Yesterday while out at Cliffs, a large object bobbed in the near horizon between us surfers and the silhouette of that distant lover Catalina. The object was of large enough size that it could be seen from the cliff, the shore and the line up itself. Myself and two other surfers, also enjoying the knee high play waves, speculated as to what the large mass could have been and settled on a baby whale after I explained that the channel between Catalina and the Western Coast is a main migration route for whales heading toward the Gulf of Mexico to mate during the winter months. We talked of the size of the object and the speed and direction it was moving in and made tense jokes about sharks and larger fish feeding off of the suspected carcass.
The whole while we were surfing the small peelers and laughing and wondering I could think of little else besides the memory of my home town back in Rhode Island and the beach which abuts my neighborhood, Sachuest Beach. I thought back on this sanctuary for twice in my lifetime whales have washed up dead upon her shores. A spectacle to all senses including awe and very much the olfactory.
It has been some years, the exact date lost in the memory, since these whales have washed up. Seal pups, birds, and fish by the dozens find that shore throughout the year but a whale, a whale brings out the town, a whale makes the paper, a whale moves you, a whale inspires the pen. It's a piece of poetry that I speak of which was written by Dannimal, or Mr. Daniel Lang to you.
I walk into my closet and remove his college thesis, "The Accolades," from my bookshelf looking for a poem whose name I cannot remember and I do this knowing full well that he wrote it while we were both in New York which would mean that it was written some two years after he graduated college. Still I sit back and read "The Accolades" for nothing more than to be inspired. Silence in my house right now, less the police helicopters outside and the sirens racing down Beach Blvd. He writes of three main themes: the celestial (both heavenly and perceivably tactile: starts, constellations, etc.); New York and being young at her volatile teat; and the sweet teaching lover that was the beaches and shores we knew as children off the southern end of Aquidneck Island. I can hear his voice while I read these pieces. I hear his voice for I had a recording of his graduate reading of which I took with me to Alaska and listened to over and over again while in woods quite foreign to even my imagination.
His line of two whales washing dead upon our shores, kept repeating in my head as I watched that mass come closer and closer as the tide pulled it in until I paddled out and found it to be a mass of fibrous roots some feet in diameter rather than a whale. And though here in this post I desire to quote those aforementioned lines I can not for his works are locked away in a file cabinet at 71 Kane Ave. in Sachuest Rhode Island and he, himself, is somewhere in South America, the exact country - even unknown. So what I can leave you is this, an excerpt from his graduate piece on the remembrance and yearning of an ocean once attached to and then lost,
"This is me recreating you.
I fold together my remembrances
and offer them with smoke to the dead
because of something that should be obvious
and never is,
the fact that you are my memory.
Not a picture, not one frame of light trapped in space
but the whole thing, lost
between the cut-offs of beginnings and ends.
Here, my vision fakes you so I can see you again.
A voyage far
from the warmth of forgetting.
Do you remember teaching me
that high tide can fix most anything,
and the ice on the sand on the shore only waits for the long sweep and
There can be a blizzard
and still the sea is massive,
snow doesn't form on the ocean."
copyright Daniel Scott Lang 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Canoeing and hiking in Maine with the BSA
7 years ago