‘Straya…

Time for a cheery post!

Really!

It’s the day after Australia Day 2018 at Davis Station, and the sheer lack of people at 7am is unsurprising (considering how the evening was shaping up when I bailed at 11pm)

Australia Day for us is a bit like the 4th of July in the USA, and it can get just as bogan…interesting. It’s a day of celebration or mourning, depending on whether you came on a boat or walked here. (don’t even start)

So lets blog…catch up…shoot the shit…chew the fat…how are you? Whats new? I’m well…thanks for asking.

Deciding not to hide out, and having a rare 3 days in a row off, Australia Day 2018 began pretty damn well with a sleep in and a quiet breakfast overlooking the cranky penguin molting on the bottom steps of the LQ and Mess.

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This little fella was not happy and had solidly planted himself in THE single most inconvenient place in the entire station to start his summer molt. These guys will just pick a random spot and plonk themselves down for days, squarking the crap out of anyone that comes close, his little penguin body language saying it all – “just F*ck off and leave me alone”.

Most people here can relate as its getting to the pointy end of the season.

We cant just shoo them off, so being the environmentally aware crew that we are, he was quickly ‘hatted off’ and left to his own devices as the people here in station began to wander in for breakfast and prepare for the Australia Day festivities.

So…what would today bring?

Well apart from Terry the Plumber begin a massive media sensation back home and in the UK ( his Australian citizenship ceremony was performed here on Wednesday, which apparently was only the second time in history it’s happened down in Antarctica), we had the Olympic Games – Antarctic style.

A full program for the sporty types : the Davis Inaugural Olympic Games comprising of a dazzling array of team sporting events on the beach in sizzling sub zero weather and grey skies followed by cricket in the Green Store. It was a teams event and a veritible united nations of countries represented.

For the non-sporties or the generally disinterested, I ran up Crocodile Dundee and then Crackerjack in the theatrette for an afternoon of Aussie themed comedy – basically on autoplay.

Today it is bloody freezing outside, no sun with 20 knot winds and a wind chill down to -7.  Cold enough to cancel the traditional Australia Day swim (much to the relief of many).

Making a wise decision to actually watch the Olympics from the comfort of the leather lounges, heating and open bar of the upper living area I was quickly joined by a non-sportie crew to watch the fun and games through the large bay windows overlooking the beach.

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So began the 5 hours or so of merciless commentary from our impromptu peanut gallery: a veritable “This Sporting Life” with Roy and HG  – Antarctic style.

‘Best Public Urination’ was hotly contested, as was ‘Craziest Penguin Attack’, ‘Most Hypothermic Competitor’, and ‘Shittest Long Jump’.

As the afternoon ground on, the pace slowed even more but the fun continued :  ‘Worst Tunnelball Throw’ was a nailbiter; ‘Longest Lingering Butt Slap’, ‘Most Homoerotic Male Wrestling’, and “Most Unneccesary Touching”  drew big crowds; and finally ‘Best Team Desertion’ and ‘Most Imaginative Buggering Off Home’ brought the afternoon to an shivering anticlimax.

(Of course our proudest day wouldn’t be complete without that old familiar chestnut: muscular bearded men and women in tights sports skins running around wearing Australian flags as capes)

Needless to say I will NOT be posting the videos. They may have to be burned.

Hmmm on second thought…could be useful!

I don’t think I’ve laughed so much for a long time and actually had trouble filming the events (must remember to wipe the audio)  as I was constantly having to wipe tears from my eyes from laughing too much as we tore shreds of the unfortunate and mildly hypothermic competitors freezing to death on the frosty beach below.

Heheheh….Suckers <sips beer, eats microwaved Vegemite and Cheese scroll, puts feet up>

Much like the real Olympics though, the Davis version was overly long and unnecessarily cruel. Case in point  – the last event : The Marathon.

After 5 torturous competitive hours in the cold, team champions were subjected to a series of situps/pushup challenges and then a almost-2 Km marathon sprint with a 10KG weight to bring back from the half way turnaround point – WTF!! Might as well kicked them in the groin as well just for fun.

A few competitors are still running. One stopped to have a leak. Several sorta slinked away and hid behind shipping containers til the pack returned. Many were tackled by boozy overexcited teammates on the way back. I’m fairly certain at least one person cried.

You can imagine the scene I’m sure.

Fortunately everyone that survived the beach had a great time and proudly wore their Gold Silver and Bronze medals way into the evening.

Overall it was  a massive success and absolutely frickin’ hilarious to watch.

Around 5pm, after the hordes descended on the Mess for dinner and then hit the bar the party got started with a home-baked “Hottest 100” put together by Sammy S (her 30th birthday as well  – Happy Birthday Sam!) and favourites chosen by Expeditioners and beamed out over slushy Fm (one of our local FM transmitters) – an eclectic collection of music ranging from death metal to electronic pop with a shit ton of 90s alt rock and “classic hits” that got most of the crowd up and singing.

Then as per every Australia day ever, the booze flowed, people loosened up and the evening started to get sloppy as expected (myself included). People start tackling each other, the darts comp starts to throw from 10 metres through a crowd, the volume of the conversations increase to drown our the music which then increases to overcome the volume of the conversation…we’ve all been there.

But it was really so much fun to get involved and chat/talk shit and just relax.

The tempo of the evening started to ramp up, people were getting sillier and looser, the conversation getting less conversational, voices raised, music louder and louder…

At one point a Canadian kicked the blow up Boxing Kangaroo across the room. That drew some bristles immediately. Right about then I thought there may be blood and that possibly it was time to go.

Then, rather dramatically around 10pm, the main powerhouse went down and we suddenly were plunged in silence and darkness.

Kerchunk.

Uh oh.

No lights. No heating. No tunes. OH SHIT the beer fridges are out.

The on call sparkies rallied and swarmed out to see what had happened.

The emergency lights came on and the dim lights flickered into life.

Whey heyyyyy!…the party continued.

The IPA on tap ran out, then the cider, then the XPA, then the bottles. Out came the personal spirits stashes, the mixes got stronger and the party tempo increased yet again.

In the band room the local Davis musos grabbed guitars and drums and whatever else could make a sound and started jamming (awesome),  a lone stumpy figure dressed in a walrus onesie – lamenting the demise of the MP3 PC playing the music – started howling singing his own selection of indecipherable songs at the top of his lungs (and apparently didn’t stop til 3am).

We should have the power out more often!

Then the old ‘one beer too may’ syndrome kicked, in and moderately drunk Jamie arrived around 10.30pm.

I think someone asked me to fix a non-booting computer and, after just been jarred that all I do is turn computers off and on,  I told them (perhaps a little too earnestly) to fix it themselves (exact words were possibly “you have a brain, eyes and a finger – follow the instructions and fix it yourself then – I’m off duty”)

‘Nicely done” said my little monkey autopilot “now give them the finger”

yeaaaah…

Classy.

Time to go to bed, Jamie


Eqilogue

So bright and early today, 6.30am I’m proud to say, I arose bright and sparkly, no hangover, no ill effects , and a after having a great nights sleep wandered down for breakfast just in time to see the Aurora Australis sail/steam/chug into Prydz Bay to begin our emergency water supply transfer.

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I haven’t seen the ship since she left back in November, and the sight of her bright orange hull is such a startling contrast to the whites of the ice and the blue of the ocean.

Davis water supplies here, being in the largest ice-free area in the Antarctic, are adequate but relatively small – our Reverse Osmosis plant is broken and they cant fix it, so we cant produce our own water and supplies are low. The ship has been diverted from Mawson resupply operation to transfer her water to us and supplement our supply for winter.

So today is looking good : I’ve bailed out of the hiking trip out to Brooks Hut (for various reasons I wont go into but strangely still feel the need to mention – you know I’m DYING to say), and going to spend the day taking photos around station of the water transfer, and chillaxing.

My biggest problem today so far is that they’ve ran out of Vegemite AND Jatz crackers.

Devastating lack of post-hangover saltiness and looks of horror and disappointment abound as the news spreads around station.

Thank God it wasn’t yesterday.

That would have been absolutely unacceptably un-Australian.


*Still here?

Good News!

My funkiness has passed finally, after a solid week of “MEH”.

I think i just needed to blow off some steam and relax for a change. Last night did the trick.

It easy to forget how stressful this environment is 24/7 and its effects creep up on you slowly but surely. No-one is spared and everyone can get as taught as a piano wire at times.

Something to remember in the future : must make time to really let go of things and chill.

It’s ok to lock yourself away for a little while but overall being around your team and co-workers really is the best medicine to deal with the funky stuff.

…and always remember to breathe.

 

 

 

…care factor

Last night I saw one of my teenage idols – Pat Benatar – live in a small Indian Casino close to here (SO good), then met a friend at a local bar to catch up after.

That turned into another post 3am night out. As a result I am slightly hung over today and my thought processes aren’t quite firing so this could be a total waffle – bear with me.

My drinking bud told me last night that one of the things she likes about me is that I don’t give a shit (in context the conversation was about toned cute-as-a-button PT instructors getting constantly hit on/competed with by guys in bars <or at least I think it was – things get hazy after 2am>

Yo Hayley.

I hadn’t thought much about it until my second coffee this morning to clear my foggy head.

Replaying last night as best as I could, this little thing stood out.

When did I stop giving a shit? 

More importantly how come people can see it? What’s happened to my masks? Hmmm…

There was a time where the thought of sitting in a bar and talking to people frightened the Hell outta me (that was a while ago admittedly), but these days – pffft – easy peasy Japanesey (sorry about the casual racism – its a generational thing).

Now I comfortably jump onto a plane, live in a foreign country for months, make new friends and form connections almost as a byproduct of just being there.  (ok so its not beer and skittles all the time but generally its pretty good)

So WTF? When did that happen?

I guess quitting work and striking out in a new direction has really been the last bullet in the head for my care factor levels and it must be showing.

Warning : Overshare.

This social anxiety thing that I’m hoping most of us feel in a strange situation was really amplified when I was a kid. Super shy and quiet,  I would rather read, wander or talk to my horses than interact with people.

You can imagine how that went down once I hit school. 

Overwhelmed, I ran away on my first day of Primary School and climbed up high into a tall tree out the front of the school – the Year 6 boys had to climb it and get me down. That happened more than once and the tree’s still there I think, at Wombat Public School.

*my sister and I back in Ye Olden Times.

High School wasn’t much better (less tree climbing though) and opened a whole new can of worms. Who exactly was I? How to fit into this micro-society, an odd shape that didn’t quite belong anywhere (at least in my head that’s how it seemed).

So I settled on being ‘clown’ : a funny/smartass camouflage developed as a survival mechanism at school, a sarcastic shield of protection and emotional armor, a way to overcome paralysing shyness and low self esteem – a product of many factors that I’m not going into. Today.

Girls? Not a chance. Baffled. Clueless. Completely oblivious (well at least ’til High School). Embarrassingly so. Head up my ass introverted.

Looking back, so many “Ohhhh so THATS what that was about” moments that I had no clue about at the time.

*my favourite school Photo – the last one I ever smiled in.

So anyway it’s taken a while to overcome all that – remember my ‘fake it till you make it’ motto?

So whats changed lately?

Well many things, but I think its basically the “care factor” – caring about how you look, how you dress, what you say, what the future holds, whats happened in the past, what people think of you (that’s the killer one). Money, career, marriage, houses, fancy cars, stability, conforming, fitting in, following the rules. It’s all a trap.

So the lower the care factor, the freer you become. So simple! 

Is it the same as confidence? I don’t think so but perhaps it can be mistaken for it.

Maybe reducing the care factor brings you closer to the actual person that’s buried underneath all the layers of bullshit – letting go of the emotional armor, masks and defence mechanisms that keep us emotionally separated from other people, that stop us creating actual real soul-to-soul connections instead of only temporary insubstantial surface level encounters.

Derrr… of course it is. You know this already. Everyone knows this, right? Feel free to bail out.

But I’ll continue my thought regardless…

Let the ‘this is me’ of you peek out from behind the curtain and take a tentative step forward and be. To the ‘real’ if it.

Other real people will respond. They’re hungry for it just like you are.

(All this is assuming you aren’t really an asshole underneath and in that case, all bets are off)

There’s to much bullshit in this world already. Why contribute to it? That’s just sad.

We saw a lot of masks at the BroHo last night. More in the late night diner after, even more outside the clubs and bars in downtown Olympia as the 2am crowd oozed out into the chill air, hunting for the next club or burger. 

Reality and bullshit clash after 2am, hungry for a fight or a fuck or a hotdog in the dim alleys or neon lit streets, queuing in club doorways and dark places smelling of urine and dogshit where the hopeless homeless live, hidden in the clouds of cinnamon vape smoke or in the pungent wafts of weed enveloping like warm spots in a cold swimming pool as you dodge through the crowded sidewalks milling with circus freaks and pretty party people .

An unrehearsed ballet of bullshit – all pretenders and posers, creeps and creepers, homeless and hopeless, the lit up and the hyperactive, the happy and clueless all lipstick, glitter and laughter, or the sobbing high heeled dripping mascara tears, tattooed with torn black stockings , cats eyes and smeared facepaint. Everyone masked up and parading at the Ball. This is who I want you to think I am.

It sounds like I think I’m different from them but I’m no better or no worse – definitely less fake than I used to be and still a work in progress.

The realest person I met was a dog that some dude brought into the bar. He was just happy to be there.

Anyway, my meandering point is that I think my care factor has finally dropped to a level that can set me free.

Care Factor Zero achieved and I’m just happy to be here.

 

Wow this coffees kicked in I think. thank God. That was quite a rant.

Sorry about that! 

Still here? Here’s a pic of a cute chipmunk on Mt Rainier as a reward.

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…rebooted

I resigned from my job with the NSW Police just now, after a restless night marred by forgotten nightmares and a solid day of jitters, uncertainty and indecision. 

My nice, safe, well paid and relatively secure government job. 

It’s done. I’m done. They denied my secondment to the Antarctic Division so my only option was to quit.

I took the moral high ground and made my resignation letter polite and professional (naturally having an honest first draft and then taking out all the “fuck you all this is why I’m really leaving” elements in version 2)

“Thank you, you are all great, how privileged I feel blah blah blah”.  Meh. You know the drill.

The cushy job was a comfortable cage quickly sucking the life out of me and trapping me professionally in small town Australia. 

It really was that bad – a shitty thankless IT job in remote Australia, no career progression or development possible, alone most of the time, constantly travelling,  with ‘technical’ colleagues who I wouldn’t trust to install OSX on a MacBook (most wouldn’t have be able to) and largely ineffective Managers that were only interested if you were in Sydney or were a uniformed officer.

If I was a uniformed Police officer I’d be on the cover of the Police Monthly for this Antarctic role – because I’m a civilian tech no one gives a shit. 

Yeah I know that just my ego, but jeez man, a congrats from my manager at least would have been nice.  Anyway….

5 years seems to be the limit with me with many a things: if I’m not challenged, I’m out. 

In hindsight I should have been outta there 2 years ago.

Anyway, I’ve blitzed my medicals and psych (fittest and more balanced than I’ve ever been) , signed my contract with the Antarctic Division and head South on the 1st October, locked and loaded for what the future will bring but more than a little shitscared. 

Still in Olympia, Washington at this stage: hiking these beautiful mountains and forests pretty much every day, waiting for the eclipse  to pass, and assuming there isn’t a zombie apocalypse or a race war then I’m off road tripping across the USA for the next month.

That’s all the words I can summon today : moderately emotionally exhausted at the moment. 

It’s cloudy and dull so a good day to catch up on some movies at the multiplex.

I need to regroup.

Later.

…f5

One week in already!

Despite a few early teething issues (specifically jetlag, accommodation falling through, and an unnecessarily nasty message from an ex’s sister here) the process of refreshing my memories of this marvelous state is working a treat.

Still in Washington at this stage, I rented a car and then settled into my temporary home in Olympia up near the Capitol Building. Got real lucky with this one and my 3 night Airbnb has now turned into something more long term with a super cool Californian family (zoologist and graphic artist) , their 2 year old son and their houseful of one-eyed and ragged rescue cats (plus Riley the dog).

**More on Amber and her Animal Rescue non-profit to come – living in a cathouse is awesome and Ive never seen such a variety of one eyed rescues in once place  🙂

Slipping back into the familiar territory around Olympia here was a good idea and getting tuned into the weirdness of American life was much easier than I expected.

Day 1 was a tired, confusing tangle of getting shit done, tip calculation and left handed “uh oh” moments, but after a good nights sleep and a few hours walking around, I was back in business.

Day 2 was much better. Rent a car. Get some jerky at the Markets, see the last day of the Olympia Lakefair. Time to explore.

It literally took only 10 minutes for me to adjust to right hand driving again. After the sweaty palms and abject fear of learning to drive here last year it was a welcome change.

So where to start?

Well of course I have to go back out to Union Deli for my usual. 

Heading out to Union again to catch up with my friends felt like I’d never left and the last year hadn’t happened. It was like driving into my home town (which was totally weird) and I don’t think that I’ve ever been made to feel so welcome than here (well…apart from the initial hiccup with J’s sister – although it upset my apple cart briefly, the wheels straightened, springs settled and the horse trotted on).

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Holly remembered my Americano and honey after a year or more away and the coffee was as good as ever. Bless you, Holly Jean.

Anyway my point here is that I’m here for a few reasons.
Firstly, and foremost Ive fallen deeply in love with the mountains, waters and forests of Western Washington. Something about this place vibrates at the same frequency as I do. I feel at peace here and this place has been calling me back from the moment I left. 

I dream about the woods here.

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Secondly, there’s a need to overwrite some of the bad memories from last year and replace them with good ones.  I kinda got the idea from watching a film – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – a while back. While erasing memories is beyond me at the moment (red wine aside), I thought that an enforced refresh might work – overwriting old with new memories would be just as good. It seems to be working well so far.

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…so just calm the heck down, Sarah.

 **Maybe don’t read/follow/report on my doings if its going to ‘upset’ certain peeps.

I wasn’t going to mention that but hey it’s my blog so I guess I am, huh. Whomsoever actually reads my social media/blomit now interests me and wtf should people care what I do anyway. 

One last passive-aggressive thing: there’s an unfriend/unfollow button there if you don’t want to be friends with me. I get it – it’s cool. Its not you, its me. Global peace etc. The unfriend button is really easy to use and I don’t really mind either way ( well I do actually but for the point of this argument I don’t).
Personally, I love to stay in touch with people and I definitely stay in touch with people I care about.

Like you kind folks. You are awesome.

Feel free to stay friends.

You’re welcome.

So…just to clarify.
What am I NOT here for?

Chasing ghosts and dwelling on the past. I am here to exorcise them for good and move forward.

As of today, after a week? Same sights, sounds and places, no triggers. No negative reaction whatsoever, so a perfect result as far as I’m concerned.

Mission almost accomplished.

It’s been fun to reconnect with my actual in-person friends here and experiencing this beautiful American summer for the first time is recharging batteries that I didn’t know I had.

So  – what else has been happening?

Hmmm…

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Well exploring Olympia in the sunshine is a treat, but summer nights are a different story all together. For example the Capitol building is simply stunning by night. The views from the Police Memorial over the South Puget Sound in the evenings are breathtaking, taking in the distant Olympic mountains over the water as the sunset purples into clear starry night and the lazy mosquitos fly into every hole you have.

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Ive only done some minor shopping so far (staying in the “keep it light and carryon on only” rule) – updated my worn out Merrel barefoot shoes (they lasted over a year but the superglue is failing and the soles are micro thin). Bought a tshirt and some used Levis at a thrift shop. Saw a movie! Got a mall haircut! Had the best coffee I’ve had for ages. Walked a lot.

Basically haunted the streets of Olympia until I can walk them with my eyes closed (not that you’d want to as you have to dodge the tweekers, beggers and other various loonies)

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A few days back I headed up around the Peninsula – all forests and ocean and Indian reservations and movie sets and isolated beaches..like Forks and La Push beach…(Forks is a dump but La Push area is beautiful)

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Driving around the whole Olypmic Peninsula is always fun…oh and Port Angeles also…

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Its not just going over old ground here. Just for a change Im throwing in some new experiences as well.

Slacklining (thanks Guru Shay, rocking the 1″) is going to be my new thing and so far I suck pretty badly but I’m getting there. Bought my 2″ kit from REI and it’s going to come with me everywhere I can take it.


This weekend we drove up into the mountains past North Bend, dug for quartz crystals and amethysts on the side of a deeply wooded mountain, got real dirty crawling under tree roots and digging deep into the earth (the holes in the pic are from peeps digging into the hillside with small shovels and/or garden tools – sometimes the holes go in 12-15 feet)

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** here’s where we met friendly weed-smoking crystal hunting John and his blue heeler dog (such a cool dude).

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Had lunch at the RR Cafe (Twin Peaks fans will get the significance), and just relaxed and breathed in the fresh clear mountain air.

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Whats to come? This week I’m up to Mt Rainier for a bit (i5 traffic pending), then make my way up to Seattle and see the things that I missed last time. Then driving down to Los Angeles to see my sister Martha (hopefully if shes around) and a few friends i met during my travels last year. Then I’m heading off to get Lost…no fixed itinerary – Glacier National Park, Yellowstone next month (maybe), anywhere the road leads me…

Also I want to see a bear, and a cougar, and some goddamned raccoons this time.

C’mon America – how hard can that be?

The adventure continues…

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**And also a huge thanks to my Cambodia travel buddy and good friend Shay for bailing me out and putting me up here when my accommodation fell through for a few days.

Shes a talented emerging local potter/ceramicist and artist so I’ll point you to her web store when she gets it up. Buy a lot of her stuff.

 

 

 

 

…holding pattern

Just submitted an application for a job – a promotion that I don’t want but will probably get – while waiting to hear about an unexpected job opportunity that I didn’t realise I wanted so much until today. At the same time anxiously watching the timer tick down to my “end of June” deadline for action.

I am the pause at the top of an inhale at the moment: my first step off the ledge. Caught in an anxious moment of breathless anticipation.

Ill hear about all of these opportunities in the next 2 or 3 weeks…

Weeks!!!! 

Tick tick fuck.

All my careful planning and orchestrations over the past year have made May/June this year the crunch months. I’m trying to control too much outside my sphere and its doing my head in at the moment.

All I can do is wait until these opportunities are either ticked off or taken – and I really hate waiting. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely grateful to have so many exciting opportunities given the current state of the world. But hey, it’s me. Activity is my heroin, remember? Complacency can suck it.

At least the Green card lottery results are in. No luck there and can tick that off for the year.

It’s actually quite an exciting time.

USA, Romania, Antarctica, South America, Dubbo. One of these things is not like the others.

More on these later as things develop. I’m being intentionally vague but there are massively exciting games afoot.

…yes its a tease, but the Interweb’s digital walls have ears.

**I found a heap of old Biggles novels at a book fair today – being a voracious reader as a kid I devoured all these titles and any other series I could find – Famous Five, Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, moving on to Tolkien, Conan-Doyle, Fleming, Doc Smith, Zane Grey, Asimov and Wilbur Smith and more. Perhaps it was these early literary adventures that set a book and movie geek on his meandering path an age ago. 

Anyway some things never change … Book Fairs rule…

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time machine 2…

… it seemed a hundred years had passed since I’d heard the first whale blow and every nerve ending in my body was sparkling. Soaked in adrenaline, buzzed on nicotine and cocooned in a humming halo of nervous energy, my monkey brain overloaded – ‘eeeep!’ – then shut down.

Fight, flight or freeze.

I froze: hands glued to the rail, body completely locked in place, scanning the deep night for any signs of movement. Anything at all. Nothing stirred. Nothing.

The world held its breath.

‘WHOoosh’… 

This was really happening!

The forgotten cigarette burned my fingers, shifting focus. Suddenly free, I flicked the butt into the Canal (sorry guys) turned and bolted into the cabin like a wild-eyed child on Christmas morning. Knocking frantically on the bathroom door…”Jen,Jen,Jen,Jen,Jen….the whales are back!….the whales are back!…”. Running back out onto the deck.

She followed me out a thousand years later, wrapped up in pyjamas and towel against the cold. We stood together close by the low deck rail, staring out into the night.

More whales sounded, much closer than before.

At least 4, scattered out across the entrance to our little cove no more than a few hundred meters away.

But weird behavior. What’s going on here? They weren’t just on the way through. Something was up.

We could clearly hear their vocalisations as the Orca spoke to each other: the ‘whapping’ of finslaps, high pitched warbling whistles and deep rumbling vibrations.

They seemed to be coordinating and changing their locations, out in the black water no more than 100 meters away.

“A little bit to the left, a little bit to the right…come closer…yeah that’s it” in Orca-talk.

It finally dawned on us what was happening.

‘My God, they’re hunting!’

It made sense. There were several harbor seals that lived in and around our little Calm Cove. At night they slept on the floating pontoons and under the docks that were scattered around the canal. 

The whales hunted these seals, and years before had wiped out most of the local seal population in a destructive orgy of blood, guts and fur close to Robin Hood resort in Union. Herded them into shore and massacred them all. It is spoken of in awed whispers by the locals apparently.

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The few seals left were the smart ones.

I moved over and put my arms around Jen, lost in the moment, forgetting. When the whales were whistling to each other, I whistled back, trying to emulate the sound.

“If you must hold me, at least be quiet”.

Ouch.

The pod had positioned themselves around the entrance to the tiny cove.  It seemed they were forming a loose cordon  – a net – with the aim of driving whatever prey out of their hiding places and close to shore.

Once in place, the 4 whales began to close up  – sonic ghosts, the only sign of their presence now being finslap splashes and their haunting vocalisations as they maneuvered out in the black.

Then they stopped, falling silent again.

For a minute or so, all was quiet save for the soft lapping of the wavelets against the deck supports below.

We looked to each other. “Now what?”

Then, far out towards the middle of the canal…

…’WHOoosh’

There was a 5th whale.

It passed through the cordon of Orca and entered the cove. The only physical sign a subtle warping of the reflected streetlights – a swell and surge breaking the amber ripples of light as something massive but invisible passed silently beneath. It began to slowly sweep across the cove from one side to the other and then back.

A sudden dread enveloped me. Gone was the wonder, replaced by a primitive irrational fearfulness. I knew it was larger than the others by the sheer menace of the thing. It radiated danger.

Now it was coming closer to us and the deep waters edge. Unseen. Impossibly close. Once, twice, three times it moved across the cove, closer and closer with each pass.

Directly below us lay black, freezing water that at high tide we could bend down and touch at arms length. Just ahead, barely illuminated by the low voltage Christmas lights on the cabin, bobbed a series of buoys about 20 meters out – where the neighbor usually moors his jetskis and canoes.

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Halfway to the closest buoy in the rusty pool of light, the black surface surged upwards.

Completely silent save for tiny tinkling splashes of water, the tip of a black curved fin broke the surface with barely a ripple  – up and up and up it came. Massively tall. Improbably close. A gleaming obsidian blade followed in slow motion by the glistening head and curved back of this enormous predator.

I felt my heart tear as this wonder emerged from the invisible, rising silently in the semicircle of light before us.

“WHOooosh”… a shower of misty silver, tinkling tiny splashes.

It checked us out. I’m sure I felt its dismissive gaze pass over us – the boring little monkeys standing huddled and frozen up on the deck.

And then it was simply gone. Slipping quietly back under the surface with nothing to mark its passing but the oilslick swirl of the icy water.

It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

…………………….

After the bull had swept the cove, the pod became chatty again, and one by one moved off around the point to the next cove along. It was obvious now that they were systematically working their way down though each cove searching for food.

We never saw the other Orca – only what I’m assuming was the big male.

As they moved around the point to the left, their slaps, blows, chirps and whistles became fainter and fainter until finally we couldn’t hear them any more.

After a few minutes, the world around us exhaled and came back to life.

A seal barked loudly just off to our right, scaring the crap out of us both and breaking the spell. We jumped and laughed – that was the luckiest seal in the world tonight.

It splashed into the water and got the Hell out of there as fast as it could swim, heading in the opposite direction to the pod.

……………………

So why am I sharing this…

Well for one thing, these stories would eventually be lost unless I write them down.

I spend a lot of time in this memory and I love the physical and emotional sensations it evokes. Even writing this today has the hairs on my neck standing up and I’m buzzing. 

Secondly, one simple comment recalled now speaks volumes.

“If you must hold me, at least be quiet”.

Who says something like that?

Seriously.

That shitty recollection popped randomly into my head the other day as I was going through some pictures from last year. 

This time it didn’t sting – it just made me a little sad.

Scientists and Romantics simply don’t play well together I guess. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

time machine…

Few positive events in your life burn themselves into your minds eye so deeply that whenever you return to that moment, your body immediately reacts – chemically, viscerally : your heart races, your breath catches in your throat, nerves tingle -racing up and down your spine. Even the tiniest hairs on your body prickle into goosebumps like you’ve been caught outdoors naked in monstrous electrical storm.

You are there, transported.

It’s actually a post traumatic stress reaction, in a way. One that is not debilitating but can be addictive. Taking pleasure in past experience to escape the present. Trauma doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ to have a lasting effect, I guess. 

Hmm…discuss.

I’ve been living in the past a little bit lately, purposefully re-examining some events with the benefit of a year’s emotional distance.

OK. Stay with me. I aim to wander.

Flip back to mid May last year. 

One of the highlights of last May was getting to watch a pod of killer whales transit the Hood Canal near Union WA – followed by a flotilla of small water craft. The pod were virtually chased out of the area by excited locals. There hadnt been a pod here for years.  But Killer whales! Man!

I was staying with my ex gf at their family’s cabin on the Canal at Union.  Oysters, whales, seals, forests, mountains…luckiest guy in the world no doubt. 

Beautiful place. 

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I didn’t know it at the time but the relationship was winding down – she was heading in another direction, I was definitely in denial. Maybe I wasn’t. That’s a longer story for another time.

Anyway…

Jen had a job interview in Portland as an archaeologist for one of the big Utility companies; an unexpectedly awesome opportunity and everyone was excited for her.  I’d gone with Jen for support (and shopping) and we’d stayed in Portland overnight. After spending the day shopping, the evening apart and staying in separate hotels (she needed to prepare) it was an odd night. The next day as it turned out the Interview had gone well, and she was elated. We decided to do a road trip out to Eastern Washington where she had gone to college, lived and worked for a time. Explore more of her past. Long story short, I met more of her friends and saw even more of her WA life than before.

To be honest the trip confused the Hell out of me, but I got see see where they filmed Northern Exposure (Roslyn) and Twin Peaks (Snoqualmie, North Bend…coffee and Damn fine Cherry Pie at Twede’s cafe) so, you know : swings and roundabouts.

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Anyway…

We’d gotten back after our weird 3 day road trip, talked our asses off and our issues to death, endured the awkward silences that followed, but ultimately had a good time. We visited her parents in Shelton on the way back through. Then it was late and we were heading back to the cabin.

Still with me? I’m setting the mood here hopefully.

It was past 11pm when we got out to Union.

The canal was moonless dark, winters day cold and unusually silent. Apart from the odd barking of a seal and the distant “shHHhh” of a passing car, it was graveyard-still. 

As we were in a little cove, so the road curled around the waters edge, following the shoreline. The streetlights threw long rippling shafts of soft amber light out along the surface of the black water – delicate grasping fingers that reached blindly out into the darkness. A mile away on the other side, the scene was a perfect mirror – distant pinpoints of houselights, rippling reflections, softly glowing streetlights, and silence.

Jen went inside and jumped in the shower. I stood out on the deck and rolled a cigarette, contemplating the Universe and marveling at the night.

I leaned on the deck rail and took a drag of the cigarette, enjoying the nicotine buzz. Pale smoke curled out over the low deck railing down to the dark water lapping a few feet below.

…now: take a single big breath, hold it. Purse your lips, and exhale forcefully, push all your breath out at once…

‘WOOoosh…’

Soft. Sounding like it was a million miles away but crystal clear in the night air, the deep sound whispered across the canal…

Did I imagine that? What the Hell was it?

I couldn’t see a thing in the inky darkness so I froze – held my breath and waited.
It came again. Closer this time.

‘WOOoosh…’

A massive exhale, followed by the tiniest series of tinkling splashes. Another, further to the right. then another even further along. Right out in the middle of the canal but definitely coming closer.

The hairs on my neck stood up.

I forgot to breathe.

Oh my GOD!

The whales are back…

tbc