Aloha Dear Ones,
I was blessed with a wonderful experience today. The experience is unique to Maui, and to my little part of South Maui, Ma’alaea Bay. Every year, around mid-October, Humpback whales begin to return to the waters of West and South Maui. The whales spend April-September around Alaska, feeding. In the fall, they begin their long swim South, towards Hawaii.
Humpbacks come to Maui to have babies, and to make more. In the eight years I’ve lived on Ma’alaea Bay, I’ve seen three baby Humpbacks born from my third floor lanai, or balcony. The mamma whale gracefully swims around to her new calf, and ever-so-gently, puts her nose underneath it and lifts it just above the surface of the water, so the baby can take its first breath. It is an enchanting and deeply touching display of loving care.
Ma’alaea Bay is a natural harbor, about five miles down the road from South Maui, towards the West side of the island. Our beautiful aquarium, the Maui Ocean Center, is in Ma’alaea. A variety of fishing and pleasure boats dock in the harbor, and a few small shops dot the shore. It takes me about five minutes to walk down to the harbor shops, past the modern Coast Guard station, and the old Buddhist temple long closed to the public.
Ma’alaea is home to the Pacific Whale Foundation (pacificwhale.org), a research and educational facility that promotes the welfare of cetaceans, dolphins, sea turtles, monk seals, and other ocean life, as well as whales. The staff of scientists and mariners are remarkable people, truly dedicated to protecting the ocean and all the beings that live in it.
Humpback whales are the local stars of the sea. Visitors come from around the world each year to participate in the Pacific Whale Foundation’s educational and monitoring programs, and to go on whale watch cruises with the Foundation’s naturalists. Visitors as well as locals can volunteer to assist the staff with a variety of activities. During whale season, one of the favorite events is the week long, “Ocean Camp,” for kids who love the sea and want to learn more about its fascinating creatures.
Children from many different countries eagerly look forward to Ocean Camp. The kids spend mornings on field trips with naturalists trained to provide the most direct encounter with sea life possible. In the afternoons, everyone returns to classrooms in the harbor, and the naturalists explain the life cycles of the whales and dolphins, how the health of the ocean affects the health of those who live in it, and how the kids and their families can help to protect the whole ecosystem.
Very early this morning, I had the pleasure of being an Ocean Camp volunteer. Twenty of the most glorious children in the galaxy, from ages five to ten, were very excited about going on a whale watch cruise with naturalists who were experts on Humpbacks. The children were so bright, so open, so radiantly alive and charmingly curious, they had me laughing, and almost crying, after the first 15 minutes.
We had a splendid whale watch. Our captain let us spend about an hour with one mother Humpback and her calf, their male escort, and a pod of spinner dolphins, who seemed to be just playing with the whale family, jumping and diving, to the delight of everyone, whales and humans, alike. The children fell in love with the baby, who jumped out of the water enough for us to clearly see it several times. Near the end, the adult escort breeched, or jumped completely up out of the water, causing even the captain to exclaim,”Wow, that’s an incredible animal, look at the size of him! He’s giving us a rare gift–that’s only the second breech I’ve seen this year.” The kids were actually speechless–briefly:).
In spending time with these sweet, awake, children, being encouraged to learn about the miraculous beauty and variety of life, and how to nurture it, I experienced a palpable sense of our future being in very good hands. I’m deeply grateful for today’s adventure, and lesson of loving care, and for the precious little ones who will bring this lesson forward to our world.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Our focus is on releasing the past, and moving into the year ahead with a willingness to experience more of the divine adventure, more of our essential oneness with God, with each other. Let’s do it with the excitement and openness to love and learning the children at Ocean Camp showed in meeting the whales in Ma’alaea Bay.
Love and blessings,
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