Whales’ return

10 Feb
Humpback whale, location unspecified - NOAA photo

Humpback whale, location unspecified - NOAA photo

A day or two before the dream I tell below, I read the previous Sunday’s New York Daily News (1/30/11) and tore out an article titled “Recovery is no fluke:  Great whales back in seas near N.Y.C.” (pp. 14–15; the online version has a different title). This at the mouth of the Hudson River, which only a couple of decades ago was so polluted that a scuba-diving friend told me, “Stepping into the Hudson is like stepping into chocolate pudding.”

The article made a strong impression on me: I find the thought of so many whales just past the Verrazano Bridge exciting and encouraging. And using the combined length of my living room and bedroom as a mental measuring stick dwarfed by the whales the story described, I got a vivid impression of the 66-foot-long fin whale, and of the 108-foot-long blue whale (stretching well across the street from where I sat at the back of my apartment). Add to that the auditory context of “20-minute serenades of humpbacks“; Cornell University Prof. Chris Clark was quoted: “Black drum fish lit up the night with their choruses. Males were out there singing their hearts out: ‘Hey Baby! Hey Baby! Hey Baby!’ There’s a cornucopia of life 10 miles off the Verrazano Bridge. It’s mind-boggling!” The fact that the abundance of whales in the area surprised even the scientists made the story even more exciting.

So one of my main impressions upon remembering this dream on Sunday morning, February 6, was surprise that it took the whale story a couple of days to show up in my nightlife (although I had made no presumption that it would show up at all):

Underwater, sunlight filtering in, giving it a pleasant, reassuring, green tinge. I’m ~ 10 feet below the surface, by a natural rock wall that’s black and rough-textured. The wall is on my right. I’m just floating, no SCUBA, an observer. (Feeling) Warmth, support, relaxation. I love floating underwater.

There are two pudgy small whales—one male and one female—in front of me, courting, although the female doesn’t seem that receptive to the male’s spoken remarks. These whales aren’t particularly young, just a small species—about my size. The female is a lighter color—sort of muddy brown—than the male, which is more of a dark gray. (Feeling) Because the male is kind of conceited and overbearing, this courtship conversation isn’t particularly pleasant to watch.

From my left, a much larger male whale swims in, heading straight for the smaller ones. It could easily eat the smaller ones, and it seems to at the very least expect fealty, because it says something commanding / demanding and threatening to the smaller ones. It might also criticize them for hanging around with ~ a puny human. (At this point, I’m farther out from the wall, because I see this confrontation from roughly the big whale’s shoulder, and this whale is about 20 feet long.) (Feeling) Tension, concern. I may not like the small male whale, but I don’t want to see him killed. I don’t feel the larger whale is in the wrong, I just hope he’ll refrain from doing harm. Having the big whale be critical of my presence doesn’t do anything to calm my nerves.

Although my view is somewhat obscured, I see or sense that the small male whale jumps out to meet the large whale and get in his face, arguing with him, talking fast and loud. The large whale opens his jaws wide and takes a mock swipe at the two smaller ones, but just says something, then backs out (like a car backing out of a stall), then swims off. I let out a big sigh of relief. (Feeling) Okay, that’s a reckless thing to do, getting in the big guy’s face! But it seems so in character for the little guy. I’m relieved the big whale maintains his composure and doesn’t do anything violent. That seems mature.

The underwater perspective is extremely rare in my dreams. I was mildly surprised that my dream had turned a story that seemed so magical and welcome into something considerably more anxiety-ridden. However, nothing about this dream struck me as immediately relevant to my waking life at present, except maybe another association to the Daily News: its comics—specifically the comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon, which seldom fails to crack me up. In the dream record that day, one of the few associations I recorded was that “because of the small whales’ pudgy shape, this makes me think of something someone in the Sherman’s Lagoon comic strip would do.”

Here’s the strip from the 1/30 Daily News (which I probably read a couple of days earlier than the whale story):

Sherman's Lagoon, 1/30/11

Sherman's Lagoon, 1/30/11

I’m hoping my dream didn’t make a connection to the baloney-spouting Hawthorne the Hermit Crab as a commentary on my blog posts 😉  [4/13/11: That link’s no longer pointing to the strip from 1/30, but you can see other days’ strips there.]

Two things this dream encourages me to do in waking life: (1) Book a spot on one of Tom Paladino’s American Princess whale-watching cruises (What do you think , IASD-NYC people—a group event in the making?), and (2) Watch the TED video I’ve just learned of from the Sherman’s Lagoon site, in which its creator, Jim Toomey, talks about “Learning from Sherman the shark.”

2 Responses to “Whales’ return”

  1. DTH-LTJK February 13, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    Today I watched that TED video by Jim Toomey, and the story of how he got interested in the ocean at 10 years old would make a good metaphor for the dream world, and the difference in how it’s viewed by those who don’t remember or pay attention to their dreams and those who do.

    Toomey showed a typical topographical map, with land features depicted in great detail and water bodies as featureless blue blobs. That’s the dream-inattentive view. On a trip to the Caribbean, Toomey and his family flew over the water in a small plane—he shows several gorgeous aerial photos—and “I saw hills and valleys. I saw forests and meadows. I saw grottoes and secret gardens and places I’d love to hide as a kid, if only I could breathe under water.”

    Many people associate water in dreams to the unconscious. In working with dreams, we learn to breathe under water. You can extend the metaphor based on more that Toomey said. Check it out; it’s a great talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jim_toomey_learning_from_sherman_the_shark.html

    • DTH-LTJK April 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      A year later, and I haven’t been on that whale watch tour on the American Princess yet. But the Daily News has been there again, spotting harbor seals and peregrine falcons. “The seals are an indication species for us,” the News quoted Jon Dohlin, director of the New York Aquarium, as saying.

      The article appeared April 1 as “New York’s Fin-est” in the Now section of the paper, and as “Seal watchers find lots to see — in New York City!” online: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/seal-watchers-find-lots-york-city-article-1.1052268#ixzz1sFGuVXzH

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