The Cynic and the Whale


This is the story of the Cynic and the Whale. I ask you to put your own cynicism aside and let me know what you think.


Okay, I’m no big believer in all those “out there” things, like clairvoyance and soothsaying and all that. I was raised a cynic (by a civil engineer father) and trained a skeptic (by my journalism school professors). I tend to roll my eyes a bit. I’ve never been able to “believe” enough to be hypnotized. Yeah, I’m a cynic through and through.

So that’s what freaks me out about this story. I’ve been going over it in my head for almost 24 hours now, and the more I think about it (which is constantly) the more Cynical Moira feels pushed away. I mean – this is really something.

Some background: Around the year 2000 I was working for Tennis Magazine doing the travel and playing pieces (I know. Life is rough). Since I was turning 40, I told them I wanted to do a story about pushing myself to cross the 4.0 player level by the time I reached that age (I had only started playing tennis at 35).

I decided to head out to the Green Valley Spa in St. George Utah and do a combination of things: train with famed tennis coach Vic Braden, and put myself in the hands of  a Native American Medicine Woman. The idea was to be kind of funny while on my quest (and this was the nature of many of my travel and adventure pieces: hard-core sports peppered with laughs. Again I say: rough life.)

And so off I went to take on Vic, the Native American way and tennis. I did a lot of strange (for me) things that week. Like pronating my serve more. And joining a Native American drum circle in the middle of a sandstone canyon at sunset. And having my “energy balanced” via crystals and herbs waved around me. But the strangest of all, for this cynical gal, was learning Shamanic Meditation.

In this Medicine Woman’s view, the best Shamanic Meditation session begins with silent chanting and goes on and on until you have a vision. And it’s almost always the vision of an animal. Once that vision presents itself, it is your job to learn why it wants you to see it and what it means, as well as what its location means.

So I tried to shake off my “Oh-come-on-ness” and just relax into it. I’d put in a pounding seven solids hours on the court that day. This evening session, at worst, would give me a chance to rest, I thought.

Only something happened. I chanted and hummed and chanted. At first I was working it too hard. Then when about an hour had passed, I eased into it all a little bit, more out of fatigue than anything else.

And all of a sudden: my animal appeared.

It was a whale, jumping and frolicking right off the coast of where I lived – Southeastern Massachusetts. Now, I could see the coastline and it wasn’t exactly familiar, just familiar enough to let me know it was near home.

I felt kind of silly. Why a whale? Was it telling me I needed to lose weight (that’s what I joked in the published story). Inside I thought this: It must have surfaced just off the beach club, one of my favorite places on earth. It was probably telling me folks there are special. I settled on that, wrote the story and forgot about it. Oh, I should mention Lauren had been diagnosed about three years prior.

Fast forward to this past Sunday. That story isn’t even on line, it was written so long ago. Copies of it are in the attic in my back issue files somewhere. Recently I did tell my husband if I make the 105 miles on my Death Valley Ride, I am going to treat myself to a return visit to Green Valley since I loved it so much. Even when I said that, the whale story had not crossed my mind.

So on Sunday, I decided I was going to zip down to the Cape Cod Canal and ride 15 miles or so on my own, as part of my training for the JDRF Death Valley Ride to Cure Diabetes.  It was a cool but beautiful day. I started at the Sagamore side (the inner part of the hook that makes up the Cape) and headed toward Bourne, about a 7.5 mile ride. The wind was in my face and I felt great. When I got to the end, I stopped, had a sip of water and then headed back, wind behind my back and sun sparkling on the canal water. Barges went by. Fishermen waist deep in the cobalt blue, icy cold water, nodded hello. I was feeling good as my legs pedaled along.

Me at the start of my ride. I was giddy -- I thought for the riding and the scenery. I was in for much more.

I was thinking about the ride. I’ve mentioned here before that I was a ride skeptic for a long time. There are more than a few people scratching their heads that I’m doing this. I thought about that. And about my worry that I could not complete the 105 grueling miles. But I was feeling good. My bike felt great under me. I’d raised a ton of donations already. Maybe, I thought, I can do this.

And then it happened.

A whale, a giant, beautiful, incredible whale jumped out of the water right in front of me. I almost fell off my bike. No, really: I almost fell of my bike.

I stopped and screamed, “did anyone see that?” A lot of people had. Everyone was looking out and waiting, and he jumped again. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.

You see, you can take a whale watch out from my town almost any day and see a whale. The fog horns calling tourists on board each hour at seven to the hour is what I set my watch by. But a whale in a canal?

It’s almost unheard of.

 I could see that he was swimming back toward Sagamore, so I tried to beat him to the mouth of the canal. I sprinted along and when I got there, stopped, nearly alone on the busy usually busy canal path (folks don’t tend to go to the very end) and watched.

Then I remembered. And realized.

I’d seen this before.

This was the exact scene of my Shamanic Meditation visualization nearly 12 years ago.

It flooded back to me. My doubt prior. The way I melted into it despite myself. The vision. Trying to put my finger on the exact coastline and not being able to do that. But here it was. The place. The animal. Twelve years later, the whale’s message was becoming clearer.

I’d like to say at the mouth of the canal he jumped one more time and winked at me, but he didn’t. A barge came in and probably scared him under for longer. My mind was, well, freaking out. I pedaled an additional 10 miles just working it out. And still didn’t grasp it all.

I wish I could scan the original story here but I need my husband to move some things in the attic first. And it’s bubbling inside of me. I need to let this crazy thing out.

Because I’m a cynic. And yet, here is a sign: a sign that doing this for Lauren (and for me) at this point in my life is right and true. A sign that asking all my friends and acquaintances to dip into their wallets again for my child is just fine. A sign that all this is part of the path I’ve chosen, part of the path a Wise Medicine Woman probably could have helped me see more of.

There’s more for me to understand. And while I’m still a cynic, I just don’t believe all this happened by chance.

Gosh, don’t tell the newsroom about this. But do tell me: what do you think? Really. I want to know. Because yeah, I’m a bit freaked out.

Everyone trying to get a photo -- I did not -- my Iphone paused too much!

6 thoughts on “The Cynic and the Whale

  1. Moira, I love your blog. I am also mostly a cynic. As an analyst, I NEED to know how things happen, the reason and science behind everything. But I also must acknowledge that there are weird and unexplained phenonenom and we may just never get to fully understand. Very quickly, here are the two that I can’t shake. Twenty four years ago a friend of mine hugged me goodbye. I told him it wasn’t forever, he was just going to college. We’d write. He said he didn’t think he could. It was very out of character, but I pushed it away. A week later he died in Texas when he ran from his dorms to try and rescue a family from their car, which had been struck by a falling powerline. The powerline hit him, killing him instantly.

    The other relates to my older daughter (not Sarah). Her personality is as artistic as mine is analytical. She’s a free thinker, and very introverted. Two times when she was little, she read my mind, literally. Once I’d been having a dream about ice cream (totally random, I’m guessing it was her dream somehow), and about a minute after I woke up she burst into my bedroom (she was probably 4 or 5 years old), “We’re having ice cream today Mommy!!!”. The other time we were walking through a parking lot, heading back to our car after wandering the mall, and I was just thinking to myself about suggesting a trip to the dollar theaters, which the kids had never been to and were only a few blocks away, and she looks up at me, “Are we going to the movies Mommy?”. Again, she was probably no more than 6, and we rarely took them to the movies, so either she pulled this thought right out of my head, or it was the grandest coincidence ever.

    So no, you’re definitely not crazy. I wouldn’t say the whale itself was trying to convey anything, but I do believe there’s some higher power that makes the universe behave in such a way as to give us those little nudges we need from time to time.

  2. You’re not crazy. I totally believe it. I’m a public health researcher, data analyst, and ENTJ, so I like to find and know the RIGHT answer. At the same time, I’m a Libra and I do believe in the power of the universe to hold us with positive intentions. So, yes, it most certainly happened. No, it’s not by chance. What an amazing experience for you!!! 🙂

  3. Great story. And what a beautiful thing, to see a whale there. That’s enough, really. But these things have the meaning we find in them.

  4. Goosebumps! Amazing. I am so inspired by this story. Last year (abiet I am a ‘chunky dunker’ or ‘chubby mummy’) I so wanted to start to train to ride (not too long after DD Dx.)…pregnancy pops into our lives and that is on hold. Had baby, reving up, becoming inspired, ready to jump back into this world we are now we are doing the JDRF walk to cure diabetes and have been in total awe of everyone doing the Ride to Cure Diabetes, but oh so scared of…well, failing I guess, or, I cannot quite tell you what it is. But, I need to search a little inside me and figure out what holds me back from things that make me excited and pumped up and perhaps set some personal goals. 🙂 loving the blog by the way!

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