixed members of Cauchemar were playing.

It was a long one room place, with the bar on the right when you walked in and two low walls separating the bar half from a big empty dance floor. The roof was peaked wood, like in a barn or a simple church. We had just missed our friend’s performance, but not our housemate’s.

We hung around for ages, talking to people, taking pictures, out hanging, drinking bourbon, ginger and bitters (Aaron’s drink of choice. He claims it settles his stomach). The accordion came back into the mix and we started to dance.

We met dancing. Sort of. I noticed him dancing, I guess. He says he noticed me right off and I believe him. We first met at my house in Asheville through a mutual (ex)girlfriend. After playing some fun sloppy music together, I expressed the desire for a drink drink (likker) in a house that contained only wine and beer, and he concurred. I said I was going to the local bar and asked, out of pure conviviality, if he would like to join me. He would, he said, but maybe not quite yet. Things went on for awhile, I started thinking about bar close and driving distance so I marched out into the darkness. I hesitated on the path and did a swivel turn three or four times. Politeness warring with shyness. Something firmed itself inside me like a quick cooling jello and I turned back, poked my head in the door and asked if he wanted to ride with me. He looked up and said he’d come along later. He tells me now that his heart leapt in his chest and he wanted to run out the door with me but he didn’t want to look too eager, so he played a rather convincing hard to get. I did not mind and did not expect to see him, went happily to the bar and sat myself down with some scotch and a book. And lo, he appeared. We talked about my Sufism and his Jesuit college teachers and I could feel him getting more interested in me for my exotic whatsit and my tight brown sweater and then (I’ll have to ask him who, but I’m sure we’ll disagree) one of us asked the other to dance to the 50’s R&B playing in the empty bar. Whoever was asked graciously acceded, fortunately.

We kept chatting and flirting as we danced, but that tailed off. We got quiet and intent. We both realised that we were dancing well, extraordinarily well together. He seemed unable to put a foot wrong and I floated along with him like a leaf. Things like the sound of breath and the look of light on hair spiked in importance. We danced.

The song ended and we separated slow and smiled at each other. I didn’t think I’d fall in love with the guy, but I knew he mattered. Of course, then I went in fell in love and had lots of turmoil and hand wringing and operatic coming and going about the whole thing. I think I left him four times? Maybe three. Maybe two. The third one might have been him leaving me, if you look at it in the right light, and the fourth one bore no fruit, it was just me planning to leave because I was having a never ending panic attack and then he proposed, so that did not go according to plan.

BACK TO THE POINT.

We’re dancing in Poor Boys. 6 days ago now, this is. Dancing like we danced that first time, and like we have four or five times since. Like there’s no wrong step to take and even if we did, it would be right by mercy of our happiness and total absence of shame. He is wearing work clothes (dress shirt, nondescript pants), I am wearing his clothes, feeling very free and easy and looking very fine and manly. Like a fancy mechanic on their day off. We’re spinning around to the Balkan jams, which change tempo every two minutes, and we roll with it. He leans in, all fevered looking and bug eyed, and says, “Do you want to get married?”

“Okay,” says I.

This ten minute monster of a medley ends and we stop with a flourish. Aaron barges up to the microphone and bellows, “Is anybody in here ordained?” There’s that sort of pause and giggle and murmur when people think they might be being made fun of, but he persists and finally Robbie, of Cauchemar, with his dreadlocks and his face tattoos and his nice eyes comes leaping up to the front of the room and Aaron and I are writing are vows ad lib and suddenly we’re saying I do. And we did.

Of course, Robbie came up afterward and said, “That wasn’t for real, was it?”

“Yes, it was for real! We meant that!”

“Oh. Cause I’m not actually ordained.”

Me: “COME ON.”

Aaron: “Don’t care. Doesn’t matter. We’re married.”

Me: “You’re too bloody right we are.”

I went around and kissed everybody in that bar. I stopped people on the street on the way back to the house and explained that I had just gotten married in a bar, dressed in drag in my now-husband’s clothes. They were all excited for me, except for one guy I stopped in his car who was brushing his teeth.

We went to another member of Cauchemar’s house, who had a pool, and five of us got in the pool and stood in a heat saving circle and sang drunk shanties at each other. Pretty much everyone was wandering around in their underwear or less. I challenged a bunch of people to arm wrestling. I went around and kissed everybody at that party. I seem to feel much more comfortable getting the pack-animal cuddles I need now that I am married. I fell over at one point, sprang up immediately caroling, “I’m fine! I’m fine!” I have some stupendous bruising from that. Aaron got his butt on the fire pit and has a burn the shape of a bird. Marriage leaves marks. When you do it our way.

Otherwise, things are pretty much the same. Playing music, playing pool, baking pies, living life. We’re still going to have big old wedding parties in every city we lay claim to, so don’t you worry that this was a one time deal. ‘Sides, it’s not legal yet. Which means arse all to me, but, you know, for insurance purposes.

 

 

P.S. TO ALL RESPECTIVE PARENTS AND PARENT-LIKE INDIVIDUALS: I did not call you because I truly did not know what to say. But now I do. And it’s written up there. So go read it again.

 

Yep

Oof

It’s been a long summer. New Orleans to North Carolina to Virginia to Minnesota to Montana to Washington to ALLOFFLIPPIN’CANADA to Vermont to Maine to Cape Breton to New York to New Orleans. Driving. I am mightily tired of driving. Which makes it very silly of me to have chosen to go back to Asheville for my birthday, but alas, I am silly. Anyone will tell you.

We recorded in New York with Papa Vega’s Dream Shadows. Ernie Vega is the Papa in question and he is like a sunbeam in a moustache. He runs sound at the Jalopy Tavern in Brooklyn, and is a fierce mandolin player. He is in my good books, because he has seen me early in the morning when my face is like a discarded hamburger wrapper and my hair is like an ancient mountain range and not made fun of me within my hearing. And because he is charming. It’s that darn moustache.

We were delighted to be in New York, but that crew drinks like it is the last day before wine turns to water. I am not a person who enjoys shots. It seems to disrespect the pickled souls of wheat and cactus. And yet, dear reader, shots I shooted. Because when a beautiful woman comes steaming out of the night and flings her arms around you and yells, “SHOTS!” into your shell-like ear, you cannot refuse. You can, but she will sulk, and nobody wants that.

Four days in a row, I saw the sunrise from the wrong direction. Four days. It was beautiful. I went the wrong way on the Brooklyn Queens Express one of those mornings all unknowing and felt the bottom drop out of my stomach when I saw a sign for Staten Island. I don’t know if you have driven in New York, my dear, but they are psychotic and it takes a million years to go from anywhere to anywhere else. I got off the freeway and using only a compass, common sense and my trusty boyfriend, in a mere hour and a half, managed to navigate the seven miles back to Ridgewood without either weeping or chewing off my hind leg. When we arrived a parking spot shone like a haloed saint right in front of the house where we were staying. This was even more of a miracle in a place where you can circle for lit’rally hours trying to find parking, at which point you sandwich in kind of next to a fire hydrant sixteen blocks from the place you’re trying to go. I turned off the engine and thanked God.

Visiting New York is like a phoenix cleanse. You set fire to yourself. And then you emerge, pale and wrinkled and weak, but with a strange hope beating in your breast.

My beautiful and competent sister Cecily lives in Brooklyn. I got to spend a fair bit of time with her and introduce her to the boy, thus completing living relatives who must find out if they hate him before I marry him. None of them hate him so far, which is nice. Cecily is a nurse, and a philosophy major, and runs a small house and funk club. And she has a nice laugh. You could dislike her if you really tried, but that would just be evidence that you needed a nap and a bun.

We recorded on a Monday night, after a weekend of utter debauchery. I think the recording really captures a feeling of the past and I think it’s because all those early musicians were also badly hungover, most of the time.  The sound is like a string band very slowly falling off a cliff. But in tune and in time. A queer balancing act.

We left the next day, when I freaked out like a rat in a soup can and skittered around hysterically packing and muttering, “I have to get out. I have to get out.” Aaron was very accommodating about the whole thing and swept along in my wake, aiding and abetting and telling me kindly that I wasn’t crazy. I have never been so glad to be in New Jersey. Not that there’s anything wrong with New Jersey. I will not participate in the accepted national past time of hating New Jersey, New Jersey always having treated me very decently in the line of diners and people giving me directions at traffic lights.

We drove about ten hours, got to Asheville and went to an old time jam. When? When will I learn that old time bass is not for me? It’s like thinking about an ex-boyfriend when you’re lonely. You think, aw, you know, he wasn’t so bad. We had some good times, didn’t we? You get sentimental. You call him up for a drink and as soon as he walks in the whole vile spectrum of his personality comes flooding back to you, but you have committed to this drink and now you have to sit through it.

No offense, old time.

We hung out with Aaron’s mama, Kathryn, an angry Buddhist who has pulled a remarkable painting ability out of her ass at the age of 59. They only got in one fight and resolved it in a very grown up way. I stood on the sidelines like a nervous father at his daughter’s first ballet recital, waiting to rush in and carry away the fallen, but nobody fell. I was quite proud.

We drove back the next day, after a meatloaf omelet breakfast-lunch and much congenial chit chat. We didn’t make it all the way back, had to stop in a hotel in Alabama. I woke up the next morning to Aaron crawling back into bed with an odd look on his face. It took me, oh, three seconds to go from unconscious to concerned. “What’s wrong? What is it?” A friend of his had been shot in the chest and killed the night before, assailant unknown, for no apparent reason, in a neighbourhood where many of his friends live and where we are now subletting. Not a great neighbourhood, but not a neighbourhood where you expect to die like that. I wish there were no neighbourhoods where you could expect to die like that. We sat on the bed together and held hands. “Should we just turn around? Should we just go back?” New Orleans is a fearsome place with a goth-Disneyland gloss carefully applied to bring in tourists. But for weather, for drugs, for people hurting people, it is a hard place. You walk on thin ground being here. Sometime that same thin ground lets you see the shape of yourself and the world better. Sometimes it breaks you down. Both.

Aaron had a show scheduled, or we might have turned around. We chugged up across Pontchartrain and into the city. Everything was lush and quiet and unusually mellow. It was still viciously hot but it felt good. I had one small panic attack, not for fear of death, but for the oppressive filling quality of the city itself. I drank a drink, talked with friends, hugged people, played music on the street, slithered back into my skin. We ended up subletting from friends, very sane people, as far as musicians go. We have a base camp, we’re playing music, we’re doing okay. We’re about to go to the Balkan Fais Do Do (balkan-cajun dance party) and then the Second Line funeral parade for the man who died. One of the best things about New Orleans is that tragedy does not isolate. It brings us into the streets, to cry together in our glitter and feathers, to dance out death. Mourn together. We’re going to be okay.

 

 

If you want to check out Kathryn’s paintings, her website is stillwaters arts.

If you want to check out Papa Vega’s Dream Shadows Orchestra and see my stupid face, the kickstarter page is Papa Vega.

Oof

Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia

Staying in Cheticamp this week. We are as northwest as a person can get on this continent without having to kick caribou and terns out of our path. This may be the friendliest place in the world. I can’t know, not having been to three of the peopled continents, but it’s pretty darned friendly. People at the grocery store talk to you. For a while. Because they want to. Possibly because they’re bored, but still. Really really friendly. And this is in addition to them being a bilingual francophone community, which genuinely shocks me, those of French extraction being generally of a prickly nature in my experience. That was a terrible sentence, please extract its meaning and let its form be lost to the mists of time. Don’t look back. Don’t. I mean it.

We’ve been living in utter sloth for the past two days and I woke up mired in swampy self-reproach for this, so I sprang out of bed and determined that we would go to Pleasant Bay to take a whale watching boat. Gentle bickering, muttering, and dismembering now well established piles of clothing ensued. Everybody achieved their pants with minimal damage and heartache. We strode out into the bright grey morning.

There is a bakery in Cheticamp where you can buy a good cheesy croissant for 1.25. This alone would be reason to move here. But I hear they get -30 in the winters and high winds and my man is more one of those tender blushing orchid type things than a balsam fir. I fear he would not thrive. And I suppose, were I to bring such a sweet flower to a cold and untimely end, I might feel some remorse and confusion about the true value of cheesy croissants. Alas.

So we got bakery, we cackled with thrifty glee, we drove the 30 miles to Pleasant Bay. The land is very very old up here, and there are bays and coves running inland to meet descending pine forest everywhere. It looks piratical. It makes you want to start a completely impractical rum running operation on a protected beach for purely aesthetic reasons.

They’re doing construction on this mountain road, so we were stopped a couple of times by construction guys with those slow/stop signs. The second time we were stopped right beside a Mr. Mackenzie, who had the happiest smile, and not all the teeth he once possessed, and gave us quite specific directions to his house 374 kilometres away simply to fill the conversational space.

We got to the harbour in Pleasant Bay and parked. Tried the first whale shack, whose signs I had seen all over Cape Breton. They were full up and sent us down to the second shack, where a plausible young man with a fat face and that half Irish accent booked us in for the one o’clock. He told us jokes and stories (of a randomness so complete as to inspire admiration rather than dismay) while hisfatherthecaptain drove back to the house to get the gas key to fill ‘er up.

Tony (the captain) got us all situated in our rather stylish life jackets and we shuffled into the zodiac. A zodiac is very small and light, and when it hits a wave it gives you such a thump. Your whole body rattles from ass to crown. You have to sort of ride it like a horse, keep your hips loose, or your will be badly uncomfortable. I started out the boat trip laughing maniacally but soon became mildly seasick. I tried to think about the beauties of nature and gratitude. That made me angry as well as seasick. This went on for a long, long time. It was long subjectively and, I later discovered, probably about two hours human time. We went damn far up the coast, not a whale to be seen. There were only five of us on the zodiac, a couple from Toronto, me and himself, and the captain. I was quietly burping up stomach acid when the captain pulled around, saying we would head back south and maybe see them closer inland. Two minutes later the engine cut out. “Huh,” said the captain. He tinkered. We bobbed. I burped. I concentrated very hard in the vaguest possible way on the cliff face. The mental state required to avoid noticing one’s own motion sickness may be equally subtle to the mental state required to become invisible, or do yogic magic or something. Tony tinkered (heh) for about 8 minutes before he picked up the radio. He called for his son Chris to come rescue us in the other boat. Chris wasn’t there. Someone radioed Clint, who went to look for Chris. All the other boats out on the water chimed in and everybody had a chat. I continued to concentrate vaguely.

Chris was found. Eventually. But not until Marie, John, Winston and Mike had all been involved. Chris and Winston, two more fat ginger sons, came and rescued us in their slightly larger zodiac. I felt much better as soon as we began to move and then it came over the radio that there were pilot whales between us and the harbour. The girl in front of me screeched a little. We stared very hard at the water all around us and in five minutes there were black backs wheeling slowly through the waves on either side of us. They were so beautiful. I cannot describe it. They had long rectangular heads and I could hear them exhaling through the blow holes, a low and heavy huff. It made you want to cry, I tell you, to hear whales breathing so close to you. Maybe twenty of them? Making for shore. There was a little one, curving neatly beside its fellows. My motion sickness was gone and I was jubilant. We made for home, and it began to rain hard but nobody minded. We had seen whales. We had won.

Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia