What she found stopped her in her tracks. An enormous, deep trench had been excavated and the whale carcass had been flipped inside. She couldn’t help herself; she tore off her shoes and ran to the edge of the pit to see the creature, already half covered by sand, with deep gauges, wounds along its belly and back from the machine effort it took to drop it into the hole. The smell wasn’t what dropped her to her knees, but rather the roughness of it, the merciless and ungraceful end to such a noble, divine creature. It was like watching a God being shot out of heaven, to see it lying so wounded deep in the ground. She picked up a fistful of sand and threw it in the hole, and whispered, “I’m sorry.” She picked up another, and another, and then turned around and dug deep into the sand shoveling as much as she could as fast as she could, “I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY!”
The men in the trucks didn’t notice this tiny woman digging in the sand, or if they did, they had the decency to ignore her. She wailed and dug, until she was sticky with sweat and sand, tears, and filth. Sinking down onto her heels, she rocked back and forth and quaked, quietly now, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so, sorry.” She watched for a long time. Until the fog rolled in and with it, the cold. Then she stood, stiff and sore, and wound her way back up toward the road. The hotel wasn’t far, but she couldn’t bring herself to go back there yet. Instead, she took a sandy path that led up a hill, then another hill, and another. By the time she got to the top, she realized it was more of a mountain, and her feet and lungs were feeling the effort. The wind was stronger up here and she pushed past touch, dry grass, and boulders, tiny yellow seaside flowers, until she stood at the edge of the cliff, looking out over the ocean. The fog was so thick, she could only see a few hundred feet out, a few jagged rocks rose out of the water, pelicans and seagulls sailed. The tide shouted rhythmically. She could just make out the machines, still at work, burying the whale. Squinting, she tried so hard to see anything else out on the sea, but the fog was so thick, it was like trying to see the bottom of a bowl of mashed potatoes, like the sky was courteously matching her mood, soggy and claustrophobic. At least where there is wet, there is no dust.
Sitting on the edge of this abyss, knowing how much was out there, just not visible to her, she felt so small and impermanent. These grains of sand down there, these waves, they didn’t care who she was or what she’d done; what she’d lost or given away. They just lived by the instructions from the moon. They didn’t stop for tragedy, or joy, they kept on, no matter. Closing her eyes, she breathed again, this time easier, the ocean air seemed to keep her mind from congesting with too many competing thoughts. She looked at her filthy feet and thought about how many people had been here before, had hurt and worried and wondered, loved, and starved and been wrecked and alone.
When she looked up, the fog was lifting. In nothing but a moment, the whole picture in front of her had changed. Her visibility now took her eyes five times, ten times farther. What was thick cotton nothingness was now a few islands, a boat. A large boat. Not far, really. There were people out there, not far from her, and she hadn’t been able to see them. They hadn’t existed as far as she was concerned, yet they were there all along. The hugeness of the ocean was now on full display, and she wondered what other magic and mystery swam just outside her vision. If the sun could do this to the fog, what could light do to her darkness?
Tamara hugged herself to stay warm and watched a sea bird riding on the wave; not fighting, not desperate to stay dry and afloat, not terrified of big waves and storms, but calm, in control by surrendering to the motion. It didn’t occur to the bird to be afraid of drowning, just as it didn’t occur to the whale to be afraid of drying up on the land. They did what they did until they couldn’t anymore, and that was it. They were temporary, and that was OK. She shuddered. Could she be like the bird, like the whale? Fearing the worst, clinging to her pain and dread like a candle she was afraid would extinguish hadn’t made her life less painful nor kept anyone she loved alive and well. Staying rigid and braced against the hurt just made bobbing in the water more difficult. Maybe if she could surrender, the storms would bend around her instead of breaking her? Tamara cried. There was nothing else to do.