September 10th

On Saturday morning, a quiet morning, at the beginning of a weekend full of memories, we walked the beach, salt tang in the air, blue sky, and golden September light. Our boots scuffed and crunched on gravelly sand, gulls cried overhead and dropped their catch on rocks, and then, an explosive THUMP brought us to a stop. Out on the Strait, flashes of water, more thumps and moist, loud breathing – Orcas!

On the beach we paralleled them as they breeched, one after another, headed east faster than we could walk. Sound carried easily to us – tail slaps and blowhole eruptions – and we could see glistening splashes of water off black dorsal fins and flukes. The movements stretched a long way – “There’s another! And another! – Look over there!” – as they passed by little boats stopped at the sight.

The pods’ progress up the Strait ended between Whidbey Island and Point Hudson in a furious flashing of seven or eight shapes visible at a time – muscling in and out of churned-up water. Food is the target – driving panicked fish into a circle to eat.

The sound brought us close – sharing breathing with these creatures – so alien and so local – their excitement carried to shore. They reversed direction after the feeding and headed away. The beach silence seemed loud and empty. But they are there – out in the Strait, around the islands, plying the Salish Sea.

We are lucky!