Showing up


July 30, 2018

Sunday was my birthday, and my husband and I took a cruise around the Salish Sea. Our tour included a stop at Friday Harbor, a lovely little town on San Juan Island, and then a cruise around a bunch of the nearby islands.
But the real purpose of the day was whale watching.

Truthfully, I wanted to see lots of whales. Or a pod with a mother and her baby. But an adorable and playful adolescent really would be kind of special.

I'd wanted to see whales for a long time, so I had a lot of expectations. As I pictured it, the whale would come right to the boat, look up at us (smile maybe) and dive deep after we acknowledged its presence. Then it would jump high out of the water, sending cascades of splashing water all around us. Certainly that would be an "Oooh" and "Ahhh" and "Wasn't that great?" kind of moment.

But as the hours went by and no whales showed up, I began to wonder if they ever would. It's not like they knew it was my birthday and were coming to surprise me, right? And if they did show up, just because that's what whales do sometimes, what the heck were they going to do? What if they just swam by, never to be seen again? Or what if we only saw the water coming out of a blowhole, and that was it? That wasn't something I'd want to write home about. I considered embracing the thought that we'd spent $210 to see the whales and might end up with only a lunch and walk in Friday Harbor.

Life can be so desperate sometimes. And it's really a part of what makes it so exciting.

On Sunday, the whales did show up although they didn't splash us and swim right by our boat. But their presence put smiles on everyone's face. We watched a pod of Orcas and one fine Humpback adolescent who individually stole the show by breaching over and over again and then tail slapping on the water like a crazy child. I don't know about anyone else, but getting that video made my day.

And then it was over.

Life is so much like whale watching.

All the way back to port, I tried really hard to make some great philosophical point about all this. What does showing up mean and how do we measure how much someone showed up? How do we measure expectations and in what way does all of this play some dramatic part in my life. Problem is, I came up with nothing.

It's a lot like looking for whales.

Sometimes they show up. Sometimes they don't. They come in their own way, their own time, and do their own thing. There is nothing we can do about whether or not they show up, and we probably shouldn't spend this much time thinking about it.

I'm not sure why that seemed so profound on Sunday, but it just might be because I'd never seen a whale before.

Or maybe I was in the sun too long.