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Thanks so much! - Chica Jo and Paul

  • Writer's pictureChica Jo

Deep Trust: A Leviathan Task

Dead Self Portraits with our Day of the Dead Alter honoring Loved Ones Returned to the Earth

Foreword/Forewarned: Before I get into this Nantucket-sleigh-ride of events, let me say that Paul really put himself out there by becoming a butterfly-adorned, death-masked, whirling-dervish in front of our gathered family and friends. He even had to wear shoes for it! (Well, flip-flops, but still . . .) He went waaaaay out of his comfort zone for Love, and we can all take a lesson from that.

Call me Ahab.* Really, call me Ahab because like Herman Melville’s iconic character, I’ve been haunted by my desire to hunt down a beast of mythical proportions: The Great White Male. I’ve been scanning the horizon for a trace of His guilt-misty exhaust, hoping to punish Him for His rapacious need of Her as a resource. I’ve longed to harpoon this greed-crusted Lust Monster - a lust for taming and possessing all that is free and wild, pure and mysterious. I’ve been wanting to bring Him to His splintered-plank-bleeding knees for having set in motion Humankind’s blind, extractive, heavy-metal wheel of “progress”. So, go ahead and call me Ahab because, like the tragic captain in Moby Dick, I’ve been sacrificing my own life, my own ability to love and fully be loved, in order to bring a perceived Evil to justice. I’ve just begun to recognize the full repercussions that this invisible pursuit for vengeance has wrought on my real-life relationship with my partner, Paul, a happenstance Great White Male. Most of my life I hoped to shack up with someone NOT of that vast, damned tribe.

Sketch of a Māori chief, 1773 engraving by T. Chambers based on a 1769 drawing by Sydney Parkinson - Alexander Turnbull Library Reference: PUBL-0037-16, Public Domain,

Someone like Melville’s sexually amorphic, South Pacific islander, Queequeg, who wears his Non-Great-White-Maleness and mystical knowledge on his skin - on his very face - like a whale wears her scars of battles and ancient wisdom. I’ve found myself instead on a sailboat at sea learning to Big-L Love one of the Big-G Guilty ones (whose first job was at, you’ve-gotta-be-ethically-kidding-me Sea World!). But, perhaps that is just who I need to learn to Love in order to fully heal. In order to fully Love Paul, I see now that I need to put to death my inner, judgmentally vindictive Ahab - a tough and stubborn old salt. It’s going to be a Leviathan quest. Fortunately, there are some majestic, barnacle-frosted beasts migrating into these fraught and mucked-up waters soon to help me. To help us re-learn to Big-T Trust and return to the arms of the once enemy.

What happened that illuminated this flaw in my seeing? It’s embarrassing to recount (so much so that Paul may not even allow me to share it here but if you’re reading this now he ended up being good with it) but here goes. After a year of deliberate sexual abstinence due to my needing to give myself a break while my body and mind adjusted to menopause I learned that Paul was able and willing to love me even if my vagina was off limits. It was the first time I ever realized that I was worth loving without the promise of sex. It was a really big deal for me and I was so moved that after that year I asked him one evening at the entrance to Baja’s Concepcion Bay (coincidence?) if he would marry me all over again. Even though we’d both mutated (pupated?) into strikingly different people from when we first wed 13 lucky years ago. Even if we might never share that particular form of intimacy ever again. Paul replied with his trademark romanticism, “Well, yeah, duh, you doofus”.

That’s why we just had a wedding all over again in which we committed all new vows to one another with our nearby and far-flung friends and family (including our dump-rescued Saguaro) as blessing witnesses. We chose our cherished No Pants Ranch (Alert: absurdly apt foreshadowing) for the setting, and for the timing, Mexico’s Dia de Los Meurtos (Day of the Dead . . . no foreshadowing there except for the fact that we, you and me, will one day die. Sorry if that’s a spoiler for ya!). We chose Dia de Los Meurtos partly in honor of loved-ones lost. (We don’t actually believe in their spooky souls coming back to visit but, for example, when I’m with my son I’m also visited by mannerisms - ways of moving and sounding - of my mom and dad whom my son never even met.) We also chose the Day of the Dead as a symbol of putting to rest our past selves. “Die!” we hoped to shout-dance, to our incorrect perceptions, our unhealthy brain steepings that our culture taught us a woman and man “should” be. The ceremony and events surrounding it were incredibly cathartic and truth-beautiful in so many ways. That is, until (Thar He blows!) we inadvertently and royally fucked it up for ourselves. Emo-driven-hot-mess-Captain Ahab-style.

First, here’s what was important for me to have regarding our ceremony:

1. Our home overflowing with the mingling, laughing spirits of family and friends old and new. Got it! Check!

(It’s striking how several of our otherwise reality-grounded guests told of recent spirited visits from dead loved ones. One friend’s recently Covid-deceased mom “came to visit” her oldest granddaughter the night before. My son spoke of winged insects recently landing repeatedly on his Virginia cousin’s arms and how he thought of them as visits from my late sister, their cherished “Ant Henri”. Our Mexican friend, who drove all the way up from San Carlos just for the ceremony, told of a paisano who was at death’s dark door, lost in a forest on Dia de Los Meurtos, and was visited and guided to salvation by a procession of walking spirits. Interesting, we thought, how our human minds like to make meaning of coincidences. I recalled even myself as a young, no-nonsense woman noticing rather odd bird behavior around me after each of my parents died.)

2. To be surrounded with the dusty, feral beauty and spike-wild, uncompromising truth of our beloved patch of Sonoran Desert. Got it! Check!

3. A ceremony with vows reflecting our intentions to emerge anew from our wing-binding chrysalises and fly free from our culture’s entrapping ideas of what a woman and man should be. Got it. But it’s a work in progress, as you'll see.

4. An unconventional, striking yet classy dress. One finally designed and sewed by my own hands just like my mom taught me as a kid creating dresses for my Barbies™ from old knee socks. A meaningful dress that, like Queequeg’s tattoos, I needed to cover my body as a representation of how I, how we, have gained wisdom and thus flown away from our less wise, less conscious, Shame-caged selves. Hmmm. Mostly got it but our screw-up in one key aspect (plus an Amazon™ delivery failure coupled with global weirding) may have been the unpredictable, papery flick of an innocent butterfly’s wing that set in e-motion the inevitable class-5 hurricane of pain to come.

Sarah Schripsema's taste bud blasting cake before it was devoured by coyotes! (So, who was the first to cut? We'll just pick on you forever!)

Hang in here with me, OK? Did you notice my italicization of “classy”? Specifically what I wanted was a dress that was not too revealing. Not saying: “Hey fellas, look at sexy me!” That’s not just because I’m in my 50’s but because I now see that in the past I often relied on appearing overtly sexual in order to gain male attention and favor - what my culture taught me was critical to being loved. So it was a cetacean-sized deal for me to not dress or act in a way that might haul Monster Lust up from the subconscious depths to the sweet surface of my beloved, socially awkward and on-the-spot, white male during our wanna-be-sacred ceremony. The essence of our vows, and one regarding physical intimacy in particular, were exactly counter to that. Counter to blind, Great White Male’s, extractive-feeling Lust. The dress, for me, was like a Māori chief's korowai. Like those feathered cloaks of cultural significance, my dress was meant to project to my gathered Tribe of Women our newly found freedom from female-objectification. What I’m saying is: I projected a heap of meaning onto The Dress.

At first my designing and sewing went magically well. I swear I felt my mom’s hands pulsing within mine and her “Sunny Side of the Street” humming in my throat while I snipped and pinned. I sensed her spirit (well, at least her DNA) engage my similarly-bunioned, bare foot on the sewing pedal. As people began to arrive and fill No Pants Ranch (Oh, pantlessness is coming . . .) with joy and support I had only the hem to finish and the monarch butterflies** to hand sew onto the long, flowing back of the skirt. The day before the ceremony I managed to sneak away from everyone just long enough for those finishing touches. I could give details about how the Big Mistake happened, like how my mom once sewed an arm of a blouse onto its neck hole by mistake and we just made it an off-the-shoulder design with an attached “scarf” (Hey, it was the 80’s) but all you need to know is that I messed up and cut the front of my wedding dress a bit too short for Modesty’s sake. But, no worries, the darkly opaque, Milky-Way-Galaxy-printed hose I rush-ordered were set to arrive any minute and that’d make up for so much leg, so no worries, right? Well, they did NOT arrive but suddenly the hushed, golden hour before our sunset ceremony did. (Try to beat THAT reliability Amazon Prime™!) Since we live mainly on the sea I got rid of all my hosiery. All I had to cover my bare legs were winter-weight leggings and it was yet another unseasonably hot afternoon outside Tucson. Risk a hot flash during our ceremonial death dance and following vows? Nuh uh. So, at the last minute, while getting dressed beside Paul who hadn’t yet seen the dress, I realized I just had to go barelegged. No big deal. I’ve been going stocking-free in miniskirts my whole life. Who cares about a few new, knee-skin wrinkles (OK, Vanity, you bitch, I kinda did.)? But when Paul saw me he couldn’t help guffawing at how I had over hemmed it. It didn’t hurt (and I know he didn’t intend it to), but it did make me self-conscious about looking too come-hither-icky-Lust-Monster. Alas, the planet kept turning and we had no choice but to GO! So GO I went, invisibly carrying the un-dead, putrid zombie of my old need-male-attention-to-feel-loved Shame.

Thanks to our daughter-in-love, Stella Han, for this pic of the beaming couple with our death masks in the background.

Looking back I now think that pantsless insecurity pre-set my mind to overreact to any slight sexual innuendo from Paul . . . or perhaps to even perceive one that was not intended. We have video to review it more objectively, his to-me-biting-on-tin-foil-Lusty “wrong” answer to the following vow:

The Vow: “Paul, I am ready to learn to feel the touch of a man - your touch - not as a manifestation of Mankind’s extractive need but instead as the straightforward giving of a gentle, patient, thoughtful, and truly generous man’s attention and care. Are you ready to share that?

When he responded, the insecurely ward-robed self I was at the time clearly heard “Oooh Yeaaah” in a voice like a horny CoolAid Man and saw a slight Elvis-the-Pelvis thrust. As I write these words I haven’t seen the footage our sailor friend took (it's downloading slooowly) so you can assess his answer to the vow for yourself. Just please keep in mind the point isn’t to judge whether his answer was a a lusty, thrusty, asleep "Oooh Yeaaah" or an enthusiastic, sincere and aware “Oh, yeah” to a new way of sharing physical love with me. The point is to investigate how our unconscious perceptions of a singular event can be wildly different based on our states of body/mind/emotion and how that can lead to huge misunderstandings. The Vow and Paul's response to it is in the following short clip from the ceremony. You can watch a video of our full ceremony at the end of this post: (You may also notice a gasp from our spirited guests when several birds flew down oddly near me and Paul as we danced onto the sidewalk. Weird, but maybe that was their usual time to settle in those branches for the night?)

Holy monarch poop, Batman!!! I just watched the video and am stunned at my misperception of so-called objective reality. Granted, the volume was very low and Paul's back was to the camera, but, clearly, pelvis-thrusting, obscene CoolAid man he was not. Before I get to the ugly yet sublimely transformative aftermath of our ceremony let’s turn to some perhaps wiser, sentient creatures for a lesson in deep, healing, Big-T Trust.

Any guesses on the identity of our mystery mammal? Their adult length is just shy of the 50’ stretch of Triplefin, our sailboat home and research vessel. Their natural life span is about equal to yours and mine. Unlike their relatives, they typically scrape-scoop feed on small crustaceans who reside in the mud and sand on the bottom of the sea floor. And, get this: They scoop with only one side of their jaw and not the other . . . so they're right-lipped in the same way most humans are right-handed. But, like humans, there are some lefties out there. Also unlike their kin they lack a dorsal fin which helps identify them by species when spied from the water’s surface. And, as individuals, how apt it is that they can be recognized based on their old scars, mostly carved by old parasites in the same yet hidden way we humans can be identified by our personalities; our emotional scar-tissues that were largely formed as protective responses to emotional wounds. Also fitting here, because of the unusual arrangement of their pair of nostrils, their misty blow has a characteristic heart shape (Awww). Finally, these majestic marine mammals almost went extinct due to the short-sighted, rapacious, and horrific predation (let's face it - murder) by our own species. (There goes that automatic, bitter judgement of the Great White Male writhing up my spine again as I type.) But, not to fret here, their story has a joyful ending, so hang on for it. You’ve likely guessed that I’m describing some species of whale. Indeed, Eschrichtius robustus, the Gray Whale, is the sole living species of this ancient genus of baleen whale who sure does have something to teach us, or at least me, about Big-T Trust. (BTW - Our name for them came, like so damn many, from the Great White Male, named Gray, who named them after himself, not their grey color.)

Paul's pic of our friend, John Weber, who got surprised when this Gray surfaced near his paddleboard at Isla San Pedro Martir!

First, let’s get Eschrichtius robustus’ back story in relationship to Homo sapiens. It’s not comfortable but you need to soak in the cold ocean in order to appreciate the warm seas to come. The Eastern Pacific’s population of Gray Whales swim every fall/winter from Northern Alaska all the way to the very tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula. Along the way, during our winter holidays, the reproductively synchronized females (Hey, we do it too after about two months together!) stop and enter a few shallow and protected lagoons along the Pacific coast of Baja. They go there to seek safe refuge from intensely predatory Orcas. This sanctuary is crucial for them to give birth to and nurture their calves - their babies. These mothers then spend months preparing their newborns for the long, perilous return journey in the spring. You’ve likely seen some nature-doco footage of Orcas working together to separate from their moms and then drown Gray Whale calves. (I know it’s Big-N Natural, but I can’t bear the empathetic pain to watch it myself.)

These few shoaly bays were an essential, reliable, safe, nursery haven for Grays for millennia. Until. Yeah, until the arrival of greed-blinded, white whalers like Charles Melville (I know!?!) Scammon who in the mid 1800’s (When Moby Dick was written) “discovered” *** these, the Gray’s last remaining calving sanctuaries, after all others in the entire region had been abandoned by the whales due to whaling and after the Atlantic Grays had been hunted to extinction. Scammon (and some Atlantic whalers who got word of the Baja lagoons) brutally and ruthlessly slaughtered over 4000 of these sentient, pregnant and nursing mothers (who the whalers rationalized as "Devil Fish" (hmmm - Doesn't that ring a bell?) and their newborn babies to near extirpation. Meaning that these three last refuges were almost completely absent of their Grays within just a handful of natal seasons. The stored female and baby fat of their bodies was extracted and processed into oil to light lamps and lubricate machines. A century later, in 1949, facing the threat of full-on extinction, Homo sapiens became more sapient, perhaps more illuminated than our lamps, and had a change of heart. Our International Whaling Commission (IWC) began to protect Grays from large-scale, commercial hunting. But the Eastern Pacific Grays who survived were still understandably pissed off and they were evidently spreading the story about humans' horrendous behavior. For many, many decades Eastern Pacific humans continued to refer to Eastern Pacific Gray Whales as “Devil Fish” because of the so called “aggressive” (nay . . . naturally defensive!) behavior of mothers toward whalers and later even other non-whaling boats who came near them and their calves. But, you will not believe what goes on NOW between this gathering of Gray Whale mothers and us Human Beings! First, check out this video made by a dear friend and research partner, Fernando Martin Velasco, of Gray moms playing with their new born babies. It's accompanied by human throat singing:

Over the better part of the past century not only has our human behavior toward these Gray Whales changed but so has theirs towards us. Now, there is a thriving, closely-monitored, eco-tourism business in those very same, protected lagoons. Each winter humans travel there, climb into the small, outboard-motor-driven boats called pangas, motor out slowly towards the Gray Whales and guess what happens? The Gray Whales COME TO THE PANGAS TO BE STROKED BY HUMAN HANDS. The mother Grays actually bring their babies to the outstretched hands of human children being held trustingly overboard by their human mothers. Meanwhile, the Gray mothers often rest vulnerable-belly-out, Big-T Trusting us humans fully to entertain/baby-sit their energetic tots while they rest! I am not making this up. (I’m not even Southern-Girl hyperbolizing here, people!) Baja-based Fernando, an arts based researcher and creator of the video above, did an inquisitive experiment with the descendants of these Whales who were the victims of Scammon’s brutality. Fernando spent Covid-time collaborating with his photographer partner, Claudia Sanchez Huergo, living near El Vizcaíno Bay, the place on Baja California’s peninsula where the largest and most horrendous slaughter of the Greys happened. After lengthy research on the Grays and the original human inhabitants of the area Fernando found that it was very likely that pre-Columbian Humans and the Whales had some sort of relationship based on Trust and possibly involving communication through Music. To paraphrase Fernando, he recognized that the historically traumatized Grays may have inherited a story about their once-trusted, music-sharing, human Friends turning into Monsters. Monsters who suddenly misperceived their Whale Kin as mere objects to be exterminated; their bodies turned into resources for extraction. That made Fernando curious enough to wonder: What would happen today if we tried to communicate in such pure/direct ways with the Whales who shelter and play there now? So Fernando repeatedly hired one of the tourist pangas to take him out in the once blood-choked bay to read poetry to the whales. Just to see what would happen. Sometimes there were also a drummer and a dancer on the bow. The tourist panga drivers ensured him that turning off the motor and just sitting there while speaking, drumming, and dancing would spook-away the whales, but Fernando insisted. What do you think happened? You can see for yourself with this (definitely click here and watch at about 2 minutes in) and other videos Fernando made for the Leviathon’s Playing research project. Have the Gray Whales forgiven Human Beings for our past atrocities? It’s possible that enough time has gone by that the Eastern Pacific Gray Whales have simply, generationally, forgotten that horrendous time of murder by human hands. But it’s also possible that they have a cultural/historical narrative passed down through generations with their own sort of mysterious-to-us storytelling about the recent past. Perhaps now that we humans are able to see them correctly again as Friends instead of perceiving them as mere resources for our unconscious taking, they are in turn telling a different story about us. Perhaps, with our corrected seeing of them as Kin, the Grays are able to see us differently once more, as Kin, and Big-T Trust us anew. Like I’m learning with Paul, my happenstance Great White Male, seeing each other correctly, without mindlessly projecting our invisible Shame onto each other’s wanna-be pure intentions, is a two-party dance. So, back to The Vow, Paul’s automatic (and social-stress induced) response, and how my collectively Female-defensive mind perceived it as Monstrous instead of Friendly.

Regardless of how you and I just perceived Paul’s response to The Vow in the video clip, the Shame-laden Zombie self I was at the time perceived it as old Monster Lust, one of The Great White Male's many Guilty heads, surfacing for air. Obviously that threw me for a female-objectified loop-de-loop. While standing there, before our human friends under the two mesquite trees we’ve watched grow together over the years and trying to subtly use my bouquet of bird feathers (Did anyone wonder why I was holding what looked like a wild-harvested, feather duster, I now wonder?) to shield my bare thighs from view, I noticed his reply to The Vow got a chuckle from some of the other Guys. I was so disconcerted that I wasn’t able to address his seemingly unseemly response with face-saving humor by stating with a light lilt and smile/wink, “I can see we have work to do on that one”, and thus get a knowing female laugh in return. Instead I just whale-rolled with it but it stuck to me like an itchy barnacle. Minutes later when we danced to Bésame Mucho inside our fairy-lighted tree bower I felt re-jailed in my old hungry-for-vengeance self that I'd meant to put to rest. Paul’s hands moving around my heart's cage of ribs felt groping to me but he swore that was just not possible given the Shame-free, pure Love he was feeling. Now, before you jump to thinking that my no-pants perceptions ruined what was otherwise an incredibly beautiful and meaningful ceremony, think again. To me the incongruity was unsettling, yes, but it just served to show me where we had important work to do together. Work that can help us see each other and our intentions correctly instead of skewed by all our past experiences and cultural soakings (another of our new vows). When I finally got in bed that night I laid there (Yeah yeah, I know it’s lied but I can’t help what sounds right to my Hillbilly ears.) knowing I would need to honor my authentic self (yet another of our vows) and tell him how his answer, or at least my perception of it, made me feel . . . icky.

Gracias to our amigo, Alan Ruiz Berman, for this pic of us illuminating one of our dump-rescued Saguaro during the ceremony.

I knew that I would need to be very careful, calm and non-blaming when I spoke to Paul about The Vow so as not to trigger his big-G Guilt collectively shouldered by the Great White Male. I asked that our first day alone after our guests departed be one of mutual silence, something we occasionally do. I knew we had so much incredible beauty to process from our days of wedding with friends and family but also I needed to embody my personal counter-Ahab, my Starbuck - the rational, non-emotional, bigger and lighter self. The self with Monarch Butterfly wings. But get this. I was not only silent but also unconsciously dodging body and eye contact with Paul that day. I just had so much to wrangle with before interacting with him. Paul, however, in his own state of uncertainty and post-social overwhelm felt Ghosted. He was really hurting that silent day, so needing connection, but felt unable and/or afraid to communicate that to me.

The next morning when we got together to talk and I brought up the vow and his to-me-incongruous answer he reacted like his old, stuck zombie-caterpillar self and was angrier than I’ve ever seen him. Actually, now that I think of it, I believe that’s the only time I’ve ever really seen him Big-A Angry. But I knew under the rage was simply hurt and fear. Because just like me, just like all of us I bet, he carries the heavy weight, the ocean-trench-deep pain of being mis-understood as bad, wrong, unworthy - shameful. (And he wasn’t even raised under the ashy, baptized thumb of Roman Catholicism [or any ism] **** in rural Virginia!) My words were carefully chosen so that he wouldn’t feel personally judged. However, after that day of perceived Ghosting and a lifetime of trying to “be perfect” so as to be loved he was predisposed to feeling judged anyway. When I said I felt the need to let our female guests know that I would address his response to The Vow he heard that as me saying I needed to apologize to our friends for him and just flippin’ lost it. (I bet if I'd recorded that conversation he'd now be holy-monarch-poop-Batman-shocked at how not blaming I actually sounded!) He uncharacteristically flung his cherished, insulated coffee mug into a spikey ocotillo and stomped to the truck, dust-deviling off! I was awfully worried he’d Emo-Ahab-wreck so I ran out and intercepted him down the dirt driveway. On the same patch of Earth where two days before we began our ceremonial, death-masked dance he stopped and looked at me through the glass like “Just try and stop me.” So I did what came absurdly Female-Natural.

I turned belly-out. Without thinking I threw off my should-be-by-now-flippin'-way-out-of-season-sundress and knelt down on the desert sand in my underpants with tears streaming down my face and begged him to come back and really LISTEN to me. (I don’t know what our sweetly-kind, Trump-flag-waving, conservative, 90-year-old, Yosemite Sam doppelganger, cowboy neighbor thought as he motored by on his horse golf cart and I still don’t give a stinging scorpion’s ass about it. It IS No Pants Ranch, after all.) He returned to me, my Man, my Dearest, to sit in the new day’s starshine and learn with me to Big-L Love. At first it pained me to see his protective body posture - not even able to sit beside me. But we embraced our discomfort (another of our vows) and began to consider how our world needs, yes, more Women empowered to engage their masculine aspects and to steer this post-modern, battered ship on a new course. But equally so how we need to stop blaming Man, including the mythical Great White Male, and instead help Him activate (and feel damn confident about activating!) His natural feminine aspects. We all need to be a bit more tattooed-hearts-on-our-sleeves, Queequeg-balanced, don’t ya think?

Paul's pic of a (not The) Verdin

(In that porch reunion Paul's zombie was still trying to engage mine in war by throwing harpoons at my zombie's vulnerable spots. At one point his zombie-self tried to belly-stab mine by eye-roll-ridiculing my tiny-wee droplet of spiritual agnosticism. [I retain it because what hubris of us to think we can understand and explain everything in an existence that according to our laws of physics just Should Not BE.] Just then a small and shy desert bird, a Verdin, flew into the space between us and landed on his knee. Paul and I held hushed eye contact and then just started cry-laughing as the Verdin flew off. Make what meaning of it you will [Paul makes none]. But I felt it as Big-L Love saying “Wake the fuck up, y’all!”)

Since our sacred and absurd Day of the Dead wedding we have been taking a lesson from the Gray Whale. We’ve been practicing laying down our reactionary defenses and turning our tender, vulnerable, mammal bellies towards each other. Like our friend Fernando, we’re now using our artist’s and scientist’s natural curiosity to ask questions instead of blaming. We’re investigating our automatic, mindless words, actions, and reactions instead of judging them and each other. Paul said that he feared I would not be able to Big-L Love him until I put to death my Big-J Judgement of Mankind. But I think it's the other way around. By learning to love this one Great White Male perhaps that will help me accept Mankind. I can’t help but wonder what might happen if we humans could scale-up such Gray-Momma-Whale-belly-out Trust and apply it to say a politically polarized country. Could we lay down our culturally pre-programmed, social-media defenses? What if we could extend it even to ancient, religion-rooted trauma such as that created, shared and unconsciously maintained by Palestine and Israel? I know that’s a Leviathan task to even consider. But what if we start just with our most intimate of relationships as those first, paper-fragile flicks of a butterfly’s impossibly powerful wings? - It’s simple, but not easy. - It’s sure as whale shit not comfortable. - It’s not pretty but it IS, truly, Big-L Love.

Here's the video of our full ceremony with my son's hysterical and touching toast at the end:

Raw video thanks to SV Turquesa Captain, Chris Jungmann, a darn great, white male and creator of yacht security system, Barking Boat! And incredible music by one-cello-woman Zoë Keating.

Afterword: While editing this piece, Fernando reminded me that Scammon was a more complicated person than I paint him here. After his time whaling he wrote and greatly contributed to our modern, scientific knowledge of marine mammals, including the Gray Whales he hunted. In his writing he (perhaps nostalgically) recalled the Grays as playful, maternally caring, and sagacious. He also seemed to shift from brutal speciesism (seeing the Grays as monstrous Devil Fish) to blatant racism by referring to the pitiful Whales' treatment at the cruel hands of indigenous whalers' small-scale, sustainable methods. It seems we Homo sapiens unconsciously make monsters when it serves our righteous views of ourselves, both personally and culturally. Fernando also poetically closed his own research at the intersection of Grey Whales and Human Beings with this consideration: "Born in a desert whose hidden history she has been a participant in, the Northwest Traveler (the Gray Whale) dissipates the boundaries between nations and the demarcations between species, posing a crossroads on how the human world relates to what it considers different. Perhaps, gray whales remind us of our own past pilgrimage and our ancient sacrificial practices, perhaps their gaze suspends us in the narration of the myth. Heralds of the ocean, their proximity embodies a playing, and possibly, a challenge."

I should acknowledge my own naive, romantically held, oversimplified notions of non-white, indigenous cultures. Like many of us, I've often oversimplified them as pure and innocent of unconscious, short-sighted over-taking. For example, it's widely accepted that the modern Māori people (on whom Queequeg's character was likely based) of Aotearoa/New Zealand had ancestors who burned nearly half of the islands' forests, introduced rats and dogs, and hunted the giant moa to extinction and many other species to near extinction within decades of their arrival in the 13th century.

And speaking of complex relationships that we like to simplify for the sake of a good story, the relationship between Eastern Pacific Human Beings and Eastern Pacific Gray Whales was and is surely fractally complex and constantly shifting as our preconceived notions and interactions alter our perceptions of each other. Just like a human marriage! For a thoughtful and enjoyable investigation into this intra-species relationship, check out this recent paper out of the University of Cambridge: From Devil Fish to Friendly Whale, by A. Guasco

*Yes, dammit, I know the original is “Call me Ishmael”. Jeez. But it’s OK if you didn’t know that yourself. I’m not judging. I actually haven’t read all of Moby Dick myself yet. So, no shame, OK?

**No butterflies - migrating Monarchs on their way from Appalachia to Mexico - or other species were harmed in the making of The Dress. They all volunteered (Hahaha . . . JK). Seriously, though, no harm.

*** Obviously poor old Great White Male Scammon, who was tragically trapped in mirroring what his culture expected a man to do, was not the first human discoverer of “His” Gray Whale nursery lagoon. The birds'-eye-view-map-making, Spanish colonizers named it Ojo de Liebre (Eye of the Hare) Lagoon. But, way before the Spanish colonizers, the indigenous Cochimí lived in the region by hunting fish and gathering seeds and fruits. After a century of forced cultural steeping by Spanish missionaries their population was decimated by Old World disease epidemics. By the late 1800’s, about fifty years after Scammon’s sadly unconscious, brutal acts, their ancient culture and unique language, unlike those of the relatively more fortunate Gray Whale, went extinct. The few things we do have record of from the Cochimí culture are fascinating! Check this out.

**** Except maybe Paul did grow up with an 'ism - Humanism. But now that I think of it, isn’t that potentially, depending on how it’s practiced, just as misleading? He (like most of us) WAS inadvertently taught that he was good and worthy of Love only if he was perfect and perfectly rational. Something likely not humanly possible, even for a scientist.

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