Friday, January 14, 2011

All the Saints

You want to whisper here. The ocean roar and clash of waves on sand seem to bracket deep silence, set it off. You look up and down the beach. White sand, water shining green at the edge of the beach then dropping off to blue-black. The Peligroso sign shows a pictogram of a person tumbled in the trough, beaten down by wave after wave.

White sand, water, footprints, but no people. Miles in either direction, and no human beings aside from you.

A geyser of water shoots up, then disappears. You look and look, your eyes awake, your whole self looking, and there it is again. Now you see the blow hole, a great round mouth in the water, the whale sighing and huffing, its shining back sliding just above the surface. Then the tail, unmistakable. Distances and sizes difficult to judge. The tail may be as wide as I am tall.

It's this easy: wade in the surf, lie in the sun, watch the whales who like to play in the deep waters just off this beach.

A few days ago, off a different beach. A boat full of people, music playing, people in polo shirts who are paid to make us jolly. Someone sights the first spout, shouting, leaning over the railing, finger pointing toward blank water. Another spout, another, and the boat gives chase, the volume turned up on Beyonce, Celine Dion. Another tourist boat beside us, several smaller ones. Ahead of us a ridiculous pirate ship, "sails" furled and unmoving, its motor gunned.

A polo-shirted boy tells us to pose and smile, and we do, bemused. He works his way through the crowd, switching English to Spanish, pumping his fists to What a Wonderful World.

More spouts and a tail, and then a leap. The great mammal is up and out of the water just off our prow, showing us his belly, polo shirts cheering and cameras clicking.

We keep up the chase but it's all anticlimax after that. The bartender stands ready but we're all here in recompense for sitting through a time share presentation only to say no. We don't want anything that isn't free.

Back to shore and disembarking, a polo shirt tries to sell us the photo of the breaching whale, already printed and glossy, instant postcard.

The time share salesman told us over breakfast how the whales used to come in closer to shore, but we chased them out to sea. Now the boats find them in their breeding grounds and how long before we've chased them away from there as well? He shrugs and swallows his coffee, and when he stands he's all sales, beckoning us to follow as he trots through the resort.

Nobody chases them here. Here I want to whisper, it's so quiet, the sound of the ocean dropping away when I am up and over the dune. It's afternoon and a few people appear. A family, mom and kids watching from the dune, dad playing out his fishing line along the beach. A wakeboarder and his friends, the body of a young god. I think about Death in Venice while he runs with taut attention for a wave. It doesn't matter that he's not all that good, one long arm reaching to catch himself in a fall.

We turn and clamber up the tiny mountain path and through the break in the fence, balancing on rocks and then it's dirt roads and chickens and dogs and kids playing video games under a blue tarp and men moving a boulder, one looking up as we pass and he laughs, inviting us to laugh with him.

At lunch I point out the nativity scene at the other end of the restaurant. We've seen a few Christmas trees still lingering. J. says he doesn't think it's a nativity scene, rather a prayer altar for all the saints, each one meaning something to someone here. I wonder if I should thank the saints for this place, for the quiet that makes me want to whisper, even after I'm home.

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