A Friend from the Deep

On a recent trip to Cape Cod my wife Carol and I had a thrilling experience on the Dolphin whale watch cruise out of Provincetown. As we entered the Gulf of Maine I had the opportunity to see and photograph some of the most mysterious beings on the planet—a pod of Humpback whales. The Humpback can be as large as 40 feet and weigh 40 tons, and yet in the water be grace personified. They are very intelligent, playful and curious. And as I watched and was affected by them, I had a deeper respect for the possibilities of reality.

I am including a poem by Eli Siegel, “The Whale” and his comment to it, from his book of poems Hail, American Development (Definition Press). This is a very beautiful poem that has the reality of this wonderful being ever so alive. In Eli Siegel’s poetic justice we have more feeling for the whale and see our relation to it in a wide new way.

The Whale
by Eli Siegel

Living  through  the  ocean  and  in  it,  a  big  animal
Goes  through  days  and  hours  and  through time, until
Its shape  of life  changes  altogether,  and it  dies.
It goes deep into green waters,  and  from  their depths
Where is food for it,  it  takes for its  living
Those  things  its  needs  make  it  to.

It goes  through the minutes  and hours  all  beings do  and man;
And  all  things  differently.  It is  a  strange  being,  for  nature
Has given  the seas none like it  so  big and  acting so.

46. The Whale. 1922. The whale has gone about its business these centuries, even when pursued. It has had, or whales have had the same hours and days we have had. Life for the whale is, seemingly, beginning, process, end. These three—beginning, process, end—don’t leave anything out, except as both Kierkegaard and Aristotle might say, God or Existence or Reality itself. And the whale shows reality, so it shows at least an immortal thing: what we are represents, at least, something immortal, infinite. The opposites in us as one are equivalent to immortality or infinity, and the whale has these; as the fly does. The way reality—and any reality at its beginning—is constituted is immortal. The pattern for reality is reality unstopping. So the whale in its lumbering fashion represents or instances something unceasing in reality. As the whale stands for reality, it is particularly the whale: what, however, is within particularity says something of existence as nothing and something: that is, as always.

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8 Responses to “A Friend from the Deep”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    I love whales. I have yet to see one up close, but I know I will someday. Your photos are exciting and beautiful

    I cry for whales who, enormous as they can be, take only what they need from mother earth. Yet, whales have no contempt for the species which hunts and kills them for unnecessary purpose and which species does not recognize the spirit of the whale as more precious than the flesh.

    Whales be and live in peaceful harmony with earth and with the killer species.

    They are wonderful and they wonder, why not all creatures?

  2. Sally Ross Says:

    Thank you for this blog post, Harvey. Your photographs are beautiful, and Eli Siegel’s poem and comment makes me see and think about whales with more reality and more wonder, as they go through minutes and hours and days. I’m glad you were able to see so many whales, and at such close range–better luck than on the whale-watch that you, Carol, Derek and I went on in Lubec a few summers ago!

    • Thanks Sally for your comment. Yes, the whales here put on a show, but they do prefer Maine (Gulf of Maine) to do it in. I hope to be even deeper about whales and get more shots in the future.

  3. Harvey–these photographs are so moving and beautiful. I’m glad you saw these whales and immortalized some of their mystery, grandeur, and meaning. I love Eli Siegel’s poem and comment–they make for greater respect for the reality of a whale and reality as such!–a good way to begin my day.

    • Thank you Lynette. The whale’s reality sure does help us to know our own reality better, and Eli Siegel’s poem enables us see this with more feeling and comprehension.

  4. Marianne Says:

    Harvey, you and I share the same poetic similarities about the whale. Thank you for your blog. I hail from South Africa where the whales come to calve in ‘nursery bays’ around our beautiful coast. My first connection with the ‘beauties from the deep’ was around three years ago when I was invited to accompany a friend to Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. I have never looked back! On a cruise in the bay of Hermanus, I photographed two whale lovers and it is my opinion that no one else in this wide world has ever taken such a photo. They were tail splashing and rolling, as they do when playing. It was just such a special sighting that I will treasure for time to come.

    • Marianne, thank you for your comment. It is good to know someone in a different part of the world is affected by the same things. Is your photo of the whale posted anywhere to be seen? It sounds like a real lovely and dramatic shot. Good luck on your photo adventures.

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