Whales, Wine and Women

The plum tree outside the kitchen window is smothered in tiny pink blossoms. Yesterday bees were snuffling in it, scattering petals like pale confetti all over the steps and courtyard. Two monarch butterflies chased each other through the blossom, and a couple of tuis, ruffling their white neck ties, sucked the honey and plunged around from bird bath to plum tree, chasing each other in their  spring  mating games.

Today the tree is empty, but the wind has blown the blossom over the garden, so it looks like snowflakes, and the tree is like a lace veil hanging in front of the window. In spite of the cloudy skies, there is a sort of glow in the garden from the scattered petals and the light filtering through this tree. A couple of greenery yallery silver-eyes tweeting to each other are the only birds left, for a storm blew in over-night, and there is nothing now but the sound of the wind in the trees, and the roar of the breakers crashing onto the rocks in our little bay below. The water pours over the rocks like spilled milk, the bay is boiling with white foam, and the rain falls steadily. The spring flowers are beginning to push their way up, a few camellias, lots of cyclamen, some marguerite daisies, and a few roses on the scented Jean Ducher, which escaped the heavy pruning they had a few weeks ago.

Yesterday I picked two long pink sprays of cymbidium orchids, and two more heavily flowered gold and red orchids from the garden, and stood them in two separate tall glass vases. First I had to shake lots of tiny wood cockroaches out of the flowers, and catch the ones that made it inside, in my glass spider catcher to take them outside again. (The spider catcher is actually a clear glass vase with a stiff cardboard birthday card to slide underneath)

But best of all is the news which has sped round the village that some Southern  Right whales have been seen. They’ve been making their way up the coast, and were seen in the bay further south, and are now heading up towards the bay north of us – a mother, nudging her calf along on the journey. They swim very slowly, their top speed being about nine kilometres an hour, but with a calf, this mother would probably have been a lot slower. They tend to keep close to the coast, on their way from the Antarctic to the warmer feeding and breeding grounds around the Pacific, but tend to stay further south from us, so they’ve been watched with love all their way up the coast.

There are more Southern Right whales left than other species, and they can grow up to 59 feet long, and weigh 90 tons. Not much is known about them, but a North Atlantic whale was seen and recognised from her distinctive markings in 1935, 1959, 1980, 1985, 1992, and lastly in 1995 with a bad head wound, probably from a ship – which means that she was at least 70 years old at last sighting. I have a friend who as a little girl used to holiday in the bay next to ours. Her father was teaching her to row. She awoke one morning and looking out of the window, saw the bay was full of basking whales. She grabbed some clothes, ran down to the beach and jumped in the rowing boat. She rowed out to the whales and sat among them rocking in the water, until her father appeared and called her back in. I envy her that memory.

Whalers used to go for these slow moving creatures, who swam so close in, as they were easy to catch. At Lord Howe Island, where the whales had been travelling to breed for millions of years, they finally stopped coming after they’d been so savagely hunted in the 19th century. It makes me sad to think of it.

So this great Southern Right is a treasured visitor. I stand outside the french doors in the blustery wind, savouring the roar of the sea below, and wondering what other creatures of the deep are moving around there on the floor of the ocean, unbeknown to us. We haven’t seen our little pod of dolphins for a while, but popping in on a friend who lives overlooking another harbour, she told me she’d spent the whole morning watching them leaping and playing down below. So good news, they’re still around.

But the sad news for me – and our local wood pigeons – is that our loquat tree which grows beside our veranda, seems to have some sort of blight and the fruit haven’t set this year. I normally lie in bed and watch the huge wood pigeons- three times the size of the English wood pigeon – lumber in at the angle of a jumbo jet and sit chomping through the golden fruit, while the tree shakes with their exertions. The whole fruit slides lumpily down their bronze green throats and then sinks into their swelling white breasts. The Maoris, and then the settlers, used to eat them and catch them in thousands, but like the Southern Right whales, they too nearly became extinct, and are now protected. So no fruit for the pigeons this year. I try not to worry about what they will find instead.

But as I write this and the rain falls gently, and a blackbird bursts into song, I suddenly think to myself why do I worry?

I remember the exquisite words of the wonderful Indian mystic Kabir:

What kind of God would He be

If He did not hear the

Bangles ring on

An ant’s wrist

As they move the earth

In their sweet dance?

And what kind of God would He be

If a leaf’s prayer was not as precious to Creation

As the prayer His own son sang…    (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)


Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Omar Khayyam sang of a jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and Thou.  Well, I didn’t have Thou, but I had Friend at the end of a busy week, and I suggested the wine, the bread and some imported French camembert cheese (try not to feel guilty about the food miles) just for us girls (a metaphor). So out with the best crystal glasses, a good bottle of pinot gris, cheese at the perfect stage of melt and the warm bread, and we were laughing – the best fare of all.

Sometimes we threadbare gourmets just have to give it all away and put our feet up with nothing but the best.

Food for Thought

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.  Ronald Reagan at a conference in Los Angeles in March 1977.

He also said: You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.      Very true if you know what you’re looking for!


Filed under cookery/recipes, environment, environment, food, great days, humour, life/style, poetry, spiritual, sustainability, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, village life

45 responses to “Whales, Wine and Women

  1. I do hope you get to see the whales pass through on their migration. How exciting. Sounds like you threadbare gourmets had a delightful time.


  2. Alice

    I love the Kabir poem. Whales and butterflies–what a world!


    • well, yes, we make the most of things! I remind me of the ladies of Cranford… don’t know whether you read the book or saw the TV series!
      we circulate!… I think I missed the whales.. they could have crept past me in the middle of the night, and I wouldn’t know!- but they been seen further up the coast..I just love knowing that they’re there…..


  3. Oh valerie, that is the most beautiful prayer, it does indeed give us hope. I remember the whales up at Mahunga. I would stand on a cliff above the sea and call to them. An old Maori man taught me how to do this, he thought I was special. I was young and really do not remember the name of the whales but when they moved up out of the water, with their tall water spouts, they seemed awfully big but were very far away. I grew up in HB on the beach and we had a pod of killer whales that swam past at the same time every year. I was told that they follow the same pathways around the islands following the fish.. Oh i do miss home sometimes.. sometimes a lot. c


  4. Celi, how lovely to hear from you, I don’t know how you find the time to write, much less read posts. When I see all the comments you have to answer, I always hold back, thinking you have enough to do without me adding to it. So it’s a really special treat to hear from you. What a wonderful story about learning to call the whales…
    I know how you feel about missing the place where you grew up, I miss England more and more, the older I get- things like bluebell woods, all the little animals in the woods and fields, the autumn trees- the architecture….oh I could go on. I promise myself I’ll visit when I’m floating into infinity!


  5. elisaruland

    Your writing leaves me breathless, the imagery, beautiful.


  6. Thank you for such a beautiful walk through your garden and nature world and OH, for the Kabir Quote…so very lovely, I swoon. You are a marvel, Love and more love to you, Linda


  7. Oh thank you Linda for your generous appreciation. So glad you like Kabir he is one of my favourite Sufis., though it’s hard to say that when they are all so exquisite. Love to you, Linda


  8. Lovely post Valerie, I would so love to visit your part of the world but, for the moment, you bring it to life for me 🙂


  9. Hi Valerie!

    Thank you for taking me on a journey to your world. Loved reading this post and I felt like I have been there with you. Beautifully written and shared!

    I also nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award because I love the spirit and verve I meet when I am reading your posts. It you wish to participate (no pressure, though! 🙂 ), you may go to http://wp.me/p2kIdV-p4 and check out the rules. They are kept pretty simple, without long lists of nominations and have-to’s.

    Much love,


  10. What an amazing post. I woke up this morning to find your beautiful words on my computer. How refreshing. It really feels as If I was there with you. My favourite season is the spring, it brings hope and the promise of a fresh new beginning.

    The Sufi poem is another delight. I have recently joined a Sufi group and I am learning so much with these beautiful people:

    As for your choice of food, brilliant! it is hard to beat a good glass of wine , a tasty French cheese and a lovely piece of warm bread.

    You are reminding us what life is TRULY about. We are surrounding by Love, Beauty and Harmony. Le’t take the time to savour it!

    Thank you so much Valerie for sharing your light with us.
    You have made my day! x


    • Veronique, thank you so much for your warm and loving comments. So glad you enjoyed my post, and the Sufi poem. I’d love to hear more about your Sufi group – how fascinating..
      Food brings us together, doesn’t it! And yes, it’s part of the Whole ,the enjoyment of all that the Universe gives us. I look forward to seeing and reading more about your exquisite corner of the world,too x


  11. I absolutely loved this beautiful post from the blossom to the whales and that wonderful image of the little rowing boat among the whales to the quotations and the thought of wine with creamy ripe camembert! You truly are a kindred spirit!

    Thank you for the enormous pleasure reading this has given me.

    Hope your weekend is going well 🙂


    • Sally, thank you so much for your lovely comments, So good to hear from you. This is one of the greatest joys of blogging – the immediate appreciation from, as you say, kindred spirits. warm wishes, Valerie


  12. Valerie, did you feel me standing beside you seeing all those different beauties, because I feel like I was. Wonderful, enchanting post right down to the cheese and bread and wine and let me not forget those quotes 🙂 MMMM But I should add so sad about the whales, a favourite animal of mine since a child.


    • Oh Leanne, lovely to find your message! Great to know you’re there, savouring the goodness of life with me! And glad you enjoyed the Sufi poetry. Don’t be too sad, about the whales, their population is increasing with the protection they now have, which is one good thing amidst all the damage we humans have done, and are doing to the life around us..


  13. PS There’s an Australian Author you remind me of somewhat…she also writes deliciously of life, food and scenery. You may like to read her if you haven’t already….and she also had a media career…Susan Duncan..her book ‘Salvation Creek’ followed by ‘The House’


  14. Amy

    Reading your beautiful post as if I were there. I often ask myself, “why do I worry?” Have a great Sunday, Valerie!


  15. Your observations are beautiful! I simply love that image of the mother whale nudging her calf along, and your friend, out in her rowing boat amongst all those wales. Stunning.

    I also had a ‘spider catcher’ when I was living in Denmark, WA. Being an English girl I was shocked when I saw my first hunstman. As I approaced with the tupperware container I was convinced it was going to jump in my face!

    Thanks for sharing this post. I feel touched by so much.


  16. Thank you for the reminder that we need to be aware of nature and how interconnected we all are.


  17. stutleytales

    The only whale I’ve ever seen was on the slaughter ramp – one of the last whales killed and cut up in Western Australia. I would love to see a live one. And that comment about jelly beans… wonder if the same applies to m& m’s?


  18. Yes, Ronald Reagan had unexpected depths, hadn’t he!!!
    Hope you get to see a whale in its natural habitat..


  19. It is a wonderful world! I say that every day, even when the work seems over-whelming!



  20. Such a beautiful expression of Spring, Valerie! I can see why you would envy your friend that memory – that could be a scene from a fairy tale. It’s hard not to be sad thinking of the whales (and all the other near-extinct creatures). There’s a bay in Tasmania called Wineglass Bay. I always wondered why it was called that, and was horrified beyond belief when a history signpost explained it was from the blood of the whales in the bay. Sorry for the grim story…it’s just the first thing that sprang to mind when I saw your title 😦 Having said that, your story is much more inspirational! I’m sure somewhere there will be another loquat tree where the pigeons can feast…until yours heals. Hugs.


    • Hello Alarna Rose, I love seeing your beautiful profile pop up among the smiling Likes!
      How fascinatingly horrible the Wineglass Bay name is, tells you something about the people whose livelihood was killing whales!
      I can understand why you thought of it straight away!
      Glad you enjoyed the whales basking in the bay… amazing, wasn’t it. Don’t be sad for the Southern Right whales, their population is the one group which is expanding… it’s everyone else who’s struggling, and not just whales!
      Lovely to hear from you – and hugs for you.


  21. I could see it as though I were there with you! What a wonderful ‘wordbrush’ you have as you paint for all who read to see within your scripted words.


  22. I’m ready to take a vacation –to your house! What wonderful descriptions, lovely settings, and shared information…I enjoyed it all immensely!


  23. Its something I’ve always wante dto do – to see whales, they must make a magnificent sight, I hope you get to see them
    Oh and how wonderful to grow orchids too !!


  24. Loved the Reagan comment!


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