The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a rocky outcropping that marks the southwestern edge the Los Angeles basin. Rising from this urban plain, the peninsula pushes into the Santa Monica Bay. Twenty-six miles to the west is Santa Catalina Island, one of several that comprise the Channel Islands chain. Every winter 20,000 California gray whales make their annual voyage from the frigid waters of the Gulf of Alaska down the west coast of North America to the warm lagoons of Baja California in Mexico. The pregnant females will give birth and nurse their calves until they are big enough to accompany the adults back to Alaska by the end of May. The route these great animals will take passes between the peninsula and the Channel Islands. Captains of whale watching boats make a good living escorting scores of people into the bay to seek out and snap pictures of the mothers and their young.
Near the lighthouse at Point Vicente, there is an interpretive center providing a natural history of the peninsula and the sealife that dwells in bay. After driving by the center many times, a couple of days ago I decided to stop to take a look for myself.
After I exploring the center’s exhibits, I went out on the observation deck. Four people were on the deck, each sitting in high-standing deck chairs which they had brought along. Being December, it was very cold and windy and these four were bundled up in parkas and gloves. Each held high-powered binoculars. They were silent, each scanning the sea with their glasses. They were definitely prepared and looked as if they had done this many times before.
“Excuse me. Do you see any whales?” I asked.
One of the four, a woman, put her glasses down and said. “Not yet. But they’re out there. They’re out there.”
She fell silent again. She put her binoculars in her lap and just stared at the sea.
It struck me that they seem as if they were in some sort of meditative state. And why not? They were in a sunny place, staring at a scene of unparalleled beauty, listening to only the sound of the surf on the rocks below the bluff. I could not imagine a place more tranquil.
They did not seem fazed that they could see no whales. In fact, if they saw none today, I don’t think they would be disappointed. Just sitting, as if waiting for some royal personage to make an appearance, was enough. If they did see a whale, it would be as if they touched the face of the Divine. If not, still, they would not go home empty.
They were in a chapel built of sky, wind and sea. And like the whales, the Divine was out there, waiting to be experienced.
Text and Images: Lori G. © 2007