Tuesday, February 6, 2018


post by Lynn

Have I ever mentioned that I lived in Los Angeles for three years back in the eighties?

Fish out of water is an understatement.

It might tell you something about how much I missed Wyoming when I tell you that I got all teary one time when I saw a Christmas card portraying a snow-covered pine tree.

I missed pine trees. I missed snow. I missed home.

But there were some good things about LA.

Like whale watching.

When you go on a whale watching tour you climb on a boat with a lot of people. The first thing you do is jockey for position to claim a good viewing spot near the window (and out of the wind, preferably).

Then you hang on while the boat churns out to sea. The leaders of the tour have ideas on where the whales are and they also have rules on how close they can get to the whales so as not to harass them, but all that is invisible to the folks on the tour.

As soon as the captain powers down the engine, everybody starts looking around.

Then you wait.

And wait.

The boat lurches side to side. You sip on your water bottle and wait. You scan the ocean, training your binoculars on the wavy horizon until your arms are too heavy to hold up any more, so you lower them, and wait.

And wait.

You think to yourself, "Maybe I should have gone to Disneyland instead."

While you’re waiting, you notice the salt on your lips and lick them. You gaze into the water and wonder what fishy things are lurking down there. You listen to the calls of the sea gulls as they criss-cross the boat’s wake.

You check the horizon again. Nothing new.

You watch a couple who are standing a few feet away and notice how the young woman is trying to keep her hair tidy in the wind by patting at it. She keeps swiping her finger under her eyes as if she’s afraid her mascara is running, which it is.

First date, you decide.

Somebody points and yells, “Spout!”

You turn in that direction just as a fountain of water spatters the surface of the sea. Then the maw of a blue whale rises up out of the liquid floor, followed by the massive barnacled slide of a whale body.

You quick snap a photo. Then the tail, etched with white scars, flips way up into the air and back down, slamming the surface. A curtain of water splashes the crowd on the boat.

Everybody laughs and applauds, as if the whale were performing a stunt just for us.

You giggle with your friends as you wipe the salty water from your face. You show off your photos and look at theirs.

Then you wait, again. And wait. On a two-hour tour, that might be all the whale you see. Sometimes no whale appears at all.

A writing session, I’ve decided, is a lot like a whale watching tour.

The ratio of waiting time to the arrival of perfect words is a lot to a little. Sometimes nothing worth anything arrives.

Delete, erase.

But still, you’ve got to show up. You've got to watch and stay alert. You've got to be there to catch the words if by some miracle they decide to rise up out of the floor of your mind.

You've got to be ready for inspiration to splash you and start you giggling. Or crying. Or whatever the words do to you when they come.

You’ve got to get on that boat and go out to sea if you want to see a whale, and you’ve got to show up to the page if you want to write.


  1. Nice metaphor, Lynn, writing is like whale watching. Both are exciting and rewarding but sometimes you just get skunked. Other times, the rewards are beyond wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story. Another wonderful post from Writing Wyoming.

    1. Thanks Art--writing it made me almost wish I was at the ocean. Almost. But not in LA :-)

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Lynn. Inspired me to get off of my phone and get to work.

    1. Hey--it makes me really happy knowing I contributed to your creative process, even in a small way!

  3. No, I didn't know you lived in L.A. I have had one experience of driving there and never want to do it again. But you lived to tell the tale - and yes, you draw a very good parallel between watching for whales and catching inspirational moments. You never know when they are going to show up - either of them. Last September we boarded a wee ferry that would chug across ten miles of water and take us to a remote Scottish peninsula. There we were to meet friends who would have dinner ready. Halfway across, the helmsman cut the engines. I wasn't happy. I was thinking, 'I want my dinner. Move it!' Turned out he'd stopped because we were suddenly surrounded by a (insert collective noun)of minke whales. It was a thrilling experience - my first ever sight of such beasts. And dinner wasn't spoiled.

    1. I've never seen minke whales. Got to see lots of humpbacks when Mike and I were in Alaska. The best view was from a float plane when the pilot followed a humpback for a long spell. For some reason, I love it when an encounter with nature makes me feel small. Puts things in perspective somehow.

  4. Lynn, your whale-watching experience reminded me of a sailing trip I took in California with my family in a 30-foot sloop. I like how you compare writing to whale-watching and hope you find more whales, but don't let them attack you.

  5. Lol! So far I've been able to stay on the boat and not get in the water with the whales. I'm a true landlubber and like to keep mostly dry :-) Thanks for checking in, Abbie!

  6. Enjoyed your whale watching story. I have been whale watching at the Oregon coast.

  7. I love the Northwest coast! Got to spend time on Orcas Island once-such an amazing place.


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