The stocky man who takes our breakfast order has a thin red line along his neck. I see a knife there, slicing but not deep enough to kill. He seems benevolent, intelligent, his eyes bloodshot and somewhat yellow. I surmise he is part of the Yurok tribe that live around these parts. He wears a support bandage around his left calf and admits to forgetting to drink enough water as he fills up our plastic glasses. He tells us about the whale in the river, which we've seen, brings over the front page of the small town newspaper with an article complete with a picture. He says that 27 years ago another female whale with a calf swam into this river. Perhaps this one is her baby.
It is a mystery why she swam up here seven weeks ago. Her calf has gone back to the sea where it waits around the river mouth. I worry--is there anything in the river for her to eat? He assures me that whales eat small things that the river contains. But, he continues, the tourists are bugging her, getting too close with their kayaks and boats. One person has waded in. Cars stop on the bridge and people lean over the bridge railing trying to catch a glimpse, snap a picture as she spouts. I wonder, is this some sort of post-partum depression or possibly a memory from when she was a calf. They have tried all sorts of things to get her to leave: spraying her with water, whale calls from downriver but she doesn't budge from her spot.
Two days later I learn of her death. I am saddened by this and hope her baby will move on. The only bright spot is that so many people have stopped to see her. The interest has been amazing. If one animal can cause such a stir then maybe there is hope for our planet after all.