The abalone was trying to escape. And, for the last few minutes, I had been formulating a plan to assist it. I lifted the ceramic lid again. The mollusc was still firmly attached but its strong muscular foot was slowly curling toward the rim. Anthropomorphizing is a tricky business, so I hesitate to say it knew it was in mortal peril. Still, it was clear that it did not want to be in that dish and, by extension, part of my meal. That made two of us. I looked around the room at my companions. All were engrossed in the contents of their own platters, eliciting the kind of focus required for a dining experience that had thus far been a bucket list of foreign tastes: shark heart carpaccio, sea urchin roe, greenling sashimi, a gelatinous cube of anglerfish, and a heaping portion of raw cod testes. Would they notice if I slipped the abalone into the folds of my yukata robe? Would they care? A Japanese woman in a floral kimono re-entered the room. Our server. She crouched near my platter with a smile and lit the fuel canister under the dish containing the abalone. If we were going to make a break for it, it was now or never.
I was in Halifax when Qila died suddenly last November. Fortunately, I made it to Vancouver a few days later, to see Aurora before she passed away too. In an attempt to deal with my grief, I wrote the following memoir about our time together and the profound way in which these whales impacted my life.
It is a tragic coincidence that a couple days ago we lost another member of our Aquarium family, Chester. I assume this will resonate with many of those who felt close to him and hopefully provide some comfort.
I first became interested in visiting Iceland several years ago when a friend showed me pictures from her recent trip. Despite my passion for exploring foreign lands, this was one country that I’d somehow overlooked. But a handful of photos in and I realized it was a place I definitely wanted to see for myself.
I know the last entry in this blog goes back a few years, but in some ways it ties in with the thoughts I am about to share here. Because this past January my (then) current self made an excellent life choice for my future self when I came across a seat sale for a round trip from Halifax to Reykjavik in late June. (Yes, I am currently living in Halifax now, same fish, different kettle, maybe another day.) Anyway, I was easily convinced that my future self would indeed be very happy with such a trip. So I booked the flight. And proceeded to pretty much forget about the whole thing until early June when I realized I should maybe (at the very least) book a rental car.
Now before you get your hopes up that this will be a tell-all itinerary of what to do with seven days in Iceland, I’ll give you fair warning: it’s not. For that you will need to go elsewhere. But fear not, there are many such blogs available. Instead, this is more about the underlying spirit of my trip. Or, if you will, the answer to the most common question I got asked about it. One that had nothing to do with Iceland at all. The query on everyone’s mind was why are you going alone?
Do you ever have those moments when you think to your (present) self how much you appreciate your past self? For me, this usually happens when my past self has done something really nice to help me (i.e., its future self) out. Something like leaving extra bobby pins and a hair elastic in my coat pocket. Or remembering to bring the umbrella back from campus even though the sun came out just so I wouldn’t be SOL during the next thunderstorm. Or, more recently, refilling the poo bag container immediately after using the last one so that I’m not left staring at a massive pile of dog shit in the middle of a deserted field with naught a bag in sight. Anyway, these are things that my past self has been known to do. Somehow though, it did have one recent major slip up. (Warning: the rest of this post, including the photos, may not be suitable for a squeamish reader.)
So we got a dog. A puppy in fact. A rough collie puppy to be specific. And I knew the instant we brought him home at 9:17 p.m. on June 7th that our lives would never be the same.
In the weeks leading up to Cousteau’s arrival, I was frantically preparing myself by watching every Cesar Millan episode I could find, reading (and re-reading) The Bible (a.k.a., The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete), and googling pictures and videos of collie puppies at different ages. (Pathetic, I know.) And really, this was a strange time for me, since I think I’m usually a fairly chill individual. Luckily, this onset of OCDness was firmly balanced by Wilf’s nonchalant and, at times, indifference to the whole process. His underlying outlook of, ‘don’t worry, we’ll figure it out when he’s here’, didn’t sit well with me on matters such as vaccinations, obedience, and exercise requirements. Why couldn’t we figure it out now? Why couldn’t we be prepared?
So it’s taken a while, but I am finally giving in to the gentle—well, some of it not so gentle—prodding from my substantial fan base (thanks, Wilf…Lucas…Jenn) and jumping back on the blogging wagon. And really, I shouldn’t have any excuses. I finished my thesis in May, and defended it (successfully) at the end of July. So I am now a MSc.-degree-holding fisheries scientist. Without a job. But that’s cool. It means I have a ridiculous amount of time to blog again. I did spend a few months over the summer working as a naturalist with one of Vancouver’s local whale watching companies. It was pretty epic; the perfect antithesis to working at a desk all day if ever there was one. And, while the natural highlight of the trips was the whales, I have to admit, the intelligence of the human race was a close second. Some of the questions the boat staff fielded this year included: “Do you sell fish so we can feed the whales?”, “Do they ever swim under the islands?”, “How do you know they’ll come back to the surface?”, “Are they extincted?”, “Where will we see the whales? Like, could they be anywhere or do you guys keep them in certain places?”. Those were all from people over the age of 30. Amazing. I try not to judge too hard though and just put it down to the excitement of the moment. And, fortunately, I did meet some wonderful people (from all over the world) while working on the boat. And, when I wasn’t talking about whales, this job also gave me a good chance to incorporate a little of my own work and chat with our guests about fisheries and sustainable seafood initiatives. I found a lot of people were really eager to learn more, and were curious about what I had to say and how they could make smarter seafood choices. So that was pretty cool.