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The fathomless terror of our vast fragility
As a child, my parents took me to the circus every year, and I loved it. The music, the gravity-defying acrobatics, and of course, the animals — elephants, lions, bears. At the time, the entire experience was accepted as standard, wholesome family entertainment. It seems strange now, but I remember looking forward to the spectacle of watching exotic animals performing physical acts they were never born to do. Perhaps it was only years later, while watching National Geographic on PBS, when I started to contemplate the juxtaposition of sitting in my living room watching elephants roaming in their family herds in the Serengeti vs. sitting in a make-shift theater watching trained elephants standing on their hind legs that some larger question formed within me about what it was we ought to appreciate and strive for in our relationship to the majestic, natural world surrounding us.
If you have never heard of Tokitae, the orca better known by her show name, Lolita, who died in Miami last Friday, consider looking into her life, and what she meant to the diverse group of people (seemingly with nothing in common), who joined together to try and find a way to bring her home to the Salish Sea, where she was captured in 1970. Like so many others, I was overcome with sadness that it took too long to comprehend how wrong we were, decades ago, to let this happen, and to do nothing about it for over 50 years.
Whale Stadium Somewhere there is a circle where we will watch ourselves perform all the acts we have ever written, where we will hear a familial chorus echoing back from our deep, dark stars like edges of light slicing the curves of a small, stale pool; where we will sense the immense captive spirit of an entity falsely named, her glassy eye looking right into us, knowing each one of us—our greed, our fear and sorrow; our clumsy compassion; the fathomless terror of our vast fragility. And just beyond that sphere, in our one shared heaven, our sea-mothers will gather and sing, calling us back in celebration, in recognition, even when we wake again, knowing no better this earth, deserving it less. Until we do more. 08.20.23