Water and cloud castles
I stood atop a high stone wall today, little stars-in-my-sky, looking out over the water and thinking of you. Rain pattered all around, plashing up from the courtyard, patting on my hood, and leaving tiny, icy kisses on my cheeks. There was magic in the air, and in my mind you shared it with me.
Wide water stretches away below our feet, brushed and prickled with the falling rain, the island’s beaches curving away to each side. Curtains of rain drape from the clouds nearby, glowing slightly with the sun that’s almost breaking through. Across the water, the dark trees glow softly in sunlight, misty and insubstantial in the rain, and above it all floats a perfect castle of clouds. White and gray and towering against a blue sky, full of promises of adventure, it shines out, reflecting on the gentle hammered-silver of the water. “Come,” it says, slowly sculpting into new, fantastic shapes. “Come and ride the wind with me.” White cloud bellies edged with gold push out and up, making sail for far-off Japan, ready to journey through sunset and sunrise and sunset again. What would we see? you wonder.
The water is calm, reflecting sky and clouds and sun in shades of silver, pewter, iron, slate, gold, and robin’s-egg blue. Ribbons of bright currents braid the surface, glowing veins of light now reflecting the cloud castle and bright sky, now the westering sun, now the gray rain clouds. And over everything, a breathless expectation. For somewhere before us, beneath the water, beneath the shushing rain that glows in the sun, beneath the castle of clouds, there are whales.
We stand close together, sharing our warmth, laughing at the raindrops when they splatter on your nose, watching, watching, for the magic of the whales. As the tide slips gently out, we watch it reveal scooped-out places where the whales have fed on the bottom, round as coins, shallow enough for Sabrina-Bee to splash in. So very, very close. One fat seagull waddles importantly up the beach, his silly orange feet in odd contrast to his formal gray and white feather tuxedo. Beyond him paces a blue heron, pompously striding through the water, pausing to tip his head to look into the ripples at his feet. Fast as lightning, he spears a tiny fish and flips it into his beak, and your eyes get wide. Ducks in exotic patterns of black and white quarrel with the seagulls over the emerging whale ponds. And just over our heads, one enthusiastic songbird pours a bright melody like a golden thread.
“Are they really out there, grandma?” you ask. “Oh yes, love. Right before us, under the silver rain. Gray as twilight and silent as clouds and big as imagination. Father whales, and young whales making their first journey back to California where they were born. And mother whales, heavy with new babies, journeying together to the warm waters where whale life begins. Can you feel the magic? Where the rain touches the water, can you feel the whale dreams rise up? Can you feel the silky cold water, taste the rich mud of the bottom, hear the far-off surf?”
“Yes,” you say. “Yes, it’s like flying! But it’s nearly night. Where will we sleep?”
“Right here,” I say. “You’ll float close to your mother and listen to her great heart beat, rocked on the rising and falling of the waves and tides. You’ll be comforted by the rough barnacles on her side and the sound of her breathing. You’ll dream dreams of sunlight on the waves, and deep green waters, and crabs and fishes and seagulls. For a day or a week you’ll play right here, raising a whale-baby rumpus and peeping above the water to delight the children on the shore, before moving on to new adventures.”
And so in the rain we stand, little stars-in-my-sky, four hearts together, waiting for magic. And if we never see the whales, we have magic enough. We have a rain-kissed evening, silver water, and a castle of clouds, with mystery swimming silently in the deep.
It’s enough to be here, and know they’re here too.