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the pee alarm

My older son and I sat facing each other on the kitchen floor. We were as far away from his little brother as possible in our small house, and spoke softly to have more moments alone together.

“When it’s Christmas Eve,” he told me, “I’m going to drink lots of water so I can wake up and see my presents really early!”

I laughed. “I did that once.”

His face lit up. “Did you see Santa?”

“No,” I said, smiling. “I mean, I drank a lot of water to make sure I’d wake up on time. I was going to research killer whales and I really, really did not want to miss my train. My alarm didn’t go off, so I ended up waking up on time only because I’d had so much water to drink before bed. I had to pee so bad.”

“Why didn’t your alarm go off?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’m just really glad I had all that water, because I wouldn’t have been able to go to Canada that summer if I’d awakened five minutes later.”

“Why not?”

“I didn’t have enough money for a new train ticket, and I would have missed some connections that would have left me stranded for days, even if I’d had enough money.” When one of your connections involves a tiny personal boat out to an unpopulated island, timing is key.

Our conversation moved onward, but that bit returned to me as I drove to work an hour later. It was incredibly sweet to sit with two different kids who haven’t spent much time together, yet: younger me and one of my own sons.

Sometimes Li’l D asks me, “Why didn’t you tell me that?!” when I relate this or that memory to him. I explain that most memories only float to the surface when something today reminds me of something from yesterdays. 

I hope we uncover many more such memories together, whether from our kitchen floor or wherever else the years ahead may take us.

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Serenity on a mountaintop

I spent one month researching killers whales atop a cliff.

One month probably doesn’t sound like much, just four or five weeks in the scheme of decades, yet that month gave me a taste for serenity and solitude I’ve hardly felt since.

I figured those feelings would remain in memory, sweet but increasingly distant as days marched on between me and my month on the cliff.

Thus was I delighted to exit my car at Del Cerro Park today and immediately see this:

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The landscape between me and the water was different, but the feeling every bit the same.

Read more…

The whales beneath my duct-taped sneakers

I took a train, a bus, a ferry and a boat to reach the unpopulated British Columbia island I called home my eighteenth summer.

I spent that summer researching killer whales, a creature with which I’d fallen in love while taking a Marine Bio course. Most of the time I did so from the main research island, but I spent the last few weeks at an outpost atop a cliff.

acceptance

My view atop the cliff

I witnessed many wonderful things there, where I was able to occasionally spot a dorsal fin as I listened to whales squealing happily as they rubbed their bellies against pebbles nearby.

One particular moment stands out almost two decades later.

My cliff partners had hopped on a boat for an island party the night before. I insisted I wouldn’t go, despite abundant badgering. I was true to my word, too, which I celebrated by spending the night tossing and turning inside my tent, certain every rustling I heard outside was a bear or other feral creature intent on eating me. Even the scuttling of tiny mice sounded ominous alone in the deep dark of night there, but minute by eternal minute the night passed.

A fog rolled in over the Johnstone Strait while I tried to sleep. Read more…

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