Me and the whale. That's how it feels. I took the kids to our Canadian Museum of Nature last Friday, on our last day of Spring break vacation. The museum has just opened a special exhibit about whales, highlighting the Maori culture and history with whales, as well as some history of whaling, and the threats that face the whales today. My kids thoroughly enjoyed it. There are interactive games for them - the youngest enjoyed playing the one where the dolphin has to swim through the water and try to survive many dangers, from nets, to plastic bags, to sharks and killer whales. It took him many tries to succeed, though he enjoyed the red screen of death too. He also liked watching other kids play, though he complained if they took too long at the computer. He spent his time lurking there, waiting for a gap so he could try again. My daughter was thrilled with the sonar game, where you can turn the dial and hear different whale noises, and compare them to human noises. We got to hear the blue whale, which has a very slow and deep voice, and the humpback whale, one of my favourite whales, with their haunting songs. There were skeletons of various whales, and little movies exploring different aspects of whale history. My daughter though was traumatized to learn that killer whales hunt everything in the oceans. She hadn't realized that they ate everything, until we looked at one skeleton of a sperm whale and read that when it washed ashore, the scientists discovered it had teeth marks all over it's body, including the dorsal and side fins and tail,from killer whales. It had gotten stranded on shore trying to escape them. That left such a memory with her that tonight she said she'd had a bad dream about killer whales last night.
I think now that seeing that whale skeleton, the one of the sperm whale, started something for me. I have always loved whales and dolphins. I've seen them in the wild, and at sea worlds, and at one point I wanted to be a marine biologist so I could study them. I can't do math so my dream didn't live for very long, though my love for whales has. At the museum on Friday, I watched a video - very short, three minutes long - of a sperm whale hunting a giant squid. I came out of the video and suddenly, I thought, how could Ahab have hunted a sperm whale around the world? They dive so deep; how did he know where to go to find Moby Dick? And it suddenly was time to read this great classic. I'm pretty sure we had to read it in high school and I'm pretty sure I skipped most of it. I did not want to read it then, it was a book about hunting a whale! and I was all about animal rights ( I still am). Now, I'm curious about Ahab and Moby and this incredible voyage to hunt him down. I'm not going to enjoy the hunting scenes and I'm already steeling myself for them. I couldn't even look at the nets at the museum and read about all the deaths every year because of them, it makes me so mad that we won't find another way for the fisherman to fish, and dolphins and turtles and other sea life to live, all at the same time. But I have to read Moby Dick now. It's pretty amazing when a science exhibit leads to literature, isn't it? Exciting, too. There is something about watching the sperm whale dive so far down that it's all dark around him, and he echo-locates the squid through his sound waves, and they fight it out way deep down there in the dark of the ocean. The giant squid and the sperm whale are the only natural predators for each other, too.
Books I'm reading now
I have two projects on the go - reading The Morville Hours with Cath at Read-Warbler, and reading Bernie McGill short stories (they are online, Mel has the link) and her novel The Butterfly Cabinet with Mel at The Reading Life. The Morville Hours is a wonderful book on so many things to do with building a garden and thinking about everyone that went before on that land: history, gardening, the shape of the land, weather, it's beautiful and restful to read. The Butterfly Cabinet looks really good, with secrets and death and love all wrapped up in memories.
I couldn't wait to finish either of those projects first though! I went out and bought a copy of Moby Dick on Monday. Ifeel a little like Ahab himself, caught up in passion and excitement. I'm excited to be reading this, at long last! I love the edition of the book I bought. The pages have a thick texture and the ends are uncut, and I love the cover. It's so fabulous - dramatic, with the whale leaping up, huge, and the boat and the little dinghy with the crew chasing.... I'm going to start the book tonight, and read each book on the go as I want to dip into them. Since other than The Butterfly Cabinet - which isn't here yet, I'm waiting for my copy to come in to the library - I am reading a bit slowly to savour each book, I can take my time with Moby Dick and the great adventure, remembering what it's like to live on the ocean and the feel of the waves under the boat, the sound of the water splashing against the hull, the feel of the open water and the sky. And I'm going to cheer for the whale.