The Pacific Ocean waters surrounding
the 170-plus islands in the San Juans are teaming with life.
San Juan Island, itself, is a sanctuary where the earth mother
shows off all her splendor. There's only two ways to get to
San Juan Island, by air and by water.
In one direction there's a breathtaking view of
a snow-capped mountain. In another, Canada is visible. In
every direction there is water and islands. There are spectacular
sunrises and sunsets. There are lush forests. There's no McDonald's
- or store chains of any kind. Most of the island has no streetlights.
The maximum driving speed is 45 mph. You wouldn't want to
go any faster - you might miss something nature wants to show
you - a deer and her fawn, a raccoon, a fox, a wild turkey,
any number of water fowl and other birds.
Every member of the raptor family has its home
here - hawk, raven, bald eagle and even a pair of golden eagles.
Despite how wondrous this all is, nothing compares
with the awe and wonder, the tear that comes to the eye, the
overwhelming feeling of gratitude one feels, when the opportunity
arises to gaze upon the Killer Whale (Orca). Three families
(or pods) make their home here. They've been diligently scientifically
identified, photographed, and studied by the Center for Whale
Research. All members of the pods are named.
And as in any small town, everybody known everybody.
In this town, the humans and the Orcas are no
Practically everyone has a boat. And, almost everyone
knows the Orcas by name. It's easy to tell which Orcas are
male and which are female - by the size and shape of the fin.
Orcas have a unique mark behind their fin - called a saddle
patch. Just like you know your friends by their face - we
know the Orcas by their saddle patch. And, they know us. They
recognize the boats and the people.
Their return each year is highly celebrated and
anticipated. Most of the island residents know a lot about
the Orcas, like you would of any of your neighbors, including
when they come home for the summer.
There is an informal phone notification system
by water and land. The moment the first Orca is sighted each
spring, everyone on the island knows.
There is excitement and joy, that dear friends
have returned to share our life for awhile. This daily phone
calling about which whales are in, who had babies, who didn't
make it back, continues for several weeks until all 3 pods
are back in residence.
People who don't have boats somehow manage to
convince their friends to take them to see the whales. Or,
they drive to the West Side of the island, park their car,
and walk to a cliff or hill overlooking the water.
I've seen as many as 30 Orcas while sitting on
a favorite hill. No matter how many times you've seen them,
the thrill never goes away.
Just like being concerned about the lives of our family and
friends, we feel the same for our neighbors, the Killer Whales.
We mourn their deaths and celebrate their births. We worry
about boat traffic and too many people getting too close.
And, we feel the pain when one is in prison for no crime committed.
In the early 70's, these 3 pods of Orcas went
through great trauma. Marine parks wanted Orcas. Boats and
explosives herded them up, many died, many babies were taken
from the ocean and their families, put in small tanks with
no other Orcas, and taught to perform for dead fish. Finally,
laws were passed forbidding these captures off the State of
Washington. However, it's still going on in other oceans around
There is a very special Orca still in captivity
that came from these 3 pods off the San Juans. Her name is
Lolita. She's in Miami and was doing 2 shows a day until recently.
She's over 30 years old. She's been in that same small tank
(the smallest in North America) since she was six.
I honor her courage. I had the wonderful opportunity
to meet her. It's amazing that she's still alive, since the
average age in captivity is seven. This is in stark contrast
to the 50 to 70 year life-span they experience in the wild.
My belief is that most Orcas just can't handle the confinement,
eating dead fish, no one else of their species around - yet,
she lives on. There's an army of people joining together to
have her returned to her family and the open ocean.
I don't know if she'll ever be set free. I've
had to find a place within myself where that's O.K. Ending
dominance over others - people, dolphins, the land - requires
that we think and act in a totally new and different way.
We must first figure out how to totally love and free ourselves
from the personal prisons we have created with our limiting
beliefs, fears, and judgments.
Watching capture scenes, whales struggling in
nets, mothers and babies screaming as they are being separated,
babies drowning, tears running down my face, I've had to ask
what would an evolved being do here? What would Ghandi, Christ,
Buddha, Mother Theresa do here? They would love unconditionally.
They would not judge. They would feel love, not anger. It's
not easy! I believe Lolita has a personal mission - why else
would she still be alive? Conversations about her have united
many people, have provoked much thought, have facilitated
much personal growth, and have inspired freedom within humans.
When I first began to meditate, dolphins started
appearing in my meditations. Each time this happened, profound
emotional healing took place. I had been having these experiences
for quite some time when I heard Lolita's story. She is the
primary reason that I left the corporate world, as an Industrial
Engineer, and moved to the San Juans. I spent a year there
- learning about Orcas and communing with Lolita's family.
I participated in the Lolita Symposium sponsored by the State
of Washington Governor's Office, cofounded a non-profit for
whales and dolphins, and flew to Miami to visit Lolita in
Standing there, eye to eye with Lolita, I made a commitment
to the dolphins and whales to help raise awareness and to
tell Lolita's story.
My connection with dolphins - and Orcas in particular - has
positively impacted my life in numerous ways.
They are available to assist you in your personal
and spiritual growth journey as well.
To develop a stronger relationship with dolphins
and killer whales, try the Dancing
Dolphin Essence - Dancing Dolphin.
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||Debbie "Takara" Shelor is a #1 bestselling author, award-winning transformational speaker, engineer, and consultant. She provides tools, training, and support to authors, teachers, coaches, group leaders, and other individuals who are tired of feeling stuck and are ready to catapult themselves and their clients into high gear both personally and professionally. She acts as a catalyst of radical positive change for both individuals and organizations. She is the creator of Dancing
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