One afternoon in early March, Miss Nashoba the jumpin’ Jack Russell took her two-leggeds for a romp along the beach. We spied Neil the Seal and his swim buddy clinging to shore, cruising east but casting frequent glances westward.
Mon dieu, what to write? A month-long dorsal drought afflicts Vashon. Most of the whale news is grim. A dead Southern Resident orca newborn stranded at Dungeness Spit in early January. California agribusiness and the Pacific Legal Foundation,
4:40 AM, December 3: "Waa-sa-weh (a Tlingit greeting), K Pod! We thought we would hear from you a bit earlier, but you are always welcome." For several days, a configuration of J Pod, K Pod, L87, and rumored other L Pod whales traveled through Puget Sound.
On October 18, I looked out our window and saw Chum salmon flopping about near the VHP site. Throughout the day, seals and sea lions picked off a few fish. "Excellent," I thought, "we finally have some food here for our Kéet relatives."
If anyone deserves an orca superpod on his birthday, surely our esteemed friend and VHP associate Mark Sears does. On October 8, a large group of Southern Residents traveled south in East Passage and cavorted mid-channel off Mark’s house at Lincoln Park. Alas, Mark had elaborate birthday plans with his human pod, so he was unavailable to obtain ID photos and collect samples.
While strolling along our beach on Labor Day, we nearly stumbled on the adorable baby seal in this week’s photo. The newborn pup still had fetal folds. Our small genius dog, Nashoba, was off-leash at the time. She spied the boo-boo before we did, approaching the tiny cutie in a curious, non-threatening way. Fortunately, Miss Nashoba responds to our voice commands and she stopped short of touching noses when we told her to "leave it!" To our relief, she did not scare the pup or flush her/him off the beach.
With considerable help from some observant Islanders, your VHP Coordinator responded to an unusual cetacean stranding on July 6. Bob Lane called me that morning about a deceased Harbor Porpoise on the beach at Sandy Shores. His emailed photos showed that the fresh-dead porpoise was in pristine condition -- a rarity.
Chez VHP has become collateral damage in the recession. In April, a short sale will displace us from the rental that we thought would provide stable long-term housing. We are immensely fond of the spot where we live and we do not want to move, but such is the 99 Percenters’ dilemma confronting us.
Last February, we mourned the loss of Ruffles (J1), the eldest Southern Resident male orca. This February we mourn for departed youngsters. Precious little female Sooke (L112), 2009 – 2012, stranded at Long Beach, WA on February 11 and the new calf in J Pod, J48, is missing and probably dead.
Chez VHP is recovering from a New Year’s Day medical emergency, so I am revisiting an earlier column that proved popular with my dear readers.
"Killer whales are the canoes of spirits, and if shamans are lucky, they get these spirit canoes." A Sitka villager uttered these profound words a century ago to the ethnographer James Swanton. To us (Odin and Orca Annie), killer whales are sacred. Life with orcas rejuvenates our bond with the Divine.
At Loop deadline, orcas have been absent from Vashon–Maury waters in October 2011. Before Seattle media outlets declare prematurely that the Southern Residents have returned to lower Puget Sound, they should do some good, old-fashioned fact-checking.
Southern Residents visited Island waters just twice in October 2010. November arrival would be well within normal limits.
"Sweetgrass Trail: An Emerging Artist’s Journey" is the title of Odin Lonning’s October show at Heron’s Nest on Vashon. Odin, a Tlingit artist and cultural educator, is renowned for his traditional Northwest Coast Native designing, carving, and painting. His "Sweetgrass Trail" show is a departure in that several pieces pay tribute to the formative stage of his career, when he traveled across the United States. The artist will be at Heron’s Nest on First Friday, October 7, from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.
An orca encounter ranks high on the list of healing events we could hope for on any anniversary of 9/11. We were blessed with one this year, from some old finned friends. Chez VHP was observing the reading of the names at Ground Zero, Shanksville, and the Pentagon when the welcome sighting calls started.
This column was on hiatus for a bit while Chez VHP dealt with what Jon Stewart cleverly dubs "the bubons," and we traveled to several off-Island gigs such as the OrcaSing on San Juan Island and another fabulous event at the Evergreen State College Longhouse. At both places, we memorialized our beloved orca patriarch Ruffles (J1). How fortunate we could sing his praises twice in the Longhouse this year!
Dear readers, your eyes will thank you for checking out Odin Lonning’s supernatural-themed Tlingit artwork at Vashon Intuitive Arts this month. Titles such as “Shaman’s Wand,” “Spirit Canoe,” and, of course, “Supernatural Allies: Thunderbird and Seawolf,”reflect the essence of the pieces.
“Honey, there’s a whale in the yard! Grab the camera,” I shouted to Odin around 7:30 on Sunday night, March 27. A juvenile Gray whale glided sideways, barely 10 feet off our beach, waving tail flukes and a pec flipper. S/he had eelgrass draped over the pec flipper, suggesting s/he was bottom foraging in shallow water for tasty tidbits: crustaceans, worms, et al.