The grandchildren who traveled with us for two weeks
this summer are
now old enough (16 and 13) to be counted as “adults,” meaning that we
paid full entrance fees for them in theatres, historical sites, and on
the whale-watching trip ($50 each!).
We had cool, rainy
weather the two weeks in June that we divided between the Maritime
Provinces and the East Coast, so I grabbed a Weather Channel-predicted
sunny Wednesday and we made our way to Barnstable Harbor in Cape Cod,
taking our place with 200 others on a Hyannis Whale Watchers Cruise,
which was associated with the Marine Biological Society. I ruefully
thought to myself, Whew!
Two hundred bucks for tickets. I hope we see more than a whale or two
off on the horizon.
years back, David got on a whale-jag, studied whales, read up on them
and collected some beautiful whale figures displayed on a shelf in his
office. But despite our regular travel, we have never been in a place
to see whales in the ocean.
whale-sightings?” I asked
the ticket lady as we paid the fees and made ready to board the ship.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “This has been a really good season.”
I thought dubiously, mentally figuring how much each whale cruise was
raking in. Let’s
some 150 adults times $50 each, not to mention food and drinks…
My skepticism oozed all over the place. Well, at least it was a
pleasant day on the waters; Cape Cod Bay shimmered under the sunlight.
PA system broadcasted our guide’s announcements. This ship participated
in marine-biology studies and conducted research crucial to the
survival of whales. At least she was a professional biologist—that was
good. “Are you local?” I asked the woman sitting next to me. Her
conversation with friends indicated detailed knowledge of this cruising
event, and the pilot even greeted her as he passed by. “Yes, I live in
Barnstable. You are sitting in exactly the right place”—we were on the
port side of the boat. “See that cord?” She pointed to a rope blocking
our way toward the bow. “When we start spotting whales, they remove it,
and we can all edge on to the foredeck. That’s the best place to see
Provincetown, the pilot began to aim for
the sea. Suddenly, off in the distance, I spied a white spume—at least
I think it was a spume. “Whales!” announced the public-address-system
voice. “Ten o’clock on the port side of the ship!” From that point on,
it was whale-spotting for at least another two hours straight. A pod
was traveling and feeding together. They breached the waters in twos
and threes, their flukes regularly striking the surface. Several
gathered around the ship—our narrator naturalist calling out their
location, “Starboard—3 o’clock! Portside—11 o’clock.” She was so
familiar with the whales, she could identify them by their scars.
“That’s Lulu. Lulu has a calf.”
The afternoon was filled
with amazing implosions—whooshes of air from blowholes, to the right
and to the left. The crowd on the ship sighted whales in groups here,
there; the guide called out names. The huge cetaceans danced their
water ballet so close to us, we felt like we could reach out and brush
their sides with our hands.
All I could
think was, Praise
the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.
… Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps.
Psalm 148:1,7, RSV.
had this strange feeling the whales had come to see us, to check us
out, to raise our delight with their wild plunges, flapping their huge
tales in greetings, putting on a show to the oohs and aahs of the
In the July 12 New York
is Charles Siebert’s article “Watching Whales Watching Us.” He traveled
with marine biologists who are studying whales on Isla San José, in
Baja California Sur, Mexico. Through their research, these scientists
have been able to relate the high-tech sonar tracking devices in
military-training exercises to the unexplained beaching and stranding
of whales. “Necropsis performed on a number of the whales revealed
lesions about their brains and ears. The results of the examinations …
added a whole other, darker dimension to the whale-stranding mystery.
In addition to bleeding around the whales’ brains and ears, scientists
found lesions in their livers, lungs and kidneys, as well as nitrogen
bubbles in their organs and tissue, all classic symptoms of a sickness
that scientists had naturally assumed whales would be immune to: the
“It might sound like something out of a bad sci-fi
film: whales sent into suicidal dashes toward the ocean’s surface to
escape the madness-inducing echo chamber that we humans have made of
their sound-sensitive habitat.” The marine biologists in Baja are
making conclusive links between the deleterious effects of sonar and
other human-generated sounds on ocean ecosystems.
course of these studies, however, other startling discoveries have been
made. The whales seem to be attempting to communicate with the humans.
Toni Frohoff, a behavioral and wildlife biologist, has become a pioneer
in the field of human-cetacean interactions and is the research
director of TerraMar Research, which is dedicated to the protection of
marine mammals and their ecosystems. “Studying human-gray whale
interactions was a natural progression for me and my work,” Frohoff
told Charles Siebert. “And yet even as somebody who has specialized in
human-dolphin interactions, I was not prepared for the profound nature
of what’s going on down here. … What we have here are highly
sophisticated minds in very unique bodies, living in such a different
environment, and yet these whales are approaching us with some
frequency for what appears to be sociable tactile contact. And with no
Siebert tells of going to sea in the panga
of a fisherman who worked with the scientists. A mother grey suddenly
appeared off their bow, exhaled, and slid under the water again, only
to re-emerge with her male calf. For some 30 minutes the two rolled and
frolicked, weaving in and out around the little fishing boat, coming
close enough so the journalist could actually pat the calf. Then it
seemed as though the show was over. “Not, however, before she abruptly
decided to admit us into that exclusive club of unwitting whale riders,
the many Sinbads and other, real-life seafarers of this world,” Siebert
writes. “And there we suddenly were, borne up on a swelling promontory
of whale back, giddily airborne and helpless.” In short time, the
mother whale gently placed the boat back down in the waters, then swam
off with her little one, executing a giddying and spectacular series of
breaches. And the occupants of the little panga reached
shore, overwhelmed and stunned by their encounter.
brush with whales this summer was nothing compared to this
journalist’s, but I certainly understand the feelings Siebert writes
about in the story of another whale encounter with a female humpback
hopelessly entangled in a web of crab-trap lines. Hundreds of yards of
nylon rope had become wrapped around her mouth, torso and tail, the
weight of which was causing her to struggle to stay afloat. A rescue
team jumped into the waters, hawing and hacking at the lines, hoping to
stay out of the path of her tail, which could kill with one struggling
swipe. “When the whale was finally freed, the divers said, she swam
around them for a time in what appeared to be joyous circles. She then
came back and visited with each one of them, nudging them all gently,
as if in thanks. The divers said it was the most beautiful experience
they ever had. As for the diver who cut free the rope that was
entangled in the whale’s mouth, her huge eye was following him the
entire time, and he said that he will never be the same.”
we traveled this summer up the St. Lawrence Seaway, visited Old Quebec
City, toured Prince Edward Island, listened to Scottish music on Cape
Breton Island, took a bus tour of Halifax, stayed for a morning at
Plimoth Plantation, trekked the grandchildren along the Freedom Trail
in Boston (in the rain), walked the Lexington Commons and crossed the
historic bridge at Concord, when asked about the highlight of this
journey, my answer would definitely be, “Whale-watching off
Do you sing this hymn in your church? Without
knowing it, the scientists, the fisherman, the rescue teams, little
children on the whale-watching ship sing it whenever they say, “Oh, how
wonderful! What an enigma! Look, look. Over there—no, over there!”
God is love, let heaven adore him; God
is Love, let earth rejoice;
Let creation sing before him and exalt
him with one voice.
God who laid the earth’s foundation, God
who spread heavens above,
God who breathes through all creation:
God is Love, eternal love.
Let us, however, be intentional with our praise.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! Mountains and all
hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and
all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of
the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young
men and women alike, old and young together!
Psalm 148:9-12, RSV.
when we take a really deep look at the world, and see Him, nameless
though He might be, some of us are never the same. Let us look deeply
into the deep.
GLOBAL BAG PROJECT
We are devising a Bag-Party-in-a-Box
concept and would like to hold some "test" home parties in September.
We will use these to build our model. The
video we shot in Kenya telling the compelling story of Mary Nduta, our
first Global Bag Project
bag-maker, is now on DVD. If you are in the Chicagoland area, and think
you could gather at least six friends, please contact us at
. If you are not in the Chicagoland area, and would like to hold a
pre-Christmas season Bag-Party-in-a-Box,
please contact us as well. Our goal is to sell 5000 bags before the
Sewing machines, bought in Kenya, cost $170. If you would like to
purchase a machine for a Kenyan bag-maker, we will exchange names
between you and the Kenyan businesswomen. A group of you, a family, a
small Bible study or a listening group might like to make the purchase
of a machine as a Christmas project. Checks can be made out to Global
Bag Project and mailed to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187.
Annual Advent 24-Hour Women's Retreat of Silence:
In 2009 we will be trying a new
logistics approach for the annual Retreat of Silence. We will be
holding back-to-back retreats with the same speakers and the same
template. The first retreat will run from Wednesday, beginning with
dinner, December 2 through Thursday, ending by 4:00 in the afternoon,
December 3. The second retreat will run from Friday, beginning with
dinner, December 4 through Saturday, ending by 4:00 in the afternoon,
This will make room for those who work during the days and don’t feel
as though they can take time off during the week.
Our fees will be $120 for a single room with private bath. However, if
you register early, by October 15, your fee will be $100. If you bring
someone who has NEVER attended a Hungry
Souls Advent Retreat of
Silence, the welcome fee for any new attendees (and for you) will be
(The weekend retreat costs us $5 more. Add that amount to the fees --
$125, $105 or $95.) The cutoff date for registrations is November 25.
Since we must
give a firm number to the Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, IL
and pay for that number, we cannot return payments after the cutoff
Valerie Bell, Karen Mains and Sybil Towner will lead these two retreats
again this year. This Hungry
Souls Retreat of Silence is a guided
retreat. We begin silence at 9:00 the first evening. If you are
interested, contact our volunteer registrar Melodee Cook at
If you are outside of the Chicagoland area and would like to fly in for
any of our retreats, our staff or volunteers will be happy to meet you
at the airport and facilitate any sleeping arrangements that might need
to be made for our silent retreats.
3-Day Retreats of Silence 2009
Hungry Souls is
planning to hold several 3-Day Retreats of Silence for those who desire
a more intensive experience. These are guided retreats and will be held
both during the week and on the weekend. We are in the throes of
logistical decisions right now, but if you are interested, keep your
heads up and we will give you more information as decisions are made.
Because we must pay St. Mary’s Monastery (2.5 hours’ drive from Chicago
to Rock Island) a deposit, we will have to ask for fees up front. Some
of the retreat will be held during the week, and some willl be held
during the weekend, for those who can’t get away from their jobs. We
have room for 12 women at each session. We will also attempt to offer
retreats at centers in the Chicago area. To register, contact Susan
Hands by e-mail at
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
"Sometimes, when we take a really
deep look at the
world, and see Him, nameless though He might be, some of us are never
the same. Let us look deeply into the deep."
guide books are essential for good vacations.
have shelves that hold the travel guides for all the places we have
visited (more than 40 countries in the world, at last count) both Stateside and
abroad. I keep a file of all the local newspaper clippings, city tips
and pamphlets I pick up—just in case we ever return. It’s surprising
how invaluable these tools are. Some places we do revisit—what a joy to
have been in Paris six times in my lifetime! Friends and family are the
recipients of my travel-guide loaners. And when I go to recapture a
locale we have visited in my writing, all my travel material has been
preserved—a rich resource for evocative journalism.
I wish I
had begun keeping travel journals—journals set exclusively aside for
each trip. Caitlyn Mains, our 16-year-old granddaughter, compiled one
in the days between the time we returned from the East Coast and she
home to Phoenix. How else do you remember the place names, the events,
the surprises (Papa going past the same roundabout in Sandwich, MA seven times in our
attempt to find the Dexter Grist Mill)?