The car had seemed comfortable, roomy even, when we’d first hopped in at the airport. Now, my legs were cramping, the air was stale, and my younger sister crowded me in the back seat.
My mother excitedly urged my father to find a parking space as we rolled into the small seaside town of Depoe Bay. “The view is too beautiful to pass up! And a pod of gray whales supposedly live here!”
After squeezing into a parking spot on the crowded street, I put on my worn brown sandals and climbed out of the vehicle. The air coated sea-salt on my tongue, its chill making both my nose and eyes wet. I looked about, taking in my surroundings. On the side of the street was a cliff lush with green, below the cliff a rocky beach, and beyond the beach, the sun seemed caught up in an intricate dance with the water. The light dappled the waves yellow and white, but beneath the ever-changing pattern was the ocean, deep, blue, black. Her water climbed in the air, then folded back down on itself, these incidents marked by pale spurts of sea foam.
I had never seen the ocean behave like this, even while living right on the back of the Atlantic. The Pacific stole my heart, claiming me as another victim prone to daydreaming about its beauty. In a trance-like state, I sat at the top of the cliff, legs dangling over the ledge. My mother and sister joined me, also caught up in the water’s dance. No one said a word, too caught up in the view to speak.
Suddenly, my father pointed above our heads and slightly to the left. “Did you see that?” I shook my head, wondering what had caught his eye.
Then my mother’s voice cried, “Look, right over there!” to which my sister meanly replied, “Gee, mom, that helps so much!” Mom swatted at her arm and continued pointing. “See that boat? Just to the left of it!” I located the boat, obviously at full capacity, and scanned the rowdy waves surrounding it.
A stream of glistening droplets bursted from the water to the left of the boat. Moments later, the gleaming back of a gray whale breached the surface, seeming to part the ocean like a curtain; just this glimpse of the creature dwarfed the observer boat. I looked on in awe as another whale emerged, it’s tail arching over the water, and it’s splash rocking the boat.
“Wow,” came my eloquent response. But what was I to say? I had never seen something so much larger than myself. In that moment, I felt incredibly insignificant.
Whales continued to move up and down the water’s surface, as if playing hide-and-seek. We watched them play for half an hour before they seemed to disappear. My mother suggested we leave to explore the town, my sister becoming excited solely for the promise of caramel corn.
As we began to depart, I took in the bay one last time. The sun’s dance had died down as clouds moved to blanket it, but the water continued to thrash, almost angry that her partner had left her to dance alone. Before turning away, spray misted in the air, catching my attention once again. There was calm where the spray had come from for just a moment before a great fin waved in what seemed to be a final farewell. I wasn’t stupid enough to believe the whale was truly waving at me, but I smiled regardless, no longer feeling insignificant and small.
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